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How to Buy a Great Daypack for Hiking

Dayhiking is simple: Stuff what you need into a small pack and head off for a day of adventure. What can seem complicated is picking the right daypack.


Determining when, where and how far you hike — and how much gear you’ll carry — is a first step toward narrowing choices. Do you want to go lightweight and minimalist or have abundant capacity and an assortment of pockets and features? Should your daypack be built for toughness or be lighter for trekking easygoing trails?

Then, of course, there’s price.

After answering those questions, look at these factors when choosing a daypack:


A daypack that can hold between 16 and 22 liters has enough space for most dayhikes for which you’re carrying extra layers of clothes, food, water and a few incidentals (camera, first-aid kit, fishing pole). If you want to carry more, especially in wintry conditions, look at packs with 28-40 liters of space. For a quick hike in good weather, a 12-liter pack works.


Any pack’s comfort weight limit depends on its internal frame (if there is one) and suspension (the shoulder straps and waist belt). Packs less than about 1 1⁄2 pounds usually offer minimal support and are made to carry about 10-12 pounds. For carrying up to 15 or 20 pounds or more comfortably, packs have a metal wire frame and/or a plastic framesheet, padded shoulder straps and a waist belt.


As with larger backpacks, the fit affects comfort, especially with more weight in the pack. Models made for youth have smaller, narrower suspensions. Teens can often wear adult models, in which small daypacks designed for 10 pounds or less often come in one size, while larger daypacks often come in two or three sizes and in men’s and women’s models.


If you like an organized pack, look for quick access to the main compartment — like a clamshell-style top zipper or a side zipper — plus multiple external pockets. The tradeoff? Those features add cost, weight and bulk.


While many hiking daypacks are made with similar materials, some are constructed with more durable materials — but, again, this might increase weight and cost.


FOR YOUNGER SCOUTS: If you’re 8-12 years old, take a look at the REI CO-OP TARN 18 PACK ($45, It has an ideal design for a young hiker: zippers to quickly access the main compartment, as well as a front pocket, a stretch front pocket, hipbelt pockets, padding in the shoulder straps and hipbelt, and a ventilating back pad. At 18 liters, the Tarn has the space and organization for water, snacks, a jacket and maybe a favorite action figure. 1 lb. 1 oz.

BARGAIN BUY: On a budget? The KELTY BSA 15L DAYPACK ($30, has a spacious 15 liters of capacity and two external pockets. The one unisex size fits torsos 18-21 inches for taller teens. Stuffing into its own top pocket, it’s packable and light enough to bring on backpacking trips for side hikes. But with no frame, belt or sternum strap, consider its comfort limit well under 10 pounds, best for short outings. 14.5 oz.

LIGHT ALL-PURPOSE PACK: For coming in at just 18 ounces, THE NORTH FACE CHIMERA 18 PACK ($100, punches above its weight, starting with comfort even on long hikes carrying up to 15 pounds, thanks to a harness that disperses the load across wide shoulder straps. Its very cool DynoCinch System compresses the load to improve stability using cords within reach when wearing the pack. The 18-liter capacity is enough for all-day three-season hikes, and includes quick access to two zippered compartments plus convenient mesh pockets on the shoulder straps. 1 lb. 2 oz.

BIKING PACK: If you’re serious about mountain biking, the CAMELBAK M.U.L.E. HYDRATION PACK ($110, offers top performance. The streamlined, torso-hugging unisex harness remains stable whether you’re cranking uphill or ripping downhill. The main compartment — accessed quickly with an external zipper — has 9 liters of space, and with five external pockets, it’s easy to store bike tools and other small items. The pack also features a stretch pocket and external hooks. Bonus: It comes with a 3-liter CamelBak bladder to help keep you hydrated. 1 lb. 5 oz.

ULTRALIGHT AND VERSATILE: Fast-and-light adventurers should look closely at the SIX MOON DESIGNS DAYBREAKER DAYPACK ($120, It has impressive capacity for its weight: 24 liters in the main compartment, an extension collar that adds 4 liters, plus stretch-woven pockets on the front and sides (2 liters total). The 210 D Nylon Robic delivers good durability, and a removable back pad doubles as a sit pad. For committed ultralighters, the hip belt and hydration sleeve can be removed to slash 3 oz. 1 lb. 4 oz.

