Searching for a women's specific daypack? We have some great choices for you! After researching over 80 different options, we purchased and tested the 12 best and put them to the test. Over many months, and many miles, we wore these women's daypacks on the trail, the water, while commuting, and pretty much anything else you might wear a daypack for. We took notes in the field and compared some important features, like how comfortable they were and how easily we could adjust them to different women's bodies. Then we picked our favorites, which we've detailed below. We have some excellent options for all-day packs where you need a lot of gear, light and fast options for shorter hikes or to bring along on a backpacking trip for summit bagging, and also choices for those who don't want to spend a fortune but still want a comfortable ride. Keep reading below to see which is the best one for you!
Best Daypacks For Women
We're so excited that spring is here and summer just around the corner, as it means hiking season in our neck of the woods! We've updated our women's daypack review to bring you the latest options and models as you set about choosing your new gear this year. Our Editors' Choice winner, the CamelBak Sequoia 22, received a facelift, but the good news is we still like it! We also tested out some new options from Deuter, Patagonia, and Osprey. Keep reading below to see which one of these we liked the best.
Best Pack Overall
CamelBak Sequoia 22
If you're a heavy packer, thirsty hiker, or are looking for one of the plushest all-around daypacks out there, the CamelBak Sequoia 22 is it. It was the most comfortable model that we tested, with lots of padding in the lumbar area and a supportive hip belt system. The newly redesigned version of the pack has the largest hip belt pockets in our review. Because it's made by CamelBak, it comes with a 3L Crux hydration reservoir. The reservoir sits in its own insulated pocket, and there is still plenty of room in the rest of the bag for everything you'd need on a day hike, and then some. The fit adjusts easily and the pack is made for tough trail conditions.There are a few downsides to the Sequoia though; it was one of the most expensive models in our test group ($150), but considering that it comes with a hydration reservoir you are getting a lot for what you pay for. It is on the heavier side too, and if you're going out for a quick mile or two, it may feel a little too bulky. Finally, it doesn't have an included rain cover, so if you tend to hike in drizzly weather a lot, you'll need to make an additional purchase (CamelBak sells them for $14-16). Luckily, if any of the above situations seem like deal breakers to you, we have other options below to fit all of those needs. Otherwise, if you're looking for a comfortable bag for long days on the trail that performs the best across the board, get the CamelBak Sequoia 22.
Read review: CamelBak Sequoia 22
Best Bang for the Buck
REI Co-op Trail 25 - Women's
With all of the "fancy" new packs out there (that come with a fancy price tag), the REI Co-op Trail 25 was like a blast from the not too distant past. This bag has a simple design, with well-padded shoulder straps but only a webbing hip belt. While other companies are investing in the latest and greatest technology in their packs — and charging you for it — REI is keeping it simple and very affordable at the same time. This pack retails for $70, which is half the price of some other bags out there! It has some great features for the price point, including a stowable rain cover, trekking pole attachments, and several options for attaching extra gear and using it overnight.
While the large volume was great (25L), without a load-bearing hip belt you probably don't want to fill it up too much. (Editor's Note — a webbing hip belt like this one will prevent the pack from shifting around on you but won't transfer much of the weight onto your hips.) More expensive models are using some innovative back panel designs that help improve airflow, but the Trail sits against your back, and you'll find yourself getting sweatier in this one. If hip belts aren't your thing, you don't hike in hot weather, or you just can't see yourself spending a ton of money on a daypack when you'd rather spend it getting to your next adventure, the REI Co-op Trail 25 is a solid bet.
Read review: REI Co-op Trail 25 - Women's
Top Pick for Short Hikes
Osprey Hikelite 18
Osprey's bread and butter is the daypack world, and they are known for making beefy and durable models that last for years. We could do an entire review with just their different daypack offerings! It turns out they can make a simple and lightweight option well also. New for 2018, the Hikelite series bring you everything you want on the trail in a pared down (and light!) version. It weighs less than most other options in this review but still has most of the features you might want or need on the trail, including an included rain cover. This isn't a women's specific model, but it seemed to fit all of our testers well, so larger men might not get a good fit in this one.
