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Want the best daypack to carry your hiking essentials? After researching 80+ options, our team of experts bought the best 13 women's daypacks you can get. From ultralight bags to large-capacity packs that dabble in overnight functionality, we put a range of contenders through months of side-by-side testing. Our team of all-female adventurers wore them through multiple seasons, from hiking to skiing to trail running, for hundreds of miles of adventures. We scrutinized their comfort on women of many shapes and sizes, tested their adjustability, and evaluated their versatility. Every zipper, pocket, and clip was used on scores of adventures for durability and sheer usefulness. No matter what you need to bring with you, we identify the perfect backpack for the job.
Jade 28 Updated — May 2023
Gregory updated this pack with some fresh colors, a new look, and a couple other design tweaks, like taller mesh water bottle pockets and updates to the back panel ventilation. We're linking to the updated pack in our affiliate links, as it is more readily available, and we plan to test the updated version during our next testing cycle. Until then, our review text still pertains to the previous model.
For the dedicated hiker who won't settle for anything less than the most comfortable technical pack, the Gregory Jade 28 offers a large capacity in a plush, supportive package, making this an easy pick to win our highest honor. It's comfortable straight out of the box, and you can customize the fit since the pack comes in two sizes and has an adjustable frame. One of our favorite features of this bag is the large, U-zip opening that made accessing our essentials a cinch.
The Jade 28 is one of the heavier packs we've tested, but we couldn't even tell once it was on because it was so comfortable. Because of the larger capacity, it can be easy to overstuff. We recommend packing only what you need — even if there's room for more! But if you end up with a stuffed pack, the Jade carries light because the weight is distributed evenly to sit on your hips. At the end of the day, when we needed to carry a lot of layers or weight over a distance, there's no daypack more comfortable and up for the trek than the Gregory Jade 28.
We positively adore the features and versatility of the Osprey Tempest pack. It's one of just a few models we tested that comes in multiple sizes and has an adjustable torso length so you can pinpoint your perfect fit. It also has an incredibly comfortable and breathable trampoline back panel, which helps prevent a sweaty back on your hottest adventures. This pack has all the same features as a fully-loaded, heavier model, plus Osprey's LidLock system, which is by far the easiest and most secure way to firmly attach a helmet to a pack that we've ever seen — a must-have for cyclists and daily users of electric commuter bikes. Soft, flexible shoulder straps and a hip belt integrated practically seamlessly to the back of this pack offer impressive comfort, helped by a supportive yet minimalist internal frame. And for a lightweight option, the Tempest still manages to be impressively durable.
While we appreciate the adjustable torso length, we find this pack runs slightly on the small side. It's a good idea to test out your pack in the store or as soon as you get it in the mail in case you need to exchange it for another size. We also think the expandable stow pocket on the front is too small, restricting its functionality. But for a fairly small, light pack, we love the versatility and practically promised longevity and think it is one of the very best small daypacks among models we tested for just about any use.
Hip belt webbing system doesn't support heavy loads
Not very well ventilated
For the person who is just as likely to take this pack to a coffee shop as on an after-work hike, the REI Trail 25 is the workhorse of budget packs, making it an easy pick for its excellent value. It's attractive, durable, and pretty comfy too. We appreciate this pack's thoughtful, simple design. On each side of the pack, there are two deep outside pockets that are great for storing water and other miscellaneous items that you might normally store in your hip belt. Another awesome feature is the large U-zip opening which allows you to fit bigger, bulky things - such as a helmet - and easily grab the layer stuck at the bottom of the pack.
There are so many things to love about the Trail 25, but a supportive hip belt isn't one of them. It has a webbing-only hip belt that is meant to stabilize your load rather than take the weight off of your shoulders. If you want a more technical, load-bearing pack, look elsewhere. despite its larger capacity, the Trail 25 isn't great for heavy, all-day hikes. This pack thrives while carrying your essentials on a short hike to a hot spring, commuting to work, or hitting the farmer's market.
If you're obsessed with the security and comfortable fit of your full backpack and want to replicate that feeling and movement in a daypack, the Gregory Juno 24 is the right bag for you. The semi-flexible suspension system of the Juno actually distributes the weight of your load across its wide, comfortable hip belt. The shoulder straps are just thick enough while still flexible, making them easy to move in, while the ventilated back panel is one of the most effective we've tested. A full array of pockets offer symmetrical, intuitive use that keeps you organized without ever wondering which pocket holds what. Made out of thick ripstop nylon that's reinforced in all the right places, this pack is ready to go the distance.
