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10 Best Hiking Daypacks of 2018

10 Best Day Hiking Backpacks of 2018

What are the most popular daypacks preferred by day hikers? How much capacity should a daypack have? Do hikers prefer streamlined hydration packs or general purpose backpacks with a hydration pocket for day hiking? We surveyed 800 hikers to find out what daypacks they prefer and their top picks include the Osprey Talon 22, the REI Flash 18, the REI Flash 22, the Camelbak MULE, and the Osprey Stratos 36.

1. Osprey Talon 22


Osprey Talon 22
Osprey Talon 22
The Osprey Talon 22 is the most popular day hiking backpack and has plenty of room to store everything you’ll need on a day hike. Access to the main compartment is especially easy using the wraparound top zipper, while side mesh pockets, a rear stash pocket and hip belt pockets provide extra convenience. The Talon 22 has an external hydration pocket behind the shoulder straps, so your gear won’t get wet if you spring a leak. Plus a super comfy, pre-curved mesh hip belt makes the Talon 22 a dream to carry. Click for Specs.

2. REI Flash 18

REI Flash 18
REI Flash 18
A near second, the REI Flash 18 is a minimalist day pack that only weighs 10 ounces but can still carry a 3L hydration bladder in the internal reservoir sleeve. Lightly padded, the Flash 18 can be turned inside out as used as a stuff sack or stuffed with clothing to make a camping pillow. A small zippered pockets provides added security and organization while the drawstring top makes it super easy to access your gear. Perfect for travel or day hikes from basecamp. Click for Specs.

3. REI Flash 22


REI Flash 22
REI Flash 22
The REI Flash 22 is a beefier version of the Flash 18 with more pockets, including a top lid with a zippered pocket to cover the top the main compartment and provide better weather protection. It has an internal hydration pocket, like the Flash 18, as well as two small interior pockets and a key fob for organizing your personal effects. Two side mesh pockets can hold water bottles while beefier back padding also helps increase the pack’s load carrying capacity up to 15 pounds.  Click for Specs.

4. CamelBak MULE


Camelbak MULE
Camelbak MULE
The CamelBak MULE is the most popular hydration pack used by day hikers. It includes a 100 oz. hydration bladder that’s stored in an insulated hydration pocket, providing cool water all day, whether you’re hiking on a trail or mountain biking in the backcountry. It has 9 liters of space, including a rear stretch mesh pocket for storing wet gear or layers, and an internal compartment sized for storing personal effects, small tools, and a first aid kit. A mesh back and shoulder straps provide additional comfort. Click for Specs.  

5. Osprey Stratos 36

Osprey Stratos 36
Osprey Stratos 36
The Osprey Stratos 36 is a great backpack for demanding day hikes, with enough capacity for fast and light overnight trips. Capable of carrying 25- 30 pounds, it has an adjustable length frame, ventilated back panel and pre-curved hip belt that guarantee an awesome fit. The main compartment can be accessed from the top or the side with zip panel access. Side mesh pockets, a rear stretch pocket, top lid pocket, an internal hydration pocket, and hip belt pockets provide loads of storage to keep you organized. Click for Specs.  

6. Osprey Talon 33

Osprey Talon 33
Osprey Talon 33
The Osprey Talon 33 is a streamlined, top-loading pack for strenuous day hikes and fast and light campouts. It has an adjustable length frame, a ventilated back panel to keep you dry and a continuous wrap hip belt that hugs your body so you stay balanced on tough scrambles. An external hydration pocket makes it easy to refill your hydration bladder, while side mesh pockets, a rear stretch pocket, and hip belt pockets provide lots of packing flexibility. Click for Specs.  

7. Osprey Daylite

Osprey Daylite
Osprey Daylite
The Osprey Daylite is a 13 liter minimalist pack with a panel loading main compartment that provides easy access to your stuff, along with side mesh pockets and an internal hydration sleeve. An additional front zippered pocket with a key clip helps organize smaller items. A mesh-covered foam backpanel provides ventilation, while a removable webbing strap secures the packs to your hips. Weighing just 16 oz, the Daylite can be hung off the back of several of Osprey’s larger backpacks and travel bags. Click for Specs.

