Don’t have much time?
Here are the recommendations:
- Best Day Hiking Backpack: Osprey Tempest 9 (women’s sizes) & Osprey Talon 11 (men’s sizes)
- Runner up: Deuter AC Lite 14 SL Pack
- Under $60: Mountainsmith Women’s Clear Creek 15 Pack
- Something bigger: Osprey Mira 22
- Something smaller: Osprey Tempest 6 (women’s sizes) & Osprey Talon 6 (men’s sizes)
Exploring Alaska started because travel restrictions are currently in place, and the furthest I can go is wherever my car can take me. After doing a few light day hikes, I quickly realized the random backpack I was using was not going to work. After my hikes, even if they were short and easy, my shoulders would hurt, and the pack just didn’t fit right on my body. Plus, if I needed water, I had to completely remove the backpack to grab my water bottle from the main compartment because it didn’t have external water bottle pockets. Ugh!
Thinking I could use a standard backpack that wasn’t made for hiking and expecting it to work for my adventures was a big mistake. My friends and I are hiking multiple times a week, and I’m so happy I’ve switched to a day pack that is designed for hiking; now, I enjoy a comfortable women’s specific fit and the convenience of an integrated water bladder to keep me hydrated and trekking for miles.
Best Day Hiking Backpack
Favorite part of the daypack?
I absolutely love the hip pockets. They are great for storing a pocket knife, tissues, bug spray, and if I’m being honest, gummy worms. Yum! At first, I wasn’t sure about the deep magenta color of this pack, but it has definitely grown on me. It also comes in four other colors: green, blue, and black. (But, let’s face it: magenta definitely makes a bold statement!)
This daypack is specifically designed for women. If you’d like the men’s version of this hiking daypack, it’s called the Osprey Talon. All of the features are the same; the Talon is just tailored to fit the male form.
Why did I choose this pack?
When going on these frequent day adventures, I wanted a small hiking day pack. I chose the Tempest because it has similar key features to the overnight backpack I use, the Osprey Aura. You can read my review of this larger pack in my post Best Backpacking Backpack for Women.
What are some of the cool features?
Since I sweat a lot, the breathable back panel has been amazing. Now that I have experienced a pack with a mesh panel to allow airflow between my back and my pack, this feature is an absolute must. When you’re hiking and you feel a cool breeze, all you have to do is turn sideways to let the airflow between you and your pack. It’s the best.
In addition, the adjustable shoulder straps help alleviate some of the weight from the shoulders. The day pack also has a dedicated sleeve made just for a 2-liter hydration bladder.
This bag has a total of five zippered pockets.
- The little pocket on the top outside portion of the bag is nice for things like gum, sunglasses, or larger granola bars. (Yes, I’m always thinking about food. 😊 )
- There are two hip pockets for putting things that need to be easily accessed without taking off the day pack.
- The main compartment holds the bulk of the items and gear for any day hike such as a rain jacket, flashlight, gloves, and an extra layer just in case it gets cold.
- Inside the main compartment is a small mesh pocket. I like to use this pocket to store things like a first aid kit, tissues, and hand sanitizer. Things in this pocket are items I don’t want to fall to the bottom of the main compartment but don’t need to have quick and easy access to all the time.
If you use trekking poles, this bag has a convenient place to store them on the outside of the pack. There is also a bungee system on the exterior that’s great for attaching a rain jacket for easy access. Conveniently, the lid lock system also allows for helmet storage external to the pack without taking up any space or adding significant weight.
Both sides of the day hiking backpack also have a water bottle holder with compression straps for holding gear to the outside of the pack. I usually leave my bear spray in one of these pockets, so it’s ready for the next hike and I know I will always have it on me.
The versatility of this pack is perfect for almost any day-long adventure.
Just this week, I realized there is a whistle on the sternum strap. This is very convenient for emergencies.
- Mesh back
- Weight-lifting shoulder straps
- Hip pockets
- Bungee front panel
- Trekking pole attachment
- Sizes to fit torso length
- XS/S 7 liters & 1.243 lbs can hold up to 20 lbs
- S/M 9 liters & 1.356 lbs can hold up to 20 lbs
- This is the size I have
*Sizes are not by volume but by your torso length. See this post to help you measure your torso, so you can get the right size for you.
