Traveling is one of the best parts of summer. While many of us here at Gear Patrol prefer to take only what fits in a carry-on, sometimes the nature of the trip moves us to bring home more gear than we started with. The easy solution for that problem is a packable backpack. It stashes down into its own pocket, then expands to help us carry home the extra bottle of wine we couldn’t pass up, or that pair of leather boots that fit like a glove.
A few helpful hints: make sure the bag actually zips up into itself. If you can give it a try in the store, we highly recommend it. There’s nothing worse than not being able to get a bag compact again. The fabric should be pretty durable and ideally waterproof, so it can withstand being last-minute baggage checked at the airport and then tossed around with all the hard-sided suitcases. With all that in mind, here are a few of our favorites.
Eagle Creek Packable Daypack
The extra zipper pocket in front is a lifesaver. A lot of backpacks tend to be a one size fits all option with no storage dividers, but this one bucks that trend. It folds up to a small notebook size, and lies flat, so you can just stick it in a laptop pouch of any other bag you’re carrying, or pretty much anywhere else.
Sea to Summit Ultra Sil Day Pack
Made from rugged Cordura fabric, this mini-pack is sure to survive sweaty backs and baggage claim alike. The two-way zipper closure is easy-to-use and just makes sense. The variety of colors mean it makes a great gift for all future travel partners.
Osprey Ultralight Stuff Pack
The main attraction on this bag is the side pocket that’s the ideal shape for a water bottle — a necessity when you check your larger backpack or duffel at the airport and need a spot to hold one. The dual zippers are a plus, and it folds down small enough to fit in the palm of your hand. Grab a carabiner and clip it to whatever bag you normally carry.
Tortuga Setout Packable Daypack
The all-black look makes this bag not scream ‘I’m a tourist.’ With vibes a la Lululemon, the curved top just looks nice and sleek. The 30D ripstop nylon with YKK zippers are durable and tough, so you can stuff the bag with an extra jacket, magazines to read and snacks, all with plenty of space to store all the extras you pick up along the way.
Gonex Ultralight Handy Travel Backpack
Padded straps mean you can pack this bag full of gear — pick up whatever souvenirs you want — and the bag won’t feel terrible if you walk around with it all day long. The three separate pockets keep your important belongings safe and easy to access. The high-quality water-repellent and tear-resistant material will last throughout all your trips.
AmazonBasics Ultralight Packable Day Pack
The 35-liter capacity on this is immense. For how hefty this bag looks, it’s surprising that it packs up so small. With mesh side pockets, a large main compartment and a vertical zipper pocket in the front, there’s plenty of space for you to store all your personal belongings, extra water bottles and guide books. The mesh-looking straps are breathable so you don’t end up with sweaty marks on your shoulders.
Matador Beast28 Packable Technical Backpack
Matador’s specialty is creating portable and long-lasting gear. The brand has dabbled in everything from a roll up towel to an eight-liter hydration pack to a pocket blanket. This 28-liter pack is designed to help you tackle any technical trail, but still fold up to fit in any suitcase. It’s tough enough to handle overnight treks, but small enough that it’s not the end of the world if you don’t use it.
L.L. Bean Stowaway Day Pack
The adjustable waistbelt takes a bit of the weight off of your shoulders, so if the bag gets too heavy, there’s no concern about feeling it the next day. The sternum strap provides added coverage and support. We like the stuff sack pocket in the front, which helps keep anything you need to have access to handy.
Looking to take on a multi-day backpacking adventure? Picking the right pack is crucial. These are the best packs available in every size. Read the Story