Select Page

Gear Review: The 8 Best Hiking Daypacks of 2019

Gear Review: The 8 Best Hiking Daypacks of 2019

By Michael Lanza

Choosing a daypack for hiking can seem simple—until you see the dozens of choices out there today, which range all over the map in terms of volume, weight, carrying capacity, features, and cost. Look no further. The eight daypacks reviewed here stand out as the best available today—and this review describes the subtle differences between them to help you find the right pack for your own hiking adventures.

Plus, right now, you’ll find some of them at sharply reduced sale prices.

Buying Tips

Before buying, consider what you need a daypack for. How much stuff will you carry? That partly depends on where, when, and how far you hike. What kind of pack design suits your dayhiking style: low- or high-capacity? Lightweight and minimalist, or with an assortment of pockets and features? Built to carry plenty of gear, clothing, food, and water, or a light load? Armored for hard abuse, or mostly for cruising good trails?

Here are some details to consider when choosing a daypack:

  • Volume/Capacity—For most three-season dayhikes where you’re carrying the usual stuff (clothing, food, water, some incidentals like a camera), a daypack between 16 liters and 22 liters has enough space, with the lower end of that range best for hikers who prioritize a streamlined, lightweight design, and the upper end of that range for hikers who may need extra space on some hikes. For outings that are unusually gear-intensive—or if you’re carrying stuff for another person—look to a pack with 28 liters or more capacity. If you’re carrying bare essentials in good weather, a 12-liter daypack may be fine.
  • Suspension—We all have our own idea of how much weight is comfortable in a daypack, but how much weight a pack can comfortably carry largely depends on its internal frame (if there is one) and suspension (the shoulder straps and waist belt). Super light daypacks—under roughly 1.5 pounds—typically offer minimal support, and putting more than 10 to 12 pounds inside may compromise their comfort, which simply means that your body will feel the weight more. Daypacks designed to carry upwards of 15 to 20 pounds (or more) comfortably typically have a metal wire frame and/or a plastic framesheet to maintain the pack’s shape and focus most of the weight onto your hips, as well as adequately padded shoulder straps and waist belt.
  • Fit—As with backpacks, fit is critical to carrying comfort, especially the more weight you’re putting inside the daypack. Low-capacity daypacks designed to carry no more than about 10 pounds often come in one size, while larger-capacity daypacks will come in two or three sizes and men’s and women’s models, to help you find a better fit. See my story “Top 5 Tips for Buying the Right Backpacking Pack” for instructions on how to measure your torso to fit a backpack or daypack.
  • Organization—Quick access to the main compartment—usually in the form of a clamshell-style zipper, or a vertical side zipper if the pack has a lid that buckles down—and multiple pockets on the outside offer great convenience, which can save you time. So do little details like attachments for trekking poles and an ice axe. Those features also add cost, weight, and some bulk to a pack. Look at a pack’s organization and consider how important compartmentalization is to you, and how much stuff you want to have within reach while actually wearing the pack.
  • Materials—Many daypacks for hiking are made with similar or basically the same materials, from a reasonably durable body fabric and tougher fabric on the bottom, to stretch-mesh external pockets that are more vulnerable to tearing, and perforated, breathable foam in the back panel, shoulder straps, and waist belt. But some daypacks are built with tougher materials that will withstand much more abuse—sometimes (but not always) adding weight and cost, but sometimes also worth those tradeoffs. Again, this comes down to how you plan to use the pack, but look at those details closely.

The comparison chart offers a quick look at features that distinguish the packs from one another. Each of the short reviews below the chart includes a link to my complete review of the pack.

