From short day hikes and summit scrambles to all-day adventures into the backcountry, you’ll want the right pack for the job. Most people carry water and food, a layering piece and rain shell, and a few other accessories like a first-aid kit or headlamp. And the longer you’ll be on the trail, the more comfort, capacity, and features come into play. Below we break down the best daypacks of 2022, from simple and inexpensive models for casual hikes to more comfortable and feature-packed options for longer excursions. For more information, check out our detailed buying advice and comparison table after the picks.
- Best Overall Daypack: Osprey Talon 22 / Tempest 20
- Best Budget/Lightweight Daypack: REI Co-op Flash 22
- Most Comfortable for Heavy Loads: Osprey Stratos 36 / Sirrus 36
- Best Hydration Pack for Hiking: Osprey Skarab 30 / Skimmer 28
- Best for Fast-and-Light Mountain Missions: Black Diamond Distance 15
- Best Daypack for On-the-Go Storage: Arc’teryx Aerios 30 / women's Aerios 30
Best Overall Daypack
Weight: 1 lb. 14.6 oz.
Capacities: 11, 22, 26, 33, 36, 44L
What we like: A comfortable, well-built, and versatile daypack.
What we don’t: For heavy loads, the Osprey Stratos below offers more padding and support.
If you’re looking for one daypack that can do it all, Osprey’s Talon is your best bet. At 22 liters (and made in larger versions up to 44 liters for those who need more capacity), it hits an ideal balance of comfort and features. Notably, the Talon has a real hipbelt with light cushioning, which is more comfortable than the simple webbing you get with more streamlined packs, along with a thoughtfully designed mesh backpanel. The pack also has functional organization, a nice stretchiness to it, ample attachment points including for trekking poles, a helmet, and a bike light, and is made in two sizes to dial in fit. For day hikes, travel, and everyday use, the Talon 22 is an excellent choice.
While the Talon is Osprey’s best all-rounder, the more expensive Stratos collection below offers even more padding and carrying comfort. The latter has a more substantial hipbelt along with a suspended mesh backpanel for superior support and ventilation (it’s built more like a backpacking pack than a daypack). On the flip side, the Talon is lighter at under 2 pounds, but its thinner backpanel does mean that you can sometimes feel the contents of your bag on your back, and particularly if loaded down. In the end, the Stratos gets the edge for heavy loads and long days on the trail (the 36L we have listed is even serviceable for light overnights), but the Talon is lighter, cheaper, and more than enough daypack for most people and uses... Read in-depth review
See the Osprey Talon 22 See the Women's Osprey Tempest 20
Weight: 14 oz.
Capacities: 18, 22L
What we like: Lightweight, well made, and cheap.
What we don’t: Underbuilt for shuttling a full load.
REI Co-op’s Flash line of daypacks has been a mainstay among hikers, travelers, and those on a budget for years. And with a recent update, the latest Flash 22 is more competitive than ever. Simplicity wins out here: The Flash 22 is frameless by design, meaning it lacks the rigidity of other daypacks but manages to keep weight extremely low at just 14 ounces (and even less if you take out the back pad or sternum strap). You don’t get a cushy hipbelt or shoulder straps, but the padded mesh along the back and shoulders does a good job at keeping you comfortable when carrying lighter loads. Perhaps most importantly, the Flash costs just $60, is well built overall, and has enough capacity for all-day outings on the trail (provided you pack relatively light).
As we touched on above, the Flash 22 was updated recently with some noteworthy changes. For an ounce more than its predecessor, the latest pack utilizes a nylon and polyester construction throughout (the prior model was just nylon with mesh water bottle pockets) with solution-dyed materials that require considerably less water during production. The top lid was also tweaked and now includes two buckles rather than one for snugging things down, and the Packmod bungee can be moved up or down to customize gear attachments. But some downsides remain: The Flash 22 isn't a standout in all-out comfort and support for shuttling a heavy load over long distances, materials are on the thinner end for rough use, and it’s only sold in one size. But if you can keep weight to a minimum, the Flash 22 is a great way to go fast and light on a budget. For an even lighter and more streamlined version, check out REI’s $20-cheaper Flash 18... Read in-depth review
See the REI Co-op Flash 22
Weight: 3 lbs. 2.8 oz.
Capacities: 24, 26, 34, 36, 50L
What we like: Extremely comfortable, loaded with features, and can pull double duty for light overnights.
What we don’t: Heavy for its capacity.
If you prioritize comfort or plan on hauling a heavy load, the Osprey Stratos 36 is one of the most feature-rich daypacks on this list. Its full metal frame and substantial hipbelt put the weight comfortably on your hips, and a large mesh panel ventilates extremely well and conforms nicely to your back. In addition, organization is excellent—we particularly like the two hipbelt pockets and zippered side panel access to the main compartment, and there’s even a sleeping bag compartment and pad straps for embarking on minimalist overnights. Add a built-in rain cover, and the Stratos checks off everything you’ll need in a daypack—and more.
