Daypacks buyers guide
Match your pack to your activity: the sweet spot for day hikes is 20-30 litres – for scrambling and climbing go for around 40 litres. This should give you enough space for the 10 Essentials, climbing gear, some food and drink and a few extras. For multi-day trips up the capacity to 50 litres plus.
Panel loader or top loader?
Daypacks are generally split into panel loaders – which have a U shaped front zip opening and are great for fast and easy access, and top loaders – which close securely with a drawstring system, although they can be more awkward to find stuff in.
It’s important to measure your torso before buying a pack as the wrong torso length could make the pack uncomfortable, especially for long hikes. Some have an adjustable torso length, which helps with fine tuning. A good daypack will come with a hip belt and sternum strap as a minimum. Some will also have side compression straps and load lifters for extra stability.
Look for packs with good ventilation on the back panel, whether through channels in the padding or through a mesh back panel that won't trap sweat and heat on your back.
6 of the best
Osprey Talon 22 | £90
BEST FOR Multi-activity adventurers
Osprey’s Talon 22 backpack sits firmly in the technical daypack range but hints at uses other than hiking with its LidLock helmet attachment system. The Airscape back panel combines mesh and foam to keep your back well ventilated and comfortable but also keeps the load close to your body for better stability – working well with the comfortable, well-padded hip belt. We like the adjustable torso length too – which is just one of many, many features, crammed into the Talon with hardly any weight penalty, and really makes this pack a jack of all outdoor trades.
VERDICT This daypack that hits the sweet spot for multi-activity adventurers looking for one pack that can do it all.
Fjallraven kaipak 28 | £120
BEST FOR Reliable performance without complications
Rugged and well-designed, the Kaipak is built to handle the majority of the elements but it also has an integrated reflective rain cover just in case. All the basic requirements of a daypack can be found here with priority given to the fundamentals. The main compartment of the pack is spacious and the light grey inner makes it easy to locate gear. A separate zippered front pocket provides quick access to maps, food and essentials, and the trekking pole attachments are straightforward and user-friendly. It's instantly comfortable too.
VERDICT Well-made and designed but a bit heavy and pricey. Definitely for those who want to keep things simple.
Vaude Brenta 25 | £90
BEST FOR Sweat-free load hucking in hot climates
The Brenta 25 is the little sister of the award winning Brenta 30 backpack. It’s designed for hiking but will happily take on all kinds of load lugging duties. Highlights include an excellent mesh back panel, which holds the body of the pack 2-3 inches away from your back, adjustable torso length and integrated rain cover. The hip belt and shoulder straps have a modicum of padding and we like the hip belt cut outs – all of which means the Brenta carries its load really well. You get versatility too, via an array of tool attachment points and pockets.
VERDICT A capable, comfortable, well designed daypack with plenty of features and versatility making it excellent value.
Black Diamond Nitro Pack 22 | £96
BEST FOR Fast, light all-sport mountain lovers
This is a great 3-season hill backpack for people who like to move fast over rough terrain. Fully featured with ice axe loops and pole and helmet storage pockets the Nitro also sports BD’s excellent reACTIVE carrying system. The bag took time to figure out but it was more than worth it, as once dialled, it moves with you – so a good choice for mountain bikers and adventure racers too. We loved the ingenious expanding bellow side pockets too but mourned the lack of waterproof zips or raincover.
VERDICT A great bag for fast hill travellers who appreciate a great load carrying system, versatility and multiple uses.
Haglofs Roc Helios 25 | £100
BEST FOR Rock climbers, fast and light alpinists
First impression is one of quality, simplicity and toughness; this pack will take many years of abuse and rock abrasion. Which is as well, as ice axe loops and top mounted rope strap give away its intended use on rock faces. A small side pocket with key clip and an inner sleeve pocket are its only real features along with a removable bungee cord.
It's comfortable and weather resistant when worn over a shell or soft shell, but a lack of any venting can make it feel hot and sweaty on hotter days. We would prefer to see a top opening – though plenty won't!
VERDICT Low profile simplicity will suit climbers, hill and mountain walkers who don't like fussing with pockets.
Mountain Hardwear Scrambler 30 OutDry | £85
BEST FOR Hardcore multi-adventurers
This tough bag is suitable for many sports and activities and has an ergonomic fit that works as well for summer hikes as it does for a day’s winter cragging or mountain biking. It's well made, well thought out, has back venting that works, and it's even waterproof. Packed with features – ice axe loops, compression straps, integrated hydration sleeve, and more, the Scrambler is also hugely versatile, making it excellent value for anyone who only wants to shell out on one pack.
VERDICT A neat functional, well-made, water-proof day pack for a number of varied sports and hill uses at a great price.