10 Best Hiking Day Packs of 2022

The best hiking daypacks are functional, fit well, and durable. They have to be because they’re your home away from home, carrying all of your essentials including outdoor gear, food, water, and survival gear.

Many daypacks are also good for multiple sports including mountain biking, climbing, skiing, or snowboarding. You can also use them for commuting or travel.

But with the hundreds of daypacks out there, it can be hard to determine which are the best for hiking, overnight backpacking, or other sports. That’s why we created this list of daypacks that we recommend to hikers, backpackers, and other outdoor enthusiasts. No matter what your goals or passions are, there’s a backpack on this list that will fit your needs and should be on your shortlist.

Men's ModelSizingWomen's Model
Osprey Talon 22AdjustableOsprey Tempest 20
Deuter Speed Lite 25 CVFixed LengthDeuter Speed Lite 23 SL CV
Gregory Zulu 30AdjustableGregory Jade 28
REI Trail 25Fixed LengthREI Trail 25
Osprey Skarab 30 Hydration PackFixed LengthOsprey Skimmer 28 Hydration Pack
Osprey Stratos 36AdjustableOsprey Sirrus 36
Mystery Ranch Scree 32AdjustableWms Mystery Ranch Scree 32
Gossamer Gear Vagabond Trail 23LFixed LengthUnisex only
REI Traverse 32Fixed LengthWms REI Traverse 32
Deuter Trail 30Fixed LengthDeuter Trail 28 SL

1. Osprey Talon 22 Daypack

Osprey Talon 22 (2021)
The Osprey Talon 22 is by far the most popular daypack sold today. It has an adjustable length torso so you can dial in a great fit, with a wrap-around mesh hip belt that really hugs your hips and provides ventilation for your back. There’s an external hydration sleeve that makes refilling a hydration bladder super easy, along with a front stretch mesh pocket and side mesh pockets to hold extra layers and drinks. The Talon also makes a great cycling pack with a helmet holder and blinking light attachment, doubling its utility. The large main compartment is amply sized to hold stuff sacks and bulkier items like sweaters or insulated jackets. The women’s version is named the Tempest 20.

Check out the latest price at:
REI | Osprey | Backcountry

2. Deuter Speed Lite 25 CV Backpack

Deuter Speed Lite 25
The Deuter Speed Lite 25 CV is designed for fast-paced hiking and trail running with a vest-style, perforated shoulder straps, supple hip fins, and precision-adjustable sternum strap. A pocket on the shoulder strap keeps everything that you need on the trail handy, along with hip belt pockets, elastic side pockets, and a valuables pocket for personal items. Trekking pole holders keep your hands free while the internal elasticated pocket is compatible with 3L hydration systems (not included). The women’s model is named the Deuter Speed Lite 23 SL CV.

Check out the latest price at:
REI | Amazon

3. Gregory Zulu 30 Backpack

The Gregory Zulu 30 is an adjustable length pack with a ventilated frame and wrap-around hip belt that provides comfort and a dynamic carry that won’t weigh you down. It has two side mesh water bottle pockets, a front stretch pocket, two internal pockets (one includes an optional rain cover), an interior zippered pocket for valuables, and two hip belt pockets. A U-shaped zipper provides clamshell access to the main compartment which has an internal hydration sleeve. The women’s model is called the Gregory Jade 28. Read our Jade 33 review. 

Check out the latest price at:
REI | Backcountry 

4. REI Trail 25 Daypack

REI Trail 25 Backpack Day Pack
The REI Trail 25 is a multi-sport backpack that ideal for day hikes, commuting, and travel. The Trail 25 is a panel loader, with a large U-shaped zipper that opens up the front of the back to make it easy to pack or find gear at the bottom of the pack. Two external daisy chains, along with ice ax loops and shaft holders make it easy to strap trekking poles or ice tools to the pack exterior. The pack is hydration system compatible and comes with a rain cover. A women’s Trail 25 is also available. Read the SectionHiker REI Trail 25 Review.

