Every outdoor enthusiast understands the value of having specialized gear. That is particularly true when hitting the trail. Research the best day hiking backpacks and find the right one for you based on fit, size, functionality, and durability. While it is certainly possible to hike 8 miles with your old high school book bag, I would never recommend it.
When you’re on the trail, the last thing you want is an uncomfortable, poorly designed pack pinching, distracting, and detracting from the joys of hiking.
Despite appearances, daypacks are not made equal. There are clear winners and clear losers when it comes to functional and purposeful backpack design. Hikers need a backpack that meets all of their needs, holds up to a variety of weather conditions, and fits well.
If you’re in the market for a day hiking backpack that will serve you well for years to come, our list of the best day hiking backpacks provides detailed research on some of the best packs for your outdoor adventures in 2024.
The Best Day Hiking Backpacks for 2024
Best Overall Day Hiking Backpack
OSPREY TALON 22L / TEMPEST 20
First off, these series of backpacks come in a wide variety of sizes to fit every individual’s needs. Ranging all the way from a 6-liter fanny pack to a 44-liter overnight pack, the Talon/Tempest packs have no shortage of options.
- Designed with recycled high-tenacity nylon
- BioStretch harness and wrap hip belt
- Airscape backpanel moves with hiker
- Lightweight and durable
- 22 Liter capacity
- Just under 2 pounds
For general day hiking use, the 22 and 20-liter packs provide a great amount of versatility and storage space without giving up some of the best luxuries that Osprey has to offer.
PROS OF OSPREY TALON 22L / TEMPEST 20
Perhaps the most positive aspect of the Osprey Talon/Tempest is the comfort. The entire bag was designed in a way that puts comfort and stability first and foremost.
The backpanel employs the use of Osprey’s ‘AirScape’ technology, allowing for excellent breathability, while also sticking close to your body.
Combined with the hard-to-beat padded hip belt, this daypack feels like a hug from behind. Once you get your settings dialed in, you can be confident that your bag will move with you. Gone are the days of dealing with a loose, swinging pack.
The pocket selection is simple and effective, giving you everything you need and nothing you don’t. The main compartment is accessed through one zipper, with an extra zipper compartment located on the top, and a mesh front pocket.
The large hip belts serve a secondary purpose with some extra zipper pockets for easy access to the things you use most. Top it off with two mesh pockets on either side, and you have a well-rounded pack.
What makes this bag a true multi-use beast are the gear attachment points.
The helmet clip and bike light attachment are very convenient for cyclists looking to commute with this daypack, and the trekking pole storage loops are a welcome addition for avid hikers. It even allows you to carry an ice axe for those weekend mountaineering expeditions.
CONS OF OSPREY TALON 22L / TEMPEST 20
For a bag as well-rounded as this, the cons can sometimes seem inconsequential. With all of these great features, however, the weight of this bag is not as light as some people may desire. If you’re an ounce counter, the Osprey Talon/Tempest may be a little on the heavy side. For most people though, this bag is by no means heavy.
The Osprey is also priced on the higher side. In my opinion, however, you definitely get what you pay for.
Best Hybrid Daypack
COTOPAXI TARAK DEL DIA 20L
In recent years, Cotopaxi has become one of the most easily recognizable brands for outdoor gear. That’s due to the company’s ambitious and brilliant use of color and shape.
Bright colors coincide with a patchwork design to create pieces of gear that are unlike anything on the market.
The unique designs of the Tarak Del Dia can be attributed to the use of leftover fabrics from other companies’ larger production runs. Cotopaxi recycles that fabric for a sustainable approach to creating one-of-a-kind backpacks.
When you place an order for a product in their (Re)Purpose Collection, be prepared for a complete and total surprise. The Cotopaxi Tarak Del Dia is not only eye-catching, but also completely streamlined. It delivers a hybrid system that is ideal for many different activities.
PROS OF COTOPAXI TARAK DEL DIA
Compared to the Osprey daypack above, the Cotopaxi Tarak 20L Del Dia is a vastly different bag in both design philosophy and execution.
On Cotopaxi’s website, they write that the Tarak Del Dia was primarily designed for multi-pitch lead climbing and backcountry skiing. However, even if you won’t be climbing or skiing with this bag, it will surely serve you well.