The Juno comes in only one size, which works well for women in the middle of its advertized 14 to 19-inch torso length, but might not be the best fit for outlier sizes. Our main tester has a 17.5-inch torso and loves the size of this bag. The only place we were let down is with its overly simple hip belt straps. While the wing portion of the waist belt is practically perfect, the single strap tightening system is easily yanked to one side and leaves unmanaged webbing tails to dangle as you hike. These truly minor complaints aside, we truly love the fit, feel, and functionality of this backpack-like daypack.
There are times when you just need a bag to bring your essentials, but you don't have space for a big, fully framed pack. This is where an ultralight, super packable bag like the Osprey Ultralight Stuff Pack comes in handy. It strips away all the fancy features of your regular pack but retains just enough features to keep it useful. With a side pocket and small top pocket, you can keep yourself organized on the go. Lightly padded shoulder straps help keep it more comfortable than many of its competitors. Weighing just 3.8 ounces and packing down into its own pocket, this on-the-go bag is easy to bring with you just about anywhere.
With such a simple design, the Ultralight Stuff Pack does miss out on some important features like a hip belt and ventilated back panel. The material is incredibly thin, meaning you'll need to pack this like a pro to avoid feeling every bump and corner of your hiking essentials. It's also a very small bag overall, so if you find yourself gravitating toward taller or larger bags for a better fit, the short straps on this bag might not be your friend. But if you're after a teeny tiny, super lightweight pack that you can throw in your car for spontaneous adventuring or stuff in your carry-on for that trip to Europe, the Osprey Ultralight is a solid companion.
We've been testing, retesting, and testing updated versions of daypacks for years now in addition to over 400 top-ranked backpacks of all types. Each season, we scour the market for exciting new models and updates on our favorites to put to the test. We then spend hundreds of hours outside with these bags, putting them through our scores of tests and intense scrutiny. We tested bags in mountain ranges, national parks, cities, and airports across the US and internationally. No matter what you need your daypack to do, we've found the perfect model to match your lifestyle.
Our testing of women's daypacks is divided across five rating metrics:
Comfort (25% of overall score weighting)
Versatility (25% weighting)
Ease of Use (25% weighting)
Weight (15% weighting)
Durability (10% weighting)
This review is brought to you by Senior Review Editor Maggie Nichols and Review Editor Madison Botzet with help and input from their many adventure-loving lady friends. Living in the northern Nevada desert on the cusp of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, Maggie spends a ton of time outside adventuring, most often accompanied by her favorite rambling companion, Madeline the dog. Carrying enough supplies to last for 16 and 26 mile days for both Maggie and 85 pound Madeline requires a lot from a daypack, and Maggie knows just what makes a bag up for the job. She's also an avid trail runner and kayaker, with over 15 years of professional experience leading backcountry trips. Having lived, worked, and explored far-flung places like Iceland, the Galapagos, South Africa, and numerous Caribbean islands, Maggie has a deep appreciation for the unique gear needed for any adventure — and the best daypack to carry it.
Madison is also an expert when it comes to daypacks. Living in western Montana, there is no shortage of opportunities for Madison to get out for a quick romp in the woods or an all-day hike to summit a new peak. She has a discerning eye for detail and loves experimenting with packs while mountain biking, backcountry skiing, and trail running.
Analysis and Test Results
We tested each of these daypacks over several months (some of them for several years now) using our side-by-side comparison process. We used them while hiking over many miles, both for short and long hikes and for a variety of activities, from paddleboarding to commuting to skiing. After testing, we rated each daypack on a variety of criteria spanning five mutually exclusive metrics, from comfort and adjustability to their features and durability, to find the best daypack for different uses.
We frequently have to make tradeoffs when purchasing any type of gear, and a daypack is no different. We always try to test a range of products to be able to recommend great products across the spectrum. While more money doesn't always get you a better product, we found that in this category, it does tend to pair you up with a more durable bag. Comfort and ease of use, however, seem to be less tied to a dollar sign.
