The Best Daypack For Hiking: 5 Unique Daypacks Reviewed!

There is just something special about trekking across nature, be it up a mountainous plain or across a dense rainforest. All the gear need to be reliable and hold up to not only the elements but also heavy use and wear-and-tear.

A daypack is definitely one of the most important, so here I will talk about some of the qualities that make the best daypack for hiking!

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**Below, you find more detail reviews, but you also can click links above to see current prices and read customer's reviews on Amazon.

Why a Daypack Over Any Other Bag?

Look, you may not be a hiking aficionado, looking for a new trail to hike through every other weekend. However, it is definitely worth taking a look at some of these packs for the times that you do go on one of these hikes, as they can bring about a peace of mind only found with specialty equipment.

Hiking daypacks should generally be anywhere between 20-30 liters, with some preferring 40 liters for heavy duty hiking.

Personally, I bring along a 30 liter on my treks as they are just the right size for me to pack a change of clothes, a bottle, first-aid kit and some other necessary equipment. Bringing so many separate pieces of equipment also means my pack needs to have multiple separate compartments.

P.S. You could also use one of these daypacks on a climbing trip like I do. Personally, I would prefer one smaller than my 30L for a climbing trip, but it does fit everything in comfortably with some room to spare!

How Heavy Should This Daypack Be?

As this daypack will be added onto your body weight on a hike, it should really be relatively light so all you really carry on your back are your supplies, not the weight of the bag plus your supplies. However, the problem with some of the lighter packs is that some lack the functionality and durability of some of the heavier ones.

The best way to go about this is to look at the pack and its features, and figure out how many of the features you actually do need. Basically, pick all the features that you need, look for the daypacks that have these features, and then go about choosing from the selection of their weights and their durability.

Give this a read for a little more information!

Durability?

This takes into account multiple variables – materials used, waterproofing and even warranties offered, among others.

The different materials used are the obvious point of origin when it comes to looking at durability, with the different materials providing a whole bunch of qualities. For example:

  • Nylon: sturdy, withstands abrasion and tears, light.
  • Kodra (type of Nylon): high-tenacity fibers, even more abrasion resistant (but can be quite heavy).
  • Polyester: tear-resistant, can be blended with nylon for color variants.
  • Hypalon: synthetic rubber to reinforce high abrasion areas.

Here are some more qualities of other backpack materials!

Waterproofing is also very important as nature is entirely unpredictable, especially while you are out in the middle of a hike. Unfortunately, most daypacks are not entirely waterproof (can be resistant but due to zips and gaps cannot be completely closed off from water). Fortunately, some do include rain cover that covers the entire pack, while others need a separate purchase.

Warranties can be quite misleading, but should be used as a point of reference for how much a company trusts its product to deliver. Take this with a pinch of salt, but I have found that some of the packs with a five-year warranty seem to break down a lot faster than its 20 year or lifetime warranty counterparts.

Comfort?

Two things to look at here – size of daypack in proportion to your body, and ventilation.

Measure the length of your torso (bottom of your neck to where your pelvic bones begin) and compare it to the measurements of the daypack. The best fitting pack should be almost exactly the same length as your torso, so not only does it fit perfect, but it also is able to properly distribute weight.

Hiking (and climbing) specific daypacks have many straps and lifters designed to help secure the pack to your body and alleviate some of the stress on your shoulders. Some of the measurements to take note of are at your hips and sternum.

Ventilation for your backpacks will usually not factor into the day-to-day bags but are especially important for outdoor activities. This pushes the pack a little away from your body to ensure airflow to your back, making it a little more comfortable lugging a weight around.

Do take note, however, that if you plan on packing a heavy pack that this may destabilize you, so you may want to choose one without back ventilation in that case.

Top-loader or Panel-loader?

These may be new terms for you, but is something you have probably already seen before! Top-loaders are packs that feed almost everything into a large, main compartment, making it perfect for shorter, faster hikes. Panel-loaders, on the other hand, are much like regular backpacks, with multiple compartments, better if you pack many small individual things, making them easier to find.

Daypack Reviews

I have had my own daypack for a little over ten years now and it’s time to give it a break. Here are some new ones that I looked at! Keep in mind that this is in no specific order.


The North Face “Jester” (26L)



Pros

  • Ventilation – The shoulder straps and back of the backpack are both padded with vents, allowing for ease of carrying. Probably one of the first things I look for when looking for a hiking daypack.
  • Water resistant – Probably one of the few packs out there that can brag about the level of water resistance. Wish I had known about the existence of this when shopping for my last pack, lost my camera and laptop to a sudden downpour a few years ago.
  • Bungee cords – While this may not be applicable to everyone, anybody who has been on a cycling trail will attest to its important. This allows for the attaching of a bike helmet to the pack, and if you are someone who enjoys biking this may come in handy for you.
  • Sturdy – The bag just feels well-built, and carrying it is not a hassle nor does it feel like a swinging weight on your back. Sternum strap definitely helps with this.