This is considered a ‘frameless’ pack, which means there is no rigid structure that makes this backpack keep its shape.
Although there is a removable foam ‘frame’ panel that makes the bag stay somewhat upright. By getting rid of a traditional metal frame for the backpack, Cotopaxi has cut down on the weight of this bag considerably.
This shed weight is invaluable when each gram can be felt on trips such as climbing and skiing, but the benefit extends to day hiking as well.
The pockets on the Tarak are pretty basic, with two zippered pockets and one main compartment. All along the outside of the pack, there are many different lash points.
If something you want to bring doesn’t fit inside the 20L compartment, you can always try clipping it to the outside. Further features include a hydration sleeve and a removable webbing waist belt.
CONS OF COTOPAXI TARAK DEL DIA
Some people may find this bag a little too “bare-bones”. The padding for the back of a shoulder strap isn’t exactly uncomfortable, but it won’t outshine competitors such as the Osprey Talon.
If you’re looking for a bag that you can comfortably position on your hips for long days, the Cotopaxi Tarak’s thin webbing hip belt might not be enough.
All-in-all, the Tarak is one of the best day hiking backpacks for fast and light trips. Those who are looking to carry some heavier loads will probably be able to find a bag that fits them better.
Best Budget Day Hiking Backpack
COTOPAXI LUZON DEL DIA 18L
Next on our list of the best day hiking backpacks is the little sister to the Cotopaxi Tarak. The Luzon Del Dia is a very similar pack. Designed as a minimalist version of the Tarak, it caters to a customer that isn’t looking for extra bells and whistles. This pack is a good fit for outdoor enthusiasts who enjoy hiking shorter trails in style.
- Internal hydration sleeve
- Front zippered pocket and large main compartment
- Lightweight and durable ripstop nylon
- Capacity of 18 Liters
- Weighs less than 10 ounces
Cotopaxi describes this bag as “your easy-going and spontaneous adventure buddy”, so let’s take a look at what it has to offer.
PROS OF COTOPAXI LUZON DEL DIA
The Cotopaxi Luzon 18L, first and foremost, is budget-friendly. When browsing the backpack market, it’s easy to believe you need to spend at least a $100 to get a quality, long-lasting bag. But the Luzon 18L comes in at half that.
If you have the desire to rep this brand and support its sustainability mission, grabbing this bag is a great way to do that.
With the Luzon being a stripped-down version of the aforementioned Tarak, you would expect the weight to reflect that too. And it certainly does. This lightweight bag weighs less than ten ounces, compared to the Tarak’s weight of 1.24 pounds.
They saved weight with the Luzon by getting rid of the top closure on the Tarak, instead opting to just have the main compartment be a cinch closure.
They also stripped away most of the gear attachment points, as well as used a frameless design, thus shedding even more weight. The lightweight nature of this bag makes it ideal for minimalists and ounce-counters alike.
The shape of the Luzon 18L allows it to securely hug your back, limiting bag movement on the trail. The hip belt is a simple webbing, and the shoulder straps are made from ultralight mesh. With lighter loads, you may barely notice this bag on your body. With heavier loads, however, this bag doesn’t shine as brightly.
CONS OF COTOPAXI LUZON DEL DIA
A common complaint with the Cotopaxi Luzon 18L Del Dia is that this bag is not a fully closed system. The main compartment is closed only by the cinch at the top, meaning that there is always a small area where your gear is exposed.
This problem is solved with the Tarak by adding that top lid closure. This may or may not be an issue for some people. If you enjoy having a backpack that feels like an impenetrable container, the Luzon definitely isn’t it.
Furthermore, on the topic of compartments, this daypack doesn’t have many. One front zipper pocket, one main compartment, and one hydration sleeve are all you get.
If all you’re looking for from a bag is to stuff it with some extra layers before heading out on a short walk, the Luzon does this beautifully. But anything more than that, it suffers a bit.
Best Ultralight Daypack
SEA TO SUMMIT ULTRA-SIL 20L
Looking for a glorified sack to jam things into? It doesn’t get much simpler than the Sea To Summit Ultra-Sil. This makes our list of the best day hiking backpacks due to its incredibly low weight and extreme packability.
