Best Daypack for Hiking: Backpack Roundup and Review

Travel and backpacking, both in the wilderness and in urban environments, are activities that are near and dear to our hearts here at Unwork to Travel. That is why we decided to write this series of reviews on backpacks for different uses. But did you know that the first quality packs we ever bought were not for backpacking at all, but rather for day hiking? Discovering day hiking, particularly peak bagging the mountains of Southern California was life-changing for us. Now, we are here to help you choose the best daypack for your hiking needs!

What to look for in a hiking daypack

Size and Weight

Unlike larger hiking backpacks for extended trips in the wilderness, hiking daypacks are small and not meant to carry too much weight. This means that the packs aren’t going to need to be as heavy themselves, to support the heavier loads that a larger pack would be asked to carry. Still, Generally, these packs should fall in the 20-28 l range, and weigh around 1-2.5 lb.

Organization and Accessibility

Unlike travel backpacks, or even multiday hiking backpacks, you will not be pulling clothing, camping, or cooking items out your day hiking backpack day after day. That means that the pack’s accessibility features are not going to be as important as with larger packs for extended trips, but easier access to your gear is always going to be a plus!

Comfort is King!

As in our review of the Best Hiking Backpacks for Multiday Backpacking, comfort should be your top priority when choosing a hiking daypack. The nature of a day hike is that you are often hiking all day, with your daypack on your back. The best daypack for you will be the one that feels the best while you do it!

Our Picks

1. Best all-around daypack: Osprey Stratos 24

2. Do it all: travel, edc, and day hiking backpack: Kelty Redwing 32

3. Lightweight, versatile outdoor backpack: Osprey Talon & Tempest 22

4. Ultralight hiking daypack: Deuter Speed Lite 20

5. Budget, ultralight daypack: Rei Co-op Flash 22

We participate in affiliate programs to help us fund this blog. Some of the links below are affiliate links, which means that if you purchase a product using our link, we will earn a small commission. Don’t worry! This comes at no additional cost to you, and we will never base our reviews on whether or not we earn a commission off of a product. With that said, if you find our review helpful and decide to purchase one of the packs below, we would be very appreciative if you use our links to do so. It will help us bring you more awesome content in the future!

The Osprey Stratos 24, also available as the women’s specific Sirrus 24, is Osprey’s top of the line daypack for hiking. It is as robust and feature rich as a pack comes. This is our top pick for hiking daypacks, and the pack that I used for virtually all of our Southern California adventures whether hiking or climbing.

Size and Weight

At 24 liters, you might be hard-pressed to get much overnight use out of the Stratos, but it is also available in 36 and 50 l versions for those who want a pack to pull double duty as a day hiking and overnight/weekend use backpack. Furthermore, I have used my Stratos for overnight trips in warm weather and it did quite well!

That is because it is as robust a pack as you will find among packs aimed at day hikes. This means that it can carry heavier loads more comfortably than most of the competition. Of course, this comes with a tradeoff, as the pack itself weighs in at 2lb 11 oz. Interestingly, Osprey eschews its usual approach of multiple sized packs for a single sized-adjustable pack, capable of accommodating longer or shorter torsos.

Features and Accessibility

Many day hiking backpacks follow the model of larger packs intended for multiday use and feature vertical access to the main compartment. The Stratos bucks this trend, using a dual zip access for the main compartment, which makes reaching in for an extra layer, pair of gloves, or that sandwich that you packed for lunch a quick and painless experience.

The Stratos 24 also features a vertical front panel storage compartment, rather than the usual mesh front compartment that most daypacks use. While not quite as convenient to access, it keeps gear much dryer and better protected, so it is a bit of a tradeoff.

A horizontal zip pocket on the top of the pack is perfect for stashing a phone or pair of sunglasses, while hip belt pockets give you quick access to snacks or a GPS. The Stratos also features dual mesh side water bottle pockets. However, the Stratos suffers from the all too frequent Osprey issue of compression straps coming right across them, rendering them useless.