The primary downsides of the Stratos are weight and price. The sturdy construction pushes the pack to over 3 pounds (this is more than many backpacking packs even), and the Osprey can’t stuff down like a frameless bag. It's also fairly expensive at $170 considering the capacity (you can save a considerable $31 with REI’s Traverse 32 below without sacrificing much in the way of storage). In the end, those wanting a premium, luxurious pack will appreciate the Stratos’ support and build quality, but for something simpler and more packable from Osprey, see the equally popular Talon above. Note: The Stratos and women’s Sirrus collections are getting updated for summer 2022 with changes to the suspension system, so the outgoing models here are available at a nice discount while supplies last... Read in-depth review
See the Osprey Stratos 36 See the Women's Osprey Sirrus 36
Weight: 1 lb. 8.6 oz.
Capacities: 18, 22, 30L
What we like: Great mix of storage, convenience, and comfort with an included hydration system.
What we don’t: Small hipbelt pockets, only sold in one size, and many hikers already own a reservoir.
Most modern daypacks come with dedicated storage for a water reservoir, but Osprey’s Skarab 30 (and women’s Skimmer 28) provides a functional all-in-one option for those who want to purchase their pack and bladder together. In testing the Skarab, we were especially impressed by its comfort and convenience, including a spacious main compartment with a large bucket-style opening, nicely cushioned yet low-profile suspension system, and convenient organizational layout. For reference, the included 2.5-liter Hydraulics LT reservoir is a $40 investment on its own, making the Skarab a really good value for those who don’t already own a bladder. Added up, it’s another high-quality and well-appointed design from one of the best pack manufacturers around.
The Osprey Skarab 30 tops our hydration pack round-up for this year, but it’s not without downsides. First, the hipbelt pockets are noticeably small and couldn’t accommodate our standard-sized iPhone. Second, both the Skarab and women’s Skimmer are only offered in a single torso size, which will make it harder for some to dial in fit. But these are relatively small complaints for an otherwise well-equipped and highly comfortable daypack, and the included reservoir is just the cherry on top. For a boost in support and ventilation, Osprey’s $200 Manta 34 (and women’s Mira 32) includes the same 2.5-liter reservoir, although it’s noticeably heavier and more complex than the Skarab and overbuilt for most.
See the Osprey Skarab 30 See the Women's Osprey Skimmer 28
Weight: 13.9 oz.
Capacities: 4, 8, 15L
What we like: Light, streamlined, and allows convenient access to the essentials.
What we don’t: No hipbelt and specialized feature set.
Traditional daypacks like the Talon and Stratos above are great for moderate day hikes, but Black Diamond’s running-inspired Distance 15 is purpose-built for mountain athletes focused on traveling fast and light. The hybrid pack/vest design checks in at a scant 13.9 ounces but easily accommodates a day’s worth of supplies (it can even fit a streamlined climbing helmet). The storage layout is another highlight: The four zippered chest pockets, trekking pole sleeves, ice axe holders, side compression straps, and dual front stretch pockets allow you to conveniently access the essentials without removing the pack. Along with the body-hugging shape, the Distance makes it easy to move quickly and efficiently over rougher, varied terrain.
To be clear, however, the Black Diamond Distance isn’t for everyone. The pack is reasonably durable with a mix of 100- and 200-denier fabrics, but you'll need to be careful around sharp rock and equipment and avoid overpacking (we had a shoulder strap detach almost entirely after adding too much weight). We’ve also found it rides a bit low on our back and can feel heavy at the end of a long day, and the lack of hipbelt only exacerbates the issue. The Distance does come in a nice range of sizes from extra small to large, and the straps allow you to adjust the fit at the sides and front, but we still recommend trying it on before buying (the unisex sizing might be problematic for some women). But if you can get a good fit, the Distance is a light but thoughtfully built option for activities like scrambling, ridge traverses, and long days in the mountains.
See the Black Diamond Distance 15
Best Daypack for On-the-Go Storage
Weight: 2 lbs.
Capacities: 15, 30, 45L
What we like: Excellent on-the-go storage with a supportive and body-hugging fit.
What we don’t: Expensive and not ideal for casual use.
Arc’teryx is known for making high-quality gear for ambitious adventures, and much of that expertise has trickled down to their hiking-focused Aerios pack. We’re big fans of the fastpacking-inspired design, which merges the capacity and support of a backpack with the on-the-go storage of a running vest. On the front, you get two stretchy mesh pockets (great for storing soft flasks) in addition to zippered pockets on both the shoulder straps and hipbelt. The rest of the pack offers equally convenient organization—including side dump pockets and a handy accessory stash—and suspension is excellent, pairing a vest-like fit at the chest with a rigid foam backpanel and supportive hipbelt. It all adds up to our favorite new daypack of the year, especially for hikers that prioritize speed and distance.
We recently tested the Aerios 30 on several day hikes in Patagonia and were blown away by the thoughtful design and high-quality finishes. In fact, after experiencing the merits of the body-hugging fit and generous on-the-go storage, we found it hard to transition back to a standard pack. That said, you’ll pay a pretty steep premium at $190, which is around $50 more than similarly sized options like the REI Traverse 32 and Patagonia Altvia 28L below. And some may not like the technical appearance of the vest-like upper, which doesn’t wear as well on casual adventures. But for fast-moving trail days when you’re eating and drinking on the go, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more suitable and well-built option.
See the Arc'teryx Aerios 30 See the Women's Arc'teryx Aerios 30
Weight: 1 lb. 4.6 oz.
Capacities: 13, 20L
What we like: Osprey quality and 20 liters of capacity at a good price.
