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Top 10 Hiking Daypacks – 2017

Top 10 hiking daypacks

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.

Support SectionHiker.com, where we actually field test the products we review. If you make a purchase after clicking on the links above, a portion of the sale helps support this site at no additional cost to you.

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  1. I was reading the article, and suddenly realized the atrocious number of wrong words and poor grammar. I can put up with wrong auto-guessed words in a text message, or a forum post, but for a published article you need to double, then triple check the words and spelling and/or stop using a phone or tablet to create the article.

    • Wrong words? The outdoor industry and pack manufacturers have their own way of spelling many words, compounding many that would be otherwise broken apart. I’m just following that style because it’s what my readers are used to seeing and reading. As for double and triple checking my posts for spelling and grammar, I do do that, and I write 99.99% of the time on a laptop and not a phone or tablet. But if it satisfies you, I just went through the article again and found one agreement (grammatical error) deep in the article and a repeated word. I’m a one man show and blogs are a bit more “dynamic”, warts and all, than buff, advertising-driven monsters like the Gear Junkie and Backpacker magazine. If you want the hype and fluff they spew out with their overloaded staffs, be my guest. I like hiking my own hike.

      • Amen, brother!!

      • Phillip; I find your writing to be honest, direct and refreshing. I often think bad things about some of the writing I see on the internet but yours is clearly head and shoulders above much of what I see.

        Your tips, ideas and recommendations are superior. I have never gone wrong following your advice. I know you know what you talk about with authority and accuracy. In fact, based on your recommendations, I have acquired a taste for Tenkara, graced my feet with the feel of Darn Tough socks which are not only darn-tough but comfortable as a slipper inside hiking shoes and last but not least have acquired the ENO Helios hammock suspension which is simply amazing and I would not have known about except for your educational posts.

        Its people like you who make life more enjoyable with your dissemination of valuable information and experience with different products. thanks for what you do and hike your own hike as well as write your own blog.

    • In defense of Philip, he has an informal way of writing which reads more like talking to a friend than the King’s English. As an editor myself, I like his style and find it easy to read, even though it doesn’t match the “tighter” style we prefer at our publication. Philip also interacts with his audience through the comments in a manner that is unlike any of the publications he mentions above. I think you’d benefit by viewing the SectionHiker blog as a conversation rather than as a traditional print publication. That’s how I think of it anyway.

    • I’m glad Brian brought this up. On March 12th 2013 you forgot to capitalize the word “Sierra” once and on another occasion I only counted one space after a period. It really discredits all of your experience and opinion.

      I’ve been an avid reader of section hiker pretty much since the site was created. I was just getting into backpacking in 08 and 09 and Phillips straight forward advice gave me the confidence and knowledge to intimately explore the northeast.

      I marvel at the volume of useful content that Phillip produces and I follow him because he’s a real person learning through trial and error. I don’t want to read some piece of marketing rubbish about gear, I want to read the opinion of an online blogger I trust. If that occasionally comes with a misspelled word, I muscle up the courage to read on.

      His writing is easy to read and it’s honest. I may not always agree with him, but I’m not sure what else you could reasonably expect from a guy who is researching, writing, editing and posting new content 5 days a week with no help.

  2. Philip, keep up the good work. I have to wonder if Brian has a blog.

  3. I bought a Flash 18 as a backpack for my grandson. Then it became his sister’s hand me down and I bought a Flash 22. I ended up using the Flash 22 myself as a daypack. I think the Flash 22 is one of the best day packs ever. I recently gave it away to a friend who needed a day pack after her husband dumped her and two wonderful children. I’m going to get another Flash 22. I keep hoping REI will send me another 20% off coupon. I used my last one to buy a Granite Gear Crown VC 60.

    My grandson now uses an adult size pack and my granddaughter can use a smaller adult pack as well. Everyone around me is growing older. I wonder what’s happening to me?