PROS OF SEA TO SUMMIT ULTRA-SIL
The Sea To Summit Ultra-Sil is a bag that knows what it is: a sack with shoulder straps. Well, that may be a slight oversimplification.
But for most people, that is the function that this bag serves. Only one zippered pocket is found on the pack. Coming in at less than five ounces, this is one of the lightest backpacks on the market.
Perhaps the area that this bag best shines in is the “just in case” category. A stuff sack attached by a carabiner allows you to turn this 20-liter backpack into something smaller than your wallet. That’s the ultimate in packability.
You can then leave this bag in its compressed form in your car, clipped onto another backpack, or virtually anywhere else so that you always have access to an extra bag.
Did your friend accidentally forget to bring a bag for a day hike? With the Ultra-Sil as a backup, you have just the thing.
Devoid of most other features, this bag does employ the use of a short daisy chain at the bottom of the pack. It’s always nice to have the option for external gear storage.
While this daypack did make our list as one of the best day hiking backpacks in the ultralight category, this is not a pack that you want to be your daily carry…
CONS OF SEA TO SUMMIT ULTRA-SIL
The biggest issue that this bag faces is the comfort factor. There is no padding in the Summit Ultra-Sil.
This pack is constructed from 30-Denier ripstop nylon and a minimal amount of webbing for the daisy chain. Nothing else. As you can imagine, this makes comfort a bit questionable, particularly for longer trips and heavier loads.
Unlike other bags, you have to pay very close attention to how you are packing this bag before heading out on a hike. There is no frame and no padding between your body and the main compartment. That means you will feel every corner and edge of the gear s in your pack. Strategic packing is a necessity.
Durability is another potential concern. The 30D ripstop nylon is definitely strong, but not impenetrable. If you’re rough with your gear, this bag may need repairs and maybe even a replacement much earlier than desired.
Best High Capacity Daypack
OSPREY MANTA 34
Moving in the opposite direction from the ultralight world, the Osprey Manta 34 is a high-capacity daypack that has most of the features that make a bag great for all-day comfort.
I’ve decided to include a pack with this high of a capacity for those hikers who may be carrying gear for more than one person. For a family hike, you need to carry enough water, clothing layers, and snacks for everyone. The extra equipment requires extra space (and comfort), which is where the Manta 34 comes in.
PROS OF OSPREY MANTA
The Osprey Manta 34 comes with an included 2.5-liter hydration bladder with its own dedicated pocket.
If you don’t own a hydration bladder, or want to upgrade from your old Camelbak bladder, the included Osprey bladder is fantastic.
The bite valve is practically leak-proof, and the magnetic attachment included on the sternum strap makes sure that water is always readily available and easy to reach.
Similar to the other Osprey pack above, the Manta 34 uses its AirSpeed backpanel for excellent comfort and ventilation.
A very user-friendly adjustable torso feature lets you dial in the fit to your precise needs, and the padded hip belt allows you to transfer nearly all of the weight to your hips, without being uncomfortable.
If organization is important to you, the Manta is right up your alley.
There are eight different pockets on this daypack, all with their own distinct uses. “Black hole” bags, the ones where everything is thrown into one compartment and subsequently lost to the void, can be infuriating.
The Manta aims to tackle this problem with its plethora of zippered, mesh, and small organizational pockets.
Top all of these features off with an included rainfly and trekking pole storage, and you have yourself a worthy daypack.
CONS OF OSPREY MANTA
Since the Manta 34 offers so many features for us day hikers, it does suffer in its weight. At over 3 pounds, this bag is not light by any means. For the kind of people this bag is made for, this extra weight shouldn’t be much of a problem. It is definitely a factor to keep in mind, though.
For certain body types, the sternum straps on this bag may prove troublesome. The straps were designed to be easily adjusted. The result, however, was that the straps are a little too adjustable. Common complaints center around the straps sliding upwards towards the neck, which requires hikers (carrying a lot of weight) to constantly pull the straps downward.