What we don’t: Limited support and only sold in one size.
Osprey’s Talon and Stratos above get the lion’s share of the attention, but the Daylite Plus is another viable option that comes in significantly cheaper. This simple daypack weighs just 1 pound 4.6 ounces, has a respectable 20-liter capacity and good padding for carrying lighter loads, and boasts the kind of quality build that Osprey in known for. In terms of best uses, we’ve found that the Daylite Plus is a great match for short to moderate days on the trail or as a companion pack for travel—it’s designed to attach to the outside of a number of Osprey’s larger travel bags, including the popular Farpoint (and women’s Fairview) series.
The most obvious drawbacks to the Osprey Daylite Plus are the lack of support and sizing options (the one-size-fits-all design can accommodate 15- to 22-in. torso lengths and 25- to 50-in. waists). As we noted above, the shoulder straps are thinly cushioned and will get the job done for minimalists, but those planning to stuff in a full day’s worth of gear—including a shell, insulation, food, water, and other necessities—will quickly notice the drop in comfort. The waist belt is also made of simple webbing, which again is serviceable for brief outings but falls short as the miles add up. But as a streamlined grab-and-go option that can also be worn for travel and around-town use, the Daylite Plus (and smaller 13-liter Daylite) undeniably is a great value from one of the most reputable pack manufacturers in the business... Read in-depth review
See the Osprey Daylite Plus
Weight: 1 lb. 3 oz.
What we like: Waterproof and light.
What we don’t: Expensive; relatively small capacity in the main compartment.
Maine-based Hyperlite Mountain Gear makes some of our favorite ultralight backpacking packs. Their top daypack, the Daybreak, shares the same core ingredients: Dyneema Composite Fabric that is weather-resistant and incredibly strong for its weight, simple yet functional organization, and a clean design that looks great. On paper, the 17-liter capacity in the main compartment seems small, but the large front pocket and two side pockets add a significant amount of functional storage. For serious day hikes in rough conditions, the Daybreak is hard to beat.
Cost is the biggest obstacle in choosing the Daybreak. In fact, it’s the most expensive bag on our list despite only having a moderate 17-liter capacity. But the extra money gets you excellent weather protection, a premium build that is handmade in the U.S., and we love the trickle-down features from Hyperlite’s backpacking packs. And it's worth noting that many people use the Daybreak for daily use, and we’ve found ourselves doing the same for travel and carrying a computer or camera. If you’re able to pull double duty, it’s easier to swallow the high price. And for another competitive ultralight option, check out Six Moon Designs’ larger and cheaper (but not waterproof) 30-liter Wy’east Daypack.
See the Hyperlite Mountain Gear Daybreak
Weight: 2 lbs. 9 oz.
Capacities: 32, 60L
What we like: Durable materials, three size options, and a good all-around value.
What we don’t: Overbuilt for most day hikes.
The second REI pack to make our list is the Traverse 32, which is a shrunken-down variation of their popular 60-liter backpacking pack. In a strong departure from the minimalist Flash 22 above, the focus here is on durability and organization: The Traverse is solidly built with a steel frame and hardwearing fabrics (bonus: They’re recycled and bluesign-approved), and you get ample exterior pockets, a handy side-access zipper to the main compartment, and lash points for stowing gear and valuables. The Traverse also features REI’s functional Packmod system, which allows you to customize the compression strap layout to tailor it to the size and shape of your load. Finally, as we’ve come to expect from the brand, the Traverse is a good all-around value for what you get at $139.
That said, not everyone will benefit from the Traverse’s unapologetically burly and complex build. Weight is pretty reasonable for the capacity at 2 pounds 9 ounces, but the thicker fabrics and raised foam padding on the backpanel give the pack a fairly clunky feel (they also translate to subpar breathability). For most easy to moderate day hikes, we would prefer shaving considerable heft and bulk with a design like Osprey’s Talon above. That said, the Traverse has its appeal for ambitious all-day treks and light overnights, and the three size options mean that most hikers should be able to find a good fit. For a bigger but slightly less technical design, check out REI’s own Trail 40 (we outline the smaller 25L model below).
See the REI Co-op Traverse 32 See the Women's REI Traverse 32
Weight: 2 lbs. 9.9 oz.
Capacities: 30, 35, 40, 55, 65L
What we like: A legitimate competitor to Osprey’s Stratos above.
What we don’t: Not as overnight-friendly as the Stratos.
Gregory goes head-to-head with Osprey in the daypack and backpacking pack markets, and their Zulu 30 is a serious competitor to the popular Stratos above. In short, the Zulu has all the trimmings we’d expect of a premium day-hiking design, including the brand’s FreeFloat Dynamic Suspension system and mesh backpanel for great all-around comfort and breathability. Further, you get well-thought-out organization, easy access to the main compartment via a large U-shaped opening, and even an included rain cover. We also love the adjustability at the torso, which can be moved up or down 4 inches. Finally, the Gregory is built to last with robust materials throughout and reinforced panels along the bottom.