    I’m a stickler for correct grammar, punctuation, spelling, etc. but I also make more than my fair share of mistakes. A friend told me one time, “A person has to be awfully ignorant not to know two or three ways to spell any word!” No typo or misplaced character has kept me from understanding what’s being posted here. This is the first site I read each morning. I’ve learned a bunch here and count Philip as a friend. One of these days, we’ll get to hike together.

  4. Roger well put.

  5. What do you think of the Osprey Exos 38 for a day pack?

    • That’s a fine choice if the hip belt fits.

    • Woody; for many years all I could afford were packs found at thrift stores and the really cheap big box stores version of packs. Then finally I could afford a decent pack and I got a North Face BackMagic. That was many years ago and that pack was fabulous. It finally started to fall apart and I sent it to North Face and they repaired it free of charge and even put in new zippers and a new hip belt flex joint found only on the BackMagic. Years later it finally completely fell apart from extreme use like a paper bag in a hot spring pool. But I digress. Recently I acquired an Osprey Exos 34 and it BY FAR is the most comfortable pack I have not only owned but tried on at any time in my life. I love this Osprey. You absolutely have no worries in purchasing an Osprey Exos for a daypack or even as an overnighter or weekender. The fit and feel are simply amazing. The very first time I used it, I had 45 huge pounds stuffed into it and it was like I was wearing a $15 pack from a thrift store with 10 pounds in it. A revelation in my life for sure. Osprey Exos…….YES.

  6. G’day Philip, I am really enjoying your posts. I check regularly and eagerly for all new thoughts and musings.
    I have been getting a wee bit lighter in recent times and went for this http://www.deuter.com/US/us/bike/race-exp-air-32133-black-white.html in our Australian summer, thinking in winter I would go back to my 28 litre.
    It’s quite interesting for me to only take what I will use. Expands that little bit, but I haven’t used that feature yet. The 12 litres fill pretty quick but I have all I need for a winters day here (-no snow but mornings lately of -1 to 3C and days of about 8-13C. I thank your insight from studying Sectionhiker, allowing me to thoughtfully take the right gear.
    I carry gear for coffee(1 cup coffee pot)/stove/canister/frogg toggs rain jacket/down jacket-Uniqlo/binoculars/2litre bladder inside/scroggin/fruit and still some room at the top for some lunch.

  7. I really like my Hyperlite Daybreak day pack. Humph! I thought at least it would get an honorable mention.

    • I’ve been meaning to try one, but the list here was crowdsourced. No one else has discovered that pack. Makes you wonder whether ultralight day-hiking will even become a separate category or not. Ikind of doubt it.

      • I don’t want you to get me wrong… I am a Hyperlite junkie… Almost everything I backpack with is either Hyperlite or Zpacks… And, not gonna lie, I have drooled over their Daybreak pack…However I just can’t make a case for buying one. It’s not that much lighter than the packs mentioned in the above survey, it doesn’t have nearly as much capacity and meanwhile the Daybreak is roughly twice as expensive. And personally I don’t care about weight in a day pack… in fact often I’ll throw 5 or 10 pounds of extra weight in just for the workout. For backpacking however, I’m a total weight weeny. I use an Osprey daypack for day hikes. So all that being said, I don’t think an ultralight day-hiking category will actually come about. My opinion…

      • I mostly use an HMG 2400 SW for day hiking. Fits and is nicely broken in after 3 years on constant use. But I agree with what you say, completely.

  8. I love the grammar police, give me a break!!! Did I use all the right punctuation?

  9. In the world of hiking, Mr. Werner’s reviews are invariably honest and knowledgeable; he a hiking expert who has yet to steer me wrong on matters of the best gear. For this purpose, I could not care less about usage, punctuation and syntax so long as as the message is clear and the content is understandable and the information is useful. If I want a well-written article by an idiot, I can read HuffPo.

  10. Philip,

    Thanks for another great article. I own the Talon 22 and wanted to say that you did not mention the most important feature, most important for me at least. The Talon 22 has an adjustable torso length. I am 6’3″ and that is very important to me. This pack will fit a wide variety of people. Keep up the good work.