Check out the latest price at:
REI

5. Osprey Skarab 30 Hydration Pack

Osprey Skarab 30 Hydration Pack
The Osprey Skarab 30 Hydration Pack has the organization and storage for all-day hikes. The pack comes with a 2.5-liter Osprey hydration system and hose which tucks away into its own dedicated pocket. The pack has a wide-mouth bucket-syle compartment with plenty of space for rain gear, an insulated jacket, lunch and trail snacks, electronics, and other hiking essentials. The outside of the pack has lots of pockets including side pockets, zippered hip belt pockets, a front stash pocket providing great flexibility. Dual compression straps, daisy chains, and trekking pole holders let you easily attach gear to the outside of the pack. The women’s model is called the Osprey Skimmer 28.

Check out the latest price at:
REI | Osprey 

6. Osprey Stratos 36 Pack

The Osprey Stratos 36 is a higher volume daypack good for more technical hikes, winter hikes, or hut-to-hut overnights. It’s also an adjustable-length backpack with a ventilated mesh back panel that helps keep your shirt dry in hot or humid conditions. There are two closed pockets in the top lid, one in the front with a center zip instead of an open stretch pocket, and two large zippered pockets on the hip belt. The pack includes a long side zipper to access main compartment contents, along with a bottom hatch and top drawstring access under the lid. A rain cover, ice ax loop, shaft holder, and trekking pole holder are included. The women’s model is called the Osprey Sirrus 36. Read our Stratos 36 Backpack Review.

Check out the latest price at:
Osprey | REI

7. Mystery Ranch Scree 32 Backpack

The Mystery Ranch Scree 32 is a technical backpack built for rough and tough adventures. It’s also a favorite with professional guides because it offers fast access to the top of the pack or its contents with its three-zipper design. The main compartment has three internal pockets for gear organization and hydration system storage, there are two additional pockets on the top lid, and two on the hip belt. Two daisy chains on the back of the pack and wrap-around compression straps make it easy to strap on extra gear. The torso length is adjustable and the hip belt is also removable for use with a climbing harness. All of the zippers are urethane coated for durability and added water resistance, making the Scree one tough pack. A Women’s Scree 32 is also available. Read the SectionHiker Scree 32 review.

Check out the latest price at:
REI | Backcountry

8. Gossamer Gear Vagabond Trail 23L

Gossamer Gear Vagabond Trail 23
The Gossamer Gear Vagabond Trail 23L is a highly functional, hydration-compatible day pack loaded with pockets to keep you organized on the trail and off. It has shoulder strap pockets that can carry water bottles, side pockets, a front mesh pocket, an inner secure stash pocket, and an outer zippered pocket. Micro daisy chains make it easy to secure gear to the outside of the pack, while dual tote-style top straps make it great for day-to-day use and travel.

Check out the latest price at:
Gossamer Gear

9. REI Traverse 32 Backpack

REI Traverse 32
The REI Traverse 32 is a great pack for longer, more technical routes, winter hiking, or even one-night cabin trips. It has a ventilated back panel to keep you dry in warm weather, with a unique side compression system that pulls heavy loads closer to your back for more carrying efficiency. The side water bottle pockets are reachable when the pack is worn and there’s a large open front pocket for storing damp layers or gear. The top lid has a large zippered pocket with a mesh sleeve underneath that holds an included rain clover. Hip belt pockets are provided for carrying smaller items close to hand, and the Traverse has ice ax/trekking pole loops and shaft holders to keep them secure. REI also sells a Women’s Traverse 32.

Check out the latest price at:
REI

10. Deuter Trail 30 Pack

The Deuter Trail 30 is a serious hiking pack designed for alpine environments. It’s a top-loader that also provides front panel access so you can get to gear buried deep in your pack. The padded back has a large air channel for ventilation, well-padded shoulder straps, and a wide foam hip belt that provides a great wrap around the boniest hips. Load lifters help ensure proper posture when scrambling, and a pull-forward hip belt adjustment ensures a secure fit. An ice ax loop, trekking pole holder, and dual shaft holders also let you carry extra technical gear with ease. The women’s model is called the Deuter Trail 28 SL. Read our Trail 30 Review.

