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Being prepared while hiking is always a good idea, and requires essentials like hydration, food, and an extra layer at the very least. A multi-tool, camera, and first aid kit are wise to bring along, too. For serious elevation gains, trekking poles will come in handy, and a rain cover is helpful for any adverse weather.
Also essential on any hiking list is a daypack; it allows you to have a place for everything, with everything in its place. This can streamline carrying comfort so that hauling supplies becomes less of a burden and more of an opportunity to enhance the trail experience with the things you want and need. Different than a backpacking pack for multi-day hikes, your daypack needs may be different in terms of liter capacity, size, and pockets: we’ve compiled our picks for the 12 best daypacks for hiking.
Field Mag's Top Picks
- Best All Around Pack: Topo Designs 28L Mountain Pack
- Best Bucket Design: Cotopaxi Torre 24L Bucket Pack
- Best for Fast & Light Adventures: Black Diamond Distance 22
- Best Backpack from a Small Maker: Allmansright Eco Liten 35
- Best Commuter Friendly Bag: Evergoods Civic Half Zip 22L
- Most Technical: Osprey Manta 24
- Best Minimalist Design: The North Face Basin 24L
- Best for Big Hikes: REI Trail 40 Pack
- Best Affordable Daypack: Decathlon Quechua MH500 20L
- Most Versatile: Heimplanet Motion Ellipse 25L
- Best for Carrying More: Arc'teryx Mantis 30L
- Most Adventurous: Patagonia Altvia 14L
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a good size daypack for hiking?
The ideal daypack for hiking depends on the user and the type of hike. Daypacks can vary in size and capacity. The capacity is typically measured in liters. For a one-day hike, a pack between 15 to 30 litres will typically suffice. However, if one is planning on traveling a greater distance or is undertaking a trail that requires varying equipment or weather conditions, a pack in the 30 to 40 liter range will accommodate more gear and food.
What is the difference between a daypack and a backpack?
A classic hiking backpack has an internal frame to allow the user to carry a large load over many miles and multiple days. However, for a day hike, a structured pack and large carrying capacity isn’t always necessary. Daypacks act as streamlined backpacks that lack a frame and are designed to carry a lighter load that is typically no more than 25 pounds.
What size backpack is best for a 3 day hike?
For a three-day hike, a backpack that is 40 to 70 liters will be the best option. Three days of gear and food can fit into a 40 to 50 liter pack, but for heavier loads and conditions in which layers and extra gear are required, a larger pack might be the best option.
The Best Daypacks for Hiking
Best All Around Hiking Pack: Topo Designs 28L Mountain Pack
It’s called a mountain pack for a reason. This 28 liter hiking pack from Topo Designs features a design that maximizes style and utility, ideal for a casual stroll in the woods or an epic daylong ascent. The comfort of the ridged back panel and the hip and chest straps allow for big miles. Oversized water bottle pockets hold Nalgenes (which can often be too wide for smaller daypacks), and the pack also has a hydration pack port and tube access. An expandable, packable front dump pocket and a top easy-access zippered pocket will maximize your carrying capacity. Exterior zippered laptop access adds versatility to this daypack for a variety of adventures. Plus, the fun color options will brighten even the longest slog.
Weight: 2.5 lbs
Volume: 28 liters
Ideal Use: Travel, hiking
Best Bucket Design: Cotopaxi Torre 24L Bucket Pack
The bucket backpack approach is not for everyone, but many hikers prefer this ergonomic design. Unzip the top, flip back the opening, and voila—there is access to a large internal compartment. Cotopaxi’s Torre pack combines carrying capacity with a padded internal laptop sleeve, as well as a pocket in the pack’s “brain”—the top part of the lid. There’s also a stash pocket for quick access to small items underneath the lid. Padded shoulder straps and back panel utilize breathable air mesh for comfort in all conditions. Daisy chain webbing along the back allows you to clip on more items, while chest and hip straps help disperse the weight. At 24 liters this pack is ideal for mid-length day hikes.
Weight: 1.81 lbs
Volume: 24 liters
Ideal Use: Daily use, travel, hiking
Best for Fast and Light Adventures: Black Diamond Distance 22
At just one pound, the Distance 22 daypack from Black Diamond is the lightest option on this list. Mesh fabric comprises the harness, inspired by running vests, and the shoulder straps feature stretch pockets and two flask zippered pockets for increased storage. Pole sleeves allow you to access trekking poles quickly, with dual-side ice axe straps ideal for winter conditions. This hiking daypack is designed to help you travel fast on the trails, allowing you to keep moving at pace. Its lightweight design and 22 liter carrying capacity are perfect for a full day on the trail.
Weight: 1 lb
Volume: 22 liters
Ideal Use: Hiking, trail running, scrambling
Best Backpack from a Small Maker: Allmansright Eco Liten 35
If you aren't familiar with Allmansright, take note. The Bronx-based ultralight backpacking brand was founded in 2020 by Livio Melo and Jennifer Jacobsson with the goal of diversifying the UL community and making high-quality packs and accessories more approachable. The Eco Liten 35 is the flagship, and it's fit for short and long-distance walks in the woods with features like a roll-top opening, convenient top attachments for poles or ice axes, a spacious mesh front pocket, roomy side pockets that fit two one-liter water bottles, and shock cord drawstring bungees for gear security. This daypack is made in NYC with EcoPak: a light, durable, and water-resistant material.