All that said, the Zulu falls short of the Stratos 36 above in one key area: versatility. In particular, the Stratos is the more overnight-friendly option with an additional 6 liters of capacity and a slightly more functional storage layout, including a top lid, zippered front panel (the Gregory has a traditional shove-it mesh pocket), and dedicated sleeping bag compartment with removable pad straps. The Osprey is heavier by around 9 ounces and costs $10 more, but we think those tradeoffs are worth it for those looking for a dual hiking/backpacking pack. On the flip side, unlike the Stratos line, the Zulu collection doesn’t include any options in the 20-liter range for day hikers who like to stick to the basics. But there’s no denying the impressive comfort and feature set, which is why we’ve included the Zulu here.
See the Gregory Zulu 30 See the Women's Gregory Jade 28
Weight: 2 lbs.
Capacities: 25, 40L
What we like: Excellent organization and included rain cover at a great price.
What we don’t: Relatively basic hipbelt and backpanel designs.
We’ve used quite a few REI daypacks over the years and consider them a solid value for their feature set. The Trail 25 is an excellent example: For $80, you get outstanding organization with ample exterior pockets and lash points, great touches like trekking pole attachments and an included rain cover, and specific men’s and women’s designs. The pack is also nicely built with durable materials that are recycled and bluesign-approved, along with plush cushioning along the backpanel and shoulders. Taken together, it’s a whole lot of bang for your buck.
We particularly like the U-shaped zippers along the sides of the Trail 25, which allow you to access the bottom of the main compartment without having to pull out everything on top. The only notable downsides are the lack of cushioning along the hipbelt (the larger Trail 40 offers padding here) and slightly basic backpanel design, which isn’t as form-fitting or breathable as the Talon’s above. But everything else is in line with the more expensive Osprey, and we consider the Trail 25 a highly versatile option for day hikes, commuting, or use as a carry-on while traveling. And for a more premium option from REI that can pull double duty for light overnights, see their Traverse 32 above.
See the Men's REI Co-op Trail 25 See the Women's REI Co-op Trail 25
Weight: 1 lb. 2 oz.
Capacities: 18, 22L
What we like: A great value for a solid all-around hydration pack.
What we don’t: Less comfortable than the Osprey Skarab above.
Gregory has been in the pack business for decades, and we’re consistently impressed with the build quality and comfort of their products. The Nano H2O hydration pack is no exception and has a hiking-focused build that comes with Gregory’s in-house 3D Hydro reservoir system. There’s a lot to like here: The Nano is lightweight, sleek, and very competitively priced at just $90 (the included reservoir costs $43 alone). You can spend up for Gregory’s Inertia 24 hydration pack, which comes with nice touches like a lightly padded hipbelt, more supportive foam backpanel, and more generous storage layout, but we love the value of the Nano line.
Compared with the Osprey Skarab 30 hydration pack above, the Gregory Nano H2O is a little smaller but includes a larger 3-liter reservoir (the Skarab’s is 2.5L) and costs a considerable $50 less. Where the Skarab gets the clear edge is carrying abilities with a stiffer, more supportive backpanel. It also has good padding and pockets on the hipbelt along with a more form-fitting design. But for shorter hikes with lighter loads, the Nano H2O is a great alternative for less money. For a more feature-rich hydration option from Gregory with excellent carrying comfort, check out their premium Citro 24.
See the Gregory Nano 22 H2O
Weight: 1 lb. 12 oz.
Capacities: 14, 22, 28, 36L
What we like: Functional storage, capacity, and features at a low weight.
What we don’t: Fairly thin padding along the hipbelt and shoulder straps.
Coming on the heels of their Nine Trails collection is Patagonia’s hiking-focused Altvia line. Ranging in capacity from 14 to 36 liters, the middle-ground 28L model strikes us as the most versatile, with a suspended mesh backpanel for airflow, lightly padded shoulder straps and hipbelt (the latter of which have pockets), included rain cover, and enough capacity to pull double duty for ultralight overnights—all at under 2 pounds. We also like the top lid design, which opens wide for easy access to gear but can be cinched securely via a drawcord and buckle system. Finally, we appreciate the brand’s ongoing focus on sustainability, including the use of recycled nylon and PFC-free DWR.
As we’ve come to expect from Patagonia, the Altvia is well built with durable materials, reasonably weather-resistant with a PU coating and durable water repellent finish (plus the aforementioned rain cover), and looks good to boot. And climbers in particular will like the tall and narrow shape that sits close to the back, which makes it a viable option for use at the crag or while following multi-pitch routes. All that said, Patagonia did minimize the cushioning along the waist belt and shoulder straps to shave weight, which means comfort will suffer under heavy loads and over longer distances. But if you’re intentional about packing, the Altvia 28L is another thoughtfully made and versatile choice.
See the Patagonia Altvia 28L
Weight: 1 lb. 5 oz.
Capacities: 18, 24L
What we like: Functional front storage and easy-on-the-go access for less than the competition.
What we don’t: Thin construction and basic webbing hipbelt.
We love daypacks that prioritize easy-on-the-go access, like the Arc’teryx Aerios 30 and running vest-inspired Black Diamond Distance above. But those packs are pretty technical in nature, and casual adventurers can save considerably with The North Face’s Chimera 24. Like the Aerios and Distance, the Chimera boasts a storage-equipped shoulder harness with four pockets for snacks and small valuables and has a body-hugging fit that keeps the weight close to your back. We also like the front stash pocket and corresponding compression system that easily swallows extra layers and cinches down easily via the adjustable bungee at the top (which you can toggle without removing the pack). Finally, the Chimera is light for the capacity at just 1 pound 5 ounces with an airy and well-ventilated feel to match.
