Best Hiking Daypacks 2018 - Expert Review and Buying Guide

Best Hiking Daypacks 2018 – Expert Review (With Buying Guide)

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Are you looking to buy a hiking daypack for your next outdoor adventure? 

In this guide we list the best hiking daypacks. Use the guide to find the best overall daypack for general hiking, the best lightweight daypack or the best hydration daypack. Also look out for our picks for the best women's daypack and best budget option.

Best Daypack

(Mountain IQ #1 Choice)

The combination of decent capacity in a small and light form, plenty of features and great comfortability make Osprey Talon 22 one of the most versatile packs, and therefore the best overall hiking daypack.

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Top 5 Hiking Daypacks - Comparison Table

Take a look at the comparison table below before moving on, it might help you make a quick decision based on the most important specs and the price of each of the daypacks.

Daypack

Rating

Weight

Volume

No. of Pockets

Price

#1

Osprey Talon 22

(Best Overall)

624g

22L

8

#2

Deuter Speed Lite 20

(Editor's Choice)

538g

20L

5

#3

Osprey Tempest 20

(Best Pack for Women)

743g

20L

8

#4

CamelBak M.U.L.E.

(Best Hydration Pack)

595g

3L hydration + 9L for gear

5

#5

Stratos 36

(Best Large Pack)

1.3kg

36L

7

1. Best Overall Hiking Daypack

Osprey Talon 22

5/5 Overall Rating
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This pack is light and extremely versatile thanks to its smaller size, but it still brims with features. It is, in our opinion, the best overall daypack, with a score of five out of five stars.

The Osprey Talon 22 is lightweight at only 624g, but still manages to pack a solid 22l of capacity along with 7 exterior pockets into the design. 

Most appreciated are the two pockets on the cushioned hip belt, perfect to hold a smartphone, small camera or a GPS system.

Another great feature is the hydration sleeve that is separate from the main compartment and can fit a 3L hydration pack. We also like that it has a number of equipment attachment loops, perfect for a number of uses, from helmets to trekking poles.

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Main Features
  • LidLock helmet attachment
  • Stow-On-The-Go trekking pole attachment
  • External hydration sleeve
  • plus
    Ice-tool loop with bungee tie-offs
What we like
  • Extremely comfortable and adjustable
  • Lots of storage in relatively small form-factor
What we dislike
  • The back panel is slightly thin, which means you might feel the contents of your bag if they aren’t packed well
Key Takeaway

The combination of decent capacity in a small and light form, plenty of features and great comfortability make Talon 22 one of the most versatile packs, and therefore the best overall hiking daypack.

2. Editor's Choice Daypack

Deuter Speed Lite 20

5/5 Overall Rating
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We rated the Deuter Speed Lite 20 pack the same as the Osprey Talon 22, but for different reasons. While it lacks the storage options of the Talon 22, it makes up for that in its superior comfortability, removable plastic frame and lighter weight.

The ergonomic design of the pack with its unique V-shape and innovative compression shoulder straps make it perfect for hikers who like to move quickly.

However, being only 20l and having a slightly lacklustre hipbelt, it’s probably best not to carry too much weight on long hikes.

Where this pack stands out for us, however, is its affordable price for its brilliant functionality and versatility.

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Main Features
  • Comfortable compression straps
  • Removable plastic frame
  • V-shaped form factor allows for high-speed hikes
What we like
  • Very lightweight at only 538g (just under 1 pound)
  • Extremely comfortable
  • Under $100
What we dislike
  • Thinly padded hipbelt
Key Takeaway

Deuter Speed Lite 20 bag packs a punch at a mid-level price, perfect for almost anyone!

3. Best Pack For Women

Osprey Tempest 20

4/5 Overall Rating
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The only women’s-specific daypack on our list, the Osprey Tempest 20 Backpack is, in simple terms, the women’s version of the Osprey Talon 22, our top ranked daypack. It’s not, however, just the same pack in different colours.

While the overall design is pretty similar to that of the Talon 22, and therefore benefits from the same features that we have already mentioned, it is slightly smaller.

For women or even smaller men with shorter torsos, buying a women’s daypack can be immensely helpful, as the slight shift in the weight distribution and the fitting size can make the difference between a comfortable day’s hike, and a really horrible one.