Cons

  • Heavy – 2lbs may not be heavy, but it is substantially heavier than many others, and when it is full, all the weight does add up (maybe something to think about).
  • Stiff – There is a backboard intended for a laptop. It is good for its purpose but is not the most comfortable.
  • Few compartments – Speaks for itself. When I pack I want to be able to find specific things fast, and unfortunately, its two-compartment design does not help with that.

New Outlander “Field Operation” (35L)



Pros

  • Very lightweight – Put your hands on this pack and you will probably be skeptical of its quality due to its weight. However, the nylon used to make this pack has enabled it to be not only light but also strong, earning it a lifetime warranty.
  • Compartmentalized – Multiple compartments, ranging from small to large, make up this daypack. This could come in very handy when it comes time for me to pack my multitude of things, both big and small!
  • Foldable – Soft nylon means the pack folds down very easily. If you are traveling with other luggage and only need your daypack on your hikes, this feature could be a gamechanger.

Cons

  • Flimsy – The light material, unfortunately, makes this pack bend out of shape when packing the daypack to its brim. Keep in mind also that while nylon is a great material for these packs, it is still not prone to rips and tears from time to time. The lifetime warranty does offset this, however.
  • Little padding – Unfortunately, while this does pack up to 35L, the straps do tend to dig into your neck and shoulders due to the little padding it has on its straps and back.

New Outlander “Packable” (20L/33L)



Pros

  • Spacious – 33L puts it a little under some of the others here, but it fits quite a lot more than it looks like it could. New Outlander features on here twice for being able to couple space saving ability with functionality, and this daypack is a good example of it.
  • Value for money – Its price puts it near the bottom of the list, and for its uses and functionality it tops the same list.
  • Good weight distribution – Carrying this on my shoulders (after fitting some stuff inside to simulate actual weight) feels like a dream and I can see myself carrying this around for an extended period of time.

Cons

  • Durability – Unfortunately, like its counterparts, this pack still does not have much in the way of padding and may be quite susceptible to rips and tears.
  • Shallow water bottle pockets – I could not fit two bottles, despite it having two pockets, as one kept falling out when I tried to fit in the other.

Kelty “Redwing 32” (32L)



Pros

  • Form and function – The pockets are exactly where they should be, and the compression straps are well-placed for weight distribution. There are also many different compartments in and around the bag for different uses, that could come in handy if you need to bring oddly shaped equipment.
  • Rigid but padded – This pack is a little longer, and is the reason for a rigid back section (which can be removed). However, there is more than enough padding for the long day treks to keep you comfortable throughout.
  • Durable – Each one of these sections has been made with multiple materials, each suited for its purpose. I once had a pack tear because of a heavy book, and it does not look like it will happen with the Redwing 32.

Cons

  • Water bottle pockets – Bottle sections are too small to hold the 1litre bottles I brought in to try and fit.
  • Cannot be packed down.

Venture Pal “Field Operation” (35L)



Pros

  • Foldable – Field Operation 35L folds down to about the size of a pouch, making it very easy to be transported. Comes with a carry handle.
  • Reinforced in the right places – The bottom of daypacks carry the most stress, and Venture Pal clearly made sure to attend to it. This results in a double-lined bottom area to bear maximum weight.
  • Adjustable shoulder straps – The pack is a pretty standard size for its capacity, made to fit the vast majority of people. I am quite tall, and while the pack is not the length of my torso, I could adjust the straps to make it comfortable for me.

Cons

  • Zippers – Yes, these zippers are larger and tougher than the regular zipper, made to withstand heavy use. However, this does cause it to catch on the fabric quite a bit and is quite hard to maneuver.
  • Little to no padding – For longer trips, this may be a deal breaker. This is not just based on the back of the bag, but the shoulder straps as well.

Personally…

I like the Kelty “Redwing 32” the best out of the five I looked at. For me, the perfect daypack needs to have good form and functionality, along with a lot of comforts, and while the Kelty is nowhere near perfect, it comes the closest to what I am looking for in a hiking pack.

The two New Outlander packs were very good value, and while I do see myself using those packs for their designs and price, the Redwing feels a little more sturdy and seems to be better for the long hikes I like to go on.

North Face’s Jester would have been good too if it had been a little lighter or had more pockets for functionalities. I need space to fit my first-aid kit, my clothes, and my pocket knife, and I would rather fit it in the multiple pockets of the Redwing.

Finally, while I like the design of Venture Pal’s Field Operation and I do like how they have succeeded in trying to ensure that wear-and-tear is slowed down, for me the lack of much padding and therefore ventilation did not work. As I grow older, my hikes have grown longer, and for the length of time my daypack will be on my back I feel comfort is ever-so-important.

Hopefully, my personal experiences in testing these packs will be useful for you in choosing the best hiking daypack!

P/S: If you found this article helpful, click on the link to purchase your bag (whatever brand you go with) and no extra cost for you. The small commission helps me keep the website running, community supported, and advertiser free.

About the Author James Wilson

Hi! My name is James Wilson, adventurer and traveler. I was born in New York City, am 28 this year, and have been traveling since I was 19. New places fill me with an unexplainable joy, so let me share some of my experiences with you!

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