How to Pick The Best Daypack for Short Hikes: Essential Features, Tips, and Reviews

Best Daypack for Short Hikes
Written by Dennis Owens

There are many reasons why you should be interested in choosing the best daypack for your needs. Even if you’re not an avid hiker, you might still like short hiking trips during an extended trip in a foreign country, or during a prolonged camping trip when you set camp in just one place.

Or you might want a rugged equipment for carrying stuff you need at your daily job. Either way, we’ll help you get the right pack for you, by starting you off with the most important characteristics to consider.

Daypack for Short Hikes

Later, we’ll review some of the best items available, so you can put your knowledge into practice and maybe even buy something you like.

Get The Most Out of Your Daypack

Our advice is to do careful research and take into account things like:

The loading system

How you put things in your daypack is important, and you can choose between:

Panel loading

  • Complex design.
  • Bigger weight.
  • Main compartment with zipper access.
  • Easy loading.
  • Precise organizing.

Top loading

  • Simple design.
  • Lighter weight.
  • Drawstring + cinches closing system.
  • Overstuffing option.
  • Can’t organize your equipment.

The size

The most appropriate size that can fit different sort of purposes when day hiking is about 25-30 liters. The smaller capacity daypacks are better suited for trail running, and if you’re more into climbing, look for a bigger sized backpack of over 40 liters.

Daypack size for Short Hikes

Plus, if you’ve got kids or pets with you who can’t carry their own packs, it’s smarter to go for a more capacious design.

The materials

Since you want a sturdy daypack that won’t tear easily, you should look into sturdy materials like:

  • Cordura.
  • Hypalon.
  • Nylon.
  • Polyester.
  • Ripstop fabrics.

These materials may also be reinforced with a certain coating like:

  • Polyurethane, good for water and tear resistance, but heavier.
  • Silicone, a better protection against tearing and lighter, but not resistant to water.

The design

An ergonomic design and a comfortable feel will help you avoid back pain, excessive warmth, and sweat, so look for:

  • Back and chest support.
  • Low weight.
  • Padding.
  • Ventilated shoulder straps and back panels.
  • Women-specific constructions, with comfortably placed chest straps and a narrow build.

The extras

The additional things we like to see in our daypacks are:

  • Compatibility with hydration systems.
  • Media pockets.
  • Multiple pockets, even on waist belts or chest straps.
  • Organizers.
  • Quick access.
  • Rain protection.
  • Straps for voluminous gear.
  • Strong, big zippers.
  • Tool loops and various attachments for specialized gear.

The Stuff You Really Need to Look at

After reviewing all these factors which are mandatory when looking for a good daypack, let’s see what some of the smartest items on the market are.

The North Face Angstrom 28 Pack – Women’s

The North Face Angstrom 28 Pack - Women's

Weight: 2.5 pounds

Dimensions: 13 x 8.3 x 20.7 inches

Specifications: women fit; 28 liters capacity; 70D mini-ripstop + 21-HT ripstop nylon; multiple pockets; woven front; hydration compatible; rain cover

Best Use: short hikes

Description: If you’re looking for a daypack that’s perfect for short hikes, or even a quick stay overnight, this $119 The North Face Angstrom 28 Pack – Women’s is a great choice especially for women, since it was designed to fit their bodies better.

At a total capacity of 28 liters, it’s still pretty capacious, so you can be sure you’re not forgetting anything at home.

Besides, since the Angstrom has more than just one pocket, you can minutely organize all your equipment, apart from simply carrying it. The big woven front can be stretched in case you want to deposit a more voluminous item, like rain gear.

But this daypack has its very own rain cover included, that’s packed in a special compartment. So you can hike even in bad weather, and without the trouble of bringing your own rain equipment for the backpack. The main partition is hydration compatible since this is where you’ll find a hydration sleeve perfect for storing water.