The Gregory Jade 28L is one of the most expensive bags in the lineup, but it acts as an overnight crossover and offers incredible support and comfort for longer adventures. The Osprey Tempest 20 is an exceptionally versatile bag that works well for a wide variety of activities, offering a high performance across all metrics for a moderate price. Meanwhile, the REI Trail 25L is a solid contender for nearly a fraction of the cost of other similarly performing bags, making it a great value.
When hiking, comfort is a key consideration for your gear, head to toe. What's on your back is one of the most important pieces. An ill-fitting or minimally padded pack can make your 12-mile day hike significantly less enjoyable. We also balanced this metric against each bag's intended usage. A pack built for long day hikes and a pack intended to be portable enough to bring anywhere for a spontaneous jaunt clearly aren't designed for the same things. And yet, both should be comfortable enough to not make you grumpy every time you use them. To balance these variable uses, we factored in the comfort rating as a quarter of each model's overall score. Packs that are adjustable received bumps in their scores since they allow customization to make the fit more comfortable for individual users.
We evaluated this category based on several things: how well the padding actually "padded" our hips, shoulders, and back, how well the hip belts helped carry the weight, if the design helped keep us cool while hiking, and if any annoying features impacted our comfort level. The standout in this metric is the Jade 28L. It has tons of padding in all the places we wanted it. It features a cushy, wide hip belt that feels like a backpack level of support. The Jade and Tempest also feature trampoline back panels for unparalleled ventilation. These two packs were amongst the most comfortable of any to wear in a variety of conditions loaded down with varying amounts of gear.
The Gregory Juno 24 is another superbly comfortable pack to wear. While many daypacks seem to have their own fit that feels as small as the bag, the Juno is as secure and well-fitted as a full backpack. It handily distributes weight across a wide hip belt and has one of the most effective back ventilation systems we've tested. The other top contender in this category was the Osprey Sirrus. The Sirrus also offers a well-padded hip belt and shoulder straps, an innovative back panel design to aid in ventilation, and some internal framing to help keep the contents of the pack off our backs.
Our high scorers for comfort were thoughtfully designed with a lot of technology put into them, and the results are often exceptional. The mesh on the Osprey Sirrus 24 never chafed (we did have a shirt on at all times), and it's impressive how cool it kept our backs — even in the sweltering summer months of the desert southwest. While the Deuter AC Lite had a well-ventilated pack panel, we found its padding was in such an awkward place that it wasn't super comfortable after all. The slightly-raised pads on the REI Trail 25 were surprisingly comfortable while allowing some airflow on hot days. The Black Diamond Nitro 22L comes close to this design, with mesh covering its padding, but the bulk of the pack still rests against our backs. This is not nearly as comfortable because it reduces airflow, and we can also feel the contents pushing into our backs.
Another design feature that affects our comfort on the trail is the hip belt. Most of the packs in this review have a load-bearing hip belt, but we still found a varying degree of comfort between some of them. The Osprey Tempest 20, Gregory Juno 24, and Gregory Jade 28 all have hip belts that effectively cover our hip bones with wide padding. The CamelBak Sequoia 24 had a wide, padded hipbelt that took the load off our shoulders once we got it adjusted, but the dual-wing system proved so awkward and cumbersome to adjust that it didn't end up scoring as well as others. The Black Diamond Nitro 22 hip belt also provides a good amount of coverage but has significantly thinner padding than the Jade or Juno. Some of the options we tested, like the REI Trail 25, Cotopaxi Luzon 24L, and REI Flash 18, have webbing-only hip belts. They'll help keep the bag from shifting around on your back, but they don't transfer any of the load off of your shoulders. We feel less comfortable in all of those models when carrying loads in them as a result. Both ultralight models we tested, the Osprey Ultralight and Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil, lack hip belts altogether but are best used for entirely different adventures than their counterparts.
We also paid close attention to the cut of the shoulder straps. We tested both unisex and women's specific packs in this line-up. Models geared toward women tend to have less space between the straps and feature a more exaggerated S-curve that better accommodates a narrower physique.
Versatility is another key purchase consideration — even the most comfortable pack will be of little use if it can't perform the tasks you need. Versatility is often dependent on the features a pack has (or lacks) have and how functional those features are. While some manufacturers seem to be throwing every possible feature imaginable into their pack designs, not all of these features are particularly useful. For example, there may be a daisy chain running down both sides of a pack, but how useful is that? Use that webbing to hook a whole bunch of gear to your bag, and you'll soon become a walking Christmas tree, which is neither sleek nor efficient. Alternatively, some relatively featureless packs can be incredibly versatile by packing down into a teeny tiny little pouch that fits into your pocket.
