Best Ultralight Packable Daypack For Hiking and Living in 2020

  • Even if you don’t think you need a daypack, once you get one you’ll be surprised how often you use it.
  • The beauty of a lightweight pack is its flexibility to be used for anything from lightweight hiking to carry-on luggage.
  • A pack somewhere between 25-35L is where you'll find a good daypack that will give you flexibility between day hikes and an overnight ultralight adventure.

A hiking daypack serves a lot of purposes. In this article, we lay out some things to look for when shopping for a new hiking daypack, along with some of our top lightweight pack picks! As opposed to a regular backpacking backpack, a good hiking daypack can work in many different scenarios.

It can work in the backcountry for a few hours of trekking or in the city while you run errands.

Many people take their hiking daypack to work. Need a new flight carry-on bag? The hiking daypack works perfectly.

These lightweight packs are built tough enough to handle mother nature, but can also blend into modern life.

Best Lightweight Daypacks Reviewed


Hiking Daypack Versatility

Thule 3203037 Subterra Daypack-Dark Shadow
The Thule Subterra Daypack 25L is comfy and stylish to wear with lots of pockets

Everyone should own at least one nice lightweight hiking daypack.

Call us bias, but a light pack on your back is essential these days any time you step out of the house. Whether you’re hiking a foreign backcountry trail or taking a stroll through your local park, you probably have the stuff to carry.

And there’s no reason you should be forced to be without any of it. Even if you don’t think you need a daypack, once you get one you’ll be surprised how often you use it.

Do you really want to be the guy on a long bike ride holding all his valuables in a plastic bag? At that point, you start to look suspicious.

A hiking daypack can hold everything you need while at the same time keeping you from looking like a vagabond.

Hiking Daypack Features

The most important part about looking for a new daypack is figuring out what it will be most used for.

The beauty of a lightweight pack is its flexibility to be used for anything from lightweight hiking to carry-on luggage.

Osprey Packs Escapist 32 Daypack
The Osprey Escapist 32 Daypack includes a comfortable hip belt makes the daypack easier to lug

Are you going out for a few hours, or are you an ultralight animal staying out for a few nights? Is this a bag for the beach or are you trekking through snow and need to lug snow gear, poles, and extra layers?

There’s enough variety of lightweight hiking daypacks available that can handle all of this.

Here are a few features that you may find useful in a daypack:

  • Hip Belt – Make the bag work for you while not exhausting yourself. Let the belt ride just above your hips for better weight distribution while your legs do most of the hauling. Extra padding is preferred.
  • Shoulder Straps – I recommend padded shoulder straps, especially if you’re planning on adding some weight to your pack.
  • Water Resistance/Rain Cover– Rain can be a bummer, even more so if it soaks the goodies inside your pack.
  • Front Loading– Being able to open your pack from the front is almost like having x-ray vision. While a lot of old school backpackers stick with their old top loaders, I’m not a huge fan of blindly feeling around my bag for something I need at that moment. At that point, it’s almost easier to just dump everything out and repack.
  • Stretch Mesh Side Pockets– Perfect for holding water bottles. Unless you get daypack with a hydration bladder, easy access to water bottles is essential.
  • Front Stash Pocket– It’s almost like having a second backpack

Hiking Daypack Weight

The ideal weight for a good daypack should be no more than 2 pounds. Remember that you’re not using this pack to lug anything more than what you need at the moment.

Unlike a heavy duty backpacking travel bag where you plan on lugging around gear for an actual camping trip. Some of the best hiking daypacks even actually weigh less than a pound.

Osprey Packs Escapist 18 Daypack
The Osprey Escapist 18 Daypacks is a great pack for bikers with plenty of reflectivity and biking convenience

Your daypack should keep you lean and mean to avoid unnecessary strain so you can focus more on enjoying your time outside.

Hiking Daypack Load Capacity

A good lightweight hiking daypack can be anything from a tote bag to an overnight pack.

Variety is king in this genre so it’s good to know what’s available out there. At 15- 25L you’re going to find limited space, but for a short day trip, it may be all you need.

A pack somewhere between 25-35L is where you’ll find a good daypack that will give you flexibility between day hikes and an overnight ultralight adventure.

Having a nice collection of lightweight backpacks to avoid buying a different backpack for different occasions is never a bad idea.

This will give you enough room to pack some more gear, clothes, etc.

While at the same time staying compact and comfortable enough for a shorter trip.

Badlands Superday Camouflage Hunting Backpack - Rifle and...
The Badlands Superday Camouflage Hunting Backpack Daypack is built with a comfortable ergonomic design and includes convenient firearm compartments

Proper Fit and Ergonomic Suspension

Once you decide on the capacity of your pack, choose a pack that gives you maximum comfort by finding your perfect fit.

Over the course of even an hour, you begin to feel the sheer force of gravity using your backpack to work against you. By the time you stop to rest you’re sore in places where you didn’t know you could be sore.

You can choose to fight gravity, or you can make your bag work with you.

Osprey Pixel Daypack (Prior Season)
The Osprey Packs Pixel Daypack is a good bag for students and photographers

How To Measure Torso Length for Best Backpack Fit

Do your hips and back a favor and treat them to a lightweight hiking backpack that properly fits your body. The first thing you need to do is find a bag that fits right along with your back.

Do this by having a second person measure the space between the top of your back and your back hipline.

  1. Start by finding your C7 vertebrate which is the bump at the top of your spine closest to your neck.
  2. Then run measuring tape down your back to the invisible line which connects the top of your hips. Make sure the bag rests close to your body and provides an even weight distribution.
  3. Even if you have the right size bag, if it doesn’t rest correctly on your back you can end up with unnecessary straining.
  4. Once you have that measurement you can properly decide what size pack fits you correctly.

Hiking Daypack Breathability

Also, watch out for the quality of ventilation. If you spend all day sweating all over your pack, you may begin to notice your pack returning the sweat back onto you. After a while, your pack may even start emitting a not-so-fresh odor. Many daypacks on the market today provide extra mesh around the touch points to keep your pack airy and cool. This will help ensure the longevity and pleasantness of your gear.

Pockets And Attachments

“A backpack without pockets is made for garbage.” – unknown Nothing could be truer when it comes to lightweight hiking daypacks. Especially considering the things we bring along with us get smaller and smaller and it seems that we need them even more urgently than ever. How often do you stop to pull out your phone, your camera, chapstick, GPS, a map, dental floss, headphones, etc? Easy access to your stuff is paramount out on and off the trail. Today’s backpacks are designed to make finding your stuff as easy as possible while keeping you on the move. Some good pockets and attachments to look for on a bag include:

  • Hip Belt Pocket – Keep your most essential items within a short grab. Perfect for your phone, keys, and chapstick.
  • Front Stash Pocket – Store bigger, more urgent items separate from your main load. Flashlights, headlamps, GPS, maps, and hats.
  • Top Slash Pocket – Keep your smaller less urgent items stored in this tiny top pocket. Great for keys, pocket knives, first aid supplies
  • Internal Pockets – Keep important items stored in a more organized fashion inside your pack
  • Side Pockets – Hold your water bottle on the side for easy access
  • Adjustable External Bungee Straps – Use these attachments for hanging sleeping bag, mat, hammock, tripod, shoes, and other gear


Last update on 2022-12-05 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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Erik grew up as a desert rat in Arizona. After exploring the backcountry of the west coast he came east for a job but still finds time to explore the beauty of the northeast.