The Best Daypacks for Hiking and Travel

The Salvo 24 is really comfortable and has the features needed for most day uses.
The perfect daypack is a trusted companion for short hikes, travel, and everyday use. This is one category where the right choice can serve you daily for years in many capacities. To help you find that perfect pack, we looked at 50 models and bought the best 8 for detailed testing. Our expert testers used them in almost every way imaginable, from hiking and climbing to biking and running in urban and backcountry environments while carrying water bottles, gear, books, and even our laptops to work on this review. Through our side-by-side tests, we discovered which models best balance weight and features, provide incredible value, or simply perform great all-around to help you find the right pack for your individual needs. Many of these models are unisex and come in women's specific models. We also have a women's daypack review.

Read the full review below >

Test Results and Ratings

Displaying 1 - 5 of 8 ≪ Previous | View All | Next ≫
Rank #1 #2 #3 #4 #5
Product
Osprey Talon 22
Osprey Talon 22
Deuter Speed Lite 20
Deuter Speed Lite 20
The Daylite in Magma Orange
Osprey Daylite
Gregory Salvo 24
Gregory Salvo 24
REI Flash 18
REI Co-op Flash 18
Awards  Editors' Choice Award  Top Pick Award      Best Buy Award 
Price $110.00 at Backcountry
Compare at 3 sellers
$89.00 at Backcountry
Compare at 3 sellers
$34.93 at REI
Compare at 4 sellers
$119.95 at Eastern Mountain Sports$39.95 at REI
Overall Score 
100
0
76
100
0
74
100
0
70
100
0
65
100
0
62
Star Rating
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Pros Tons of features, fully adjustable, comfortable, well ventilated, separate hydration compartmentLightweight, innovative buckles, many lashing optionsLightweight, external accessed hydration or document compartment, breathable back panel and shoulder strapsBreathable stretchy mesh back panel, super comfortable straps and hip belt, water resistant, great front pocketAffordable, minimalist design, lightweight, super packable
Cons Runs small, side mesh pockets are smallThin waist belt, front pocket is difficult to get intoOnly 2 compression straps limits lashing opportunities, no ice axe loop, size is a bit small for long days, water bottle pockets are smallHeavy, no front mesh pocket, only 2 side compression straps limits lashing optionsDifficult access during activities, thin waist belt and shoulder straps
Ratings by Category Osprey Talon 22 Deuter Speed Lite 20 Osprey Daylite Gregory Salvo 24 REI Co-op Flash 18
Comfort - 25%
10
0
8
10
0
7
10
0
7
10
0
9
10
0
4
Weight - 25%
10
0
7
10
0
8
10
0
9
10
0
4
10
0
10
Versatility - 25%
10
0
8
10
0
7
10
0
5
10
0
6
10
0
6
Ease Of Use - 15%
10
0
8
10
0
7
10
0
7
10
0
8
10
0
5
Durability - 10%
10
0
6
10
0
8
10
0
7
10
0
5
10
0
4
Specs Osprey Talon 22 Deuter Speed Lite 20 Osprey Daylite Gregory Salvo 24 REI Co-op Flash 18
Weight (oz) 26.4 18 16 38.4 10
Volume/Capacity (liters) 22 20 13 25 18
Back Construction Mesh with corogated close celled foam 3D Mesh Foam with mesh Stretched mesh for ventalation Nylon with removabale pad

Analysis and Award Winners


Review by:
Jeremy Bauman, Jessica Haist, and Gentrye Houghton

Last Updated:
Monday
September 11, 2017

Share:
Updated September 2017
This fall we added in our favorite fanny pack as a daypack alternative: the Osprey Talon 6. Waist packs are not for everyone, but they can offer a much more liberating hiking experience. They also just encourage you to take less stuff (which we think is always a good thing). We also add in our favorite option for everyday use and travel: the Patagonia Arbor. We have taken this around the world and still use it more than any other pack. It's full review is in our laptop backpack roundup. which offers some great daypack alternatives.

