17 Best Daypacks for All Sorts of Hikes: Gregory, Osprey, Deuter

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Compared to many other outdoor sports like skiing or mountain biking, hiking is fairly simple: It’s just you, your hiking partners, the trail, and some fresh air. You don’t need too much hiking gear to get started, but one thing that will drastically improve your experience is a good daypack (and a pair of well-fitting hiking boots). Hiking daypacks will enable you to carry your gear more efficiently and comfortably, as they have design features like padded straps and supportive hip belts.

As a former backpacking guide and avid hiker, I’ve tested out numerous daypacks on both short hikes and all-day treks. But to help you find the best daypack for you, we’ve also consulted with hiking experts and enthusiasts who have racked up thousands of miles with their favorites.

How to Shop for a Daypack

While your old Jansport will probably be fine for short hikes, you’ll want something a little more supportive when you start pushing your mileage or tackling rough terrain. Here are some key considerations when shopping for your next daypack:


Daypacks come in a variety of sizes, designated by liter capacity. For most day hikes, look for something in the 20- to 30-liter range, Kelly Shoul, a Colorado-based elopement photographer for In Love and Adventure Photography, tells SELF. This range is “big enough to carry your fleece or rain jacket, plus water, lunch, and safety gear,” says British Columbia–based guidebook author and hiker Taryn Eyton. Using that range as guidance, you can size up or down depending on your plans and the weather forecast.

For example, if you like to mix trail running and hiking, you may prefer to use a small pack (think 12 to 15 liters). But if you’re going to use a pack this small, you should make sure you’ll have good weather conditions and regular access to water so you don’t have to carry multiple liters from the get-go. On the other hand, if you’re hiking in winter weather, you’ll need to bring extra layers and gear, so a larger pack (30 to 40 liters) may be a better option.

Suspension System

“Finding a daypack that fits your body well is key,” says Shoul. “Hikes becomes much more enjoyable when you don’t feel like you’re carrying a small elephant on your back.”  To find the proper fit, you should pay attention to the pack’s suspension system, which consists of its frame, shoulder straps, and hip belt.


First, the frame should be appropriately sized for your torso or it should be adjustable. Some packs come in different frame sizes, while others have a back panel that slides up and down so you can control the fit. Second, the shoulder straps should be padded and comfortable, and you shouldn’t experience any gapping where they curve around your back. Jacquie Whitt, cofounder of Adios Adventure Travel, recommends looking for a pack with a sternum strap, which runs across the chest between the shoulder straps, that adjusts both vertically and horizontally. They are beneficial if you plan to hike long distances because they “can help distribute the weight of the pack and reduce shoulder fatigue,” she says.


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