REI Tarn 18
$40, 1 lb. 3 oz. (one size fits kids age 8 to 12)
Your kid needs a hydration-compatible daypack that’s functional and comfortable, and the Tarn 18 rings all the bells at a good price. It logged numerous days with my family this summer, from the Columbia Gorge to the Tetons, because it fits both my son (recently turned 11) and daughter (age 8). They both loved its look and functionality of a real pack.
The main compartment fits extra clothes, a 50-ounce bladder (sold separately), and necessities like a small toy or stuffed animal, and a zippered top pocket, mesh side and front pockets, and two waist belt pockets keep small items and snacks within reach. Like some of REI’s adult daypacks, the foam-and-mesh back pad, shoulder straps, and waist belt ventilate well and provide enough support for carrying about eight pounds—enough for a kid that age. Useful and very cool: the safety whistle on the sternum strap. Well constructed, this pack will last through at least through at least a couple of young hikers.