Best Overall Daypack


Osprey Talon 22


Osprey Talon 22 Editors' Choice Award

$110.00
at Backcountry
See It

Tons of features
Fully adjustable
Comfortable
Well ventilated
Separate hydration compartment
Runs small
Small side mesh pockets
The Talon 22 keeps evolving, and we love all changes and upgrades. It's lighter, more comfortable and more breathable than last years model. It remains firmly at the top of our ratings. No matter what activity we embarked on, this pack remained comfortable and well ventilated along the shoulders, waist, and back. If you're looking for a smaller option that moves with you during multiple sports, travel, and commuting around town, the Talon 22 is an awesome choice. If you're looking for a larger pack, check out the Talon 33.

Read full review: Osprey Talon 22

Best Bang for the Buck


REI Co-op Flash 18


REI Flash 18 Best Buy Award

$39.95
at REI
See It

Affordable
Minimalist design
Lightweight
Super packable
Difficult access during activities
Thin waist belt and shoulder straps
Offering plenty features and broad versatility, but at half the price of all other contenders, is a combo we love. The minimalist REI Co-op Flash 18 is an ideal companion on multi-pitch climbs, doubles as a stuff sack inside your larger pack while still being useful for your summit bid, or can be used as your gym bag. It has a simple, top-loading design and is the lightest pack tested, weighing only 10 ounces. This also comes in the larger Flash 22. It's sibling, the Stuff Travel Daypack is our favorite compressible travel pack.

Read full review: REI Co-op Flash 18

Top Pick Award for Balance of Low Weight and Features


Deuter Speed Lite 20


Deuter Speed Lite 20 Top Pick Award

$89.00
at Backcountry
See It

Lightweight
Innovative buckles
Many lashing options
Thin waist belt
Weak front pocket
The Deuter Speed Lite 20 wins our Top Pick award for being simple with a comfortable carry. In contrast to our feature-filled Editors' Choice winner, the Osprey Talon 22, the Speed Lite has minimal but useful features. For the fast-and-light hiker, simplicity and weight are preferable to heavily featured packs. The Speed Lite is easy to compress due to compression straps, and it can be stowed in a larger backpack or loaded up with items for a day hike. It's not too heavy or complicated, yet still provides enough carry and lashing options to be useful on a longer hike. The Speed Lite also comes in two smaller sizes; check out the Speed Lite 10 and the Speed Lite 15.

Read full review: Deuter Speed Lite 20

Best Fanny Pack / Waist Pack


Talon 6


Talon 6
$75.00
at Amazon
See It

Lightweight
Many lashing options
Small capacity
Uncomfortable when fully loaded
Want a more free feeling when hiking? If you don't carry much stuff and want unrestricted upper body movement, the Talon 6 is your best bet. It's our favorite waist pack (or lumbar pack) for day hikes. It has just enough capacity for some snacks and hiking essentials. There are numerous compression straps to get the load tight and lash on a rain jacket. Just keep in mind this pack is small and won't fit a larger camera or too many extra layers. Also, like all waist packs, when fully loaded they can be uncomfortable and put a strain on your lower back, especially the first few times you use it. The Talon 6 is expensive and there are some great daypack options for half the price. That said, waist packs can deliver a much more liberating hiking feeling, and they encourage you to travel with less extra stuff. If you're going to trade your daypack for a waist pack, the Talon 6 is the best option.

Timeless Design for Everyday Use and Travel


Patagonia Arbor


OutdoorGearLab Top Pick award winner the Patagonia Arbor laptop backpack.

Timeless design
Durable
Expensive
Poor breathable on back panel
After testing over 100 backpacks over nearly a decade, the Arbor is still the one we use the most on a day to day basis and when traveling. This is surprising as the Arbor has never scored that high and has some drawbacks like poor back breathability and very rudimentary straps. But what the Arbor does have is a timeless design that is both stylish and has all the features you need with no extras. It has just enough pockets and a sleeve that fits a 15-inch laptop. After many years and many trips through the washer, the pack still looks great. When fully loaded, we use it as our carry-on when flying and it fits in the smaller overhead bins of regional aircraft. If you fill it halfway and cinch it down, it can count as a personal item. Is it worth $100 when higher performing pack cost half? In our case, since we have now used it for 1000 plus days and 50+ flights, the answer is "Yes!"