The design of the Angstrom is one of the best. The combination of two different types of nylon, 70D mini-ripstop, and 210HT ripstop renders is strong and sturdy.

Plus, it has two air meshes, one for the shoulder harness, and one for the hip belt, so you can comfortably strap it on your back. The back panel is good for constant wearing too, and it’s ventilated for increased comfort.

Patagonia Ascensionist 35 Pack

Patagonia Ascensionist 35 Pack

Weight: 6.5 ounces

Dimensions: 21 x 12 x 5 inches

Specifications: ripstop nylon materials; 35 liters capacity; aluminum loop support; trampoline mesh panel; waist belt included; not hydration compatible

Best Use: climbing

Description: This $199 Patagonia Ascensionist 35 Pack is the best daypack for hiking on rugged terrain and for active climbing, because it’s very lightweight, reaching just 6.5 ounces. But that doesn’t render it less resistant.

ts sturdiness can be proved through the use of durable and strong materials, like the double ripstop nylon used: 210D for the body and 40D for the lining. The panels are simple 400D ripstop nylon, and that’s pretty resistant too.

So you can put anything you want inside, and it will hold like a charm, provided you don’t go over the maximum capacity of 35 liters. However, for a daypack that’s pretty voluminous, considering its reduced dimensions.

Other good materials used are an aluminum loop for the support, and trampoline mesh for the main panel. These fabrics ensure your comfort, but you can also lose them in order to make this backpack even lighter and more flexible.

The waist belt has removable padding too in case you don’t need that, and the shoulder straps are ergonomic and have some padding of their own.

What we love the most about this daypack is its specially designed ax carry. It even has compression straps on its sides, so you can safely transport this useful tool.

But the Ascensionist includes various other pockets and straps that help you carry a diverse equipment, and pack it perfectly to optimize space and weight distribution.

Osprey Tempest 20 Pack – Women’s

Osprey Tempest 20 Pack - Women's

Weight: 1.4 pounds

Dimensions: 9 x 20 x 10 inches

Specifications: women fit; big front panel; 5 side pockets; hydration sleeve included; side frame sheet; Airscape mesh back panel; 20 liters capacity

Best Use: fast pace hiking; cycling

Description: This 4.6 starsOsprey Tempest 20 Pack – Women’s has a price range between $97.95 – $168.37, depending on the size and color you choose.

However, it was specially designed for women who are always on the go and need to get things done at a fast pace. Consequently, if you want a backpack that allows you fast access, this is definitely it.

That’s because it has a big panel in front, which can easily be zipped open, so you can see everything you have.

So the absence of additional pockets here may translate into the less precise organization, but also into less time wasted remembering where you put something.

That doesn’t mean it lacks pockets altogether: it has a slash pocket, two side ones, and two on its hip belt for storing smaller gear. And don’t forget the hydration sleeve.

The frame sheet it has on its side was designed for even weight distribution, so you can carry your load without any sort of back pain. The back panel is manufactured from Airscape mesh for increased ventilation so you don’t get too sweaty and hot when hiking.

The support system is made from a shoulder harness and hip belt that can be adjusted in no time, while its compression straps will keep it steady when going fast on the uneven ground.

REI Flash 18 Pack

REI Flash 18 Pack

Weight: 10 ounces

Dimensions: 16 x 9.5 x 8 inches

Specifications: 18 liters capacity; frameless; unisex; top access; ripstop nylon; one main compartment

Best Use: hiking in the rain

Description: This 4.5 stars and $39.95 from REI is a great backpack for hiking. It’s comprised out of a single main compartment and one other pocket, so you can gain fast and easy access to the equipment you’ve put inside.

Plus, the top opening that allows you quick access to the things inside is completely covered with the drawcord, which you can tie it very tight so that nothing falls off.

The other pocket you’ll find on its side also allows you fast access since it’s zipped shut with a big sort of zipper that doesn’t break easily. We also love the daisy loop that’s perfect for an ice ax. Basically, you’ll be able to carry a maximum capacity of 18 liters, which is satisfactory for a day hike.

