Even on short hikes, you could potentially carry an average of 10-15 pounds of gear in your backpack, depending on the difficulty, weather conditions, and the distance of the expedition.
While you’re loaded with substantially less weight than you would be for an multi-day hike, you still want to bring along enough supplies to remain comfortable and prepared for the unexpected.
We will help you pick out ideal one for you and provide some insight on things to consider to help make your decision easy.
Now it is time to discover the best day hiking backpacks…
Best Hiking Backpacks for 2021
Camelbak M.U.L.E. Hydration Pack
If want to make sure you’re getting enough water when you’re out on the trail, the Camelbak Mule is a great option.
This is the smallest daypack on our list, ideal for half-day hikes and also coveted by cyclists and mountain bikers. The M.U.L.E. offers 3 liters of hydration storage and about 9 liters of available storage for gear.
The streamlined design is light and maneuverable and the new Crux reservoir design delivers 20% more water per sip — ensuring you’ll never find yourself feeling dehydrated. In addition, a magnetic strap keeps your tube in place when not in use.
Other features include a ventilated harness and back panel in addition to a stretch overflow storage for cramming in those last-minute extra layers.
A separate zippered compartment provides for extra organization.
Osprey Pack Exos 48
If you tend to bring the kitchen sink on day hikes or want a pack that doubles as an ultralight backpacking pack, the Osprey Exos was designed with functionality, durability, and comfortability in mind.
48 liters is plenty of room for the essentials — and then some, ideal if you’re packing for a picnic or for more than one person.
The company’s Superlight Airspeed suspension highlights a 6065 aluminum frame for stability and a mesh back panel for ventilation.
ExoForm shoulder straps and hip belt remain cushy and comfortable under a heavy load.
The pack is hydration-reservoir compatible and offers extra storage features including front and side stretch woven pockets — ensuring you won’t have to leave anything behind.
The 100-denier nylon provides for durability on tough trails and the pack weighs just over two pounds.
The North Face Women’s Borealis Backpack
This compartment-loaded product is as equally useful for your daily commute as it is for a long day in the backcountry.
The perfect size for a daypack, 27-28 liters provides enough room to store everything you need without leaving an excessive amount of unused space.
An internal organizer boasts a fleece-lined media pocket, zip pocket, and cord manager for any battery packs or electronics you might want to bring with you on your hike.
An external pocket is perfect for stashing sunglasses or frequently used accessories.
The sides are equipped with two stretch-mesh water bottle pockets for hydration and a front elastic bungee for stuffing extra layers.
The redesigned product boasts a new FlexVent suspension system designed for all day comfort, so you’ll be traveling with ease mile after mile.
Side compression straps and a sternum strap offer the ability to tighten and adjust your load.
Venture Pal Lightweight Packable Backpack
This innovative pack actually folds up into its own pocket for storage — providing unique versatility not often found in daypacks of this caliber.
The main compartment can hold up to 35 liters of gear storage and two separate organizational compartments help simplify access.
It weighs in at just 0.7 pounds — impressive for the amount of gear it can carry.
The backpack is designed with breathable mesh shoulder straps integrated with spongy padding to keep your shoulders feeling fresh even after a long day on the trail, while a sternum strap allows you to adjust your load and keep the weight in place.
The materials are durable and water resistant, including heavy duty two-way SBS metal zippers and a double-layer bottom piece.
If you’re looking for something lightweight and versatile, the Venture Pay Daypack could become your closest trail companion.
Teton Sports Scout 3400 Internal Frame Hiking Backpack
If you’re looking for a daypack with all the characteristics of a multi-day backpacking pack, the Teton Sports Scout is an ideal option, featuring a rugged internal frame constructed of aluminum stays.
This pack is highly adjustable — suitable for a variety of torso sizes. Molded, open-cell foam comprises the hip and lumbar padding, providing for unprecedented comfort and excellent ventilation.
The pack holds 55 liters worth of gear — allowing you to easily carry for two or alternatively use as a multi-day backpacking pack. This pack is compartment and feature-rich — with a place for every piece of gear and easy access to essential items.
The pack is compatible with a hydration reservoir and comes equipped with its own rain cover.
At 4.5 pounds it might not be the lightest pack on the market, but if you need something tough, dependable, and offering all-day comfort, the Scout 3400 is a quality option.