DaypackPriceVolumeWeightCarrying CapacityFeatures
The North Face Chimera 18$10018L/1,098 c.i.1 lb. 1 oz.15 lbs.* Zipper access to main compartment
* Unique harness and compression
* 6 pockets
Hyperlite Mountain Gear Daybreak$23017L/1,040 c.i.1 lb. 4 oz.12 lbs.* Waterproof and highly durable
* Zipper access to main compartment
* 4 pockets
Gregory Miwok 18/Maya 16$10016-18L/976-1,098 c.i.1 lb. 12 oz.15 lbs.* Men's and women's models
* Ventilating harness, hipbelt, back panel
* 6 pockets
Osprey Talon 22 and Tempest 20$11020-22L/1,220-1,343 c.i. (men's Talon)
18-20L/1,098-1,220 c.i. (women's Tempest)
1 lb. 11 oz. (men's S/M)15 lbs.* Men's and women's models
* Ventilating back panel
* 6 pockets
Patagonia Nine Trails 20$12920L/1,220 c.i.1 lb. 11 oz.15 lbs.* Zipper access to main compartment
* Men's and women's models
* Highly breathable back panel
* 6 external pockets
Gregory Citro 20/Juno 20$12020L/1,708 c.i.2 lbs. 3.5 oz.15-20 lbs.* Zipper access to main compartment
* Men's and women's models
* Ventilating back panel
* 6 external pockets
Exped Skyline 15$12915L/915 c.i.2 lbs. 5 oz.20+ lbs.* Unique hybrid suspension
* Two zippers accessing main compartment
* 4 external pockets
* Rain cover
Deuter Trail Pro 36 and Trail Pro 34 SL$16536L/2,197 c.i.3 lbs. 7 oz.25-35 lbs.* Zipper access to main compartment
* Men's and women's models
* Large carrying capacity, multiple features
* 6 external pockets
* rain cover
The North Face Chimera 18.
The North Face Chimera 18.

The North Face Chimera 18

$100, 18L/1,098 c.i., 1 lb. 1 oz.
moosejaw.com

You don’t expect this much from a daypack weighing just 17 ounces, but the Chimera 18 exhibits surprising comfort and versatility even for long hikes with up to 15 pounds inside. From Glacier and Zion national parks to a 21-mile, 10,000+-vertical-foot, rim-to-rim dayhike across the Grand Canyon, this featherweight felt quite comfortable. TNF’s unique DynoCinch System, adjustable using cords within reach when wearing the pack, compresses the load to improve stability, and the harness disperses the load across wide shoulder straps while keeping the pack’s empty weight down. Its organization features quick access to zippered main compartments plus mesh pockets on the shoulder straps. All in all, a great quiver-of-one daypack.

Read my complete review of The North Face Chimera 18.

BUY IT NOW You can support my work on this blog by clicking this link to purchase a men’s or women’s The North Face Chimera 18 at moosejaw.com or rei.com, a men’s or women’s Chimera 24 at moosejaw.com or rei.com.

 

Find your next adventure in your Inbox. Sign up for my FREE email newsletter now.

 

Hyperlite Mountain Gear Daybreak
Hyperlite Mountain Gear Daybreak

Hyperlite Mountain Gear Daybreak

$230, 17L/1,040 c.i., 1 lb. 4 oz.
hyperlitemountaingear.com

Lightweight and tough aren’t adjectives I often use together when describing gear, but they both apply to the Daybreak, which I’ve used dayhiking, on multi-pitch rock climbs, and ski touring. The ultralight, waterproof Dyneema fabric (the zipper’s also waterproof) got dragged over rock without suffering damage. With a thin, flexible back pad and no frame, you can roll the Daybreak up and strap it to the outside of a backpack. Carrying 12 pounds comfortably, this minimalist bag has four pockets—including a large, front, bellows pocket—and comes in three sizes, very unusual for a daypack. Despite always testing new daypacks, I consistently grab this for dayhikes and multi-pitch rock climbs.

Read my complete review of the Hyperlite Mountain Gear Daybreak.

BUY IT NOW You can support my work on this blog by clicking this link to purchase a Hyperlite Mountain Gear Daybreak at hyperlitemountaingear.com.


Hi, I’m Michael Lanza, creator of The Big Outside, which has made several top outdoors blog lists. Click here to sign up for my FREE email newsletter. Join The Big Outside to get full access to all of my blog’s stories. Click here to learn how I can help you plan your next trip. Please follow my adventures on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Youtube.


 

Gregory Miwok 18/Maya 16

$100, 18L/1,098 c.i., 1 lb. 12 oz.
moosejaw.com

Gregory’s 2019 update of these classic, lightweight men’s and women’s daypacks retains all that makes them outstanding—but most notably changes the formerly fixed suspension to an adjustable one, making these the only sub-three-pound daypacks reviewed here that are adjustable. Using the Miwok 18 on a trek through Spain’s Picos de Europa Mountains, I found it comfortable carrying up to 15 pounds, and I love its multi-featured design, from the six external pockets to the zippered bladder sleeve outside the main compartment and the attachment for sunglasses or collapsed trekking poles on the left shoulder strap. Among the lightest daypacks, the Miwok and Maya are also among the most versatile.