Check out the latest price at:
REI | Backcountry

Day Pack Buying Guide

Consider these variables when buying a backpack for day packing:

Day Pack Volume

How big should a daypack be? Most daypacks range in size from 20L up to 35L in volume. The size you need depends on the length of your hikes and how much clothing and gear you need to carry to protect yourself against wind, rain, or snow. While a lower capacity backpack is sufficient for 1/2-day hikes, we recommend sizing up in the 30L to 35L range for all-day hikes, peak bagging, or hut-to-hut trips where you need to carry extra food, clothing layers, water, and the 10 Essentials. See our article, How to Size a Backpack: Daypack and Backpack Volume Guide, for a more in-depth discussion.

Price

Daypacks are a lot less expensive than multi-day backpacks, but you can expect to pay anywhere between $50 to $200, at the high end. You can usually find a good daypack in the $100 dollar range, but expect to pay more for more volume or an adjustable length frame. Many backpack manufacturers update their backpacks once a year, so we recommend checking in the outlet section of your favorite retailer for last year’s model. Previous year daypacks are usually just as good and considerably less expensive. Check out the REI Outlet to find the best selection.

Activities

Most daypacks can be used for multisport activities including hiking, mountain biking, climbing, skiing, or snowboarding. For example, if you intend to use your pack for hiking and mountain biking, look for ones with a helmet holder, a blinky light attachment, and reflective accents. For hiking and climbing, look for daypacks that can carry extra climbing gear, including ropes, can be worn with a climbing harness, and have a place to hold your helmet. For hiking and skiing or snowboarding, look for daypacks that have an insulated hydration pocket, straps to hold skis or a board, and a place to stash a shovel, avalanche beacon, and probe.

Adjustable Length

Backpack sizing, like clothing size, is usually the most important variable in whether a daypack feels good to wear or not. Backpacks are sized by something called torso length, which measures the distance between your hips and the tops of your shoulders. An adjustable length backpack lets you resize a daypack so it fits you exactly, like a custom-tailored suit. It’s a premium feature and very desirable. Fixed length backpacks are sized to fit a range of torso lengths, something like 16″-19″, which can result in a bad fit if your torso length is at the end of the sizing range. We recommend that beginner day hikers buy an adjustable length backpack so they can experiment with different torso lengths and dial in a proper fit.

Ventilation

If you hike in hot or humid weather or sweat a lot, consider getting a ventilated backpack that increases airflow behind your back. It can make a real difference in your comfort level by keeping your back cool and your shirt dry. Backpack ventilation varies widely though. Some packs have a mesh-covered cavity, that provides extra airflow. These work best. Still, others have air channels that run between the back padding or foam cutouts in the pack frame to encourage airflow.

Rain Cover

Many daypacks include a rain cover, which can save you the hassle and expense of buying one separately. While you can line your daypack with a plastic garbage bag, they don’t protect the smaller pockets at the top of your pack where you probably store your most valuable items.

Pockets and Organization

The biggest difference between different backpacks usually lies in the way their pockets and storage are organized. Most backpacks have open pockets that are exposed to the elements and closed pockets to keep items clean and dry. Open pockets are good for frequently accessed items like a jacket, sweater, snacks, water bottles or a water filter. You don’t want to stop and dig around your backpack every time you need one of these items. Open pockets are also good for storing damp items, so they dry and don’t make the gear inside your backpack damp too.  Closed pockets including the main compartment, are good for storing items you need less frequently and want to keep dry and safe, like your keys, cell phone, first aid kit, an insulated jacket, or a laptop. Most backpacks will have a combination of these.