Best Long Distance Daypack
BLACK DIAMOND EQUIPMENT DISTANCE
Black Diamond Equipment is a well-known brand in the world of outdoor adventure. Most of their gear is designed specifically for use in the mountains. They have a lengthy history of building hardened, durable gear that lasts. They continue that legacy with the Black Diamond Distance 22.
When it comes to a technical daypack that carries everything you need and doesn’t skimp on useful features and comfort, the Distance 22 is worth a look. While this lightweight pack is designed primarily for speed and trail running sports, it’s also a great choice for every day hiking. I think just about anyone who loves hiking in the mountains will want to check out the Black Diamond Distance.
PROS OF BLACK DIAMOND DISTANCE
One of the features that stands out for the Distance pack is its Stitch-less Edge Technology. This innovative feature delivers more comfort and reduces weight strain on the shoulders.
This can be especially helpful in long distance day treks. Black Diamond’s harness layout improves overall movement for a smoother, more comfortable hike. Instead of the whole bag moving with your arm as you reach, the bag will stay in place while the shoulder strap slides out of the bag. This is a great design that improves the comfort of carrying the bag in all sorts of scenarios.
The backpanel is not suspended like the above Osprey packs are, but Black Diamond’s technology provides ample airflow. The design straps more form-fitting than many other options on the market today.
A day in the mountains or on the trail requires a bag built to help you prepare for various conditions. For a longer day in the mountains, the Distance has ample stash pockets, trekking pole pockets, and bungee cord holds. These thoughtful design features allow you to organize your gear in an efficient way.
The Bolt 24 is constructed out of custom developed ripstop fabric. This material will withstand the test of time. Let’s review the pockets. Black Diamond keeps things simple with a main top-loading compartment, internal zip pocket, and two side stash pockets.
I like the open pocket in the main cover, which is a nice place to store trail snacks and energy bars for easy access without digging through the main compartment.
The deep side pockets keep your trekking poles secure without movement on the trail. There are also two zip and two stretch pockets in the shoulder straps. Those are additional pocket areas for storing gear you may want to access while continuing your trek. A welcome feature indeed.
This Black Diamond pack weighs in at just over one pound. Considering the options and functionality delivered, it’s a great day hiking pack at that weight level. It gives us everything we need and nothing we don’t. In a world where excess is celebrated, it’s nice to see a carefully thought-out, slimmed-down design.
CONS OF BLACK DIAMOND DISTANCE
The biggest beef with this pack may be the lack of a hip belt to secure the pack and distribute weight. However, the reduction in weight and the superior should strap construction does mitigate that issue.
Conclusion for the Best Day Hiking Backpacks
Here is the summary list of TREKKN’s top picks for the best day hiking backpacks:
- Overall Best Day Hiking Backpack: Osprey Talon 22 / Tempest 20
- Hybrid Daypack: Cotopaxi Tarak 20L Del Dia
- Budget Day Hiking Backpack: Cotopaxi Luzon 18L Del Dia
- Ultralight Daypack: Sea To Summit Ultra-Sil
- Fully Featured, High Capacity Daypack: Osprey Manta 34
- Long Distance Backpack: Black Diamond Distance 22
It’s not easy to narrow down the vast world of backpacks to find one that works for you, specifically.
Hopefully these suggestions for the best day hiking backpacks help you sift through the pros and cons. There are so many features to consider. Now you will have an easier time comparing what is included in each daypack.
In general, I recommend trying on and testing out a backpack in-person to get a feel for what will be a great fit for your body type. Retail stores such as REI will be happy to help you try on a daypack. Their reps and outdoor experts can help you adjust your daypack to ensure a comfortable fit while hiking.
If you aren’t able to find your ideal bag in person to try on, pay close attention to the length of the bag and the width of the bag. This will help you get an idea of how the backpack may fit on your body. Buying a backpack is a very personal experience, and there is not always a one-size-fits-all product.
Once you find the best day hiking backpacks for you, get out there and put them to use.
Related Reading: 10 Essential Items for Day Hiking
Josiah B gained invaluable experience while living on the road with his family, during which time he felt overcome with the desire to continue exploring. That search landed him in Seward, Alaska, where he currently resides. His love for the outdoors is welcome with open arms in the Last Frontier, and with an endless amount of hiking and backpacking to be done, he’s eager to share the best that Alaska has to offer.