Read my complete review of the 2019 Miwok 18 and Maya 16.

BUY IT NOW You can support my work on this blog by clicking any of these links to purchase a men’s Gregory Miwok 12, Miwok 18, or Miwok 24 at moosejaw.com, ems.com, or rei.com, or a women’s Maya 10, Maya 16, or Maya 22 at moosejaw.com, ems.com, or rei.com. You can also find previous versions of the Miwok on sale at ems.com, or rei.com, and the Maya on sale at ems.com, or rei.com.

 

Want more? See “The 20 Best National Park Dayhikes” and “Extreme Hiking: America’s Best Hard Dayhikes.”

 
Osprey Talon 22
Osprey Talon 22

Osprey Talon 22/Tempest 20

$110, 20L/1,220 c.i., 1 lb., 11 oz.
moosejaw.com

From a 14-mile, nearly 3,000-foot round-trip dayhike up 11,049-foot Telescope Peak, the highest in Death Valley National Park, to the rugged hike up Cerro Chato in Costa Rica, the Talon 22 carried up to 15 pounds comfortably, thanks to a suspension featuring a flexible, plastic framesheet, and a seamless, foam hipbelt that forms one continuous piece with the nicely ventilated mesh back panel. Unusually feature-rich for daypacks that weigh in well under two pounds, the men’s Talon and women’s Tempest sport easy access to the main compartment via a big clamshell zipper, and multiple pockets on the hipbelt, sides, top, and front, as well as handy attachments for trekking poles, a bike helmet, and a light. They’re among the most versatile multi-sport daypacks on the market.

Read my complete review of the Osprey Talon 22 and Tempest 20.

BUY IT NOW You can support my work on this blog by clicking any of these links to purchase a men’s Osprey Talon 22 at moosejaw.com, ems.com, or rei.com, or a women’s Osprey Tempest 20 at moosejaw.com, ems.com, or rei.com. Or buy another size of the Talon from 11L to 44L at moosejaw.com, ems.com, or rei.com, or another size of the Tempest from 9L to 40L at moosejaw.com, ems.com, or rei.com.

 

You live for the outdoors. The Big Outside helps you get out there. Join now and a get free e-guide!

 

Patagonia Nine Trails 20.
Patagonia Nine Trails 20.

Patagonia Nine Trails 20L

$129, 20L/1,220 c.i., 1 lb. 11 oz.
moosejaw.com

When you’re only carrying food, water, clothing, and some incidentals, a pack for all-day hikes need not be over-engineered. Sometimes having less occurs by design, in service to functionality. Light on your back but offering all the space and features you need, the men’s Nine Trail 20L and women’s Nine Trails 18L dispenses with the traditional buckle-down lid for a U-shaped top zipper to access the main compartment. It also has six external pockets—and most distinctively, a three-layer, ventilated back panel with a PE framesheet that gives it the support to carry at least 15 pounds comfortably.

See my complete review of the Patagonia Nine Trails 20L.

BUY IT NOW You can support my work on this blog by clicking any of these links to purchase a men’s Patagonia Nine Trails 20L at moosejaw.com or patagonia.com, the men’s Nine Trails 28L at moosejaw.com, patagonia.com, or rei.com, or the men’s Nine Trails 14L at moosejaw.com or patagonia.com. Or buy the women’s Nine Trails 26L at moosejaw.com or patagonia.com, or the women’s Nine Trails 18L at moosejaw.com or patagonia.com.

 

Want to hike the Teton Crest Trail, JMT, or another trip? Click here for expert advice you won’t get elsewhere.

 

Gregory Citro 20 front.
Gregory Citro 20.