Here are a few things we look for when choosing between daypacks:

  • If you carry water bottles instead of a hydration system, make sure you can reach bottles stored in the side pockets without taking off your backpack.
  • If you plan to store electronics or valuables in a hip-belt pocket, look for daypacks that have solid hip-belt pockets, not ones covered in mesh, because they’re more durable and water-resistant.
  • Backpacks with top lids usually have excellent pockets for the smaller items that you want frequent access to.
  • A front stretch mesh pocket is good for stuffing layers in for three-season hiking, but a front pocket made with solid material is better for winter hiking because it’s more durable and water-resistant.

Hydration Compatibility

All daypacks and backpacks are hydration system compatible, so that shouldn’t be a concern. Most require that you purchase a hydration system, however, which can get expensive. To save money, look for backpacks with mesh side pockets that can be used to carry water bottles instead.

Weight

The weight of a daypack is less important than the weight of a multi-day backpack because you can’t carry as much gear, food, or water. While it’s always good to carry less weight, don’t compromise your personal safety to do so. We recommend that you get a daypack that won’t collapse on itself when packed and rides on your hips and not on your shoulders. Look for packs that weigh 40 ounces or less. That’s a good weight limit that should still provide you with plenty of choices.

Hip Belts

Daypack hip belts vary in the amount of padding they provide. Some daypacks don’t come with hip belts, some come with a thin webbing strap, and others come with lots of padding and pockets. Simple unpadded hip belts are used to keep a daypack from bouncing against your hips and back when you walk, while hip belts with more padding are designed to take the weight off of your shoulders and shift it to your hips. Proper fit is very important when fitting a padded hip belt. See our article How Should a Backpack Hip Belt Fit? for an in-depth explanation.

Shoulder Straps

Shoulder strap thickness also varies by daypack volume with larger volume packs having more padding. Here are a few things we look for:

  • The sternum strap should be easily adjustable. Sternum straps connected to a rail are the easiest to adjust.
  • If you plan to attach accessory pockets to your shoulder straps, look for ones that have webbing loops that you can thread a clip through.
  • High-volume daypacks should have load lifter straps. These can help shift more weight off your shoulders and onto your hips. They’re particularly good for carrying heavier loads, for winter hiking, climbing, or skiing & snowboarding.

Women’s Daypacks

We believe that women should have the option to use a female-specific backpack instead of one designed for a man (what passes for unisex.) Women’s backpacks are available in smaller sizes, they have shoulder straps that wrap around breasts instead of smashing them flat, and hip belts that wrap around curvy female hips instead of the square boxy ones needed by men.

More Questions?

If you have any questions, leave us a comment below and we’ll be sure to respond. Our mission is to help people and we make a point to respond to all reader questions.

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16 comments

  1. My 5 year old Mountainsmith Approach 25 is still serving me well as a day pack. It’s been on innumerable day hikes and scout events over those years.

  2. Most of my day hikes (NE Ohio) are 8-12 miles and require only a simple draw string bag. But, for occasional full day outings, my Talon 22 is fantastic. It holds a rain jacket, spare layer, and water, lunch & snacks with room to spare.

  3. I purchased an Ultimate Direction Fastpack 20 last June and honestly hated it on two 20+ mile day hikes. It’s ironic because after I returned it I bought the discontinued Fastpack 15 from REI Outlet at a 40% discount. The Fastpack 15 is my second most used daypack this past year, I think it’s really great. There are quite a few things Ultimate Direction did for their redesign that I think made the Fastpack a lot worse. I could elaborate if anyone is interested, but I wouldn’t recommend buying the Fastpack 20.

    • Vest-style packs are increasingly popular, but they take some getting used to and they don’t fit all body shapes. I’m currently testing their Fastpack 40L to see if their suspension scales to higher loads for backpacking although I am skeptical.

      • The Fastpack 15 has very similar dimensions to the Fastpack 20 for the main compartment and I believe the primary difference in volume is the addition of more exterior open storage. But there were multiple design issues with the new Fastpack 20 that made it less comfortable and less functional. I’ve seen similar complaints from other trail runners who have tried both. My problems were the addition of too many pocket sleeves on the shoulder straps, the short, floppy, and useless side water bottle pockets, the elimination of the two-way access zipper and dual stuff pockets, and the sag of the main compartment with significant water weight. With these vest-style packs I believe less is more, there are too many gimmicky things added by some brands that can make them less functional. I also doubt the Fastpack design at 40L will lend itself well to backpacking, despite the advertising claiming otherwise.

