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The 8 Best Hiking Daypacks of 2020

These aren’t the 60-liter-plus bags used for long-distance trekking, but they come with all the same features that make walking in the wilderness enjoyable.

6 best daypacks for hiking gear patrol evergoods mountain lead full
Topo Designs

Day hikes don’t call for a lot of gear. The shortest jaunts require a water bottle and a sturdy pair of shoes — in some cases, even everyday sneakers will do. More ambitious endeavors should be tackled with a more considered packing list: hiking boots, technical apparel, snacks, sunscreen, extra layers for the summit, a headlamp just in case. You’ll also want a backpack for lugging most of that gear.

As such, daypacks exist on a spectrum. Some everyday backpacks, like the ones you may have brought to school or carry to work, will do the trick, but there is a full range of very technical options explicitly designed for out-and-back hiking.

These aren’t as sizeable as the 60-liter-plus bags used for long-distance trekking, but they come with many of the same features that make walking in the wilderness with essential gear a more enjoyable experience. Here are our favorites.

Osprey Stratos 24

Best Overall Daypack

The Stratos is outfitted with all the pockets, compression straps and access points you’d expect from a backpack company — especially one with a golden reputation among long-distance thru-hikers — but the standout feature is its mesh back panel. It’s raised and tensioned away from the pack’s main vestibule, which provides a comfy trampoline-like feel and allows lots of air to flow between your back and the bag, which minimizes the sweaty back issue that often seems unavoidable. The mesh also integrates into the hipbelt, wrapping its arms around your lower torso for a fit that’s more comfortable than most other backpacks.

Volume: 24 liters
Weight: 2lbs 6oz
Number of Pockets: 8

Buy Now: $130

Patagonia Nine Trails

Best Simple Daypack

The Nine Trails backpack is designed simply, with the essentials in mind: the pack uses one spacious main compartment that’s accessed through a large U-shaped zipper and features expandable stash pockets on the exterior for storage on the go. Patagonia also rigged it with a mono-mesh back panel that is the company’s most breathable yet. The Nine Trails isn’t entirely devoid of extras though; there are smaller stash pockets on the outside and inside as well as on the hipbelt, and a hydration pouch with a port for the hose. (Pro tip: the Viking Blue colorway is 50 percent off right now, just $80.)

Volume: 28 liters
Weight: 2lbs 3oz
Number of Pockets: 8

Buy Now: $159

Camelbak Octane 25

Best Daypack for Speed Hiking

The outside-the-box fusion of a hiker’s pack and a runner’s vest is what grabs our attention here. The Octane’s lightweight design provides access to three different hydration sources, keeping you fueled for all manner of outdoor activities. You can fill the vest pockets with soft flasks containing a hydration aid like Nuun or store energy bars, chews or gels there too. The adjustable sternum straps and hip belt ensure a customized fit, while loads of internal pockets — and a trekking pole attachment — keep all your gear organized and ready for action.

Volume: 22 liters plus 70 oz hydration reservoir
Weight: 1lb 2oz
Number of Pockets: 13

Buy Now: $145

The North Face Chimera

Most Innovative Daypack

In rethinking what a daypack can do, The North Face created a new central control system called Dyno Cinch and built it into the Chimera. It works simply: pull the ripcord on the bag’s right shoulder and the entire strap system and front pocket cinches and self-balances for on-the-fly load management. Beyond that, the Chimera is lightweight, minimal and comfortable, with hydration compatibility and a pocket for small items, two stash pockets and a front sleeve in addition to its main compartment.

Volume: 18 or 24 liters
Weight: 1lb 2oz
Number of Pockets: 5

Buy Now: $100+

Mystery Ranch In and Out

Best Minimalist Daypack

Drawstring gym bags should never be used for hiking — we’re adamant about this fact. If you’re looking for a lightweight, collapsible and highly portable bag, then look to the In and Out. Mystery Ranch is better known for its full-featured trekking backpacks and the packs it supplies to the US military, but its most minimal hiking pack is just as reliable, for different reasons. The In and Out packs down into its front face pocket to be the size of a small pillow, but it isn’t basic. It’s made of 100-denier Cordura fabric for durability and has an aerospace mesh back panel for breathability. Additional features include a side water bottle pocket, multiple small essentials pockets, a hydration sleeve and even an ice axe loop.

Volume: 19 liters
Weight: 1lb
Number of Pockets: 4

Buy Now: $79

Hyperlite Mountain Gear Daybreak

Best Ultralight Daypack

Mike St. Pierre founded his ultralight equipment company, Hyperlite Mountain Gear, on the sheer potential of Dyneema, a fabric that by weight is 15 times stronger than steel. That’s the main ingredient in the Daybreak, a pack created for day-long excursions. Most Hyperlite bags are spartan (it’s an ultralight thing), but the Daybreak includes features like multiple external sleeve pockets, a bungee-style lashing and a stow-away hipbelt. The whole thing weighs just a bit over a pound.

Volume: 17 liters
Weight: 1lb 3oz
Number of Pockets: 5

Buy Now: $195

Topo Designs Mountain Pack

Best Lifestyle Daypack

The Mountain Pack has been a recurring staple in the Topo Designs stable of retro-looking backpacks. Versatility is where this bag shines — it has a breathable mesh back panel and all the daisy chains and gear loops needed for mountain exploits, but it also features a laptop sleeve and smaller organizing pockets for life around town.

Volume: 30 liters
Weight: 2lbs 2oz
Number of Pockets: 5

Buy Now: $169 $127

Black Diamond Trail Blitz 16

Best New Design for a Daypack

If you seek a super-streamlined sack to carry swiftly to the next wall you plan to scale, the Trail Blitz is your bag. It features Black Diamond’s trademark easy-access opening, plus a pocket for headlamp storage, one for securing your wallet and keys and sleeves on the sides for stashing your trekking poles when it’s time to climb. There are also four little loops on the back panel that allow you to connect this pack to a larger one, converting it into a quick-detachable side-quest pod. Oh, and it weighs just over half a pound. Need we say more?

Volume: 16 liters
Weight: 9oz
Number of Pockets: 2

Buy Now: $60

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