Gear Review: The 7 Best Hiking Daypacks of 2018
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. 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 for hard abuse, or mostly for cruising good trails?
The seven daypacks in this freshly updated review 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 dayhiking adventures.
Plus, right now, you’ll find some of them at sharply reduced sale prices.
The comparison chart offers a quick look at features that distinguish the packs from one another. Each of the short reviews below the chart include a link to my complete review of the pack.
|Deuter Speed Lite 20||$89||20L/1,220 c.i.||1 lb. 3 oz.||10-12 lbs.||* Zipper access to main compartment
* 4 pockets
|Hyperlite Mountain Gear Daybreak||$225||17L/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||$100||16-18L/976-1,098 c.i.||1 lb. 10 oz.||15 lbs.||* Men's and women's models
* Ventilating harness, hipbelt, back panel
* 6 pockets
|Osprey Talon 22 and Tempest 20||$110||20-22L/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||$129||20L/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||$120||20L/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||$129||15L/915 c.i.||2 lbs. 5 oz.||20+ lbs.||* Unique hybrid suspension
* Two zippers accessing main compartment
* 4 external pockets
* Rain cover
$89, 20L/1,220 c.i., 1 lb. 3 oz.
On 20-mile, 4,500-foot, mid-September trail run-hike in Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains, including a 1,400-foot, third-class scramble up 10,651-foot Snowyside Peak, the Speed Lite 20 delivered all I needed for a lightweight adventure. A minimalist bag that carries 10 to 12 pounds comfortably, it has quick access to the main compartment via a deep, U-shaped top zipper, two compression straps on each side, four pockets, and a tapered shape that stays out of the way of swinging arms when hiking or running.
Read my complete review of the Deuter Speed Lite 20.
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$225, 17L/1,040 c.i., 1 lb. 4 oz.
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.
Reach new heights as a hiker. See my story “Extreme Hiking: America’s Best Hard Dayhikes.”
$100, 18L/1,098 c.i., 1 lb. 10 oz.
On a 32-mile, 10,000-vertical-foot, nine-peak dayhike in New Hampshire’s White Mountains, the lightweight Miwok 18 carried 15 pounds of clothing, food, water, and camera gear comfortably while hugging my back. It has quick, one-zip access to the main compartment, plus six pockets, including two on the hipbelt and a very useful, expandable, front stuff-it pocket with a bungee closure that holds a bike or climbing helmet. The bladder sleeve sits behind the back pad, and an attachment on the front secures trekking poles or an ice axe.
Read my complete review of the Gregory Miwok 18/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 18 at moosejaw.com, ems.com, or rei.com, or a women’s Maya 16 at moosejaw.com, ems.com, or rei.com. Or get a men’s Miwok 12 or Miwok 24 at moosejaw.com, ems.com, or rei.com, or a women’s Maya 10, Maya 22, or Maya 32 moosejaw.com, ems.com, or rei.com.
$110, 20L/1,220 c.i., 1 lb., 11 oz.
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, Osprey’s newly updated for 2017 men’s 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 arguably 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.
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$129, 20L/1,220 c.i., 1 lb. 11 oz.
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, patagonia.com, or rei.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.
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$120, 20L/1,708 c.i., 2 lbs. 3.5 oz.
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.com or ems.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.com or ems.com, or the Juno 30 at moosejaw.com or ems.com.
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$129, 19L/915 c.i., 2 lbs. 5 oz.
Real technological innovation happens rarely in daypacks. Now comes Exped’s new Switchback suspension. 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 possibly the roomiest hipbelt pockets I’ve ever seen on a daypack.
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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.
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