10 Best Hiking Daypacks of 2021

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.

Make / ModelSizingRaincoverPriceWomen's Model
Osprey Talon 22Adjustable$130Osprey Tempest 20
Deuter Speed Lite 24Fixed Length$105Deuter Speed Lite 22 SL
Gregory Zulu 30AdjustableIncluded$150Gregory Jade 28
REI Trail 25Fixed LengthIncluded$80REI Trail 25
Deuter Guide Lite 24Fixed Length$130Deuter Guide Lite 22 SL
Osprey Stratos 36AdjustableIncluded$170Osprey Sirrus 36
Mystery Ranch Scree 32Adjustable$189Wms Mystery Ranch Scree 32
Kelty Redwing 36Adjustable$100Wms Kelty Redwing 36
REI Traverse 32Fixed LengthIncluded$139Wms REI Traverse 32
Deuter Trail 30Fixed LengthIncluded$135Deuter 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:
Osprey | REI | Backcountry

2. Deuter Speed Lite 24 Backpack

The Deuter Speed Lite 24 is also a great multi-sport backpack that’s great for hiking, cycling, climbing, or skiing. The Speed Lite’s main compartment has a clamshell-style zipper that makes it easy to find gear packed inside, and a top security pocket to store your keys, wallet, phone, and other small essentials. The pack has a front stretch mesh pocket and side pockets for water bottles, as well as reversible side compression straps that can be used to carry skis, a snowboard, or snowshoes on the pack’s front. The women’s model is named the Deuter Speed Lite 22 SL.

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. Deuter Guide Lite 24 Backpack

Deuter Guide Lite 24 Backpack
The Deuter Guide Lite 24 is equally at home on the trail and at the crag.  This streamlined minimalist pack has a drawstring top closure that makes it easy to stuff layers and loose gear. It’s designed to sit very close to your body making it good for speed hikes and scrambling, with a removable hip belt you can leave at home to shed excess weight. An external zip pocket makes it easy to stash your essentials while daisy chains, ice ax loops trekking pole holders, and a combo speed lid/helmet holder let you haul alpine gear in-between days hikes to your favorite trails.

Check out the latest price at:
Backcountry | Amazon

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 | REIAmazon

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 in 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 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 | Mystery Ranch | Backcountry

8. Kelty Redwing 36

 Kelty Redwing 36
The Kelty Redwing 36 is a versatile day pack loaded with pockets to keep you organized on the trail and off. The Redwing has seven exterior pockets including two on the front, one on top, and four on the sides, including mesh water bottle pockets. A hybrid U-zipper entry works as both a top loader and panel loader. The back of the pack is covered with breathable mesh to keep you cool, while an internal frame increases comfort for heavier loads. A women’s version of the Kelty 36 is also available.

Check out the latest price at:
Kelty | Amazon

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 two 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 | Amazon

Daypack Buying Guide

Consider these variables when buying a backpack for day packing:

Daypack 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 in the ends 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 too.
  • A front stretch mesh pocket is good for stuffing layers into 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 on 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 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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9 comments

  1. In the UK, you could definitely add in a custom Atom Packs 30L Atom.

  2. Hello Philip: Looking for a smallish pack for my 64″ tall wife, she needs great on-the-go water bottle access and it always seems to be raining. Personal question, if you are not evaluating packs do you grab your 2400 Southwest for day-tripping? Thanks, Jon

    • Honestly no. There was a time that I used it for everything, but it’s terrible for securely carrying a tenkara rod and a hassle to have to open the top every time I want something. Over the years, my style of hiking has changed to be much more multi-sport and off-trail rather than rush rush to a destination on well established or blazed routes. My current default is a Granite Gear 38L Crown2 without the lid, but it’s not perfect. I’d prefer something a little more rugged made with XPac.

  3. FWIW, I’ve found that day packs with a compression/load mgmt strap that cuts across the water bottle pocket (like the talon 22) make use of that pocket much more difficult.

    Thanks for the reviews, I enjoy the blog.

  4. You should check out the ULA Equipment Photon .
    Has the mesh pocket and the outside of the pack as well as small pockets on the hip belt. It’s good for all year round hiking highly recommend

  5. The Junction from Hill People Gear is 1 heck of a nice day pack.

  6. I note the REI Traverse 32 has replaced the Traverse 35 (which I have) and is more or less a complete redesign losing a number of useful features (eg uplift and external zipped pocket) and replacing the suspension system…the lumbar pad and mesh back are now a 4 point pad system where the lower pads integrate with the hip belt. The new side compression system doesn’t seem that unique compare to the previous “Uplift” design, except that the compression straps are are removable and there is a ladder you can use to customize their outer position to some extent…not sure how useful that is out of the box but it does allow some slightly more custom strappage.

    • I liked the Traverse 35 too. REI is kind of pissing me off lately by constantly killing off perfectly good products and selling a lot of grills, furniture, cocktail mixes, and metal bottles.

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