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Main Features
  • All of the same features as the Talon 22, as well as all 7 exterior pockets
  • Extra padding for added comfort
  • Comfortable hipbelt
What we like
  • More comfortable than the Talon 22
  • Easily adjustable to fit all sizes
What we dislike
  • Fair amount heavier than the Talon 22, even with smaller capacity
  • 20l is just a bit too small for some longer day hikes
Key Takeaway

Although it is smaller in capacity, this Women's Osprey daypack holds more padding than the Osprey Talon 22 and has all the same features. 

4. Best Hydration Pack For Hot Weather

CamelBak M.U.L.E.

4/5 Overall Rating
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Sometimes you’ll need to carry a large amount of fluids in order to beat the heat of the day during a hike or a cycle. While many other daypacks come with hydration sleeves, most don’t come with the actual reservoirs installed.

This is the main advantage that CamelBaks provide, and CamelBak M.U.L.E. is our favourite one.

This hydration pack is lightweight and provides a decent amount of gear storage on top of the 3L reservoir. The new ‘Crux’ reservoir delivers more water per sip than before, and a magnetic trap keeps your hose in place, easily accessible when you need it.

The back panel allows for excellent breathability, making it very comfortable to carry, even in hot climates.

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Main Features
  • 20% more water per sip from new hose design
  • Small design is comfortable for a hydration pack
  • Separate zippered compartment has a gear and tool organizer
  • plus
    Foam grips
What we like
  • Very breathable back panel
  • Hydration system comes included, therefore saves you around $35
What we dislike
  • Pretty poor hipbelt
  • Only 9l of gear storage isn’t great
Key Takeaway

CamelBak M.U.L.E. is one of the best daypacks to use in a hot climate where fluid intake is so important. It is best used for shorter activities, as there is not much space for extra gear.

5. Best Larger Pack

Osprey Stratos 36

4/5 Overall Rating
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Best used for more demanding day hikes or even shorter overnight trips, this pack offers plenty of storage space to pack everything you need.

Because of the large size, this pack may not be as versatile as the smaller packs on our list, but it does have its uses. This range does, however, come in smaller sizes, but the 36l variant was our favourite in the series.

The Osprey Stratos 36 has a pre-curved hipbelt, adjustable shoulder straps and a well ventilated back panel to keep you comfortable while carrying up to 14kg (30lbs).

This pack comes with all the features you’ll need: a sleeping bag compartment, 7 exterior pockets, a raincover and a hydration sleeve. But beware, this does come at a price, as it is one of the most expensive packs on our list.

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Main Features
  • Removable sleeping pad straps
  • Zippered sleeping bag compartment
  • Integrated raincover
  • plus
    Fixed top lid with zippered stash pocket, with a zippered mesh pocket found under lid
What we like
  • Comfortable to carry even with large capacity
  • Easy to load
What we dislike
  • Doesn’t have stretch mesh for easy access to water bottle while pack is on
  • Pack tends to squeak a bit when loaded heavily
Key Takeaway

Osprey Stratos 36 is a brilliant large daypack with all the features, so it works best for trips where you need to pack a little extra stuff.

6. Top 6-10 Best Daypacks

6. CamelBak Rim Runner 22

4/5 Overall Rating
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The CamelBak Rim Runner 22 is the second hydration-oriented pack on the list, but it has more space for general gear than the M.U.L.E. With a built in 2.5l reservoir and an extra 19.5L capacity, it’s built more as a dual purpose pack than the M.U.L.E.

With 9 exterior pockets including stretch pockets, you can have easy access to your equipment or extra water bottles should you need it. The mesh back panel is breathable and comfortable, and the hipbelt has extra storage compartments.

The only issue here is that, for larger people, those hip-belt pockets do not reach all the way to the hip and might sit closer to their back.

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Main Features
  • Main compartment and separate essentials pocket organize your lunch, gear and one-day peak ascent needs
  • Crux reservoir for more efficient water delivery
  • Top and panel access
What we like
  • Lots of extra storage space is nice to have in a hydration pack
  • Pockets on the hipbelt are always a nice touch
What we dislike
  • Lacks a support frame
  • Only compatible with newer Crux reservoirs, so you’ll have to buy a new one if you want a larger reservoir.
Key Takeaway

CamelBak Rim Runner 22 works well as both a general daypack and a hydration pack. With plenty of space for water and all of your necessities, it will work for a number of activities, but it isn’t quite as comfortable as other packs, in particular the M.U.L.E.

