Best Daypacks for Travel and Hiking

Daypacks are great when you have a lot of stuff to carry around all day. You can put it in your pack and forget about it until you need it, and when you do, you have it. Sounds pretty simple, and it really is.

Our #1 Top Daypack Pick – See on Amazon

Where it gets more complicated is picking out the one best for your situation. Daypacks are relatively similar, but they do have different features and different functions. When considering a daypack it is a good idea to think through how you will be using it, and then get one that fits those needs.

Top 10 Best Travel & Hiking Daypacks (2016 - 2017)

PACKCAPACITYOUR RATING
The North Face Recon Daypack31L (4.9 / 5)
Osprey Farpoint 40 Travel Pack40L (4.9 / 5)
Patagonia Refugio 28 Daypack28L (4.6 / 5)
Osprey Daylite Daypack13L (4.9 / 5)
REI Stuff Travel Daypack22L (4.6 / 5)
Osprey Stratos 36 Pack36L (4.8 / 5)
REI Trail 40 Pack40L (4.9 / 5)
Osprey Talon 22 Pack22L (4.8 / 5)
REI Trail 25 Pack25L (4.6 / 5)
Osprey Daylite Plus Daypack20L (4.4 / 5)

Our Top Daypack Reviews

After comparing all the top options on the market, we’ve narrowed it down to just those models that we like the best. So, if you’re trying to decide between some of the daypacks on our list, then let our reviews below help you choose the best daypack for your needs.

The North Face Recon Daypack Review

the north face recon daypackOverall, we select this as our top pick for the best daypack for the money. It has a lot going for it, and it is versatile enough to be used for both hiking and travels. However, we this it is ideal for travel.

What we like most about it: two fleece-lined sleeves (one for tablet, one for laptop)

What we don’t like about it: zippers easily get caught up in the packs fabric if you aren’t careful

While the internal organizer, stash pockets, tablet sleeve, and padded laptop sleeve make this daypack ideal for travelers, it can still be using for light day hikes. There is a built-in emergency whistle in the sternum strap buckle and there is a hydration port if you want to add a hydration bladder to the pack.

With a 31L capacity, this pack will hold a lot of stuff, but still easily fits under the seat in front on you on an airplane. It’s definitely a good choice for a carry-on travel daypack. Just keep in mind that those zippers do easily get caught up in the bag’s fabric – so when you’re in a hurry at security, etc. it will likely happen unless you’re careful.

Osprey Farpoint 40 Travel Pack Review

Osprey Farpoint 40 travel daypackThis Osprey pack is one of our favorite options for travellers who need a good quality daypack that can hold a lot of stuff. Whether you’re doing a road trip or traveling by train or plane, the Osprey Farpoint 40 is a great option for globetrotters.

What we like most about it: you can carry it as a duffel, messenger bag or backpack.

What we don’t like about it: the location of the laptop pocket is problematic and the entire front pocket section doesn’t have much room

Where to Buy

With a  40L capacity, you really get a lot of space in this pack. It’s a great choice for long term or round the world travel. However, we do wish that the front pocket had more room and that the laptop sleeve was on the back instead of the front.

The ability to carry it as a pack, messenger bag or duffel bag is really what makes this the best backpack for travel. You can adapt it to meet your travel needs, which can change depending on situation and what other bags you are traveling with. That’s why we rate this one so highly.

How It Is Opened?

There are two types of daypacks when it comes to how they open, and this makes up an important difference. Panel loading and top loading are the two differences and they have very different functions.

A panel loader is one that has a lot of compartments and zippers. The main storage area has a u-shaped zipper and will open almost the entire pack. This makes it easy for load things and to look through it when you need something.  It is easy to organize, so if that is what you need – if you are a student who is going to several classes for instance – this might be the one for you.

Top loaders have the main opening at one end, and they are rounder than a panel loading daypack. They are usually a little larger, and may close with a drawstring, which makes it easy to overstuff. Some have an extendable lid that allows you to make it even bigger.  These are best when you have a lot of things to carry, but do not need easy access to the contents. A camping trip, carrying your clothing, food or utensils are good for this type of pack.

There are a few that have both options which just adds to the flexibility. Size is also a consideration. There are daypacks ranging from ones that will hold 10 liters up to 50 liters.

Common Features

Here are some more features, or special things to consider. There are many kinds and many have specific things that will lend themselves to a particular activity.

  • There are women specific daypacks, which are designed for women. They are narrower and have more contoured shoulder straps.
  • One new development is the “hydration packs” now available. Some come with a reservoir and a tube for you to drink form whenever you like.  Some just have a place for a bottle and they are called “hydration compatible,” but either one is a nice addition that would make it good in a lot of different situations.
  • Lumbar packs, are as the name implies, designed to fit or ride on your back and your waist. They often have a snug fit.
  • Courier bags are smaller daypacks that fit over the shoulder and often are attached to a belt. Cyclists like these, as well as people who want to keep things in easy reach.
  • Ventilated back panels are another nice development for daypacks, especially if you have a larger one that is holding some weight. These use a frame to push the load away from your back and this allows air to flow between you and the pack. This cuts down on heat.