FOR BIGGER LOADS: For adventures that aren’t short, casual or light, the men’s DEUTER TRAIL PRO 36 and women’s TRAIL PRO 34 SL ($165, offer big volume and lots of features, plus way more capacity and versatility than many competitors. The spring-steel suspension and plastic framesheet let you haul 25-35 pounds. This traditional top-loader has a U-shaped zipper to access the main compartment and six pockets, ice ax and trekking pole attachments, and a rain cover. And just try to damage it — won’t happen. 3 lbs. 7 oz.

68 Comments on How to Buy a Great Daypack for Hiking

  1. Hey! I'm a girl! // January 13, 2016 at 10:15 pm // Reply

    Whoa!!!!! That scooter backpack is sooo me. I would always be using the scooter mode.

  2. I got the army one

  3. Those are very expensive options. I recommend going for something reasonable ones like Serbags Backpacks, if you’re in canvas material.

  4. I use a Maxpedition bag. Pricey, but the very best quality bag you can buy. Will last you years.

  5. boylifeman // June 6, 2014 at 9:00 pm // Reply

    thanks for my camping backpack

  6. Man I really love packs with hip belts. The equal distribution of weight is so important for distance hiking, if you’re a car camper it is not needed however.

  7. I prefer backpacks without any hip belts, I really like all the weight on my shoulders instead, it feels good.

  8. bulldog says // December 3, 2013 at 7:04 pm // Reply

    i really want gear but my dad says no

  9. Father Time // July 28, 2013 at 1:17 pm // Reply

    Just bought a Duluth Pack; Sahara daypack. This is really cool and talk about being made tough, wow! Thanks for the suggestion. Love the life time warranty too.

  10. I have the REI Lookout 40 pack which is a very comfortable and durable pack with a full frame (HDPE frame sheet, aluminum stay) for only $100.

  11. Knife Overlord // October 28, 2012 at 8:32 pm // Reply

    Scout Direct sells Alps Mountaineering packs for 40% off to scouts; really nice packs and tents too. I have the Solitude 3300 ci model w/ waist belt. Give it a peek.

  12. Knife Xpert 157 (aka Chad 101) // August 16, 2012 at 4:57 pm // Reply

    I just got a new day pack called The Compact Assault Pack b Condor. It has a little over 1000 C.U.I (cubic inches). It will be my primary hunting back pack as well as a day pack.

  13. MahnaMahna // July 7, 2012 at 12:31 pm // Reply

    Am I the only one who uses High Sierra?

  14. I really have so many backpacks, I won’t need another till I’m 40! I love my New Balance bag, but the elastics on the front are a breaking hazard!

  15. If you can afford $100.00 a Duluth Pack Daypack is great and guaranteed for life; find that anywhere else. I have two: blue for summer and orange for winter. Made with thick waterproof canvas, leather straps (Padded if desired) and rivits.

    • MN Boy Scout // April 13, 2012 at 9:19 pm // Reply

      I love the duluth pack backpacks! They are incredibly durable, strong and many are quite big. My only complaint is the dye used to color the fabric stains everything in the backpack when it gets wet. You might want a pack cover if you use it outdoors or where it might get wet

      • Off-Trail Monkey // April 24, 2012 at 10:51 pm //

        They are supposted to be sealed in Canvac before outdoor use. This prevent color bleeding.

  16. My old day pack is falling apart time to find a new one.

    • Flash 18 guy // July 26, 2011 at 4:32 pm // Reply

      I have the Flash 18. It holds a bladder, has lots of space, has a hip belt and a sternum strap,and it turns inside out becoming a sleeping bag stuff sack. It is $30 at REI.

    • Try a Teton Sports The Executive pack. I don’t actually own it but I do have the Explorer 4000 and the Scout 3400 and both are great packs so I highly recommend any Teton products they are cheap but reliable. P.S. Go to Gear Guy backpacks and see my comment on the Explorer 4000. Hope you like it.

      • Man try other packs instead of just Tetons!