Read full review: Patagonia Arbor

select up to 5 products
Score Product Price Our Take
76
$110
Editors' Choice Award
Time tested and a top pick for versatility, this pack wins our Editors' Choice award.
74
$89
Top Pick Award
Versatile and lightweight, this 20-liter daypack is an awesome all-arounder.
70
$50
Simple yet well-designed, this model has everything you need for a short trail romp or city sightseeing.
65
$115
Comfortable even on long hikes, this pack was a favorite among our testers.
62
$40
Best Buy Award
It makes sense that this model is so popular, considering its low price tag and weight.
60
$120
Although this pack is ultralight, it is also inconvenient and uncomfortable when not painstakingly packed.
56
$99
If you're a rock climber or you're planning a technical hike, this might be a good choice for you.
55
$130
If you're hiking in a hot place or if you're overly sweaty, this well-ventilated model is a good choice.

Analysis and Test Results


Throughout the three-month testing process, we donned these packs in a wide range of activities and uses. Our lead author devised tests and scoring metrics to push the products to their limits and assess the on a level playing field. The key areas of performance were Weight, Comfort, Versatility, Durability, and Ease of Use/Organization. The above table displays the overall score tally, while the text below explains how we tested the models in each metric and highlights the top performers.

From left to right: Osprey Daylite  REI Flash 18  Deuter Speed Lite  Arc'Teryx Cierzo 18  Osprey Talon  Osprey Stratos  Gregory Salvo 24  Granite Gear Virga 26.
From left to right: Osprey Daylite, REI Flash 18, Deuter Speed Lite, Arc'Teryx Cierzo 18, Osprey Talon, Osprey Stratos, Gregory Salvo 24, Granite Gear Virga 26.

Weight


The greatest trade-off for a tricked out pack is the added weight. This year, we tested several lightweight packs. The REI Co-op Flash, Arc'teryx Cierzo 18, Osprey Daylite, and Granite Gear Virga are all super lightweight. These are great for short hikes, but can work for longer hikes and heavier loads if you are a fastidious packer.

Make your pack more comfortable and take a seat
A lot of these packs save weight by reducing material in the back panel. One solution is to pack carefully. For example, fold up a layer into a shape that covers key areas on the back. Another option takes a little more time but is worth it in the long run: cut out a section of Ridge Rest or foam pad to the dimensions of the pack panel. The foam is very light and protective. It also doubles as a great butt pad when taking a break or hanging around camp.


The heaviest pack tested was the Osprey Stratos 26 (39.5oz), mostly due to its highly ventilated aluminum frame system, followed by the Gregory Salvo (38.4oz). Two of our award winners were lightweight: the Flash 18 (10oz) and Deuter Speed Lite (18oz).

As you can see  the pack is frameless and has a small hip belt. If you pack it with rigid objects like climbing cams  care must be taken that they don't press into your back! This sack packs the best with soft items.
As you can see, the pack is frameless and has a small hip belt. If you pack it with rigid objects like climbing cams, care must be taken that they don't press into your back! This sack packs the best with soft items.
The top flap is an improvement over past versions of the Flash. We also really like that the pack can be opened or closed with a simple pull thanks to the fixed slide pull.
The blue color was a tester favorite! Also notice the two small compression straps on the bottom of the pack.
 

Comfort


The comfort of a pack relies on adjustability, load carrying ability, and ventilation. Our favorite, the Osprey Talon, is the only pack with a fully cushioned hip belt and load lifters, both of which add comfort. As far as adjustability goes, the Osprey Talon is the easiest and most adjustable option out of the packs tested. You can simply un-Velcro the straps, move them where you want them, and stick them back on, allowing it to fit just about anyone.