Other features include Osprey’s stow on the go trekking pole loops, an ice ax loop and tie off, built in rainfly, and upper and lower compression straps. For what it’s worth, I do think the compression straps are a net positive, but it would still be nice to actually be able to use a water bottle pocket for a change.

Comfort and Suspension

The Osprey Stratos 24 features Osprey’s Airspeed suspension system, which is a paired down version of the Osprey AG (antigravity) system, found on their larger backpacks. And if you want my two cents, it is the perfect fit on the Stratos 24. In fact, it was actually the Stratos’ Airspeed suspension system that made me fall in love with Osprey’s outdoor packs my first day on the trail with it.

The suspension does an amazing job of transferring the weight from your shoulders to your hips, while simultaneously moving the pack away from your back, keeping you as cool as you could hope to be on those sweltering summer day hikes. Meanwhile, a generously padded hip belt makes the pack sit comfortably on your hips, without digging in.

What Did We Really Think?

If you have read our other product reviews and comparisons, then you know that I do not always go all in and endorse a particular product. That is not the case here, as I am prepared to go full on fanboy for this pack. Of course, just because it is the best day pack for me does not mean that it will be perfect for you. There are those who will not even consider a hiking daypack that is over 2.5 lb, and that is fine. Furthermore, the fit of a pack is always very individual, so there is no guarantee that it will fit you as well as it does me.

With that said, however, If you want a backpack for day hikes that has every feature you could ask for, is as sturdy as they come, and has a best in class suspension system, then the Osprey Stratos 24 is where I would start. And at only around $130, it is the most expensive pack on the list, but not by a very wide margin.

Osprey Stratos 24 (Men’s)

Osprey Sirrus 24 (Women’s)

Size and WeightThe Kelty Redwing 32 is something of an odd man out on this list. It is significantly larger than the other packs, and I think that it is also by far the best suited to double as an around town edc backpack and your daypack for hiking. In fact, I almost included it in our Best EDC Backpack roundup rather than our hiking backpack roundup. But in the end, I just felt that as good as it is as an edc backpack, it is as a day hiking backpack that it really shines.

Size and Weight

At 32 l, it is far and away the largest pack on our list. However, it still weighs in at a very respectable 2 lb! Its higher carrying capacity gives it a great deal of flexibility for use as a day hiking backpack, overnight hiking backpack, edc backpack, or even a travel backpack, although it is technically over the carry on limit for most airlines. It is a one size fits all, gender-neutral backpack.

Features and Accessibility

The Kelty Redwing 32 features a “hybrid loading U zipper,” which allows you to access your gear from the top, or zip it further down to access from the side. This will be particularly useful if you want this pack to pull double or triple duty as a travel, edc, and hiking backpack. It also features a horizontal top zippered pocket and a front stash pocket secured by buckles, outside of which is a vertical zip front access storage compartment, great for quick access to electronics or maps.

Other features include dual ice ax or trekking pole attachments, dual stretch mesh side water bottle pockets, a hideaway carry handle and daisy chain loop, lower side compression straps, and an upper wrap around compression strap. To top this off, the Redwing 32 even has a water bladder compartment that can actually hold its own as a padded laptop sleeve. This is the only pack on the list that I would feel good about putting my laptop in, and its “laptop compartment” is even better than a few packs on our best edc backpack list.

Suspension and Comfort

The Kelty Redwing 32 lacks a true internal frame but does feature a stiff frame sheet, which does a decent enough job of transferring the weight of the pack down to your hips. However, as a fairly large pack, if you really pack it down then it is going to struggle under the load. The frame sheet’s case is not helped by a pretty minimal hip belt, although it is a huge step up from the day packs that only feature nylon webbing hip belts. Furthermore, the hip belt hides away for use on planes or when you don’t need it. However, it is not terribly comfortable when hidden away, and this is one of the few instances where doing it all well really held this pack back from doing one thing great.