Alternate sizes – If you like the features of this bag but would like it in a smaller or larger size, here are all the sizes available. The Osprey Tempest backpack comes in 4 different sizes. The four sizes of the Tempest backpack are the 9 liters (the one I have), the 20 liters, the 30 liters, and the 40 liters. For the men’s version called the Osprey Talon, the sizes are the 11 liters, the 22 liters, the 33 liters, and the 44 liters.
Runner Up Backpack
Deuter AC Lite 14 SL
The first thing that stands out about this bag is the gorgeous bluish-green color option. You can also get it in maroon, graphite, and indigo to match your personality. This bag has a nice top-loading system that also includes zippers to access the contents of your bag from the bottom without pulling everything out of your pack. Win.
- Top loader
- U-shaped zipper to access contents of the pack from the bottom
- Hydration pouch for your water bladder
- Rain cover included
- Women’s specific fit
- Weight: 1 lb 16 oz
Day Hiking Backpack Under $60.00
Mountainsmith Women’s Clear Creek 15 Pack
If you’re not looking for all of the frills, this pack has a pretty simple design. The two mesh panels along the back of the bag allow for some more breathability than a normal backpack. One reason why I prefer the back panel design of the Osprey Tempest over the Mountain Smith Clear Creek is that the Tempest’s back panel pulls the main body of the bag away from your back, allowing for maximum breathability.
- 15-liter capacity
- Mesh back panel
- Built-in sleeve that holds up to a 3-liter hydration pouch
- Expandable front pocket
- Removable waist belt
- Women’s specific fit
- Weight: 1lb 4oz
Bigger Day Hiking Backpack
Osprey Mira 22
For a larger day hiking backpack that holds more, the Osprey Mira 22 liter (or the men’s Manta 24 liter) is a great option. The most impressive feature is the anti-gravity technology. My 65-liter Aura overnight backpack has the same technology, which makes the pack feel lighter while worn.
I will do a more in-depth review of this backpack when I use it during the winter months to hold more things like hand warmers, gloves, extra layers, and of course, more snacks. 😊 This pack also features more organizational pockets, which are nice for keeping all of the little things needed in the outdoors, like a pocket knife and first aid kit, handy. One major plus for this hiking day pack is the adjustable harness. With this harness, you have the option of moving the shoulder straps up by up to four inches so you can find the fit that’s best for your body. In addition, a water bladder and rain cover are included, eliminating two purchases you would otherwise want to make.
- Antigravity technology to make your daypack feel lighter
- Included 2.5-liter hydration pouch
- Built-in rain cover to keep your things dry
- Adjustable harness to find your perfect fit
- Weight: 2.77 lbs
- Load Capacity: Up to 30 lbs
Smaller Hiking Daypack
Osprey Tempest 6
If the backpacks we’ve reviewed so far seem too bulky for you, take a look at the Tempest 6 lumbar bag (aka fanny pack; yes these are still a thing!). This bag was made to hold two water bottles and just the essentials. This pack is a great option to free your shoulders since the only straps are located at the hips. It comes in women’s and men’s sizes. The 6-liter Tempest was made for being sleek and lightweight.
- Small design
- Two BPA-free water bottles included
- Dual hip pockets
- Weight: 0.728 lbs
What should go into your daypack?
- Water bladder – I keep talking about a hydration pouch or water bladder. They are essentially large pouches that hold water and have a nice spout that feeds through your pack to allow you to drink water easily while hiking.
- Bear spray – This is a must-have item when traveling in wooded areas. I do not go on a hike without having my bear spray on me. Once, I forgot my bear spray and drove back home to retrieve it because it is that much of a necessity, especially when living in Alaska. To ensure you don’t forget it, keep it in the water bottle pocket of your hiking daypack at all times.
- Drybag for electronics – I like to keep my electronics in a little 3-liter dry sack from Osprey when I travel. That way, if I run into any unexpected rain or happen to fall in a creek, I don’t have to worry about my camera gear getting ruined.
What questions do you have about hiking daypacks? What bag are you currently using? Do you have any tips you’d like to share?
Leave a comment below.