The Salvo is the most comfortable pack we tested! The airflow back panel and excellent hip belt proved supportive and breathable.
The Salvo is the most comfortable pack we tested! The airflow back panel and excellent hip belt proved supportive and breathable.

The Talon is the only pack tested that offers different frame sizes (S/M and M/L), so it is important to accurately measure your torso before purchasing. For a full explanation on fit and measurements, check out the fit section in our Buying Advice.

As you can see  the straps on the REI Flash are much wider than the Cierzo that subsequently has more rigid straps. These straps tended to pinch. Also notice  that the back distance from the waist belt to the top shoulder strap is a couple inches shorter on the Cierzo.
As you can see, the straps on the REI Flash are much wider than the Cierzo that subsequently has more rigid straps. These straps tended to pinch. Also notice, that the back distance from the waist belt to the top shoulder strap is a couple inches shorter on the Cierzo.

For load carrying, the Arc'teryx Cierzo 18 is the least comfortable, with minimal padding and support, while the Gregory Salvo is the most supportive.
The Osprey Stratos (left) and the Gregory Salvo (right) both have air flow back panels. As you can see  the Stratos takes up much more internal volume and allows a lot more air through. The Salvo is a good balance between airflow and retaining internal storage capacity.
The Osprey Stratos (left) and the Gregory Salvo (right) both have air flow back panels. As you can see, the Stratos takes up much more internal volume and allows a lot more air through. The Salvo is a good balance between airflow and retaining internal storage capacity.

The Talon, Stratos, and Salvo have back panels designed to allow for airflow, which is more comfortable while hiking in warm weather. The Deuter Speed Lite has padded, meshy back panels that are breathable and still protect objects from jabbing you in the back.

The Osprey Daylite was the perfect size for short day hikes in Haiti.
The Osprey Daylite was the perfect size for short day hikes in Haiti.

Versatility


Though most of the products reviewed are designed for hiking-specific pursuits, equipped with some handy features like trekking pole attachments, a few could also double as a briefcase or school tote.


Unlike a climbing- or snow-sports-specific backpack, a day-specific pack is more versatile and can be used for travel, summiting mountains, and carrying your laptop to your favorite coffee shop. Many of these packs don't have a laptop sleeve but will still work. For a pack designed for a laptop and travel (but often not intended for hiking) see our laptop backpack review.

Though on the smaller side  the Deuter Speed Lite comfortably held skis either on the back or in A-Frame configuration.
Though on the smaller side, the Deuter Speed Lite comfortably held skis either on the back or in A-Frame configuration.

We found that the Osprey Talon performed best for the most athletic activities, easily crossing-over between biking, hiking, and peak bagging. The Gregory Salvo 24 also works well for hiking, but crosses over for most other activities, such as traveling or using as a work, school, or errand bag. The Granite Gear Virga and Osprey Stratos are more specialized packs and are best for hiking long distances in comfort. While the Flash 18 is simple, the open compartment fits many different t items. It works well for urban applications, such as a daily gym bag or purse replacement, but it also serves as a great stuff sack to have along with you on overnight trips to use for summit bids and day outings.

The Arc'teryx Cierzo was the best pack in this review for technical rock climbing.
The Arc'teryx Cierzo was the best pack in this review for technical rock climbing.

Durability


Each product in this review proved to be durable over months of use; what it comes down to is the materials. Six out of the seven designs are made from either nylon or nylon blend with tough ripstop fabric reinforcements to prevent tears from spreading.


Most of the durability issues were with buckles. A couple of the brands, such as Deuter and Gregory, use proprietary buckles, meaning that if one gets broken they will be difficult to replace. Typically, your local gear shop sells buckles for just a few cents and they can be switched out on many packs, but with proprietary buckles, both sides of the buckle will need replacement if one side is damaged. Also, each model uses easy-to-adjust slider buckles for the sternum strap, which is handy at first but tends to be the first thing to go on a product that is frequently used.