  11. Philip, Can you recommend a daypack suited for carrying fishing gear? I usually try to carry my packrod strapped to the side with the butt end stuck in a lower pocket.

    • Depends what you consider normal fishing gear and the length of your rod. If you have a single or multi-piece rod that’s not too long and a narrow protective case for it, you can carry it in a open side pocket, lashed to the side of the pack with a compression strap. Almost any pack with side bottle pockets will do.

  12. Always well done Phillip, please keep up the great work

  13. The majority of hiking is performed during a day, not multi-day, with a typical hiking distance of 5 to 12 miles and a pack load of 8 to 12 pounds. Pack weight beyond 10 pounds is usually needed for hikers requiring more water due to their unique physiology. There are a maximum of 7 obvious bio-mechanical inefficiencies of the backpack described below.

    1. Water is normally the heaviest item stored in or on a backpack. Roughly 85?of backpacks provide side pockets for water storage which wastes your energy as your body thrusts the weight forward and back. You most frequently have to remove a backpack for a drink as bottles are difficult to access and return. After returning a bottle, what you drank is less than the weight of the bottle on the other side leaving you with an unbalanced load. A hydration bladder is stored in the center of a backpack. They are heavy, provide an undesirable taste, are costly and require hygienic maintenance as compared to a standard water bottle. Wider than a typical water bottle, a good percentage of the weight is a thrust-ed load being partly distant from the center of your body, just as are water bottles stored on the sides of backpacks. Bladders additionally reduce load carrying capacity as they fill-up a good portion of a backpacks space. A simple solution is to purchase a 1 to 2 liter standard water bottle and a water hose system including a bite valve for on the go hiking. Place the bottle in the center of your pack, (along your spine) and place your gear either side.

    2. Packs are long, extending to the hips or lower having capacities normally in excess of day hiking needs and eliminate your natural pace speed. Raise your pack higher than your hips and you will notice how much easier it is to move at a normal pace speed.

    3. If you carry a load of roughly twenty or more pounds it is desirable to transfer a portion of the load to your hips with a hip belt. A day pack load normally will not exceed 8 to 12 pounds thus not requiring a hip belt and occasional hip padding and/or additional storage compartments. Eliminating the unnecessary weight (if practical), improves comfort and allows improved endurance or speed.

    4. A hip belt tightened at your waist will restrict your breathing, valuable for efficient expenditure of energy for speed and comfort. You can improve speed and comfort If you can place the hip belt a few inches below your navel.

    5. Side storage on hip belts are an additional side load thrusting issue that wastes your energy.

    6. Unless a pack is designed with shoulder straps placed away from your outer shoulders you will expend energy, reduce your speed, endurance and comfort thrusting the your backpack load attached to the straps.

    7. Backpacks are deep for ample storage, but will result in side to side load thrusting unless properly loaded and cinched down. Additionally, most of your gear sits at the bottom of the bag with the difficulty of finding your gear.

    The backpack of today is not an efficient device for hiking or running. It is what is currently available, awaiting a new approach to an efficient means of storing our gear for improved speed, endurance and comfort.

  14. Wow Two of my favorites made the List…. Osprey, and my old reliable CamelBak Mule… My version of the Mule goes about 11 years old…Not as roomy as the new one but fits my purposes…. I take it regularly on the nearby Town’s Green Belt which is an 18 mile Trail around an through the Town… 2 Liter Bladder and enough pack space for First Aid Kit, Snakcs, Poncho, Sunscreen and other incidents I always carry as in the 10 essentials… Great pack an very comfortable.. Originally Cost less than $25.00 I use the Osprey Talon on over night hikes to Fishing lakes far back in the Hills and spend the night and return the next day… I use an Osprey Kestrel for two or more days on the trail… Great Products…..

  15. Phillip – Great articles, like YOUR language use, very helpful, and thank you! ‘Betting you a Maine Lobster lad Brian needs to get a life! Elliott in Maine

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