How to Choose a Hiking Backpack
What Size Backpack Do I Need for a Day Hike?
Daypacks range in capacity from about 20 to 50 liters. Going any larger than that is unnecessary as it crosses over into the realm of backpacking packs.
A 20-liter pack is a good size for a stroll through your local park while a 30-40 liter pack is ideal for more strenuous, all-day mountain hikes.
While it’s unlikely something will go wrong on a day hike, it’s always better to be prepared and carry the essential hiking gear for beginners every time.
Whether you’re a mile from civilization or ten, if something happens in the wilderness, you’ll have to fend for yourself until help arrives.
What to pack in your daypack for any hiking expedition:
- Rain jacket
- First aid kit
- Trail maps or a hiking gps
- Sun protection
- Repair kit and tools
- Emergency shelter
Day packs are categorized by two different frame types: internal and frameless.
Internal frames are comprised of rigid materials, such as plastic framesheet or aluminum rods, which provide support and add adequate structure.
Heavier day packs require an internal frame in order to carry substantial loads.
Frameless packs are lightweight, compact, and form fit to your back. They do not support much weight, however, and are only a comfortable option for the shortest of day hikes.
Ventilated Back Panels
Ventilated back panels have become a popular component on daypacks, backpacking packs, and mountaineering packs.
The basic technology implements a stiff mesh panel that pushes up against your back and keeps airflow circulating between your body and the pack, allowing for adequate ventilation.
Most daypacks are equipped with a hydration reservoir, which includes an internal sleeve and a port for tube access, allowing you easy access to water while you’re out on the trail.
The only downside to a hydration reservoir versus a water bottle such as a Nalgene, which includes measurements on the outside, is that it can be hard to determine how much water you’re drinking over time.
If you’re concerned about water intake, Nalgene bottles with measurements might be a better option for you or use this handy hydration calculator from Camelbak to know precisely what you will need.
Daypacks offer two standard access designs: top loading and panel loading.
Top loading packs are lighter and simpler but are usually less organizationally friendly, as everything is loaded into the pack through a top compartment.
Many popular daypacks boast a panel loading design which offers compartment access through the front panels, usually coordinating with an oval-shaped zipper.
If you like to keep everything in specific places and prefer easy equipment access, you’ll be better off selecting a panel loading pack.
Most daypacks aren’t waterproof and if you expect to be traveling through any kind of wet weather or unpredictable conditions, a rain cover is a great accessory to bring along.
While not usually included with a backpack, most companies sell them separately.
A rain cover is designed to fit over the entirety of your pack, keeping inner contents dry.
How is a Backpack Supposed to Fit?
When you’re hiking, the majority of a backpack’s weight should be sitting on your hips.
For this reason, you need a pack that properly matches the length of your torso.
While most daypacks only come in one torso size, it’s an important measurement used to determine if one pack might fit better than another.
You’ll want to measure the distance between your C7 vertebrate, which is located at the base of your neck, down to the iliac crest, which can be determined by wrapping your fingers around your pelvic bones.
Where your thumbs meet is known as the iliac crest.
The other important measurement to take into consideration is your waist size, which will determine the comfortability of a hip belt.
Hip belts are designed to accommodate a wide range of waist sizes as they are extremely adjustable, but you’ll want to make sure that your backpack’s hip belt is adjustable enough to meet the needs of your individual body shape.
Other Fit Considerations
Load lifter straps: Some heavier daybacks may integrate load lifter straps that you can adjust, pulling the load closer to your body and shifting the weight onto your hips. It is ideal to create a 45 degree angle between your shoulder straps and the pack.
Sternum straps: This mid-chest strap serves to connect your two shoulder straps together, providing for added stability and relieving the outside of your shoulders.
These straps can be adjusted to a comfortable height on your chest.
Wrapping It Up…
Picking out the perfect daypack for you depends entirely on personal preference and the type of hiking you will be undertaking.
Do you think you would prefer the rigidity afforded by a solid internal frame like the Scout 3400 or do you covet the lightweight freedom of a foldable backpack, such as the Venture Pal?
Prioritize your needs, whether they include organization, comfort, durability, or weight, to determine what to take on a day hike and pick out a pack based on that.
We’ve given you the hiking gear tips you need and an overview of some of the best options on the market, so it’s time for you to hit the trail!