We weren't too thrilled with the webbing only hip belt though. It doesn't do much to transfer the weight from your shoulders to your hips and is uncomfortable if cinched too tight. The body of the bag is made with 100D material, which helps keep the weight down but won't stand up too well to spiky plants and rocks, though we did like the reinforced bottom. This is not the best option for an 18-mile day that takes you through multiple elevations and conditions, but if you're looking for something for shorter hikes, the Hikelite 18 works very well.
Read review: Osprey Hikelite 18
Top Pick for a Summit Pack
Mammut Lithia Speed 15
There are times when you want lots of padding and a comfortable ride, and others when you need something small for a fast mission into the mountains. If you're looking for a pack for the latter, the Mammut Lithia Speed 15 is the bag for you. It weighs a paltry 19 ounces, making it a full pound lighter than our Editors' Choice winner. While that alone doesn't seem like much, when you start shaving the pounds and ounces off of your gear, the differences add up. The Lithia doesn't have a frame, and you can fold it into a bigger pack if you are base camping out of somewhere but want a light summit pack for day hikes.
Mammut put this pack on a diet by skimping on the padding and using only 70D material; survive a tumble through some desert scrub oak it might not. It's also on the small side — it didn't fit our main tester, and we had to pass it on to a shorter friend for testing. But, it still packs some useful features into its small and light package, including double compression straps for locking down your load when you're flying down the trail.
Read review: Mammut Lithia Speed 15
Top Pick for Around Town
Osprey Tempest 20
For those who like to use a daypack for commuting around town or general daily use, check out the Osprey Tempest 20. This lightweight bag is big enough to fit a standard laptop and some books or binders, without being too bulky or heavy. It has good padding on the hip belt and shoulder straps, and the mesh back helps with airflow and circulation. Best of all, it has a bike helmet attachment which actually works! The "Lidlock" tab and bungee cord help keep your helmet securely against the bag, with no flopping around.
The Tempest was less adjustable than other models, and the sizing runs on the small side. We tested the "larger" size, and it was still too small for our 5'6" tester. Petite ladies, this one is for you! If you're commuting on a bike and want an easy way to carry your helmet once you lock it up, the Osprey Tempest is an excellent choice that'll work well on the trails also.
Read review: Osprey Tempest 20
Analysis and Test Results
We tested the daypacks on day hikes, sightseeing trails, while paddle boarding, commuting, and many other activities to find the best ones out there for a variety of uses. From the Tetons to the Adirondacks, we put these packs to the test using our side-by-side comparison process. Below we'll break down how we rated each model, and why these different categories are important to consider in the first place. We'll let you know which models stood out, and if they didn't, what it was that caused them to receive a bad score. We also have a comprehensive Buying Advice Guide where we break down some of the main factors to consider when selecting your next daypack.
We often have to make tradeoffs when purchasing a daypack. If you want something lightweight, it probably won't be as comfortable as a heavier model that has more padding, and you'll lose some durability points as well with lighter pack materials. If you don't want to spend a lot of money, you might have to trade off some extra features or design elements that the more expensive models include, but you can still get a great pack. We always try to test a range of price points here at OutdoorGearLab to be able to recommend products across the price spectrum, and this category was no different. The chart below shows you the price of each model vs. its overall performance in our tests. The least expensive option that we tested, the REI Co-op Trail 25 ($70), still performed well overall. Another value option to consider is The North Face Aleia 22 ($100), which is reasonably priced for the performance, as is the Osprey Hikelite 18 ($85).
When it comes to hiking, comfort is a key consideration for all of the gear that you wear from your head to your toes, and what's on your back is one of the most important pieces. An ill-fitting or minimally padded pack will make your outing less enjoyable, and we don't think hiking should be about suffering (unless you want it to be!). As such, the comfort rating accounted for 30% of each pack's overall score. Here's how we rated the different models for comfort:
We evaluated this category based on several things: how well the padding actually "padded" our hips and shoulders, how well the hip belts helped carry the weight, how well the design helped keep us cool while hiking, and if any annoying design features impacted our comfort level. The standouts in this category were our Editors' Choice winner, the CamelBak Sequoia 22, and the Osprey Sirrus 24. These two packs had a lot in common, including well-padded hip belts and shoulder straps, innovative back panel designs to aid in ventilation, and some internal framing to help keep the contents of the pack off of our backs.
