Your daypack is one of the most essential items you should invest in, as it holds all of your other essential items. Daypacks are extremely versatile and handy. Empty it out after a week of work and fill it up with your hiking essentials, or use it for light-packing weekends away. But if you do all of that with it, you’ll need to ensure it’s a quality pack that will last through many adventures and suits all of your needs.
There are several key things to consider when selecting your daypack. P.s. Click here to see the TL/DR version.
For a daypack, you’re probably going to be looking in the range of 15-30L, maybe to a maximum of 40L depending on your size and purpose and assuming you don’t always fill it to the brim. Remember that the more you pack, the heavier your bag gets, and its qualities as a highly useful accessory can be eclipsed by clunky, heavy discomfort. It doesn’t take much to start weighing you down on a hike, so remember that it’s only meant to hold your ‘essentials’, which will vary depending on the day you have planned, and maybe a few extras, like that empty sunglasses case patiently awaiting the return of its shades, or those refreshing facial cleansing wipes. Just make sure you’ve got room for water, maps, a snack (lunch, even), camera kit and whatever else is essential to your adventure.
Laptop compartment or sleeve
Speaking of, some daypacks have a laptop compartment inside to separate your laptop from everything else, which keeps things more organized and comfortable. An apple between your back and the laptop, for instance, may not be the most comfortable setup! These are especially helpful if you also use your daypack for the work week, when you’re going on short trips or if you’re an entrepreneur or blogger who needs to have your lappy with you on the go.
Many daypacks will be water resistant but you may opt for a more definitive waterproof option if you don’t want to have to worry about covering your pack in a separate waterproof cover if you’re caught in a rainstorm on the trail or whilst cycling to work. That being said, most packs will hold up just fine if, say, your hiking nearing a misty waterfall. It also depends on what equipment you may be carrying inside. That DSLR may merit a fully waterproof option.
Water is most certainly an essential item, so you’ll need to be aware of the handy places your pack can offer. A pouch on the side, a sleeve and a opening for a hydration pack system or both. The best ones in our opinion are those that have both, with the laptop compartment doubling as a hydration pack compartment. For lighter hikes, a pouch for your bottle on the side may be sufficient, but for longer hikes, the hydration pack is the most sensible, so it’s good to have versatility.
If you like your things organized into specific areas, you may want a few more pockets in your daypack. An easy access one in the front is usually a good idea. Most packs will have at least that and a compartment inside for a laptop, but others may follow a more simplistic single compartment ’holdall’ approach.
Durability vs Cost
You can certainly find good deals on well made packs from trustworthy brands, but ultimately you want to invest a little in the quality of your pack so it can carry you through many adventures. Now, ‘invest’ doesn’t need to mean break the bank by any means. You can snag an excellent 15L rucksack for under £30 (see our top 10 list further on). Just be aware that if you opt for cheaper, you may be sacrificing on durability, and may have to go through the whole shopping process again after only one season!
You’ll usually want a bit of padding in the straps as well as on the back of the pack that rests against…your back! Several options we’ve listed below incorporate some breathable mesh and a channel to allow airflow between your sweaty, adventurous back and your precious pack. A stiffer back of the pack also helps with support.
Most packs are made of fairly light material, but be wary of packs made of heavier materials, such as leather or coated nylon. You need the material to be effective and durable but light enough to allow the vast majority of the weight on your back to be dedicated to what the pack carries.
TL/DR: We’ve reviewed the products against all the core criteria we discussed and here are our picks!
Osprey Talon 22
This rucksack has it all. The Osprey Talon 22 is a well-thought out daypack built for hiking. Air channels and mesh panels over the foam back ensure stability and comfort, and the rucksack comes with an excellent array of features to carry and protect your essentials and kit.
This nylon pack has a front stash pocket, hip belt with additional zip pockets, side pockets, external hydration bladder sleeve, sternum chest strap with emergency whistle, trekking pole attachment, ice tool attachment and several inside pockets. It’s also cyclist friendly, with attachments for a blinker light and your helmet. The Osprey talon comes in two ideal sizes – 20L and 22L.