The shoulder straps and back panel both feature ample padding, wrapped in 3D hex mesh to provide airflow. Meanwhile, the back panel uses a large piece of padding on each corner to channel airflow. While it will not compete with the Osprey Stratos or Talon, in this regard, it is sure to be the next most breathable pack on the list.

What Did We Really Think?

The lack of a true internal frame is the only thing that holds the Kelty Redwing 32 back from contending for the top spot on our list. And perhaps the fact that its size and features make it so well rounded that it just can’t compete with the Osprey Stratos 24 as the best hiking backpack.

If you want a backpack for day hikes and overnight trips, then the Osprey Stratos has no equal. However, if you want a pack that is still a top-notch hiking backpack for day hikes and overnighters, which can also hold its own in virtually every other arena that you might need a backpack, then the Kelty Redwing 32 is going to be a tough pack to beat. And its roughly $100 price point puts it squarely in the middle of the packs on the list, so it is a great value.

 

Kelty Redwing 32

 

If there is a pack on the list more popular than the Osprey Stratos 24, it is the Osprey Talon 22, which is also available as the women’s specific Tempest 22. Osprey describes the Talon/Tempest backpack series as “iconic,” and there is no doubt that it is. Whether you are at an adventure race, a mountain bike trail, the summit of Mount Baldy, or the local climbing crag, you are sure to see the Osprey Talon well represented. So, what makes this pack so popular? Let’s find out!

Size and Weight

If the Stratos 24 is Osprey’s ultra robust, ultra feature rich hiking day pack, then the Talon 22 is their ultralight do anything day pack. Our pick for the best day hiking option is the 22 l, which is available in two sizes and weighs in at only 1lb  12.6 oz for the medium and 1 lb 11 oz for the small, the Osprey Talon 22 shaves a full lb off of the Stratos 24.

It is not going to carry a load quite as well as the Stratos or even the Redwing. However, it is more than stout enough for what most people take on a day hike and should you want to carry more, it is also available in 33 and 44 l variants. On the other hand, comes in an 11 l option if you carry almost nothing, and a 6 l lumbar pack version is available for those who just need a place to stash their water and keys while on a run.

Features and Accessibility

The Osprey Talon 22 features the same dual zip access to the main compartment that the Stratos does, and this is a huge point in its favor. This is a feature that might have been left out on such an ultralight backpack, but I think its inclusion really serves to elevate the Talon over some of its lightweight competition.

The Talon features many of the standard, day hiking backpack features found on similar Osprey packs, including stow on the go trekking pole attachments, side mesh water bottle holders, a horizontal top zippered compartment, dual hip belt pockets, and lower side compression straps.

But the Talon 22 has more than the average number of tricks up its sleeve. Osprey describes the pack as a “quiver killer,” which could replace all of the more niche packs that you only use for one purpose. In this vein, the Talon 22 comes equipped with ice tool loops, a helmet attachment, and a blinking light attachment. This is a pack that is trying to be a do it all outdoor adventure pack, and it is making a serious run at being just that.

Comfort and Suspension

Obviously, the Talon 22 had to make some cuts somewhere to shave a full lb off of our top pick, the Stratos 24. So far, we haven’t really run into any of those cuts, and that is because they are all right here.

Osprey ditched the vaunted Airspeed suspension and back panel in favor of the lighter Airscape back panel. Furthermore, there is no frame to speak of, with the Talon 22 relying on more of a frame sheet, which is commonly found on urban EDC packs and hiking backpacks that put weight savings at a premium.

Still, the Talon has a comfortable, seamless hip belt, which is often lost on ultralight hiking packs, and the “Airscape” back panel does provide decent ventilation.

In short, the Talon 22 is a comfortable enough pack with a suspension system that is on the upper side of average. It is mostly hurt by the fact that the Stratos’s suspension system is so good, that anything less than outstanding looks sub par.