Weight: 16 oz
Volume: 35 liters
Ideal Use: Ultralight backpacking, day hiking
Best Commuter Friendly Crossover Bag: Evergoods Civic Half Zip 22L
The brainchild of folks with experience at GORUCK and Patagonia, the brand specializes in sleek, functional, comfortable packs, like the Civic Half Zip 22 liter. With perfectly placed internal zippered pockets, a key leash, an internal sleeve that doubles as a laptop or hydration sleeve (to house a hydration bladder), and an ergonomic fit, this is the kind of thoughtfully overbuilt everyday option that will perform ably on light hikes. Dual side utility stretch pockets, an exterior top pocket for quick access to small items, and padded straps add to the elevated design of this sleek daypack. With a 22 liter capacity, this pack provides versatility as a travel backpack or for short hikes.
Weight: 2.25 lbs
Volume: 22 liters
Ideal Use: Daily use, travel, light hikes
Most Technical: Osprey Manta 24
Similar to the Osprey Talon 22 but packed with even more performance features, the Manta is built for the trail. A built-in Osprey hydration reservoir includes a dedicated sleeve and sternum strap with a valve attachment. Plus, a raincover hides in a zippered pocket at the base, ready to cover your pack when the rain hits. A tensioned mesh back panel and harness with a unique suspension system provide breathable comfort and airflow by lifting the weight off your back. Other key details include a trekking pole attachment, compression straps for maximizing space, zippered hip belt pockets, and even an ice axe loop. This pack is as rugged and ready as they come.
Weight: 3.32 lbs
Volume: 24 liters
Ideal Use: Hiking, travel
Best Minimalist Design: The North Face Basin 24L
This minimalist design, mid-sized daypack is streamlined enough to look great on the way to class or work but packs plenty of features that make it trail-worthy. The Basin from The North Face features a concealed rain cover, a vented back panel, padded shoulder straps, and a sternum strap with a whistle buckle. The interior doesn’t have all the organizational pockets of some modern packs, but a large main compartment with a hydration sleeve can hold a hydration bladder and everything you’ll need for a decent outing.
Weight: 1.44 lbs
Volume: 24 liters
Ideal Use: Hiking, commuting, daily use
Best for Big Hikes: REI Trail 40 Pack
A 40 liter pack isn’t typically necessary on a day hike, but if you are attempting something big (over a dozen miles or 2000 feet in elevation gain) or considering staying out for the night in the backcountry, the Trail 40 from REI will come in mighty handy. Although it’s not the lightest daypack on this list, it’s affordable and durable, with a body and lining made from recycled material. A u-shaped top to front zip is ideal for easy access to valuable items, and a steel perimeter frame can support heavy loads. Internal mesh pockets, external pockets on the waist strap, and a top zippered pocket make this a pockets-galore option. Padded straps and a heavier-duty padded hip belt help distribute pack weight for longer hikes.
Weight: 3 lbs
Volume: 40 liters
Ideal Use: Hiking, backpacking
Best Affordable Daypack: Decathlon Quechua MH500 20L
The best hiking daypack for a tighter budget, The MH500 is a slim pack at a slimmer price that has a surprising amount of features perfect for outdoor adventures. Key features include nine pockets, a water compartment, gear loops galore, a convenient side zipper for accessing the central part of the pack, mesh panels, and an integrated rain cover. This torso length pack has padded shoulder straps and a coated waterproof fabric to protect your gear in varying weather conditions. At this price, you won’t find a pack more suited to mountain exploration than this one.
Weight: 2.4 lbs
Volume: 20 liters
Ideal Use: Hiking
Most Versatile: Heimplanet Motion Ellipse 25L
The Motion Ellipse can do it all, from commutes to travel to day hikes. We can attest to the quality of this pack, having put it through daily use since 2017, there’s wear to the inner lining and water bottle holder but it’s still in shockingly good condition. Whether you’re using this pack as a carry-on, travel backpack, or trail daypack, its lightweight and sleek design makes it a versatile choice. It has a super comfortable 3D moulded back panel and a laptop/hydration bladder compartment. There really isn’t a place this backpack will be out of place.
Weight: 2.04 lbs
Volume: 25 liters
Ideal Use: Hiking, commuting, travel, daily use
Best for Carrying More: Arc'teryx Mantis 30L
The Mantis 30 liter isn’t the largest pack on this list, but it’s lightweight, technical design makes it ideal for hitting the trails. A sleek look packed with functionality, it features a wide top opening, a top lid pocket and external mesh side pockets for quick access to valuables, and outer zippered pockets for access to the main compartment. A slim wide design provides the ability to pack it to the max while distributing the weight so it doesn’t feel like it’s pulling you down. Whether it's groceries or climbing equipment, the Mantis can handle the job.
Weight: 2.64 lbs
Volume: 30 liters
Ideal Use: Hiking, backpacking, daily use
Most Adventurous: Patagonia Altvia 14L
Patagonia made the 14 liter version of the Altvia (that also comes in 22, 28, and 36 liter versions) for minimalist adventures. While a 14 litre capacity is better for shorter day hikes, the key hiking features still remain; top-loading design with a top zippered pocket, stretch mesh side pockets, built-in rain cover, breathable and comfy back panel and shoulder straps, a chest strap, front bungee cord, and a hydration bladder pocket. You can go the distance during day hikes, while still being able to carry trekking poles, a hydration bladder, and any extra layers or gear tucked into the bungee straps.
Weight: 1.1 lbs
Volume: 14 liters
Ideal Use: Hiking, scrambling, daily use