TOP 10 Best Daypacks for Hiking 2020 Reviewed (Buying Guide)

A good daypack could be one of the most important and versatile pieces of outdoor kit you own.

Not only will it house your food, water and extra clothes while you hike, but it’ll double as a backpack for almost every other area of your life as well, including your carry-on.

There are some excellent options available this year, so to make your life easier, I’ve compiled them into a list. If you’re not sure what makes a daypack great, have a read of my buyer’s guide after the reviews.

But first up, introducing 10 of the best day packs for hiking in 2020.

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TOP 10 Best Hiking Daypacks in 2020

Osprey Packs Men’s Stratos 34 Backpack

Review: Osprey is arguably the leading brand when it comes to hiking backpacks. Their packs are well designed, super comfortable and really durable. They don’t come cheap, but it’s worth the investment.

The Stratos 34 is at the larger end of the spectrum when it comes to daypacks, you wouldn’t want to be carrying any more than 34L for a day hike. But it comes with a formidable suspension system that is about as comfortable as it gets.

Its ‘airspeed’ suspension consists of a light alloy internal frame that gives the pack its structure, the mesh back panel provides good breathability, and the shoulder and hip straps are padded and contoured.

Pros

  • Included rain cover.
  • Super comfortable suspension system.
  • Excellent back panel ventilation.
  • Hydration system compatible.
  • A good number of pockets.
  • Large, easy access opening to the main compartment.

Cons

  • Torso length between hip belt and shoulder straps is not adjustable so pick the right size!

Takeaway

This is a high capacity pack for a long day hike or ultra light overnight hike. It’s the best Osprey daypack for heavier loads.

Osprey Packs Talon 22 Backpack

Review: A smaller alternative to the Stratos, the Talon 22 is a lightweight and versatile option for day hikes, cycling, commuting and travel.

It has less padding in the back panel than the Stratos but still has a padded hip belt which is a luxury in such a small, lightweight daypack. But, it’s appreciated when the pack is used to its full potential.

Despite the 22L capacity, there are numerous ways of attaching extra gear to the outside, including a bike helmet, ice axe, trekking poles and extra clothing.

Pros

  • Lightweight and compact.
  • Good amount of external organization.
  • 2 sizes available.
  • Padded hip belt.
  • Nicely ventilated back panel.
  • Hydration system compatible.

Cons

  • Doesn’t come with a rain cover.

Takeaway

This is a popular and highly rated lightweight option that remains comfortable to wear even when fully loaded. It could be the best hiking daypack for people wanting lightweight.

Osprey Tempest 20 Women’s Backpack

Review: This is the women’s equivalent of the Men’s Talon. it has a 20L capacity with an adjustable padded shoulder harness, sternum strap, and padded hip belt with zippered pockets – all essential features in a good day pack.

It’s also ridiculously lightweight which combined with the top-notch harness makes this a super comfortable day pack.

Pros

  • Compatible with 3L hydration bladders.
  • Extremely lightweight at 0.64 lbs.
  • Breathable AirScape back panel.
  • Comfortable shoulder straps and hip belt.
  • Available in different sizes according to torso length.

Cons

  • Make sure you get the right size as the harness could well end up being too small otherwise.

Takeaway

This could be the best women’s daypack for hiking, especially if you’re after something lightweight.

Osprey Sirrus 24 Women’s Backpack

Review: A slightly larger alternative to the Tempest above, the Sirrus 24 is the women’s equivalent of the Stratos 24.

It’s probably about the luxurious daypack you can get in terms of the suspension system and cushioning, so it’s excellent if you get uncomfortable with too much weight on your shoulders and appreciate a solid hip belt.

It comes with a rain cover which is a huge bonus, and the mesh back panel is really effective at keeping your back cool and dry regardless of how hot it is.

Pros

  • Integrated removable rain cover.
  • Hydration sleeve can fit a 3L bladder.
  • Sturdy internal frame.
  • Well-ventilated back panel.
  • Zippered pockets on both hip belts.

Cons

  • Significantly heavier than the Tempest at over 2 lbs.

Takeaway

If you’re willing to tolerate a little extra base weight, this could be the most comfortable and well supported daypack for women.

Arc’teryx Brize 25 Backpack

Review: This is a top-quality 25L backpack, aimed at being a versatile option that is well suited to travel and everyday use as well as day hikes.

It’s not the most affordable pack on the block, but the top-notch quality means it’s worth paying a bit extra for something that will last many years.

It can handle plenty of gear, whether inside the easy access main compartment or lashed to the outside via the various attachment points. The only real downside is the webbing hip belt, but if a padded hip belt is important to you, the 32L model has one.

Pros

  • Drink bottle sleeves and side compression straps.
  • Versatile design.
  • Compatible with hydration bladders.
  • Daisy chain and bungee clips for external gear attachment.
  • Can double as carry-on luggage.

Cons

  • Doesn’t have a padded hip belt.
  • At the more expensive end of the scale.

Takeaway

This is a versatile and top quality backpack that will handle day hikes with ease, as well as any other use you throw at it.