7. REI Co-op Trail 25

rei-co-op-trail-25

4/5 Overall Rating
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This REI pack is fairly light and compact for its 25l capacity, weighing in at only 708g. It has 5 exterior pockets, including mesh side storage for water bottles, as well as trekking pole straps that make it perfect for some more serious hikes.

Being a panel loader with a full U-shaped zipper, your gear within the pack is easily accessible, even if packed at the bottom.

The waistbelt can be removed if needed, and you can also add an REI Trail 2 Waistpack for more storage, but this is not included with the pack.

Main Features
  • Included rain cover for water resistance
  • Internal HDPE framesheet adds structure and helps shield your back from protruding gear
  • Top has a zip pocket on the underside for your keys and valuables
  • plus
    Hydration pack compatible
What we like
  • At only $70 it’s very affordable
  • Lightweight for a 25l pack, so perfect for a wide variety of uses
What we dislike
  • Hipbelt is thin and not very comfortable
  • Lacks compression straps, so weight shifts badly when heavily loaded
Key Takeaway

This daypack offers a number of nice features and decent capacity in a lightweight package, all for a very reasonable price. Perfect for someone who doesn’t want to spend over $100 on a new pack, but still wants good functionality.

8. Osprey Talon 33

4/5 Overall Rating
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The Osprey Talon 33 pack is, essentially, a bigger version of the Talon 22. The larger size makes it better for full day hikes that require a lot of equipment, or even short overnight trips.

The one downside that this daypack has when compared to its smaller sibling, the Talon 22, is that it is top loading and therefore more inconvenient to access the equipment packed inside.

Our favourite feature that this series of daypacks has is that the hydration sleeve is separate from the main compartment and waterproof, so your goods are protected from water damage should you spring a leak.

It has plenty of exterior pockets, including hipbelt compartments and side stretch-mesh pockets for easy access to water bottles.

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Main Features
  • Top loader
  • Stow-On-The-Go trekking pole attachment
  • Dual ice-tool loops with bungee tie-offs
  • plus
    Lower InsideOut compression/carry straps
What we like
  • Hydration sleeve separate from the main compartment
  • Very comfortable and adjustable fit
What we dislike
  • Difficult to reach side pockets when pack is on, but not impossible
  • We much prefer the smaller Talon 22 to this one
Key Takeaway

The Osprey Talon 33 pack is perfect for a number of activities, as it is both not too big or too small. It’s fairly lightweight at only 908g, which is where it sticks out a bit over the other large packs.

9. Patagonia Ascensionist 30

3.5/5 Overall Rating
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Built with the intended use of 1 or 2 day ascents, the Patagonia Ascensionist 30 with 30L of space can fit everything you’ll need, comfortable with even up to 40lbs of gear packed in.

It’s got great build-quality, and holds up to the most rugged of hikes. The secondary collar that covers the top loading opening protects your gear from rough weather, and the material used is lightweight.

The framesheet is made from a strong and lightweight aluminium rod and a mesh that provides good flex.

The hip-belt has removable pads for extra simplicity, and the pack has 4 rows of exterior daisy chains that provide lashing options for a rope, helmet and pad.

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Main Features
  • Light and very durable material
  • Top loader
  • Ergonomic shoulder straps with load lifters and a low-profile sternum strap match your torso's contours for added comfort
What we like
  • One of the more durable packs in our review
  • Can be stuffed with equipment, comfortable with up to 40lbs of gear
What we dislike
  • Pretty expensive compared to a lot of its competitors
  • Back panel ventilation is subpar
  • No hydration sleeve
Key Takeaway

Patagonia Ascensionist 30 is both stylish and functional, and does not cut back on any functionality with its exterior daisy chains and 30L capacity.

10. REI Co-op Flash 18

rei-co-op-flash-18

4/5 Overall Rating
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Weighing in at a mere 284g, the REI Co-op Flash 18L daypack is perfect for short hikes and general daily use. It’s extremely affordable at only $40, making it very popular with beginner hikers.

