Backpacks: Choosing a perfect daypack

For any outdoor activity that involves more gear than you can carry in your pockets for one day, you need a daypack. At first glance, all daypacks may look similar, but they actually have lots of functional differences. To figure out which daypack is best for you, consider these four things:

Activity: How you’ll use the daypack can determine a lot about what features you need.
Capacity: The size pack you need also depends on how much gear you plan to carry.
Features: Things like frame type and pack access affect how the pack works for you.
Fit: Torso length and hip size are the most important fit factors.


Choosing a Daypack by Activity

A quick way to narrow your search for a daypack is to look for one that’s designed for the activity you want to use it for. Here are the main activities that daypacks are built for and some of the features you’ll find on them:


Nearly all are compatible with hydration reservoirs and have water bottle pockets on each side
Lots of torso size options and different suspension designs help you choose a pack that fits your body


A waistpack, water-bottle pack, running vest or small technical daypack are all good choices
These packs are designed to limit jostling while you run
Pockets are positioned for easy access to snacks
Most vests and packs are compatible with hydration reservoirs


Road Cycling and Mountain Biking:

Road cycling packs have a compact, low-profile design that keeps them light and stable on your back without creating a lot of wind resistance
Mountain-biking packs are often a bit larger to accommodate extra gear, clothing and bike tools
Some are designed for commuting and include features such as a laptop sleeve and organization panel
Most have low-profile waistbelts that won’t interfere with your pedaling
Many are compatible with hydration reservoirs    



If you have a minimalist's mentality and the gear to match it, a technical daypack can handle an overnight load for ultralight backpacking or hut-to-hut treks.

Padded back and hipbelt for comfort
An internal frame with one or two aluminum stays to accommodate a heavier load


Daypack Capacity

Daypack capacities vary greatly. When you’re pondering what size you need, run through a mental inventory of the gear you carry. Can the pack accommodate your favorite jacket? Does it provide enough snack space for the lengths of trips you take? And, is it big enough to fit the Ten Essentials?

Here are some considerations for pack capacity:

10 liters or less: Most of these small packs are built for lightweight pursuits like running, road biking and very short hikes. Their compact and low-profile design provides room for only a handful of essentials, like an ultralight jacket, some energy bars and your keys.

 11–20 liters: These compact packs are often built for hiking, mountain biking, running or travel. Some feature extra pockets for staying organized. Their capacity lets you carry an extra layer, food and gear for day trips.


21–35 liters: This is the sweet spot for most hiking and travel daypacks . There's enough capacity to hold food, clothing and some extras, like a camera and a book.

36–50 liters: These larger packs are ideal for trips that require additional clothing and gear, such as climbing, mountaineering or non-summer hiking. Often, parents who need to carry clothing and gear for their kids will choose one of these packs. Some can possibly be used for overnights if you’ve invested in ultralight, compact gear.