Why do we have the Chimera 24 so far down this list? Our first complaint is the 70-denier construction, which is on the thin end of the spectrum and far less confidence-inspiring than many other packs here, including the lighter Distance 15 (which uses 100 and 200D materials). Another drawback is that the basic webbing hipbelt offers limited support and comfort compared to more cushioned designs like the Aerios 30 and Osprey Talon above (although the Talon lacks the front storage that we love). In the end, we think most avid hikers will be happier spending up for the more supportive Aerios, while dedicated mountain athletes will prefer the more specialized BD Distance. But the Chimera hits a nice middle ground, combining functional on-the-go storage and access with a light weight and approachable price point.
See The North Face Chimera 24 See the Women's Chimera 24
Weight: 1 lb. 8.3 oz.
Capacities: 20, 30, 40L
What we like: Low weight and functional feature set for fastpacking and ultra-minimalist overnights.
What we don’t: Light on padding and too techy for casual use.
For fastpacking and longer technical missions in the mountains, a larger running vest-inspired design like Ultimate Direction’s Fastpack 30 makes a lot of sense. We’ll start with the positives: The Fastpack checks in at a competitive 1 pound 8.3 ounces but comes nicely appointed with a generous 30 liters of capacity, front water bottle storage and reservoir compatibility, and functional exterior organization including multiple stretch pockets. Main compartment access is another highlight: The roll-top closure makes it easy to snug things down, while the separate zipper at the side makes retrieving gear quick and painless. Combined with a supportive and breathable foam backpanel, removable waistbelt, and great adjustability, the Fastpack 30 stands out as one of the most thoughtfully built and mountain-ready options on our list.
Now for the negatives: The Ultimate Direction Fastpack 30 costs a steep $180 but is far less versatile than many other options here. In other words, this is a decidedly technical pack that is overkill for most casual day hikers (and many ambitious hikers too). Further, to keep weight low, the Fastpack uses fairly thin materials along the shoulders and a very basic webbing hipbelt, which make it notably less comfortable and supportive under a heavy load than the more traditional designs from Osprey, Deuter, and Gregory above. On the flip side, the Fastpack sits very close to the body, which makes it much easier to cover ground quickly (similar to the smaller Black Diamond Distance above). All in all, this pack isn’t for everyone, but the low weight and well-executed feature set make it an excellent choice for ultralight overnights and mountain athletes who like to get after it.
See the Ultimate Direction Fastpack 30
Weight: 10.6 oz.
Capacities: 18, 24L
What we like: Light and eye-catching design with a strong focus on sustainability.
What we don’t: Lacking in comfort and features.
Salt Lake City-based Cotopaxi is a brand on the rise, combining sustainable production practices with fun, vibrant designs for casual outdoor-goers. Their Luzon 18L daypack slots in as a budget-friendly and feathery option for minimalists and short day-hiking objectives. For reference, it’s the lightest option on our list at a scant 10.6 ounces (undercutting the Flash 22 above by around 3.5 oz.) and has a streamlined, body-hugging shape that keeps the pack close to your back. The design is decidedly basic with a frameless build, thin webbing hipbelt, and only one front zippered pocket, but it’s a sleek, good-looking option at a very affordable price point and can easily pull double duty for commuting and travel.
That said, the performance drawbacks are enough to push the Luzon toward the end of our rankings. The lack of backpanel, hipbelt, and shoulder strap padding mean the pack will suffer under heavy loads, and the inclusion of only a single zip pocket (plus a hydration reservoir sleeve) is very limiting from an organizational standpoint. For reference, REI’s similarly sized Flash 18 costs $15 less, weighs 9.5 ounces, and boasts external lash points for securing gear to the outside of the pack, while their $60 Flash 22 above is noticeably more comfortable and feature-rich. On the flip side, the Cotopaxi wins out in styling with its bright, multi-colored design and is made from 100-percent-repurposed fabrics—two of the brand’s hallmarks. Given the light and sleek build, it’s also a viable follower pack for multi-pitch climbs. The lack of support, cushioning, and features are undeniably limiting, but it’s a thoughtfully built option at a good value for shorter adventures and summit scrambles.
See the Cotopaxi Luzon 18L
Weight: 2 lbs. 11.2 oz.
Capacities: 25, 40L
What we like: Unique zipper design allows easy access and has a lot of appeal for travel.
What we don’t: Pricey and heavy.
Mystery Ranch is a cottage brand out of Bozeman, Montana, with a solid reputation among hunters and serious mountain athletes. For the more casual day hiking crowd, their Coulee 25 stands out as an impressively durable and functional option. Right away, you’ll notice that this pack looks a little different than the competition: With a unique, Y-shaped opening at the front, the Coulee opens wide and allows quick and easy access to the main compartment. From day hiking to international travel, the 3-zipper system has a lot of appeal, and the rest of the design and storage layout are equally well executed.