What Did We Really Think?

I know that I have given Osprey a hard time over some of their travel backpacks and niche backpacking backpacks. However, the Talon 22 is a perfect example of what makes Osprey the backpacking giant of North America. It is a lightweight, extremely versatile pack that will be your best friend as a hiking backpack, bikepack, and all around adventure pack.

If you are a gram counting madman and don’t want the extra lb for the Stratos 24, or if performance on long grueling day hikes is only a portion of what you want out of a versatile, multi-sport backpack, then the Osprey Talon 22 might be the best backpack for you. And in the neighborhood of $110, it is a lot of pack for the money, especially if you use it in place of two or three specialty backpacks.

Osprey Talon 22 (Men’s)

Osprey Tempest 22 (Women’s)

Deuter is another old-school outdoor company. While perhaps not as popular as Osprey, Deuter is a quality company that has been making top-notch outdoor gear for quite some time. And that experience in the backcountry definitely shows with their ultralight daypack, the Deuter Day Speed Lite 20.

Size and Weight

At just 20 l, the Speed Lite 20 is the lowest volume pack on our list, and at a feathery 1lb 1oz, it is the second lightest. While the Osprey Talon 22 walks a fine line between being a fully featured, multi-sport daypack and ultralight pack, the Deuter Speed Lite 20 does no such thing. This is an ultralight daypack for hiking and not much else.

Features and Accessibility

Don’t be put off by the fact that the Speed Lite does not boast as many features as other packs on the list. That is just the nature of being a true, ultralight pack. But if you are only going to offer a few features, then what you offer had better be good and the Speed light does not disappoint.

The Speed Lite 20 offers great upper side compression straps. While many ultralight backpacks skimp out on good compression systems, they are often the packs that need them most, since their suspension systems tend to be more minimalist.

It also features a top horizontal zipper pocket, side mesh water bottle pockets not covered by compression straps, and a unique, dual side entry front mesh quick stash compartment. The Speed Lite 20 also takes a page out of the Talon’s playbook and caters to bikepackers, including helmet and blinking light attachments. Finally, it uses the same dual zipper entry to the main compartment as the Osprey Talon and Stratos, which is a huge plus in my estimation.

And I would be remiss if I did not reiterate that the Speed Lites real “feature,” is its weight.

Suspension and Comfort

Like the Talon 24, it is in the suspension and comfort department where the weight saving cuts of the Speed Lite are really felt. However, unlike the Talon 24, the Speed Lite 20 does offer a U shaped delrin (plastic) frame. The lack of any real frame was what really held the Talon’s suspension system back, and it is a huge boon for the ultralight speed light. Furthermore, the Speed Lite also features well padded, air mesh, S shaped shoulder straps, which tend to be a huge boon for women and men with larger pecs.

Unfortunately, while the U shaped frame should help the transfer the packs load to your hips, the Speed Lite only uses a simple piece of nylon webbing as a hip belt. These are fairly common on edc backpacks, and ultralight packs focused on runners or skiers, where its purpose is to keep the pack from bouncing around during movement. Sadly, it offers almost nothing in the way of weight distribution.

Meanwhile, the back panel does nothing to move the pack away from your back in the name of airflow, which is a probably a good move since it does not feature a substantial hip belt to reattach the load to your hips. Instead, it is covered in the same mesh as the shoulder straps, which provides about as much airflow as it could for something sitting directly on you.

What Did We Really Think?

The Deuter Speed Lite is a great daypack for easy day hikes, bicycle commutes, or skiing around the resort: basically, any activity that you will pack light enough for that you don’t mind your shoulders carrying the entirety of the load. In all honesty, it was really a toss up between the Speed Lite 20 and the Osprey Talon 22 for third place on the list. I went with the Talon because, personally, I find the hip belt and versatility worth the extra ounces.

