Best daypacks 2021: rucksacks for day hikes, including hydration pack models from Fjallraven, Osprey, Alpkit
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Heading for the great outdoors? Make sure you know where you’re going to stash all your gear first. A daysack or daypack is a backpack large enough to fit all the essentials you’ll need for a ramble in the hills.
What size daypack do I need?
Rucksacks are measured by the capacity they hold in litres, and daysacks usually range in size from 15 litres to 35 litres. Most models aren’t labelled as fully waterproof, and are usually showerproof or water resistant instead, meaning that their outer layer will stand up to light rain.
What features should I look for in a daypack?
Pick a bag with a stashed rain cover you can whip out in a storm. Bags which can carry a hydration system (a water pouch with drinking tube) are useful – failing that, make sure the one you buy has a water bottle pocket. Bags can be top-loading (more watertight) or front loading (easier to access gear), and larger bags sometimes also sport compression straps which cinch them down to a smaller size.
Brands sometimes offer male and female versions of the same bag – if you have a smaller back it’s worth trying female-specific designs, but you might find unisex bags fit you just as well.
Many of the bags on this list are designed for specific uses (climbing, travelling, hiking and there’s even a drybag one for water sports) - if you can only afford one, pick a versatile model that can cope with anything from mountain treks to the daily commute.
Osprey Tempest Pro
The mountains are calling – pack your day’s essentials for a big day in high ground in Osprey’s Tempest (for women) or Talon (for men) packs.
As the ‘Pro’ suggests, these are some of Osprey’s more technical packs, and are hydration system-compatible, sport loops for ice picks and walking poles and have well-placed outer pockets for grabbing gear on the go.
We rated the breathable, well-fitting back panel and hip belt, and also found the pack’s ripstop material waterproof enough to withstand bad weather.
Well worth the investment for seasoned hikers – if you need a bag for casual use you could pick something simpler.
Fjallraven Tree Kanken
Swedish brand Fjallraven’s iconic Kanken backpack has had global fans since it first appeared in the 1970s – and it works brilliantly as a fuss-free daypack if you want something simple and eye-catching to take out and about with you.
There’s room inside for a small laptop, extra layers, food and other bits and bobs, although the straps aren’t padded, so we wouldn’t recommend carrying anything very heavy.
The playful Kanken comes in a myriad colours and patterns, including limited edition art collabs and innovative new materials – the latest is this new Tree Kanken, made of a sustainable wood-based fabric and with lots of handy straps for attaching bike lights, yoga mats and other belongings.
Red Insulated 15 litre cooler backpack
What do you get if you cross a daysack, a cooler bag and a dry bag? Red’s all-in-one insulated rucksack is a fully waterproof backpack that doubles up as a cooler for food and drink if you’re planning a waterside picnic.
The padded straps are comfortable enough to hike with, too - perfect for taking on a stand-up paddleboard adventure, on a wild swimming mission or just out for a day at the beach.
The waterproof and cooling properties make this a design you’ll find yourself reaching for again and again. It’s made from recycled plastic bottles, too.
Eastpak Tranzpack Strapped 42 litre backpack
Always on the go? Eastpak’s clever Tranzpack works as a backpack, a duffel and a cabin bag in one, so it’s a great choice for hitting the road with.
There are multiple ways to carry this versatile bag – top and side handles make it work as a carry bag or a briefcase, or you can pull shoulder straps out of the back panel to wear it as a rucksack.
We also liked the roomy front pocket and the multiple attachment loops for hanging extra kit.
The versatile ways to carry this pack and the fact that it’s small enough to work as a cabin bag despite its roomy 42 litre capacity make it ideal for travelling and weekends away.
Chrome Industries Urban Ex Rolltop 28 litre backpack
If the weather outside is frightful, stick your stuff in Chrome Industries’ Urban Ex Rolltop and get out there anyway.
This smart backpack is also a fully waterproof dry bag - the roll-down top makes it easy to get at your belongings but also works like a dry bag when rolled down and fastened, keeping your belongings 100% watertight if you do encounter a storm when you’re out walking and cycling.
A padded sleeve holds a 15 inch laptop, making this a great choice if you bike or walk to work. The rugged outer fabric and the handy outer loops stood out on test, as did the Urban Ex’s great build quality.
Kelty Redwing 32 litre backpack
Kelty’s Redwing is a popular all-rounder of a daysack in the USA – get it on this side of the pond from Absolute Snow.
Designed with adventure in mind, the Redwing boasts a breathable, contoured back panel and some of the coolest and comfiest padded mesh shoulder straps we tested.
This pack is ready to go anywhere, from mountain (with ice axe, hydration bladder and walking pole compatibility) to work and travel (it’ll also take your laptop and camera tripod). A great quiver-of-one pack if you’re always exploring outdoors.
Vaude Brenta 30 litre backpack
If your day trips tend to take you off the beaten path, Vaude’s Brenta will definitely be able to keep up – this is a pack designed with hikers in mind.
On test we liked the comfy straps and adjustable and highly breathable mesh back panel, which make it easy to get a comfortable fit even if you’re clocking up the miles over a long day of walking.
A front-opening zip makes it quick and easy to grab layers or pack belongings away on the go, and the Brenta has attachments for trekking poles and can take a hydration bladder, too. If walking adventures are top of your list when daypack shopping, this is a great quality choice.
Tropicfeel Shell 22 litre to 40 litre backpack
Tropicfeel consulted with 5,000 travellers when designing this pack, and it shows.
The high-performing Shell is waterproof, can be expanded and is impressively easy to organise, with a clamshell opening that lets you see exactly what you’ve packed inside.
The main compartment is very roomy, pockets of all shapes and sizes take a laptop, phone, chargers and other essentials, and you can buy add-on pouches, toiletry bags and even camera bags designed to slot inside.
We recommend buying the Shell with Tropicfeel’s Wardrobe System, which allows you to pack in a frankly amazing amount of clothing for a daysack, and then compresses to maximise space. This recycled pack is expensive, but if you’re a regular jetsetter it’s worth the spend.
Alpkit Gnarl 15 litre backpack
If you’re travelling fast and light there’s no need to strap on a bulky backpack – a small and slim daysack will carry your essentials without adding extra weight.
Alpkit’s Gnarl has a sleek profile and weighs 405g, so it feels barely-there whether you’re climbing, hiking or cycling. Inside there’s still space for a waterproof, snacks, valuables and even a small laptop, and the pack is also hydration bladder-compatible.
A waterproof cover isn’t included, but the outer fabric is water-repellent enough to stop light showers. A great addition to your backpack collection if you already own a bigger pack.
Kensington Contour 2.0 27 litre Laptop backpack
If you cycle or walk to work every day, you’re going to need a roomy daysack that can tackle the daily grind.
Kensington’s Contour was designed with the working week in mind, and fits even larger laptops with ease in a padded protective pocket.
This rucksack may have neutral urban looks but it’s still technical enough to work when you’re travelling fast, too, with a breathable back panel, water bottle pockets and ergonomic straps.
We loved the myriad pockets on test – brilliant for squaring away smaller belongings and there’s even a security pocket for credit cards.