        • I think once you get in the 20L range, you are beyond trail running. So, perhaps it’s not the right equipment for trail running. I see the pack as more a bridge between strictly trail running and day hiking. When you try to bridge the gap, you invariably fail at mastering either. For day hikes, I think the Fastpack 20L does a decent but great job. As you mentioned there are quirky design issues. The two skinny pockets in front of the drawstring pockets are really unusable. The bottom seam rolls inward into the back and catches on my belt if I’m wearing one. The zip pockets on should vest straps are oddly shaped and not expandable so difficult to even get a phone in there. I dislike that the daisy chain loops are behind the main compartment zipper, which makes them useless if you are using shockcord, because then it gets in the way if you try to unzip. The zig zag side straps that double as roll top fasteners get in the way all the time and didn’t need to expand all the way into the side pockets. i agree that the side pockets are short and could be bigger/better. i’ve never had issues with middle sag, though, and I habitually carry 3L bag. I’d like to see a wider flat web hip belt for better load carrying that has mesh expanded zip pockets. I hate the utterly useless narrow hip straps on any pack, although the UD is removable. with all that said, i constantly reach for the UD 20L for my day hikes, and have done a lot of miles/kms with it. I could not see wearing the 40L, though, especiallly without a wider hip belt or adjustable load straps. Packing a heavier UD 20L I find myself fidgeting more at around 25-30 miles, so I couldn’t imagine the UD 40L. I’d be really interested in trying out the newer Deuter Speed Lites that have what looks like better vest should straps and a wider hip belt.

      • What weight load are you trying in the 40L, and I’m guessing you’re limiting the testing to weekend-length trips? Anything over 15 lbs in the 15L really stretches the limits of shoulder/back comfort on a long day.

  4. Surprised that you didn’t mention the Matador line – either the 18L or the 28L version. The features make it tremendous for the size and carry weight, and the 18L is ideal for dayhikes in most regions, I think.

    • I have the matador beast 28L. It’s a travel backpack basically. You can use it for day hiking, but it’s not the “ultralight technical” backpack they want it to be.

      • Do you ahve the older version or newer version of the Beast28? I’m still trying to find an ultimate, ultralight and no one seems to actually make one. I like many things about each, but none are in the goldilock zone for me. If Deuter made the new Speed Lite 25 in Ultra 100/200 and different sizes, I think that would be a great day pack.

        • Whatever they sent me last year. It’s ok. Zpacks just came out with a 25L daypack in ultra.

        • @Philip
          yeah, i saw the zpacks bagger, but it is geared more toward edc/travel/book bag vice a day hiker. missing many features I’d at least want for day hiking.

          btw, the Deuter Speed Lite 25 CV you pictured is the Deuter Speed Lite 25 (no CV). CV stands for conventional straps.

  5. I need to throw the Lowe Alpine AirZone Z Duo 30L into the ring.

    I’m 6′-3″, and finding a long daypack is not an easy task. There are so many amazing bags, but unfortunately so many of them make me feel like I’m wearing a little kid’s book bag. You know, hip belts that cross your navel.

    The Lowe in the L size is a really nice fit, and suspension system makes this sweat monster’s back very happy. It’s a fairly light pack, and quite well organized for my hiking style.

  6. Why do none of these backpacks or descriptions show a place to put bear spray, which is one of my main concerns hiking in Montana. I have a bear spray holder (something Assault) that is worthless and I’m always moving it on my waist belt or shoulder strap. Please….show where to put the bear spray!! Also, toting 2 water bottles in 85+ heat that will be heavy and awkward and not be enough water is ridiculous. Hydration system is a must on all-day hikes!

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