As you can see from the photo below, our high scorers for comfort are not your average pack from years past. These packs have a lot of design and technology put into them, and the results were great. The mesh on the Osprey Sirrus 24 and Deuter Futura 22 (left) never rubbed against us in an uncomfortable way (we did have a shirt on at all times), and it was really impressive how much cooler our backs stayed (and we hiked in these packs in the desert southwest in summer!). The raised pads on the CamelBak Sequoia 22 (middle) also achieved the same result while still offering some padding in key places. Some packs, like the Gregory Maya 22 and Patagonia Nine Trails 26 (right), came close to this design, with mesh covering the padding, but the bulk of the pack still rested against our backs. This was not nearly as comfortable because it reduced airflow, and we could also feel the contents of the pack pushing into our backs.
Another design feature that affected our comfort on the trail was the hip belt. Most of the packs in this review had a load-bearing hip belt, but we still found a varying degree of comfort between some of them. The CamelBak Sequoia's hip belt covered our hip bones completely with a good amount of padding. The Deuter ACT Trail 22 uses a wide swatch of unpadded mesh as its hip belt, which didn't feel very comfortable after a long day on the trail, and the Mammut Lithia Speed's hip belt had buckles that sat directly over the front of our hip bones, which was not comfortable either. The Deuter Futura 22, Osprey Hikelite 18, andREI Co-op Trail 25 have webbing-only hip belts. They'll help keep the bag from shifting around on your back, but don't transfer any of the load off of your shoulders. We felt less comfortable in all of those models when carrying a heavier load in them.
A final thing to consider for comfort is the cut of the shoulder straps. Women's specific models tend to have less space between the straps and more of an S-curve to them to accommodate a women's physique. If your shoulders are broader than the "average" woman's you might find the shoulder straps dig into your neck no matter how you adjust your pack. in that case, it's over to the men's section for you. Sometimes manufacturers go too far in tailoring to a woman's physique, and in Patagonia's case they overshot the mark with their new Nine Trails 26 model. The shoulder straps are cut so closely together that they dug into all of our testers' necks, making this the least comfortable option in this review. The photo below shows the Deuter Futura 22's well-spaced straps on the left compared to the too-close ones on the Patagonia Nine Trails 26 on the right.
We consider the features that a pack has another key purchase consideration because no matter how comfortable a pack is if it can't do the things you need it to on the trail, it's not going to serve you very well. Some manufacturers seem to be throwing every possible feature they conceive of on a pack, so we also evaluated how necessary or well-thought-out each feature was. For example, the REI Co-op Trail 25 has a daisy chain that runs down either side of the back, but how useful is that really? If you use that webbing to attach a bunch of gear, you'll be a walking Christmas tree, which is neither sleek nor efficient. Here's how we scored the different models for their features.
As you can see, we liked the features of our Editors' Choice winner CamelBak Sequoia 22, all three Osprey models, and yes, even the REI Co-op Trail 25 (minus those daisy chains, of course). There were many reasons why we rated these packs so high, and we'll begin with the hip belt pocket. This handy feature has only been available on packs in the last few years, and we want to hug whoever first thought of the idea, particularly in the age of the smartphone. There's nothing more annoying than getting repeated texts or phone calls on the trail and having to take your pack off and dig through it each time. Sure, you could ignore them, and in many places, you won't even have cell service, but let's be real — if our phone dings, most of us are going to check it.
We loved this feature for other knick knacks too, like lip balm or a set of keys, but it's mainly for our smartphone (which is also our camera), and if a hip belt pocket is too small to fit your phone it's a big miss. We could squeeze our phone into all of the hip belt pockets in this review, though some were a tighter fit than others. Note that the Deuter Futura and ACT Trail, REI Co-Op Trail, and Osprey Hikelite 18 models did not have this feature, should this be a deal breaker for you.