The Coulee 25 is a competitor to the 24-liter variation of Osprey’s Stratos above, but a few key differences push the Coulee down in our rankings. Specifically, the Stratos 24 comes with an integrated rain cover and more exterior storage while undercutting the Coulee in price by around $50. With the Stratos, you forgo the Mystery Ranch’s innovative zipper design and sacrifice a little durability and customizability (you can remove the Coulee’s hipbelt), but the Osprey strikes us as the better overall value. And if you like the design of the Coulee but want something a little bigger for overnights, check out Mystery Ranch’s Scree 32.
See the Mystery Ranch Coulee 25 See the Women's Coulee 25
Weight: 1 lb.
What we like: A durable canvas pack with your pick of mountain artwork; handmade in the USA.
What we don’t: Pricey and not ideal for performance use.
Most of the packs here are fairly technical in nature, but Free Range Equipment offers something a little different. A small company run out of a garage in Bend, Oregon, FRE works with artists to create each of their classic Canvas Series packs. Their list of collaborators is ever-growing, and at the time of publishing, you can choose from 52 different designs including everything from the Tetons and Patagonia’s Fitz Roy range to a mountain wildflower scene. The Canvas pack is basic—you get 25 liters of space, a small internal stash pocket, and two zippered pockets on the lid—but it gets the job done for day hikes or your daily commute (a laptop easily fits inside).
Free Range Equipment’s Canvas packs aren’t trying to match the performance chops of the Ospreys and Deuters above, but their rugged fabric will hold up to years of use and abuse (we’ve used ours almost daily for three years with no durability concerns). Keep in mind that you don’t get features like a padded waistbelt, reservoir sleeve, or numerous storage options, and the Canvas pack only comes in one size. But let’s be honest: The aesthetics and versatility are the biggest selling points of this pack, and it wins out in both departments. We should note that FRE also makes Canvas fanny packs, which feature their own unique artwork and are less of an investment at $59.
See the Free Range Equipment Canvas
|Osprey Talon 22||$135||1 lb. 14.6 oz.||11, 22, 26, 33, 36, 44L||Cushioned||Backpanel||7 exterior|
|REI Co-op Flash 22||$60||14 oz.||18, 22L||Webbing||None||3 exterior|
|Osprey Stratos 36||$170||3 lb. 2.8 oz.||24, 26, 34, 36, 50L||Cushioned||Alloy frame||7 exterior|
|Osprey Skarab 30||$140||1 lb. 8.6 oz.||18, 22, 30L||Cushioned||Framesheet||5 exterior|
|Black Diamond Distance 15||$160||13.9 oz.||4, 8, 15L||None||None||6 exterior|
|Arc'teryx Aerios 30||$190||2 lb.||15, 30, 45L||Cushioned||Framesheet||6 exterior|
|Osprey Daylite Plus||$70||1 lb. 4.6 oz.||13, 20L||Webbing||None||5 exterior|
|Hyperlite Daybreak||$210||1 lb. 3 oz.||17L||Cushioned||Backpanel||3 exterior|
|REI Co-op Traverse 32||$139||2 lb. 9 oz.||32, 60L||Cushioned||Steel frame||6 exterior|
|Gregory Zulu 30||$160||2 lb. 9.9 oz.||30, 35, 40, 55, 65L||Cushioned||Steel frame||6 exterior|
|REI Co-op Trail 25||$80||2 lb.||25, 40L||Webbing||Framesheet||5 exterior|
|Gregory Nano 22 H2O||$90||1 lb. 2 oz.||18, 22L||Webbing||None||3 exterior|
|Patagonia Altvia 28L||$139||1 lb. 12 oz.||14, 22, 28, 36L||Cushioned||Backpanel||5 exterior|
|The North Face Chimera 24||$109||1 lb. 5 oz.||18, 24L||Webbing||Backpanel||7 exterior|
|UD Fastpack 30||$180||1 lb. 8.3 oz.||20, 30, 40L||Webbing||Backpanel||6 exterior|
|Cotopaxi Luzon 18L||$55||10.6 oz.||18, 24L||Webbing||None||1 exterior|
|Mystery Ranch Coulee 25||$189||2 lb. 11.2 oz.||25, 40L||Cushioned||Framesheet||4 exterior|
|Free Range Canvas||$169||1 lb. 0 oz.||25L||Webbing||Backpanel||1 exterior|
- Types of Daypacks
- What's the Ideal Size (Capacity)?
- Weight: Fully Featured vs. Minimalist
- Carrying Comfort: Hipbelt and Shoulder Straps
- Fit and Sizing
- Backpanel and Ventilation
- Water Resistance
- Hydration Compatibility
- Pockets and Organization
- Closure Systems and Access
- Benefits of Choosing a Women’s-Specific Daypack
With hundreds of daypacks on the market, choosing the right one is largely dependent on what you intend to use it for. Do you need a daypack to approach an alpine climbing zone, or to explore an urban area on vacation? Do you need to strap on crampons or an ice axe, or do you just want a comfortable way to haul water and some extra layers?
For the casual user that doesn’t need much support for hauling a heavy load, the more affordable options on this list will do just fine. Budget-friendly packs like the $60 REI Co-op Flash 22 have a more basic suspension design (or none at all) and a less customizable fit, but do great for heading to class or a quick hike in the woods. If you’re planning on putting on some serious miles or need to carry a decent load, you’ll appreciate the added structure and padded backpanel, hipbelt, and shoulder straps found in the options starting around $100 (we cover this in more detail in the "Carrying Comfort" section below). Finally, many of today’s top daypacks can pull double duty for casual use.