Black Diamond Bolt 24 Backpack

Review: For the serious day hiker or climber, this 24L pack comes with loops for attaching an ice axe or trekking poles, and a high tech suspension system and back panel that makes it super comfortable and stable while you walk.

It’s designed so that the swinging motion of your arms isn’t interfered with and the pack stays securely positioned even as your body moves.

It can carry a lot of gear while remaining lightweight and comfortable to carry.

Pros

  • Fleece lined pocket to keep your valuables protected.
  • Hydration bladder compatible.
  • Very breathable back panel.
  • Trekking pole attachment loops and drink bottle sleeves
  • Comfortable hip belt with zippered pocket.

Cons

  • Lacks waterproofing – needs a rain cover (not included).

Takeaway

If you’re looking for durability and performance in a range of environments this is an excellent day pack.

Gregory Mountain Products Miwok 24 Daypack

Review: Similar to Osprey’s Talon 22, above, the Gregory Mountain Products’ Miwok 24 is a well cushioned, lightweight (sub 2 lbs.) and well organized daypack with an impressive 8 exterior pockets.

It has a comfortable padded hip belt, a lightly padded, mesh back panel which provides plenty of ventilation, and the main compartment almost completely unzips making for super easy access which is rare in a hiking pack.

The women’s equivalent of this pack is the Maya 22 (link to Amazon.com).

Pros

  • Padded hip belt with zippered pockets.
  • Plenty of external and internal pockets and compartments.
  • Hydration system compatible.
  • Well-ventilated back panel.

Cons

  • One size only and long in the torso so won’t fit everyone.

Takeaway

This is a lightweight and comfortable daypack with a lot of organizational features.

Gregory Mountain Products Nano 20 Daypack

Review: This 20L day pack is a more affordable option but doesn’t skimp on quality at all. It’s highly versatile and while it looks simple and sleek on first glance, it has all the features of a great day pack.

The back panel is designed to promote airflow so that you won’t get warm and sweaty when you pick up the pace, and the padded shoulder straps are comfortable.

It also has plenty of pockets for a 20L pack, with a zippered top pocket, 2 mesh side pockets and a mesh front pocket.

Pros

  • Excellent value for money.
  • Hydration bladder compatible with a sleeve and port.
  • Comfortable shoulder straps and sternum strap.
  • Good number of pockets.
  • Lightweight – 1.1 lbs.

Cons

  • Waist strap is just made of webbing with no padding so it’s designed to reduce bounce but not really take any weight.

Takeaway

This is a well-priced but really high performing backpack that could easily compete with the Osprey packs on offer.

Deuter Speed Lite 20 Daypack

Review: This streamlined 20L Deuter pack is one you will get a lot of use from. It’s super lightweight and made with sturdy, weather-resistant ripstop nylon and polyester.

It has comfortable padded shoulder straps, a sternum strap, and a detachable webbing hip belt with wings for extra comfort. It also has loads of pockets which is a bonus for a small capacity pack.

Its one caveat is that it’s small, streamlined size makes it better suited for slim or petite people, but purely from an aesthetic point of view.

Pros

  • Lightweight – just 1 lbs. 1 oz.
  • Lots of pockets and storage for a small hiking daypack.
  • Hydration system compatible.
  • Hip belt is detachable.

Cons

  • Limited space for full-sized drink bottles so better suited to a hydration bladder.

Takeaway

This is a super lightweight and compact daypack for the minimalists looking for something sleek and comfortable.

CamelBak Rim Runner 22 Hydration Pack

Review: For day hikers who prioritize use of a hydration bladder, you can’t go wrong with CamelBak.

Admittedly most daypacks these days are hydration compatible, but this pack has the advantage of coming with a 2.5L hydration bladder so you don’t have to buy it separately.

And, it’s not just any old hydration bladder, it’s the Crux reservoir which is one of the highest-rated options available right now.

The mouthpiece has an on-off lever for when you want to drink, and allows for a good flow so you get the hydration you need quickly.

Pros

  • Comfortable padded hip belt with zippered pockets.
  • Crux 2.5L reservoir and drinking spout with on/off lever included.
  • Well suited to people with smaller frames.
  • Lightweight – 1 lbs. 10 oz.

Cons

  • A little pricey for what you get.

Takeaway

This neat little day pack is a great option if you’re wanting a hydration bladder and a comfortable, lightweight pack with a padded hip belt.

What to Consider When Choosing Your Daypack

There are a few key features that you can look out for in good hiking daypacks that will make your pack more functional and comfortable.

I’ve summarized them here to make it easy for you decide what you want to prioritize.

backpacker hiking with small daypack

Weight

Most hikers will agree that the lighter the pack, the better. The lighter the base weight of your backpack, the more stuff you can carry before you get too weighed down.

However, light weight comes at a cost. You usually have to sacrifice features such as extra padding, extra pockets and sometimes some durability.

This means that the best daypack will find a balance between light weight and just enough features to make the pack as functional and comfortable as possible.

Capacity

A daypack, as the name implies, is meant to carry one day’s worth of provisions. Usually for day hikers, this means water, food, and a warm and/or waterproof layer.