Other nice feats are the included internal sleeve for your water reservoir, although that doesn’t come with this package. But we like that it’s hydration compatible and that it has a built-in weather flap suited for rain and wind protection.

Besides, it has a strong and comfortable design. That’s because it’s made from sturdy ripstop nylon, and it has a padded back panel and shoulder straps. These straps, as well as the hip belt,  can easily be removed if you don’t need them.

The support system also includes a chest strap, and its buckle can be used as a whistle, which is an ingenious feature. Other cool extras are the sit pad and the fact that this daypack can be reversed and packed inside itself since it can transform into a stuff sack.

Osprey Manta AG 28 Hydration Pack

Osprey Manta AG 28 Hydration Pack

Weight: 2.4 pounds

Dimensions: 12 x 22 x 13 inches

Specifications: polyester; trekking pole attachment; blinker light attachment; helmet attachment; front panel pocket; 3 internal pockets; 6 exterior pockets; built-in rain cover; 28 liters

Best Use: hiking

Description: This 4.7 stars Osprey Manta AG 28 Hydration Pack costs approximately $165, with a slight price variation depending on the size and color you choose. But whichever model you end up with, you’ll get yourself a sturdy way of transporting gear, and one of the best daypacks for hiking on the market.

That’s because it’s made from a rugged sort of polyester that can withstand heavy weights and a maximum capacity of 28 liters. You can store your things in the front panel compartment, inside which you have quick zipper access.

You’ll find here three other interior pockets to organize some of your things better. The Manta AG daypack has six outside pockets too, which you can use as you please, but the two side mesh ones are great for carrying water bottles.

You get three incredibly useful attachments with this backpack: the one used for carrying trekking poles, the one for your helmet, and the one for the blinker light.

Basically, Manta AG is perfect if you’re into hiking in rough conditions, like rugged terrain that requires the use of poles and helmet for safety, or hiking in low-light.

Let’s not forget the included rain cover either, which will protect your gear and help you safely hike even when it’s pouring. And if you don’t need it anymore, simply place it inside its own pocket or remove it altogether.

The suspension system emphasizes a well-thought design that explains the AG in the name: anti-gravity.

It won’t make your backpack float through the air, but it will help with weight distribution thanks to its frame, back panel, shoulder harness, hip belt and compression straps. All these elements are made from comfortable materials, with ergonomic qualities.

Marmot Kompressor Plus 20 Pack

Marmot Kompressor Plus 20 Pack

Weight: 14.4 ounces

Dimensions: 20 x 13 x 3 inches

Specifications: 20 liters; 70D + 210T nylon ripstop body; 210D double nylon ripstop reinforcements; top access; buckle closure; front gear loop; hydration compatible; closed-cell foam back

Best Use: hiking while traveling

Description: This 4.8 stars and $65.00 Marmot Kompressor Plus 20 Pack is a very nice looking one since it has a Peak Blue and Dark Sapphire color pallet. The black version of the Kompressor Plus is a bit more expensive, at $76.67. Both models are made from terrific materials, like nylon ripstop.

So you’ll get a durable combination of simple 70D and 210T nylon ripstop for the body, while the reinforcements are 210D double ripstop.

Basically, your equipment is safe and sound inside this backpack, which is rugged enough to carry a big amount of weight, although it weighs just 14.4 ounces. The total volume you can carry is 20 liters, which is more than enough for a day’s hike and maybe a quick overnight stay if you have the chance.

You’ll get quick top access to the things you store inside, and a secure buckle closure to make sure nothing is lost.

If you’re bringing along trekking poles or even an ice ax, these items fit perfectly in the front gear loop. And for your hydration bladder, you have a specially designed sleeve that’s hydration compatible. Unfortunately, the reservoir itself is not included.