Capacities for daypacks vary widely. You’ll see them offered anywhere from as small as 5 liters all the way up to 40 plus. For those who only need to fit a compressible rain jacket and a lunch, you can get away with one of those small packs. But most of us need a bit more space to throw in a few more essentials. The options above range from 15 to 32 liters, with the largest ones being better served for commuters, gear-heavy adventures like winter hikes, or ultralight overnights. We’ve found that approximately 25 liters is a real sweet spot for an all-around daypack that can handle anything from local summits to full-day hikes. At that size, organization also improves from more basic models, with a variety of zippered pockets to divvy up your gear. Below are some basic guidelines for capacity:
Short day hikes: 10-20 liters
Summit packs: 18-24 liters
Average day hikes and everyday use: 20-30 liters
Long day hikes and ultralight overnights: 30-40 liters
A quick look at our comparison table above reveals a wide range of pack weight from a scant 9 ounces to over 3 pounds. On the heavy end is the fully featured Osprey Stratos 36, which comes with lots of zippered pockets and a suspension and hipbelt to rival a backpacking pack. At the other end of the spectrum, the REI Flash 22, Osprey Daylite Plus, Cotopaxi Luzon, and Hyperlite Mountain Gear Daybreak are minimalist packs with much less in the way of structure or features but weigh about 1 pound or less. Black Diamond’s Distance 15 is another impressively light option at just 13.9 ounces, but it’s a much more specialized design with a streamlined storage layout and no hipbelt.
When evaluating pack weight, keep comfort and storage in mind. A fully featured pack will include padding on your back and real straps on your shoulders and waist to help distribute weight. If you’ll be carrying a lot, this will be your most comfortable option. But if you don’t mind feeling some of your gear on your back or won’t be hauling a heavy load (it is only a daypack, after all), the minimalist options on this list usually are cheaper and far more compressible (useful for throwing in a suitcase). In the end, most hikers and travelers will want something that lands in the middle and balances cushioning and weight, including the popular Osprey Talon 22 (1 lb. 14.6 oz.) and Patagonia’s Altvia 28L (1 lb. 12 oz.).
The amount of padding on the hipbelt and shoulder straps is a great indicator of a pack’s maximum comfort levels. Nearly all daypacks for hiking have a hipbelt, but they vary from thin webbing (like the REI Flash series) to cushioned and supportive (Osprey Stratos). If all you need is a pack for short day hikes and don’t plan on carrying more than 10 or so pounds, the thinner webbing is sufficient. If, however, comfort reigns supreme or you plan to haul a lot of weight, we highly recommend a pack with a real hipbelt.
Keep in mind, the thicker designs don’t compress very well and do add some extra weight. And for those planning to use their pack for both the backcountry and casually, it may be beneficial to have a removable hipbelt. We have ours on for hiking and leave it behind when heading to town or carrying on a flight. A couple designs that have this feature include the Osprey Daylite Plus and Ultimate Direction Fastpack 30.
In addition to the amount of padding along the shoulder straps and hipbelt, fit plays a large role in overall comfort on the trail. Most importantly, you’ll want to ensure that your pack is the appropriate size for your torso length and that the hipbelt can be tightened to secure snugly around your hips. This is easier to achieve when a pack is offered in multiple sizes, which is one of the reasons we rank the Osprey Talon 22 at the top of our list (it’s available in S/M and L/XL sizes as well as a women’s-specific version). If you’re eyeing a pack that comes in multiple size options, take your torso length by measuring the distance between your C7 vertebrae and midpoint of your iliac crest (we outline the process here). Once you have that number, you can compare it against manufacturer sizing charts to confirm which variation will fit you best.
Unfortunately, many daypacks on the market only come in one size, including the REI Flash 22, Cotopaxi Luzon, Osprey Daylite Plus, Free Range Equipment Canvas, and more from our picks above. It won’t be a deal-breaker for a lot of hikers, but the one-size-fits-most approach does mean you get less of a customized, close fit. And it’s worth noting that you still need to know your torso length for these designs, as manufacturers typically provide length ranges (and some one-size models have smaller ranges than others). Finally, many packs are offered in women’s-specific versions with different measurements than their men’s counterparts (we outline the benefits of choosing a women’s-specific daypack below).
Much like their larger cousins, full-on backpacking packs, higher-capacity daypacks feature a metal or plastic frame. The frame creates a rigid or semi-rigid structure that doesn’t sag under weight (including items that you strap to the outside of the pack), which is great for those who carry extra gear on their all-day excursions. Frame designs vary, but are often a u-shaped, hoop style or a plastic framesheet, both of which define the perimeter of the pack and give it a stiff, rectangular shape.
Having a frame isn’t always necessary, and very lightweight or small-capacity backpacks like the REI Flash 22 oftentimes go without. For the right person, this isn’t a sacrifice at all. A frame adds weight and complexity, and when you’re not hauling anything more than 10-15 pounds, a frame doesn’t benefit you very much. In addition, a padded backpanel can accomplish a similar goal of isolating you from the contents you’re carrying and defining the shape of the pack. We recommend getting a pack with a frame if you need the extra support or like the defined shape, but again, there are plenty of reasons to avoid one altogether.