Gregory Citro 20/Juno 20

$120, 20L/1,708 c.i., 2 lbs. 3.5 oz.
moosejaw.com

The men’s Citro 20 and women’s Juno 20 are arguably the lightest daypacks that offer excellent organization and the support and comfort for carrying up to 20 pounds, as well as the versatility to crossover from dayhiking to bike commuting and other activities. A lightweight, wire perimeter frame with a leaf-spring in the lumbar area transfers much of the pack weight onto your hips, and Gregory’s moisture-wicking, VaporSpan back panel ventilates nicely. The main compartment is accessed quickly via a convenient, clamshell-style zipper, and there are six external pockets, side compression, and attachments for axes and poles.

Read my complete review of the Gregory Citro 20/Juno 20.

BUY IT NOW You can support my work on this blog by clicking any of these links to purchase a Gregory Citro 20 at moosejaw.com or ems.com, the Citro 25 at moosejaw.comems.com, or rei.com, or the Citro 30 at moosejaw.com or ems.com. Or buy the Gregory Juno 20 at moosejaw.com or ems.com, the Juno 25 at moosejaw.comems.com, or rei.com, or the Juno 30 at moosejaw.com or ems.com.

 

Plan your next great backpacking trip in Yosemite, Grand Teton, or other parks using my expert e-guides.

 

Exped Skyline 15
Exped Skyline 15

Exped Skyline 15

$129, 19L/915 c.i., 2 lbs. 5 oz.
moosejaw.com

Real technological innovation happens rarely in daypacks, so Exped’s Switchback suspension represents a leap forward. With one quick and simple adjustment, it essentially shape-shifts the Skyline 15 between two different types of pack: with a gap between your back and the pack, maximizing air flow to keep you cool; or with a spine-hugging back panel to deliver the most stability when hiking in difficult terrain or scrambling off-trail. It carries 20 pounds comfortably and has nice organization, including two zippers offering quick access to the main compartment and some of the roomiest hipbelt pockets I’ve ever seen on a daypack.

Read my complete review of the Exped Skyline 15.

BUY IT NOW You can support my work on this blog by clicking either of these links to purchase an Exped Skyline 15 at moosejaw.com or an Exped Skyline 25 at moosejaw.com.

Deuter Trail Pro 36 front.
Deuter Trail Pro 36.

Deuter Trail Pro 36 and Trail Pro 34 SL

$165, 3 lbs. 7 oz.
moosejaw.com

Deuter’s Trail Pro 36 and women’s Trail Pro 34 SL are high-volume, feature-rich daypacks that diverge from the current trend toward lighter gear—making them uniquely suited to carrying heavier loads and more versatile than many of today’s daypacks. A spring-steel suspension and plastic framesheet give the Trail Pro a weight-carrying capacity comparable to many lightweight, 50-liter backpacks, and the suspension’s design enhances comfort. This top-loader has a U-shaped zipper to access the main compartment—unusual among daypacks—and abundant pockets, a rain cover, utilitarian features like ice axe and trekking poles attachments and a carabiner/gear loop, and it’s bomber.

Read my complete review of the Deuter Trail Pro 36 and Trail Pro 34 SL.

BUY IT NOW You can support my work on this blog by clicking any of these links to purchase a Deuter Trail Pro 36 at Moosejaw.com or rei.com, a women’s Trail Pro 34 SL at Moosejaw.com or rei.com, a Trail Pro 32 at Moosejaw.com or rei.com, or a women’s Trail Pro 30 SL at Moosejaw.com or rei.com.

 

Tell me what you think.

I spent a lot of time writing this story, so if you enjoyed it, please consider giving it a share using one of the buttons at right, and leave a comment or question at the bottom of this story. I’d really appreciate it.

 

See all of my reviews of daypacks I like and my “5 Tips For Buying the Right Backpack” (which includes daypacks) and all of my reviews of hiking gear.

NOTE: I reviewed gear for Backpacker Magazine for 20 years. At The Big Outside, I review only what I consider the best outdoor gear and apparel. See categorized menus of all of my gear reviews at The Big Outside.

—Michael Lanza

 

Was this review helpful? Get full access to ALL stories at The Big Outside. Join now and a get free e-guide!

About The Author

Michael Lanza

A former field editor and primary gear reviewer for Backpacker Magazine, Michael Lanza created The Big Outside to share stories and images from his many backpacking, hiking, and other outdoor adventures, as well as expert tips and gear reviews to help readers plan and pull off their own great adventures.