      • Knife Xpert 157 (aka Chad 101) // May 3, 2012 at 8:16 pm //

        I did I tried i tinny Remington pack and that was terrible! I guess I love tetons so much because I had such a bad pack before i got a good one

  17. bobthecactus // April 22, 2011 at 1:34 pm // Reply

    maxpedition all the way. I own a Falcon 2. it may seem expensive, but it is worth the price.

  18. North Face makes some good day packs, but unlike Camelbak, it doesn’t have good space for a waterbladder. I just got a Camelbak daypack for x-mas and just looking at it I can tell it is awesome.

  19. I just use my hunting pack for scouting activities. I have a Cabela’s Scout Elite pack. its got enough room for the essentials, plus anything else I want to throw in there. Plus they come in lots of different camo patterns, so can pick the one that looks most like where you hunt. Mine’s a sagebrush pattern, and it blends in really well.

  20. hippiescout151 // September 25, 2010 at 9:30 am // Reply

    camelbak is good for a camp daypack

  21. lightweight gu-ru // July 13, 2010 at 5:49 pm // Reply

    Sometimes the Walmart brand is a good choice for a cheap day pack. They are very good.

    • That’s true, I just bought a daypack from Wal-mart and it works just as well as the more expensive sports store variety~~~worked much better on my pocketbook, too.

  22. me123456789 // April 24, 2010 at 6:45 pm // Reply

    i have a real good element pak

  23. cars 1st class // April 20, 2010 at 7:49 pm // Reply


  24. I want a durable daypac

  25. Guys, they’re day packs! They’re aren’t meant to look cool. They are just meant to carry your simple small gear, water, and stuff you’d use for the day. And they are NOT YOUR SCHOOL BACKPACK!!! They don’t cost that much, the most expensive one I’ve seen was like $15. Unless you mean Camel-Backs and stuff like that, those can be a little pricy.

  26. element and burton r the best if u sk8

  27. Where can you get some of the hiking backpacks like in the magazine?

  28. My dad was in iraq and when he came back he gave me his camelbak backpack to have and it is AWESOME. Since it is military issue it has a built in water hydration pack in it. Very spacious and has a cool feature like being waterproof! Camelbak rules!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Chose camelbak if you need water bottles, hydration packs, or even day packs. Best brand!!!!!!!

  29. i use my camelbak mule as a dat pack it is not the cheapest but its alsome

  30. I don’t go bkpacking much but ill use this site if ido

  31. I have a backpack from west 49 that I bought 3 years ago and I use it every day for school.

  32. First Class Scout // October 9, 2008 at 3:43 pm // Reply

    I have a daypack that I use for school and for Scouts. A good backpack is indispensable.

  33. I am on my 5 th backpack for school

    (Green: up to 2nd grade)

    (Yellow: 2nd to 5th and almost all of the 2nd half of 7th grade)

    (Red: 6th and 1st half of 7th grade)

    (Clear: few days of 7th grade)

    (Blue: (End of 7th grade to now)

  34. philmont 09 75 // August 5, 2008 at 5:53 pm // Reply

    I love my camelback for everything trips, hiking, and just being a day pack but my favorite thing is the hydration system.

  35. kootenaykaos // August 5, 2008 at 11:12 am // Reply

    wierd it doesn’t show the pictures

  36. Pyro Maniac // April 25, 2008 at 4:41 pm // Reply


  37. i like north face backpacks because they have many things like a waterproof cover!

  38. Sling backpacks rock! I have an addiedas one.

  39. I really like the dc back pack it is not that bad but some are really exspensive but i lie them

  40. backpacks should look cool and have some style

  41. those backpacks r super ugly

    0 stars,

    100,000,000,000,000,000 thumbs-down.

  42. 93 fanatic!! // May 2, 2007 at 10:55 pm // Reply

    Hey I just think It’s cool how you always post pics and prices not just info.

    (Maybe I’ll buy some nice DC shoes Nav II)

  43. all the back packs zippers break they are not very good

  44. Some are too expensive!!!!!!

  45. there very ugly

  46. the backpacks r ugly

  47. What about backpacking packs? Inner and outter frames? What about those backpacking/camping packs?

  48. Why isn`t there any camping backpacks???

  49. How come most of the backpacks are normal? Anyway thank you for some ideas.

  50. Thank you for helping me chose a backpack

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