The Cierzo's tough shell withstands abuse.
The Cierzo's tough shell withstands abuse.

Ease of Use/Organization


To test ease of use, we performed a packing test for carrying the "10 Essentials." Carrying these items is the entire reason to own a daypack. So we compiled our version of the 10 essentials and packed each one with the whole collection of items to see how easily each pack could carry it all. All of the packs tested were able to carry these items no problem, but it proved to be a snug fit for a couple of smaller packs. A few models have special carry features, so we were able to add a couple of items, such as trekking poles or an ice axe, to those packs.


Here are the essentials we chose to bring:
  • Navigation- map and cell phone with compass and GPS.
  • Call for Help- whistles come on all the packs, but we have our cell phone in case we have service to call for help.
  • Hydration- all of the packs we tested came equipped with hydration sleeves for a bladder system, though a soft sided 1-liter option, such as the Platypus Softbottle allowed more room in some of the smaller packs like the Flash 18 and Speed Lite 20.
  • Nutrition- snacks while hiking; we have beef jerky, Nature's Bakery Fig Bars, and a sleeve of Clif Bar Shot Blocks (with caffeine!).
  • Sun Protection- sunglasses, small bottle of sunscreen, and a hat with a brim
  • Insulation- a technical soft shell that also protects from the wind and a little rain.
  • Shelter/Weather Protection- an emergency bivy.
  • Illumination- headlamp with fresh batteries.
  • First Aid- we carried a small first aid kit tailored specifically towards hiking.
  • Fire- emergency fire starter and a little dry kindling.

All of the packs tested held our version of the "10 Essentials"needed for a day out in the mountains.
All of the packs tested held our version of the "10 Essentials"needed for a day out in the mountains.

As can be expected, the larger packs, like the Gregory Salvo and Granite Gear Virga, fit the essentials comfortably. The Talon has extra pockets and organizational features that were ideal for smaller items. However, the smaller packs, such as the Deuter Speed Lite 20, REI Co-op Flash 18, and Osprey Daylite, still held all of the essentials. The Osprey Stratos was the most difficult to pack because of its unique frame structure.

The back pocket on the Flash 18 is accessible without completely taking the pack off. This makes it a great place to store your headphones or a snack.
The back pocket on the Flash 18 is accessible without completely taking the pack off. This makes it a great place to store your headphones or a snack.

The Osprey Talon 22 is the only model with waist belt pockets, which is handy for quick access to snacks and sunscreen while hiking; it even has an extra pocket on the shoulder straps for a compass, GPS unit, or a snack.

All of the packs are hydration bladder compatible and all but the Flash 18 and Cierzo 18 have water bottle pockets on the sides.

Accessories


Most pack companies offer a compatible rain cover to go with their packs. Rain covers are a great thing to throw in your pack in case you get stuck in an unexpected downpour and want to protect the contents of your pack. One of these is the Osprey Hi-Vis Raincover. The Osprey Stratos is the only pack reviewed that included a rain cover, and even provided a stowaway pocket for it. Generally speaking, these daypacks were not designed to be completely waterproof, but can stave off light moisture. The Gregory Salvo uses water resistant materials, but the zippers proved to be a weakness.

Don't get bogged down on soggy days  the REI Trail 25 comes with a rain cover!
Don't get bogged down on soggy days, the REI Trail 25 comes with a rain cover!

All of the packs we reviewed are compatible with hydration bladders you must purchase separately. We recommend the Geigerrig Hydration Engine. It matches ease-of-use and easy cleaning with the durability we all want in a water bladder. For a more in-depth look, check out the full Hydration Bladder Review**.

Conclusion


Whether you're an avid hiker, a climber, or a student, you probably need a daypack for one or more of your activities. With so many options to choose from, we hope this review helped you find the right product for you. Note that we have another 8+ backpack review categories on the site from laptop backpacks to backpacking backpacks and more.
Jeremy Bauman, Jessica Haist, and Gentrye Houghton

  • Share this article:
 

Follow Us






Unbiased.


You Might Also Like