Typical daypacks will have some foam or mesh built into the backpanel (the area of the pack that comes into contact with your back) and a semi-rigid frame sheet providing structure. Ultralight packs will have either a flexible frame sheet and fabric backpanel (Cotopaxi Luzon 18L) for a little structure or no padding at all. The downside of these designs is that the pack can sag and doesn’t protect you as well from bulky items in your pack. On the other hand, ultralight packs compress quite small and can be stowed in a travel pack or backpacking pack for day use.
A third style is the fully ventilated backpanel. As opposed to either nylon or foam coming into contact with your back, ventilated backpanels are full-length mesh and your best defense against a sweaty back. Osprey has been a leader in ventilated packs, and we particularly like the design of the Stratos. The suspended mesh that contacts the length of your torso encourages airflow without pulling the weight of the pack too far away from your back, which was a problem with some early models. Ventilated designs do eat into the size and dimensions of the main compartment and are more expensive, but it’s worth it for some to keep the back of their shirt dry.
It’s common for our daypacks to be filled with items like a phone, camera, or down jacket that won’t do well in rain. As such, we put a high priority on water protection. The good news is that most daypacks are relatively water-resistant and can shed light to moderate moisture, but the fabrics and seams will start to give way in a downpour. Some packs come with a built-in rain cover that stows inside the bag (from our list, the Gregory Zulu 30, REI Co-op Traverse 32 and Trail 25, Patagonia Altvia, and Osprey Stratos have this feature). Alternatively, you can purchase a separate waterproof cover.
There are a small number of daypacks on the market made with waterproof materials, including the Hyperlite Daybreak above. The Daybreak uses Dyneema fabrics, which are naturally water-resistant, while other packs often use a waterproof nylon and seam sealing along the interior to keep out moisture. However, what most waterproof packs have in common is a price in excess of $200. This high cost of entry is what keeps waterproof packs in limited numbers, but it may be worth it if you need the protection and want something more reliable than a rain cover.
A hydration-compatible pack is defined as having some way to store a hydration reservoir, including popular models like the CamelBak Crux or Platypus Big Zip EVO. Most traditional daypacks, like the Osprey Stratos, have a clip along the top of the interior of the bag and enough space to accommodate a 3-liter reservoir. And smaller packs like the Cotopaxi Luzon 18L are best suited for a smaller-capacity reservoir (up to 2 liters), not only for space reasons but also total weight.
With the exception of ultralight options, most hydration-compatible packs have a sleeve to slide in and hold the hydration reservoirs. It’s a simple process: Attach the bladder to the top clip and insert into the sleeve. The hose can then be routed through an opening in the top of the pack. And if you don't already own a reservoir, choosing a hydration daypack like the Osprey Skarab 30 gets you a solid pack as well as a reputable 2.5-liter Hydraulics LT system (which is made by hydration leader HydraPak). For a full list of our top picks in this category, see our article on the best hydration packs.
If you like to have a defined space for and easy access to smaller items, look for a pack with a number of interior and exterior pockets. We like hipbelt pockets for things you want close at hand, an exterior pocket along the top lid for small items like a headlamp or multi-tool, and a large, open main compartment for our gear. For school or daily use, additional exterior pockets with a key clip are always handy.
One of our favorite pack features is a large exterior mesh pocket along the front of the pack known as a “shove-it” pocket. This expandable space is great for items you may need quick access to like a rain jacket or snack. In addition, you can throw in wet items into this outer pocket to avoid ruining the contents of your main compartment. Minimalist designs omit many organization features—sometimes including the shove-it pocket—so keep an eye out for the number of internal and external pockets if those are important to you.
All daypacks that made our list have access to the main compartment through the top of the pack, but the closure systems vary. Roll-top lids and drawcord systems are popular on minimalist packs, while fully featured bags typically use zippers. Roll-top lids and zippers are the most secure for protecting what’s inside your pack, but a well-made drawcord system like the REI Co-op Flash 22 is simple, lightweight, and very easy to use. One advantage that a roll-top pack has over the other options is compressibility: You can change the interior volume of the pack with the number of times you fold the lid.
All three closure systems above are associated with a top-loading pack, which as the name would indicate, opens at the top of the bag. In addition, there are a few packs that made our list that are considered panel loaders. That means that the lid to the main compartment can be zipped open and pulled back like a suitcase, which allows for easy access to contents at both the top and bottom of the bag. The downside is extra weight and expense (and zippers can break and fail over time), but a number of our favorite medium- to large-capacity packs have this feature.
Women’s daypacks are not, as they may appear, just a colorful version of a men’s or unisex pack. There are real design differences with tangible benefits that deserve mentioning. The advantages include a torso fit that is often a better size than the sometimes large and bulky unisex models, and shoulder straps and hipbelts have been designed specifically for women. Men with shorter torsos often get a better fit with a women’s-specific model as well.
Typically, if you’ll be using the pack for pretty serious day hikes, it’s well worth opting for a high-end women’s model like Gregory's Jade 28 and Osprey's Sirrus 36, Tempest 20, and Skimmer 28 we’ve listed above. The more tuned fit makes for a more comfortable carrying experience. For casual use, such as travel or when you’re packing light, it’s not as big a deal. Something like the unisex REI Flash 22 should work just fine.
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