The Osprey Tempest 20 is an exceptionally versatile daypack, full of well-thought-out sport-oriented features from top to bottom. For example, a sunglasses stow loop makes transitioning between shades forests, and glaring ridgetops easier, while Osprey's LidLock bungee on the back quickly and easily stows your bike helmet. The Tempest is seemingly bursting with pockets you didn't know you couldn't live without, trekking pole quick stow loops you'll actually use, and space for two water bottles and a hydration sleeve.
The Osprey Sirrus is another top contender in this metric. It's fully loaded with super useful features that are handy for just about every possible adventure. From well-designed pockets throughout to quick-stow trekking pole cords and even a stashed rain cover, the Sirrus is convenient for all kinds of adventures. Notably, the Gregory Jade 28, REI Trail 25, and Deuter AC Lite also come with rain covers stowed away for emergencies.
We appreciate the super functional features of the Jade 28 for big missions. Its oversized hip belt has space for some of the largest pockets we've seen on a daypack hip belt — or even on most full-sized backpacks. The large capacity of the Jade also makes it a great pack to take on an overnight trip and ensures nothing you need gets left behind. The Juno 24 has simple yet highly functional symmetrical pockets with wide openings and intuitive shapes, making this one of the more versatile models we tested, regardless of what you tend to carry while you hike.
The Black Diamond Nitro, Cotopaxi Batac 16L, Cotopaxi Luzon, and REI Flash 18 are all unisex bags that are versatile across activities but in slightly differing ways. The Nitro is chalked full of useful features, like so many others, but can also be comfortably and easily used without wearing the hip belt, and instead, clipping it behind your bum to convert this daypack into a functional travel bag. The Batac is even simpler, with just enough pockets and features to be useful, but lacking a lot of the frills others can boast — like a hip belt, hydration hose hole, or padding. However, it's lightweight and impressively packable with a capacity that's large enough to get you through a day stuck in the airport or the office. Similar in versatility, the Luzon and Flash both make great bags for the gym or library due to their simple spaciousness.
Most of the packs we tested have one ice ax holder, which seems like a standard addition to a daypack even though only a fraction of hikers even use one. If you need to hold two ice axes though, look for something with two loops like the Black Diamond Nitro.
Most of the models that we tested are hydration bladder compatible in various ways, but only one, the CamelBak Sequoia, actually comes 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. Luckily, many of the packs we tested make it easy to use a bladder. They are handy for sports that require the use of your hands, like paddle boarding, biking, and even hiking with trekking poles.
A few packs stand out for their ability to pack up into their own very small pocket. The Osprey Ultralight Stuff Pack and Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil each weigh just a few ounces and each fold down into a package smaller than your fist. By cutting out features like a hip belt, extra pockets, and most loops and clips, these bags are instead versatile in that you can pack them in your luggage to Spain or keep them in your purse for an impromptu adventure.
Ease of Use
Scoring how easy each pack is to use was a two-pronged endeavor. Firstly, we packed and unpacked them to see how easy their organization, zippers, and overall design were to use. And secondly, we evaluated their adjustability. Daypacks are notorious for not having as much adjustability as a full 60-liter backpacking pack. Many manufacturers only offer them in one size, and there are often limited options for further adjustment, like load-lifting straps on the shoulders or hip belt tensioners. The other major factor we considered was how easy it was to use these adjustable features: how easy is it to tighten the hipbelt or adjust the sternum strap? We considered all these potential adjustable pieces and how they affected each bag's overall usability.
In general, packs with long zippers that extend far down the sides of the bag tend to be easier to load, unload, and find what you're looking for without dumping the whole thing on the ground. Additional pockets, both inside and outside, also help keep your things organized even during a Class 4 scramble. Most of the over-the-top, traditional backpack-style zippers allow for good access to the bottom of the pack. The increasingly popular U-shaped zipper that opens a flap on top of the bag is extremely useful as long as the opening isn't too small. Drawstring tops can be easy too, but generally have a smaller opening — making it much harder to load the pack through the smaller opening and greatly increasing the likelihood that you'll have to pull things out to find anything hiding near the bottom.