Depending on the nature of your hike, you may also have an ice axe or trekking poles, a helmet, or even more waterproof and warm layers. Most good daypacks will accommodate this extra gear in the form of external attachment points.

So, even with extra equipment, a 20-30L capacity is adequate for the majority of day hikes.

And, conveniently, the upper limit of this size range is also ideal for using as carry-on, or even for a weekend trip if you’re a light packer.

Alternatively, if you’re realizing now that it might make more sense to buy something slightly bigger that you can also use for some overnight hikes, then have a read of our guide to the best hiking backpacks. Some of them are light enough that you’d still be comfortable wearing them for a day hike.

traveler with rain jacket and backpack standing on cliff

Back Panel Ventilation

Most daypacks have some type of ventilation feature in the back panel so that you don’t get hot and sweaty.

The most extreme ventilation systems separate the pack from your back, leaving a gap for air.

Others just have breathable padding, or ribbed padding with a layer of mesh over the top that creates channels for air flow.

How much back panel ventilation you require will depend on the kind of climate you’re hiking in and whether you have a tendency to sweat.

Shoulder Straps, Sternum Strap and Hip Belt

The harness system of the pack is the deciding factor on how comfortable it will be. At the very least, you want nicely padded shoulder straps and some form of webbing sternum strap and hip strap.

But, ideally, you want a padded hip belt with a wider section that sits over your hip bone for ultimate comfort. Nobody loves carrying more weight than is necessary on their shoulders!

Pockets and Organization

Your standard daypack will usually have one big main compartment, a couple of drink bottle sleeves on the sides, and a stretch mesh stuff pocket on the front, or maybe one or two zippered external pockets.

Anything over and above this is a bonus but will also contribute to the weight of the pack, so have a think about how important pockets and gear organization is to you.

In saying that… the majority of daypacks on the market now include a sleeve for a hydration bladder. Only you’ll know if this is something you’ll appreciate.

Weatherproofing

Most bags are water-resistant and will put up with a little rain, but completely waterproof packs are rare. (The exception to this are canvas backpacks – but they’re usually heavy and consequently, not designed specifically with hiking in mind.)

So, consider the weather you most often encounter and plan to face while using the pack.

If rain is a concern, opt for a bag with a rain cover, or one that is compatible with a rain cover sold separately.

Budget

Only you can know how much you’re willing to spend on a daypack. But even the best budget daypack for hiking will likely lag far behind when it comes to durability and comfort, so beware.

You may end up spending the same amount in the long run if you have to replace your pack multiple times over.

But I get it, outdoor gear can be pricey. If you’re on a tight budget, have a read of our list of the best budget hiking backpacks and hopefully, you’ll find something there that fits the bill.

man hiking on mountains with small backpack

Measuring for the Correct Fit

Sizing a backpack is a bit different from a rain jacket or t-shirt. Just because you wear a small t-shirt or jacket does not mean a small backpack will be a good fit, so it is important to measure yourself to get a proper fit.

With backpacks, torso length and hip measurements are key.

How to Measure Your Torso

Your Torso measurement is the vertical distance between your Iliac Crest and your C7 Vertebrae.

Iliac Crest

First, find your hip bone. Second, find the outside seam in your pants that sits on top of your hip bone.

If your hands were at your side, your forearm would rest against this area, it should be about the same level as your navel. This is your iliac crest height.

Note: do not use your navel height to measure because the torso measurement is meant to ensure the hip belt is in the correct location, so finding the top of the hip bone is critical.

C7 Vertebrae

This is easier to find, feel your spine at the back of your neck. The large vertebra at the base of the neck is your C7 vertebra.

Your torso length is the distance between the Iliac crest height and the C7 vertebrae.

Make a note of the number in inches and centimeters as manufacturers may use either.

Hip Measurements

Less important but still relevant is your hip measurement. You want to make sure that the hip straps provided will be long enough and that if they’re padded, the padding is in the right place over your hip bones.

Hopefully, these factors have given you a good starting point for choosing your daypack.

backpacker with hiking backpack in mountains

FAQ

What is a daypack for hiking?

A hiking daypack is a 20-30L backpack that is designed to be comfortable to wear while moving over variable terrain.

It should allow you to carry at least some of the weight on your hips while having a lightweight, streamlined design, and having some integral weatherproofing.

Can you use a regular backpack for hiking?

There’s nothing stopping you, but once you’ve experienced the performance and comfort of a backpack designed specifically for hiking, you’re unlikely to want to use anything else.

What is the best backpack for day hiking?

The Osprey Stratos is widely considered to be the best daypack for hiking for its balance of light weight, durable design and super comfortable harness.

How big of a backpack do I need for a day hike?

For most people, around 25L is plenty for a daypack.

What is the best women’s backpack for hiking?

The one that fits you and that you find most comfortable! But no, seriously, it really comes down to fit.

Some women will find that a men’s backpack will suit their frame better. But if you do appreciate women’s backpacks, all of the Osprey ones are excellent.

Thank you for reading!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this quick guide to the best daypacks for hiking in 2020 and have found a pack you like the look of!

Please feel free to share your thoughts below, I’d love to hear what you think.

And be sure to check out my free Solo Travel Safety E-book if you haven’t already.

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