Whether you’re taking a day hike or exploring a city from morning to night, you always need to carry a few essentials with you. Things like a water bottle, guidebook, camera, tablet, wallet, snacks, rain jacket and phone can add up and make it difficult to carry in a tote or cross-body bag for long periods of time.
That’s where a daypack is useful. The best daypack for travel is versatile enough for many kinds of day trips. You can use it for camping or at home too when running a few errands. If you’re traveling with your tot, then it’s a lot better than a diaper bag! Visiting a theme park with your family? Everyone’s stuff can go in! It should be as light as possible so that it doesn’t feel uncomfortable to carry for hours at a time. It should also be durable.
Some travel daypacks are made of very thin fabric but that doesn’t mean that they tear easily. If they have strong seams and you don’t push your luck with the items you pack in it, it should serve you well for years. That means no sharp objects or school textbooks! Also, unless you buy a structured backpack with a compartment for your tablet, you should not pack one in without its own protective case. If the lack of interior compartments is a problem, use a Gobi Gear stuff sack that you insert into your backpack. The stuff sacks have internal dividers to keep your things organized.
Another style that is good to use for day trips is a one strap backpack or sling bag. If you’re carrying your camera gear about, consider a camera backpack instead. For a more casual and simple style, you could even consider a good drawstring bag.
Now let’s look at our top picks for daypacks for travel. All of these are unisex, one is a structured pack and the rest are packable backpacks.
Best Structured Daypack
Osprey Daylite Backpack
If you carry heavy items or an iPad about and are concerned about long term durability of your bag and having adequate protection for those items, get a structured daypack like this Osprey Daylite Backpack. This pack can be attached to any other Osprey pack that has the trademarked AddOn capability, so you can carry two Osprey backpacks together when you need one large unit for maximum capacity while getting to your destination, and then unbuckle this daypack from the other one to use on your day trip.
This is a small daypack with a 750 cubic inch or 13L capacity so it’s not meant to replace your carry on but rather your regular sized shoulder tote. The advantages you get with this, however, is a pack that is made for carrying comfort with a padded back panel, adjustable sternum and waist straps and spacer mesh shoulder straps that can be tucked away when not in use. An integrated top handle allows for another method of carrying.
Another advantage is having a dedicated padded tablet pocket inside the main compartment which can also be used for a hydration pack if you’re using this for hiking. There is a zippered front pocket with a mesh pocket and a key fob for additional organization.
If you had to, you can fit a 15″ Macbook Pro in the main compartment along with a couple of letter size books but that’s about it. If you overload it, the zippers won’t be able to handle the weight.
The pack itself weighs 1 pound and you can get it in one of 5 cool colors. It’s the best looking of the bunch!
Best Packable Daypack
If you’re flying to your destination, then weight is a concern and you may want a backpack that you can roll or fold up to stuff in your luggage for use later on during your holiday. It could also be your additional bag for those souvenirs you bought.
These packables cost hardly anything and make great gifts for frequent travelers. The following ones that we’ve reviewed are well below carry on size, but if you’re looking for something larger, then take a look at the Zomake 40 Litre foldable pack.
Depending on the kind of travel you’ll do, you might otherwise find a foldable duffel bag more suitable.
Outlander Packable Handy Lightweight Travel Backpack Daypack
This is the long standing choice as best daypack for women or men. The Outlander Packable Travel Daypack is so popular that its design has seen a few copycats around. The pack folds into its own inner zippered pocket to become a handy pouch with a carrying handle. You can slip it into any other bag to pull out only when needed.
When unzipped and opened out, there are adjustable shoulder straps to let you carry it as a backpack and a top grab handle as well. The front has two zippered pockets, one large and one small for all your odds and ends. The large main compartment unzips to reveal an inner zipped pocket for more valuable things or loose change. You can store your water bottle and umbrella in the two outer mesh side pockets.
This pack comes in 6 colors and 2 sizes – 20L and 33L, with the smaller size weighing just under 0.5 lbs. The material used is a durable nylon that is water and tear resistant and the stress points are reinforced. The metal two-way dual zippers are strong. You get a lifetime warranty with this pack.
Best Lightweight Daypack
Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Day Pack
At an unbelievable 2.4 ounces in weight, this daypack from Sea to Summit is the best ultralight daypack you can buy. It is great for biking or motorcycle travel because of its negligible weight. This 20 liter Siliconized Cordura nylon pack is super streamlined with no outer pockets and comes with adjustable length shoulder straps although they are a bit thin so can dig into your shoulders if you pack very heavy items. All stress points feature bar tack reinforcements. It is water resistant so you’re safe even in a sudden storm.
Its dimensions are 19 in by 8 in by 11 in and folds up very small to fit into the attached storage pouch that you can then slip into your handbag. It holds a lot when unfolded. You can get this pack in any of 5 colors.
Gonex Ultra Lightweight Packable Backpack
The Gonex Ultra Lightweight Packable Pack may not be the best looking daypack of this bunch but it is one of the cheapest and you can choose from 8 different colors. It weighs 6.5 ozs and has a 20L capacity. It is made of tear and water resistant nylon, has a durable main zipper and is reinforced by bar tacks at 17 stress points.
In addition to the main compartment, there is an inner pocket and an outer front pocket, both zippered. Two side mesh pockets round them out. The bag folds into the inner pocket easily. The breathable mesh shoulder straps are thick and adjustable.
Best Waterproof Daypack
Bago Backpack Daypack
While all the above daypacks are water resistant, your things will only be protected during rain showers. If you think you’ll need one that keeps your belongings dry even if submerged or for long periods in torrential rain, then choose this waterproof Bago Packable Bag. This another well designed daypack that folds into its own inner zipped pocket to become a small pouch. Its fabric is Diamond RipStop polyester and it weighs just 0.4 lbs.
There is a front fabric and mesh pocket, two side mesh pockets and that zipped pocket inside the two-way zippered main compartment. An additional feature is the snap buckle that secures the top of the front pocket closed and can also act as a lash point for your rain jacket. The two shoulder straps are adjustable and quite wide and breathable, although not padded. A quick-grab top handle lets you lift and go when needed.
You can get this bag in one of 4 fun colors.