While being so light, it still has light padding on the straps and the back panel, making it reasonably comfortable to carry as long as you don’t pack it too heavily.

As a nice feature, the back padding can be removed for use as a seat, and the hipbelt can be detached if necessary.

The fact that it is a top loader has both benefits and disadvantages, being that it can be packed to the brim, but your stuff at the bottom will be largely inaccessible.

Main Features
  • Sternum-strap buckle doubles as safety whistle
  • Internal hydration sleeve within main compartment, with hose exit port
  • Drawcord closure fully covers the top opening when cinched tight
What we like
  • Cheapest daypack on our list
  • Extremely lightweight
What we dislike
  • Top loader
  • Not very comfortable and not much support
Key Takeaway

REI Co-op Flash 18L daypack is a must-have for pretty much every outdoors enthusiast, as its very affordable price, ease-of-use and versatility make it the perfect pack for a number of different activities.

Hiking Daypack - Buyer's Guide (Key Features)

A key piece of equipment needed for any outdoors enthusiast, or anyone else for that matter, is a daypack. Smaller in size than a normal hiking backpack, daypacks are used to carry light necessities to get you through the day on activities like short hikes, cycling or even skiing.

When deciding on the right daypack for your own personal needs, there are a number of variables to take into consideration.

The market for daypacks is huge, so the products differ greatly from one another and therefore some will fit your needs better than others. Generally, the more features a daypack has, the more expensive it will be, so be reasonable with your budgeting if you want an extremely feature rich daypack.

So without further discussion, here are some of the key features to look out for when buying your very own daypack.

Volume

Before you can decide what size daypack will be necessary for you, you’ll have to consider what you are going to use it for. It might be tempting to just get the biggest or the smallest one, but that might not necessarily be the best choice for your needs.

If you need a daypack for short day hikes or even just for use when exploring urban areas while on vacation, you should consider a pack between 10l and 25l, while for activities that might last the whole day or through one night you should consider between 25l and 40l.

The simple rule of thumb here is this: the longer the activity, the larger the bag. This may not necessarily always hold true, as some activities might require a lot of equipment to be carried for a short time, in which case a bigger bag might still be needed.

A daypack with around 25l is generally a good choice as it is more versatile and will be able to carry all of your necessities, such as food, water, a camera, a head torch and a first aid kit.

Type

As mentioned, daypacks vary in terms of a number of variables. For casual use, you can consider simpler, more affordable daypacks that won’t have hipbelts, as they are more convenient.

On the other end of the spectrum, if you are taking on a long hike that requires a lot of equipment, it’s best to go for a larger daypack that has a more sophisticated suspension system that keeps the weight off your shoulders and on your waist.

Choosing the wrong daypack for a big hike is the worst thing you can do, as carrying too much weight in a bag that doesn’t have the correct hipbelt and suspension design can lead to serious back pains, and possible injuries.

Ventilation and Comfortability

Most daypacks these days will have some form of ventilation on the back panel of the pack, where your back makes contact with it.

These mesh or foam back panels provide a good method of ventilation so that there is air between your back and the pack, causing you to sweat slightly less. If this is important for you, then the cheaper daypacks that tend not to have good ventilation systems might not be good for you, while the higher-end ones will have more sophisticated ventilation systems.

General comfortability of the daypack is very important if you’re going on long hikes or carrying the pack for extended periods of time. If the bag is uncomfortable, it can make your whole hike a nightmare and completely ruin the experience.

The key things to look for here are that the pack has a hipbelt and has padding on the shoulder straps, as well as the ventilation we mentioned previously.

General Features

There are a number of other features to consider, including but not limited to the following:

  • Waterproofing – to protect the insides of your pack
  • Pockets – they can help you keep your pack organised, and exterior pockets come in use for keeping your water bottles easily accessible.
  • Frame – most of the larger daypacks will have plastic or metal frames to provide that extra bit of support for your pack.
  • Panel vs top loading – panel loading packs can be accessed with a U-shaped zip that opens a large portion of the pack up, allowing for greater organisation and easier access. Top loaders are generally lighter, but they make it more difficult to get to stuff packed at the bottom of the pack.

Just remember to consider your price range when you decide which features you feel you need.

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