The back sheet is very strong, yet comfortable, providing you an ergonomic feel. That’s because it’s manufactured with closed-cell foam which offers added back support and eliminates the risk of back pain.

And since this daypack can be packed into its own lid when you’re not using it, you can easily carry it inside a bigger luggage and enjoy fun day hikes in different areas.

Granite Gear Athabasca Pack

Granite Gear Athabasca Pack

Weight: 2.2 pounds

Dimensions: not specified

Specifications: double ax loops; haul loops; integrated rainfly; hydration sleeve; resistant fabric; 24 liters capacity; multiple pockets; removable belt and frame sheet

Best Use: technical hiking

Description: This 4.5 stars and $77.97 Granite Gear Athabasca Pack has a smart color combo of Bleumine and Neolime, but other colors are available too, so the Athabasca can fit different tastes and styles.

However, this daypack is more appropriate for technical hiking since it has double loops for your ax, a haul loop, and a built-in rainfly. It also comes with a hydration sleeve where you can place your hydration bottle.

That being said, it’s not mandatory to use it for technical hiking, even though it has this sort of design.

You choose what you put inside it, so you can even use it as a comfortable way to carry your things for your day job. For instance, the hydration sleeve can instantly be transformed into a laptop sleeve, which is a nice perk.

The fabric it’s made from is very resistant, and also comfortable. It doesn’t tear easily, so it can withstand a rather big weight and a maximum capacity of 24 liters. Plus, you get all sorts of pockets to place your equipment in an organized manner, with fast access, even on your hip belt and shoulder straps.

The hip belt and frame sheet, which can easily be removed, along with the shoulder and stabilizer straps comprise a sturdy, albeit comfortable support system.

Kelty Capture 15 Pack

Kelty Capture 15 Pack

Weight: 1.3 pounds

Dimensions: 17 x 10 x 8 inches

Specifications: 15 liters capacity; 2 interior pockets; 1 exterior pocket; 420 D and 450 D polyester body; hydration compatible; action pocket

Best Use: high-tech hiking, biking

Description:  This $44.95 Kelty Capture 15 Pack is a nice Quake gray color, but you can also get it in Levee blue for $69.95. We’ve reviewed a few backpack till now, but this really takes the cake in the best hiking daypack category because of its ingenious action pocket.

This pocket is specially designed to fit your smartphone from your chest straps, so you can easily take photos and videos when hiking, without using your hands.

And you also get to enjoy the included Kickstand that acts as a support for your smartphone when you want to take pictures with the whole group.

Apart from that, it has a medium capacity of 15 liters, which is pretty good for a short hike. You’ll find one main compartment to which you have quick zipper access.

There are two other interior pockets and one on the outside, plus you’ll also get a key fob, a bike light loop, and a hydration sleeve. Your stuff will be safe and sound thanks to the compression wings, which also help distribute weight evenly.

The design is again ergonomic and comfortable since the back panel allows ventilation and doesn’t let you get all sweaty and excessively warm. The shoulder straps are manufactured with a breathable sort of mesh fabric too, so they’ll also allow ventilation. These padded straps, along with the hip belt comprise the support system that can easily be adjusted.

Are You Ready for Adventure?

If you choose one of these great daypacks, you most definitely are! All of them are manufactured from great materials, they’re capacious enough for a daylong trip, and they’re also user-friendly, providing an ergonomic support and interesting extras.

Choose your Daypack for Short Hikes

So let us know: which one do you like best? In fact, tell us all about what you’re looking for in a daypack. Do you take frequent short hikes, or are you more interested in a sturdy backpack for going to work/ school? What’s the extra feature(s) you couldn’t live without?

The comment section is right here.


Dennis Owens

Dennis Owens is a graduate of National Camping School and REI Outdoor School. He knows everything about what gear to take with you, how to plan your trip to stay safe and what to do if you get lost in the mountains. We are lucky to have Dennis with us as he is a ‘walking encyclopedia’ when it comes to the wilderness.