8. Osprey Tempest 20

Osprey Tempest 20
Osprey Tempest 20
The Osprey Tempest 20 is the women’s-specific version of the top-ranked Talon 22 with dual zippered panel access to the main compartment, a stretch-mesh front pocket, zippered stash pocket, side mesh pockets, 2 zippered hipbelt pockets, and an external hydration sleeve. The ventilated backpanel, harness, continuous wrap hipbelt combine to create a form fitting carry that hugs your body. A bike helmet attachment further extends opportunities for use. Click for Specs.

9. Kelty Ruckus 28

Kelty Ruckus 28
Kelty Ruckus 28
The Kelty Ruckus 28 is a minimalist day pack that’s ideal for demanding day hikes. Available in as a roll top of panel loader, the Ruckus has an external hydration pocket so you can refill a hydration bladder easily. Side mesh pockets, a rear stuff-it pocket, and tools holder attachments make it easy to store gear for easy access. Large hip belt pockets and a generously sized hip belt make the Ruckus a good choice for athletic builds. Click for Specs.

10. CamelBak Rim Runner 22

CamelBak Rim Runner 22
CamelBak Rim Runner 22
The CamelBak Rim Runner 22 is a full-fledged, multi-purpose day pack with 19.5 liters of gear capacity plus a 2.5 liter hydration bladder. Panel access to the main compartment makes it easy to stash your gear, while a load bearing hipbelt with zippered pockets makes it easy to eat snacks. The internal hydration pocket helps keep water cool while a rear stretch pocket is good for stuffing layers or wet gear. An air mesh backpanel provides ventilation and comfort. Click for Specs.

Daypack Popularity Rankings

When we surveyed 800 hikers about their daypacks, we found that all but a handful use a day hiking sized backpack with 10-36 liters of storage capacity for day hikes, rather than a larger overnight backpack. They also preferred general purpose day packs with a separate main gear compartment and internal or external hydration sleeve, over purpose-built hydration packs.

Here’s a percentage breakdown of the popularity top 10 day packs listed above. The top three day packs: Osprey Talon 22, the REI Flash 18, and the REI Flash 33 are substantially more popular than their counterparts lower down on the list.

Make and ModelPopularity
Osprey Talon 225.91%
REI Flash 185.24%
REI Flash 223.55%
Camelbak MULE2.87%
Osprey Stratos 362.36%
Osprey Talon 332.20%
Osprey Daylite2.20%
Osprey Temptest 201.18%
Kelty Ruckus 281.18%
Camelbak Rim Runner1.18%

Daypack Manufacturers Popularity Rankings

Many of the hikers in our survey used packs from a handful of manufacturers. The top 10 are listed below. Osprey clearly dominates the space, largely because they offer so many different kinds of daypacks, general purpose ones and specialized packs, for a wide range of outdoors sports and travel needs. If you want it, they make it, and their lifetime guarantee is also a major factor in their success.

Still, it’s interesting to see what a commanding presence REI has in the daypack market even though they’re not a backpack specialist. I suspect their popularity is probably a function of price point, since the REI Flash 18 and REI Flash 22 are fairly minimalist and frameless packs, compared to those from Osprey and CamelBak.

REI Co-op14.86%
Gossamer Gear2.53%
The North Face2.20%

About This Survey

This survey was conducted on the SectionHiker.com website which has over 300,000 unique readers per month, so a large pool of potential respondents. Readers were incented to participate in the survey in exchange for a chance to win a raffle for a piece of hiking gear.

While we’re confident that the results are fairly representative of the general hiking population based on the size of the survey results where n=800 people, we can’t claim that the results are statistically significant.

There are also a number of ways in which the results could be biased including: hikers who read SectionHiker.com might not be representative of all hikers, hikers who read Internet content might not be representative of all hikers, hikers who respond to raffle incentives might not be representative of all hikers, our methods for recording responses might have been unconsciously biased, and so on.

The author is an expert in statistical analysis, survey, and experimental design and is sensitive to these issues. However, given the size of the respondent pool and the very strong consensus among user responses, we believe that the survey results published here will be useful to hikers who are interested in learning about the popularity of different daypacks.

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