On the other hand, if you don’t plan on needing a beefier hip belt, or if you want the pack to double as a daily carry and value the removable hip belt, then the Deuter Speed Lite might be the best day pack for you! Furthermore, the Speed Lite can generally be had for around $80, so it is an amazing buy if you are looking for a great, budget backpack.

Deuter Speed Lite 20

REI is an outdoor powerhouse retailer in the U.S. selling gear made by the biggest and best brands in the world. However, their own in-house gear line tends to be an excellent buy for outdoor enthusiasts on a budget, and that is exactly what the popular REI Flash 22 backpack aims to be, while being as light as a feather, to boot.

Size and Weight

If the Deuter Speed Lite 20 was ultralight, then the REI Flash 22 is taking things to a whole different level. Like the Deuter Speed Lite, the REI Flash 22 is available in only one size, and is a gender neutral option. And that option weighs in at only 14.5 oz, making it the only sub 1 lb hiking day pack in our best day pack roundup.

And if you are looking for a bit more or less of the Flash 22, it is also available in 18, 45, and 60 l options. We did a full review of the REI Flash 45, which you can find here.

Features and Accessibility

Unlike the packs above, the Flash 22 features the traditional, backpacking pack style drawstring top entry access to the main compartment. Personally, I do not love this style of access, but it is also not a deal breaker. This entrance is covered by a lid with a horizontal zippered pocket for quick access. The flash 22 also features dual mesh side pockets, a vertical, side entry quick stash front pocket, loops for trekking poles or ice axes, and multiple lash points for attaching it to a larger pack or carrying climbing gear.

I don’t generally get into the aesthetics when reviewing outdoor packs, but the REI Flash 22 and other flash backpacks are available in a fairly wide array of colors and designs, so if standing out in the backcountry is on your agenda, this is a pack that can help you do it.

And like the Deuter Speed Lite above, the real standout feature here is this pack’s ultralight weight, and its ultralight price, at only 54.95.

Suspension and Comfort

As with all things in life, there are tradeoffs. For a pack to be this light and this cheap, something had to suffer, and we are at that point. The REI Flash 22 features by far the most minimal suspension system of any pack on the list.

This is really just a rucksack with shoulder straps, and those shoulder straps are very lightly padded, but they are made of quite breathable mesh. It has no frame sheet or frame to speak of, and features simple, removable, nylon webbing hip straps. As for the back panel, it uses four pads to separate you from the contents of your pack and provide a bit of airflow.

What Did We Really Think?

This is a really cheap, really light daypack. However, to get it so cheap and so light, it really is just a rucksack with shoulder straps, so you are not going to want to carry anything substantial in it for any amount of distance. That said, it is certainly the most packable daypack on the list, making it a great option to pack into a base camp and use for peak bagging and climbing, which its rucksack style also makes it a great choice for. It is so light you would hardly notice it on the hike in, and at $54.95, it is certainly a great value.

Packs Not On The List

Three packs that could and perhaps should have been on this list are the GoRuck GR1, Osprey Daylite Plus, Patagonia Black Hole 25. However, while these are great backpacks for day hiking, I felt that their best application was as edc backpacks. You can read our full review and comparison of them here, and decide if they are edc backpacks worthy of joining you on the trails!

Ready To Hit The Trails?

As I finish typing this, we are about to go and hit the trails ourselves! Hopefully, this article will help motivate you to do the same, and help you pick the perfect day pack to be your companion!

Do you have a strong opinion about one of the packs on the list, or one that you would like to see added? Let us know in the comments below!

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Disclosures

We participate in affiliate programs to help us fund this blog. Some of the links on this page are affiliate links, which means that if you purchase a product using our link, we will earn a small commission. Don’t worry! This comes at no additional cost to you, and we will never base our reviews on whether or not we earn a commission off of a product. With that said, if you find our review helpful and decide to purchase one of the packs below, we would be very appreciative if you use our links to do so. It will help us bring you more awesome content in the future!

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