Another feature we appreciated was a rain cover that stashed in a pocket in the bottom of the pack. Several models in this review had one, including the Osprey Sirrus and Hikelite, REI Co-op and Deuter Trail ACT and Futura 22. Do you need this feature? That depends on where you live and where you like to hike. Rainstorms can happen even in the desert, and a rain cover will keep your extra layers, snacks, or big DSLR camera drier than a pack without one. They do add a few ounces to the overall weight of the pack, and while you might be tempted to take it out on clear days with no chance of rain, just remember to put it back in!
Some packs also had specific holders for your trekking poles. Whether or not you like to hike with them is up to you, but if you do, having a way to stash them securely when you don't need them is a nice feature. The Osprey models have a "Stow-on-the-Go" attachment system that works well for times when you want to put the poles away quickly for a short period, say to scramble up a rock. You thread your poles up through the loop on the bottom of the pack and then under the loop on the shoulder strap. No taking off your pack required. However, your poles are now under your armpit and banging around your side. This is tolerable for five minutes tops.
The REI Co-op Trail 25 has tabs for securing the bottom of the poles and straps for the tops. Other packs, like the Mammut Lithia Speed, didn't have specific holders but did have two compression straps on either side, which works equally well. A single set of straps is usually not sufficient. Most of the packs we tested also had one ice axe holder, which seems like a standard addition to a daypack even though only a fraction of hikers even use one.
All of the models that we tested were hydration bladder compatible in various ways, but only one, the CamelBak Sequoia 22, actually came with a reservoir. Whether you prefer to drink from a bottle or a hose is a question of personal preference, though hydration aficionados avow that you'll stay better hydrated if you can take small sips of water more frequently from a hose without having to stop and drink from a bottle. It is handy for sports that require the use of your hands, like paddle boarding, biking, and even hiking with trekking poles. If you plan on using a bladder, check out the framing (or lack of) in the pack and where the bladder sits. For example, on the Gregory Maya 22 the reservoir fits into a slot right next to your back, but there is no framing there, and as a result, a full 2 or 3L bladder will push into your back until you drink all of it.
Finally, some models had great features specific to one application. Our Top Pick for Around Town, the Osprey Tempest 20, has a great way of securing a bike helmet. You might not need that on a day hike, but if you need a pack for commuting to school or work, the "Lidlock" attachment is a great feature to look for. You simply thread the plastic holder through your helmet, rotate it to lay flat on top, and the bungee holds it in place with no flopping around. The outside pocket on the Gregory Maya 22 could also fit a bike helmet.
We like to consider the weight of all of our outdoor gear purchases. Whether it's our shoes, trekking poles, or packs, shaving ounces off our clothing and gear can quickly add up to large weight savings, which makes each mile that much easier to cover. Below you'll see the actual weight of each pack that we tested, with about a 1.5-pound difference between the heaviest and lightest daypacks in our review.
If there's one thing that we learned in this review, it's that it's hard to have it all in a daypack. Want a lot of padding with a frame that supports the weight you're carrying? Then you're going to end up with a heavier bag. Want something lightweight that won't weigh you down? Then you might have to sacrifice on durability a little, as paper-thin nylon is not as durable in the long-term compared to a thicker (and therefore heavier) material. The lightest pack in our review, the Mammut Lithia Speed 15, weighs only 19 ounces and is a great choice for minimalist hikers who like to move fast. But it was also one of the least comfortable packs that we tested, and the 70D nylon is on the thin side and might not withstand heavy use over time.
The North Face Aleia 22 weighs only six ounces more than the Mammut, but thanks to more padding in the back and more coverage in the hip belt, it had a higher score for comfort. We did have durability concerns about this pack too though, as the main material is also thin. On the other end of the spectrum was the Osprey Sirrus. This pack weighs 41 ounces or almost 1.5 pounds more than the Mammut. The Sirrus is heavier because of the framing for the back, extra padding, and thicker material, which is less likely to wear through. If the heavier packs were even heavier, we might have a hard time still recommending them, but when combining all of the factors we assessed these packs by, the better comfort and durability "outweighed" the weight consideration in the end.