We are impressed with the models that have adjustable back panels. One of the most important things to getting a good fit is having the back panel line up with your torso length so that the shoulder straps and hip belt can be in the right place. If it's not, the hip belt won't work well, and you'll carry more of the load on your shoulders. Most of the packs in this review come in one size only, so learn how to measure your torso before choosing a pack to buy. The Osprey Sirrus and Tempest, and Gregory Jade are the packs we tested that have an adjustable torso length — though even those have limits.
Some models are offered in two sizes to cover a greater range of torso sizes, including the Gregory Jade and Osprey Tempest 20. Our chief tester is 5 feet, 4 inches tall, with a 17 to 17.5-inch torso, often falling on the cusp between sizes. The Tempest and the Jade run a bit on the small side. The padded section of the hip belt on the Tempest isn't the biggest, so it might not wrap as far around as you'd like. The Gregory Jade 28 and Juno 24 have great hip belt coverage.
We do appreciate that some packs have load-lifting straps on the shoulders, but we found that they are often ineffective. Once you've adjusted your hip belt and shoulder straps, the load-lifters are supposed to shift the weight closer to your back and stabilize your load while reducing the weight on your shoulders. For these straps to work, the body of the pack has to extend above the shoulder straps, which isn't usually the case with a daypack, since the body of the bag is so small. We really only noticed a slight difference using the load-lifters the Gregory models, likely because they're slightly larger bags and with bigger gaps between the back panel and shoulder strap anchors than most of the others we tested.
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.
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 heavier bags like the Osprey Sirrus 24 and Gregory Jade 28. Want something lightweight that still has all the regular comforts? Then you might have to sacrifice some durability, as super-thin nylon is not as indestructible in the long term compared to a thicker (and therefore heavier) material.
The Osprey Ultralight and Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil are the obvious winners in the weight category. At just 3.8 and 2.7 ounces, respectively, it's hard to beat that kind of minimalist weight. However, that kind of weight comes at a high cost to these bags' comfort and durability. The Osprey still has lightly padded shoulder straps and two extra pockets, but the Ultra-Sil has cut out those features and even removed the zipper pulls. Neither bag has a hip belt, and both are made of paper-thin nylon, which's just not as substantial as thicker, bulkier packs we tested.
Other notable packs in this metric are the REI Co-op Flash 18 and Cotopaxi Batac 16L. Both are much less technical packs, threading between the ultralight, featureless packable models and full-featured technical bags. This compromise trades comfort features like a padded hip belt and ventilated back panels for lighter-weight options like a webbing hip belt (or no hip belt, in the case of the Batac) and thinner nylon construction. Bags like these are great choices for varied use, from tossing them in your favorite suitcase for hiking distant destinations to using them to head to the gym or spend all day out running errands.
Lastly, we rated each different pack in this review for durability. A few of our top-rated bags we've been testing for several years now, but all models went through a minimum of several months of regular use and intense testing. We combed through online user reviews to look for durability concerns and patterns from the hundreds of other day packers out there. And we also evaluated them based on our extensive experience with outdoor gear.
We are quite impressed with the durability of the Osprey Sirrus 24, Black Diamond Nitro, Gregory Juno, and Camelbak Sequoia. The Sirrus, Nitro, and Juno are all three made of impressively sturdy 210-Denier nylon in the body with a double layer on the bottom, while the Sequoia is made of seriously beefy 420-Denier oxford nylon throughout. All four of these packs also feature reinforced seams, thick adjustable straps, heavy-duty plastic pieces, and minimal or thickly reinforced mesh. The Gregory Jade is also constructed of the same thick, 210-Denier nylon with a double layer on the bottom, but we aren't quite as wowed by the vast amount of holey mesh this pack presents for the world to snag on. Made of thick recycled nylon is the Trail 25 - another favorite for durability.
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, it can be challenging to find the perfect one for you. We hope our extensive testing and ratings will help you in your quest.
GearLab is founded on the principle of honest, objective, reviews. Our experts test thousands of products each year using thoughtful test plans that bring out key performance differences between competing products. And, to assure complete independence, we buy all the products we test ourselves. No cherry-picked units sent by manufacturers. No sponsored content. No ads. Just real, honest, side-by-side testing and comparison.