6 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Hi Michael,

    I keep vacillating on what size to go with for a day pack. I see arguments both ways – some say 15 – 25L is optimal vs others who say go a little bigger, say up to 35L or so in case you need the extra space. I’m leaning toward the smaller size (20 – 25L) since I don’t envision doing any winter hiking/snowshoeing, overnights, etc. Also, with a larger pack the temptation is always there to over pack! In the past I’ve gotten by with doing day hikes in Yosemite, Glacier, Denali, and the Grand Canyon with just a Jansport book bag.. After trying a number of packs, I’m thinking of going with the Osprey Stratos 24 as I like the comfort of having the ventilated back and the weight supported on the hips. I get the impression from your reviews that you tend to lean toward the smaller packs as well for day hiking. Am I correct in that assumption?

    Reply
    • Michael Lanza

      Hi Dennis, good question, and you’re correct, I do tend to use daypacks in the 15L to 22L range, as evidenced by this review. Even on long dayhikes, when I’m packing clothing for the mountains and enough food for a big day, I’m usually fine with a pack that’s 18L to 20L. Functional capacity can vary a bit with design. For instance, I really like The North Face Chimera 18, but I also pushed the limits of its capacity on a rim-to-rim Grand Canyon dayhike due to its pocket layout and shape (and partly because I also brought a DSLR with two lenses). My dayhikes with these packs are all three-season; in winter, I would need a pack with more capacity, as I would if I was carrying extra stuff for other people (like food for my family).

      I concur with your observation that having a larger daypack tempts you to fill it. But even when under-filled, a larger daypack is still more bulk on your back than necessary, and that affects your ease of moving when hiking, as well as comfort and perhaps balance. Like my other gear, my daypacks for three-season hikes have gotten more compact and lighter over the years.

      Thanks for asking a good question.

      Reply
  2. Avatar

    I have been hiking since I was really young! My backyard is basically a part of the forest, so my siblings and I always went out for little adventures. As I broaden my horizons for new hiking trails, I’m finding many trails I have never heard of personally! A lot of the hiking trails are long and a day bag is definitely required. I was not aware of all of the options that were out there! I found that this post has really opened my eyes about the different options. I am going to look into more o these backpacks and hopefully purchase one in the near future. Thank you for this information filled post!

    Reply
    • MichaelALanza

      Hi Sabrina, thanks for the compliments, I’m glad you found The Big Outside. Good luck in finding the right daypack for you.

      Reply
  3. Avatar

    Michael,

    I had an interesting conversation with a friend last night who owns a store in a relatively small chain of outdoor stores in Western Canada (Valhalla Pure Outfitters) after he went to your sit on my recommendation. He understands your running a business with the Big Outdoors but was frustrated by your readers being directed to big retail outlets at the expense of local shops.

    Although I do a lot of online research I will not buy on line unless it is the only option. Firstly, I may be old school, but I like to or need to try clothing or shoes or check out equipment. Secondly or may be firstly, I really value the knowledge and assistance of good owners like my friend. He has given me some amazing support over the years which is any reason I prefer to frequent a good local shop and build a relationship with the key staff.

    I know I am a gear freak but I also know that many times my well being and safety depend on the clothing and equipment I am using. To this end working with someone like my friend will result in getting the best piece of equipment. It would be a shame to lose this type of service.

    Cheers. Keep up your great work.

    Reply
    • MichaelALanza

      Hi John,

      Your friend is frustrated that I don’t provide links to small retailers like him, but perhaps he hasn’t thought about how self-interested it might sound for me to make the same complaint: that he should use his business to promote my business. That’s not his objective. Part of my site’s revenue is derived from commissions made via gear sales generated through my site, and it’s the larger online retailers who pay those commissions.

      I’m all for people purchasing gear from businesses they want to support. If readers of my blog want to support it by clicking links at this site to support my business, they are essentially doing the same thing you are doing: supporting a business they appreciate. It’s all good.

      Thanks for writing and continuing to comment on my stories. Safe travels to you.

      Reply

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Welcome to the Big Outside

photo of Michael Lanza

Hi, I’m Michael Lanza, creator of The Big Outside and former Northwest Editor at Backpacker magazine. Click my photo to learn more about me and my blog. Click here to sign up for my FREE email newsletter. Join The Big Outside now to get full access to all of my blog’s stories. And click here to learn how I can help you plan your next trip.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This