What Is It Made Of?

The fabric and coating affects the price, but it also affects the quality to a very large degree. You might consider the fabric you will need, how strong it is and how much it will weigh. Finding a balance between the weight and strength will be something you will have to determine by trial and error.

Nylon is often used, as well as a nylon twill type fabric. There is also a nylon and polyester combination that works well at times. This is called “ripstop” fabric and it keeps a tear from spreading. This is great if you are in the great outdoors a lot, and might be brushing against tree limbs.

Kodra is a strong fiber that resists tears. It is heavy however, and that is a drawback. The other side is Nylon Oxford, which is very light and has been used a long time for packs. There is also polyester, which is a lot like nylon but this is more to provide variety in color.

Another term you need to know is the “denier” factor. This is the level of how fine the fabric is, which determines its resistance to tearing as well as its weight. Here you have to balance your needs against your desire for lightness. The lightest amount is around 70 for very light packs that could get torn easily, and go up to 1,600, and that makes for very strong but heavy daypack.

Polyurethane is a coating applied on the inside of the pack and provides a lot of water resistance. Silicone is another coating that is used on lightweight packs. It offers some water resistance but not as much as polyurethane.

What Will You Use It For?

When considering a daypack, the greater consideration is what you will be doing it and how will you be using it.  You may need more than one if you are involved in a lot of different  kinds of activities, or you could look for one similarities in various activities to help you pick the best one for your situation.

Here are some suggestions for specific activities.

  • Day hiking daypacks need to be mid-size so you can carry whatever you will need. A panel loader might be good because you will need side pockets and several compartments to keep things organized. Either a hydration system or hydration compatible.
  • Climbing. If your day hiking turns to climbing – or you think it might – it is good to consider a slightly different type of pack. You may need a little more room for your gear, but a mid-sized one should be fine. A slightly more narrow pack should be considered, and a good bit  of padding or a frame for more comfort.  Look for specialized things like a daisy chain for lashing gear to the pack.
  • Skiing is another place where a daypack could come in handy. A narrow pack is good, the less wind resistance the better. A hip belt is essential to keep it snug against your body.  Climbing packs will also work for skiing, but some of these have means for attaching your skis to the pack, which is a plus.
  • Running is another place where a pack might come in handy, but you need a small light weight one. A lumbar pack, that fastens to your back,  a good thing. A pack with a water bottle, or hydration system is also a plus.
  • Camping will depend on whether you are a minimalist or whether you want to carry everything you could possibly think of. For this just go with size depending on how much space you will need. A padded back or frame is good to offset or support some  of the weight. Some back padding is good too, but you need to have some air on your back while hiking as well.
  • Commuting or school is perhaps  the most common place for a daypack to be used. Here you need compartments and a lot of them, some dividers and a slot for stashing things like notebooks or pads. A back panel or frame will keep books from damaging the pack, but that starts to get unwieldy in some situations.

Are The Cheap Daypacks At Big Box Stores Really A Bargain?

Daypacks come in many shapes, many different features and a lot of different prices. You can pick one up cheap at a big box store like Wal-Mart, and it will be serviceable enough for most people. If you are not going to use it a lot, it may be all you need. But, it definitely won’t be a good value for the money if you intend to use it for a while.

However, there are daypacks made my smaller companies that have a lot more details, bells and whistles as it were, and while they may cost more, you will not get these things with the big box daypack.

Getting one from a specialty store will give you more options and probably higher quality, and that may make a higher price the actual better  deal. Padding, support and shape are more detailed in these packs. The more pads, or the more plush the padding, the more comfortable it will be. Regardless of where you get your daypack, check out the padding and support as that will affect your comfort level every time you put it on.

Lighter weights are one advantage of the more specialized daypacks. You can get a cheaper one that will weigh more, or pay more and get a lighter one that will be easier to carry. You can get more durable material, and more light weight construction, if you spend a little more for better quality.

Water resistant zippers are also a nice touch, which makes flaps unneeded, and it makes them easier to use in wet weather. Waist belt pockets, or pockets in general, are another plus in some of the higher priced models. The higher price you go, the more pockets you will likely have, and you can’t have too many.

Some other nuances you might look for include women specific design, laptop slots, cell phone pockets, organizers, key holders, and padded back panels.

Final Thoughts

The biggest consideration of course is what you will be using it for, and how much you will be using the daypack.  Think about the features you will need.

Balance price against quality. You get what you pay for. Even so, if you only need a bag to carry on the subway to school, and are only carrying a couple of items, a minimalist approach might be all you need. A cheap one with a couple of compartments will handle that scenario. However, if you are going on long hikes in the wilderness, skiing, climbing mountains and so forth, a higher quality daypack at a higher price would be a good idea.

There are a lot of options and a lot of features to choose from. Think through what you will be using it for, and that will help you determine which features you need.  Functionality and comfort should be the primary considerations when shopping for a daypack to fit your needs.

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