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The Best Backpack Daypacks

Daypacks are small hiking backpacks that are great for short trips and typically hold 15-35 liters of gear.  As with most things in the outdoor industry, backpacks have really evolved over the past few years.  Back in the day, hiking daypacks were nothing more than glorified school backpacks with very few features.

These days you can find daypack backpacks that are so brilliantly designed and multi-functional that they can be used for just about anything from short day hikes to ski touring and adventure racing.

The key to choosing the best backpack daypack is to match your activity with your pack.  If you climb in the spring, hike all summer, and ski tour in the winter you may want to find a different daypack to accommodate each activity rather than assuming one daypack will work for all.

Here are some of our favorite daypack backpacks:

Hiking Daypacks

When choosing a daypack for hiking you are going to want to find a pack that has enough room for all your gear and has ample side pockets and compartments to keep you organized.  If you plan on doing a lot of bushwalking or occasional scrambling you will want a pack that is narrower so you don’t get hung up by a bulky pack.

One of the best improvements in today’s packs is that some come equipped with a built in hydration system.  Try drinking from your Nalgene bottle while walking and you’ll find out first hand why these built in hydration systems are such a wonderful thing. It is important to note that some times the bladder is included, but more times than not it is sold separately and not all daypacks are hydration system compatible.

Keep in mind that daypacks aren’t designed to carry much more than 20 pounds and your shoulders will be carrying most of the weight.  Look for a daypack that has a chest strap or hip belt to help distribute the weight more and look for padded shoulder straps and a breathable back panel for added comfort.

Recommended Hiking Daypacks:

Daypack for School/Travel/Work

As far as choosing a daypack for school, work, or travel, sure comfort is still important but the organization and design is critical.  Look for daypacks that have a built-in fitted sleeve to protect your laptop and plenty of pockets and compartments for stashing your pens, papers, electronics, and other small items.

Also look for a padded back panel to keep your items from stabbing you in the back.  Consider a rolling backpack for added versatility.

Recommended Daypacks for School, Travel, or Work:

Scrambling/Climbing Daypacks

If you need a pack for high alpine day hiking or need a pack to haul up the climbing route with you, you are going to want to find a durable, narrow profile pack.  Avoid packs with side pockets since you need the pack to be sleek so it won’t get in the way of your arms and legs when scrambling.

If you need to haul a rope and other specialized equipment you are probably going to need a pack larger than 35 liters and an internal frame pack for more support.

Recommended Climbing Daypacks:

Ski and Snowboard Daypacks

A narrow pack is a must for ski touring so the pack doesn’t interfere with your movement.  Look for a ski and snowboard backpack with the fewest external pockets but plenty of gear loops to attach your skis, poles, shovels, and other ski safety equipment.  If you plan on using a hydration bladder with your ski pack make sure it is insulated so the water doesn’t freeze.

Recommended Ski Touring Daypacks:

Trail Running Daypacks

If you are looking for a pack to take with you when you hit the trails running, a waist pack or a technical daypack are great choices.  Waist packs typically carry a water bottle or two and often have room for a few energy bar and gels.  Waist packs are nice since they tend to stay put while you run and it is nice to keep your back clear and chafe free.

Some people still prefer backpacks to waist packs so if you choose one for running make sure the pack is designed for supreme breathability.  Shoulder straps and back panels made from mesh will improve your overall comfort.

Recommended Trail Running Daypacks

Remember to choose a daypack based on your needs and activities.  If you use your pack mostly for work and school you probably don’t need a daypack with gear loops for your ice axe or a fancy hydration system.  Choosing the best backpack daypack for your activities will help keep your more organized on the trail, train, ski run, or wherever your adventures may lead.