Day Pack Backpack Buying Guide

Looking to buy a Day Pack Backpack? This Day Pack Backpack Buying Guide will help you. Whether hiking, biking, climbing, adventure racing, or traveling, almost everyone has a need for a daypack. But the selection of daypacks out there is overwhelming. Here are our tips for making a perfect choice. Looking for Canvas Backpacks for camping read this.


Activity/Versatility – Day Pack Backpack Buying Guide Tip One


As with just about any outdoor product, it is important to keep in mind what your eventual use will be when shopping for new gear, and daypacks are no exception. Even though a daypack resides in a sub-category of the much larger group of ‘backpacks,’ there are still numerous options out there, and many are aimed at specific activities.

A hiking specific day pack will typically range from 20-30 liters and have comfort-driven features such as a ventilated back panel and a cushy waist-belt. Hiking packs are also likely to have additional carry options such as a trekking-pole stash and an ice ax carry. A hydration specific pack, which would be great for biking, will be much smaller with the focus being carrying water, leaving little room for the rest of the essentials.

Day Pack Backpack Buying Guide

A day pack for use around town will have a convenient place, ideally with some padding, to store a laptop, and will probably also have other organizational pockets for phones, pens, and other types of electronics. A climbing summit pack will be much smaller, usually 12 to 20 liters, and have fewer features, especially loose things on the exterior, to get snagged.

And an alpine climbing pack may be on the larger side (20-40 liters), usually favors lightness over features, and will have attachments for ice axes. A ski touring pack will have ski and board carry features and usually special slots for your shovels and probe.

Once you have narrowed down your primary use for a day pack, it is worth considering if you want it to function for multiple activities.

Maybe you want a pack specifically for skiing, then it is easy to look for a pack with those features.

If you want your pack to be an all-around pack for sporting activities and for travel, then look for a pack that is less specific or can easily double for a few activities.

Weight vs. Features – Day Pack Backpack Buying Guide Tip Two


Many day packs on the market today are coming with some clever features such as bungees to stow trekking poles, ventilated back panels. and even clips to attach a bike helmet to the pack.

The trade-off is that the more features added to a pack, the heavier it gets, and then no matter how little you carry inside your pack, you still have to carry the weight of the pack itself. If you don’t plan to hike long or far, or you plan to use your day pack primarily for around town, weight may be of little concern and organizational features are more important.

Some features may be indispensable to your activity, such as an ice tool attachment point, in which case look for a day pack that strikes the ideal balance between the features you want and weight.

Ventilated Back Panels – Day Pack Backpack Buying Guide Tip Three


Many newer model packs for hikers are being released with some version of a ventilated back panel. Typically, one of the worst parts about wearing a pack is that while it is plastered to your back, you perspire and the sweat has nowhere to go, so it collects on your shirt underneath the pack.

Newer packs are designing the frame so that it pushes the actual weight of the main compartment backward, and the part that rests on your back is a stiff meshy panel. Between the two is an open column where the air has the freedom to move so your back can breathe. This feature adds a great deal of comfort, especially in warm weather.

The downside is that if your pack is heavy, the load can feel like it is tipping you back or putting you off balance since the weight is held so far out from your body. Often, in a day pack, this design feature is fine, since those packs usually carry less weight than larger packs.

Different packs are designed with the load of the pack suspended at varying degrees, which offers a different disbursement of weight. If you are considering a pack with this design, try it on with some weight in it first to see how it feels on you.

Capacity – Day Pack Backpack Buying Guide Tip Four


The seemingly ideal size for a daypack is between 25-35 liters. The day backpack like the Deuter Speed Lite at 20 liters, and the Gregory Z30 at 35 liters.

Once you get any larger than 35 liters, the pack starts to move into the range of a backpacking backpack, though some alpine climbing packs may be able to hold more than the average hiking daypacks.

If the pack gets much smaller than 25 liters, it begins to be difficult to carry all the necessities with you. Both the Speed Lite and the Osprey Talon (22 liters) were slightly less than 25 liters and still held our selection of essentials for a day-hike, plus more because of the extra carry options on the exterior.

Remember, bigger is not always better, some of the larger packs are also heavier, so if you can get away with smaller it may be lighter and more enjoyable to carry. If you have an idea of what you plan to use your pack for, that will guide you when selecting volume.


Top-loader vs. Panel-loader – Day Pack Backpack Buying Guide Tip Five


Daypacks come in two different types, a top-loading pack, which is similar in design to a backpacking backpack where everything goes into the pack from an access zipper at the top; or panel-loading pack, which usually have u-shaped zippers to access one or more compartments. A top-loading pack is usually simpler, and since there are typically fewer zippers and pockets, they are usually lighter.

Panel-loading packs are often preferred because they are easier to organize and sift through, which also makes them more useful for activities other than hiking.

If you want something really lightweight, try out a top-loader, which will be more appealing to those looking to carry the bare minimum.

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