Daypacks are notorious for not having as much adjustability as a full 60L backpacking pack. Many manufacturers only offer them in one size, and there's often limited options for further adjustment, like load-lifting straps on the shoulders or hip belt tensioners. We took into consideration whether the different models had any of the above, how many sizes they came in (and what the actual range of those sizes are), and if they had any further adjustability. As you can see from the scores below, none of the packs impressed us enough to receive a 10/10 in this category.
We were most impressed with the size range available in The North Face Aleia 22 and Patagonia Nine Trails 26. We tested those in the larger size (our main tester's torso length is 19 in, she's 5'6" and weighs 125 pounds), and they fit our back length well. Note that the Aleia was the only pack whose hip belt gave us enough coverage with some room to spare, which was surprising to us, all things considered, because we are doing a women's daypack review and not a girl's. In fact, the Osprey Tempest 20, which comes at its largest in a size S/M, seemed more sized for a petite 12-year-old than a grown woman. The hip belt barely came up to our hip bones, and we wear a size 2 pant! What's a size 8 or 10 lady supposed to do? Osprey wasn't the only offender either: Deuter, Gregory, and Mammut all seem to size their packs for tiny ladies. That's not inherently bad — smaller people need well-fitting packs too after all, but if you're only producing one size and that size is minuscule, it leaves a lot of ladies out of the loop.
The other thing to consider as far as adjustability goes is the torso length of the bag. We discuss how to properly size a pack in our Buying Advice Guide, and you should try to get a good fit in that area as well. If a bag is too short or too long for you, the hip belt won't work well, and you'll be carrying more of the load on your shoulders. Most of the packs in this review came in one size only, and the length of the torso ranged from 16-18 inches, so if you fall out of that range, you could be out of luck. The Osprey Sirrus 24 was the only daypack in our test group that had an adjustable back, giving a range between 15 and 19 inches.
We did appreciate that some packs had load-lifting straps on the shoulders, but they were often ineffective. Once you've adjusted your hip belt and shoulder straps, the load-lifters are supposed to help lift the weight off your lower back and distribute it evenly across your back. For these straps to work, the body of the pack has to extend above the shoulder straps, which wasn't usually the case with these daypacks, since the body of the pack is so small.
Here's a personal durability story from our head tester.
"I bought a Dana Designs pack in 2004 for day hiking and rock climbing approaches. It was at least a 300-400D material with an even thicker doubled bottom. That pack lasted for ten years! I used it in Yosemite, with its rough granite, and Red Rocks, with its sandpaper rock and spiky plants. When I retired it I bought a highly rated pack from one of the manufacturers in this review. Nine months later it had more holes in it than my old Dana. It was lighter than the Dana, but I'll take a few extra ounces if it means I don't have to buy a new pack every year."
Here's how we rated the different models in this review for durability. Note that we couldn't get a year's worth of use on each test pack to assess their durability. Instead, we looked for signs of wear after the three months of use that they did get, combed through online user reviews to look for durability concerns or patterns, and evaluated them based on our extensive experience with outdoor gear.
We were most impressed with the durability of the Osprey Sirrus 24. The body of the bag is made with a 210D nylon, while the bottom is an even thicker 420D pack cloth. Bottoms are a high-wear spot, and having an extra-thick material there, like the Sequoia 22, or a double layer of material is a nice feature. We worried about the long-term durability of the 70D Mammut Lithia Speed, and also the 100D The North Face Aleia 22. The Aleia showed the most wear on the bottom after similar use, and we also almost lost the ice axe holder loop as it's only a thin bungee cord that's secured with a knot.
No pack will last forever, and some terrains are less forgiving than others. If you're hiking on well-maintained trails in "gentle" forest ecosystems, this might be less of a concern for you. If you're scrambling up craggy peaks or squeezing through sandy slot canyons, thicker material will offer more abrasion resistance, and you should consider this when making a purchase decision.
Finding the perfect daypack can feel like an overwhelming challenge. With so many models, even from the same manufacturer (Osprey alone makes eight different daypacks in multiple volume choices), it can be challenging to find the perfect one for you. We hope our extensive testing and ratings helped you in that quest.
— Cam McKenzie Ring