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Berghaus TwentyFourSeven+ 20L
With excellent all-rounders for a great price, the Berghaus TwentyFourSeven+ range does simple and durable really well. A front zip pocket, size pockets for quick shell jacket stashes or a water bottle, a chest strap, back Flow channels and an internal sleeve for simple kit organisation, a laptop, or a hydration pack (with a hole for the tube in the top) cover all the necessary bases.
The pack is water resistant, as Emily can testify after getting caught in several rain showers and playing near waterfalls. It comes in several cool colour schemes and great size options, including the 10L, 15L, 20L, 25L and 30L. Emily personally uses the 15L and finds it just the right size for both work and play, albeit an slightly older model.
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The North Face Borealis 28L
This is a classic and obvious choice, with ample storage space if you’re looking for a bigger option. It ticks all the boxes and then some, made of high quality durable material and sporting a FlexVent suspension system, molded shoulder straps, a hydration port, laptop sleeve as well as a secondary compartment with additional organisation pockets.
It also sports an air flow channel and mesh on the back, a storable hip belt, side and front compression straps for kit and a front stash pocket. This is definitely an excellent choice if you’re looking for a multipurpose bag that can double as both a daypack for hiking as well as a work rucksack. The only downside to this bag is that it weights a bit more than the others at 1,260g, nearly twice as much. That being said, after the extra organisation options and size of it, this is to be expected.
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Osprey Daylite and Daylite Plus
Osprey makes it into our list again, this time with their Daylite series. This pack is very sleek, which makes it a great choice for casual use and urban rambles in addition to wilderness raids. Again, it has all the essentials, with an internal laptop/tablet sleeve, hydration system sleeve, document sleeve, side mesh pockets, chest strap with whistle and a front organiser pouch.
The Daylite Plus is, in fact, very light, coming in at 540g for 20L of storage, whereas the Daylite original is only 430g for 13L capacity. All in all, both excellent companions for your day trip adventures.
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Millican Smith the Roll Pack 25L
If you’re looking for the trendy yet functional casual mountain vibe, the Millican Smith the Roll Pack is an excellent option. Millican’s sustainably sourced bags are reminiscent of the American PNW mountain style but the brand is actually founded in the English Lake District.
This weather resistant canvas pack is made from recycled polyester and cotton, accented with cool buckles and a leather reinforced handle. Despite its minimalistic look, it still has all the bells and whistles you’d expect from a technical bag, including a padded air-mesh back panel, removable waist and chest straps, padded shoulder straps, a laptop sleeve, various internal pockets, expandable side pockets, external gear loop for a walking pole or tripod and a fold away reflective strip and clip on light facility on the front.
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The North Face Jester Unisex Outdoor Backpack – 26L
The North Face again – sorry, but we’re not sorry. We’re a fan of the brand for its quality, versatility and options. We’ve included the Jester as a more economical option to the Borealis. It’s a perfect size, with external and internal pockets, a sternum strap with a built in whistle. Like the other packs on our list, this bag is excellent for work-to-adventure versatility, sporting a weather resistant finish and bungee straps on the front.
For a slightly bigger bag but a sleeker finish, TNF Vault pack is another Borealis alternative at 28 litres, but we prefer the Jester due to the front bungee, which is excellent for shoving in a jacket or picnic blanket without sacrificing internal space.
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Patagonia Arbor Pack Rucksack
Last but not exactly least, depending on what you’re looking for, we love the look of the Patagonia Arbor Pack Rucksack. Again, an ideal size of 26L so you don’t over-pack but can still fit a lot, this bag is also water repellent with a DWR finish and an internal laptop sleeve. It’s sort of a canvas-technical hybrid, and while it doesn’t have all the technical trappings of the other bags on our list, hence it’s position, it looks fantastic and is great if you’re looking for something a little different. There are a range of colours and patterns, but our favourite is the green with dark yellow overflap.
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