Best Backpacks for Day Hiking

On any hike that lasts more than an hour you are going to want to bring some stuff with you. Water, an extra layer of clothing, a picnic lunch, even a bottle of wine! Let me share with you what we have found are the best backpacks for day hiking.

Approaching Venable Pass and Phantom Terrace, Colorado

Approaching Venable Pass and Phantom Terrace, Colorado

Each of us has a packable daypack, which I think work perfectly, even as day hiking backpacks. Mine is the Venture Pal Packable Lightweight Backpack. It is rated at 25 liters and rolls up very small into a little bag. It features comfortable, adjustable shoulder straps, a large main compartment, two small zippered outer pockets, two side mesh pockets, and it rolls up into its own bag. It is a perfect little bag for a city stroll or a nice long hike in the hills. Plus, our computers fit into it nicely when we go to a pub or coffee shop to do some work. I have used it almost daily over the last three years and have been very happy with it.

Venture Pal Backpack

Venture Pal Backpack

Venture Pal Backpack

Venture Pal Backpack

Unfortunately, it has been replaced by a slightly larger model. We wanted something the same size for Betsy so we had to search for something new. We chose the Zomake Small Hiking Backpack that is very similar. We haven’t used it a lot yet but it seems well made and we’re anxious to put it to use.

We love these packs for day hiking. They are very compact, lightweight, affordable, and everything we really need. We typically carry a raincoat or extra layer of warmth but often use it to stow a layer we peel off on the way. We always carry water (more about that in a later blog), sunscreen, a Swiss Army knife, a granola bar and/or picnic lunch and we’ve never felt like we needed more. And when we are not using them they take up almost no room in our luggage. For me they are the perfect pack for day hiking.

Best yet, they are both about $20 each! You just can’t beat that value!

Zomake Backpack

Zomake Backpack

Zomake Backpack

Zomake Backpack

We also travel with packs that are somewhat larger and we have used them as day packs in the past. They are both by Osprey in their very popular Talon/Tempest line. Mine is the Osprey Talon 22. This is again a very simple pack with one main zippered compartment and few mesh pockets on the outside. There is also a separate compartment on the back for a water bladder.

Betsy has the Osprey Tempest 30 and is also very happy with it. The Tempest series is designed specifically for women’s bodies and is available in two different sizes (xs/s and m/l) to better fit your torso. This pack has a draw string closure with a lid with a zipped mesh pocket.

Just a quick aside here, both of our daypacks are supposedly 25 liter packs. My Talon is 22 liters and the Tempest is 30 liters. There is no way either of our daypacks are anywhere close to the size of our Osprey bags. I’m not pointing fingers, I’m just saying there is a discrepancy somewhere.

Both the Talon and Tempest are considered daypacks but we found they were just too big for our needs on most of our hikes, which prompted our search for smaller bags. They do have features I miss on our small packs. Both of the Osprey packs have padded hip belts and sternum straps that really help distribute the weight when they are fully packed. However, our smaller packs are never heavy enough to really warrant them.

The Osprey bags are loaded with features the packable bags don’t have. Multiple adjustment straps, compression straps, extra pockets in the belts, zippered pockets inside, and loops to hang stuff from outside. Plus they are just made from sturdier stuff. At around $140 they are well worth the investment.

When we travel, these are our carry-on bags where we stash our computers, an extra set of clothes, and anything else we may want on the plane, train, boat, or whatever vessel we are traveling in that day. The only downside for Betsy is with the draw string closure, it is a little cumbersome to get out her computer in cramped spaces. Other than that, these packs have served us well for over four years and are still in great shape. For our packing guide, see our How to Pack Like a Pro and How to Pack Like a Pro for Women blog posts.

Here we are in travel mode with our Osprey Tempest 30 and Talon 22

Here we are in travel mode with our Osprey Tempest 30 and Talon 22

Dreaming of hiking in Europe when things open up again? We can help with that! We are here for your custom trip planning to Italy, France, Ireland, the UK and all of Europe. We are experts in creating custom travel itineraries and leading small group trips to European destinations. We also book European cruises! Feel free to reach out via email — We’re always available to talk about travel!

We can also help with trips in the US while we wait for Europe to open up. We’ve traveled extensively throughout the US and visited many of our National Parks as well as wine regions, major cities, and tourist destinations. We just love to help people travel!


Greg Ball – Greg is co-founder and partner of Euro Travel Coach (ETC), which crafts custom European vacations for independent travelers and leads small group tours to Europe. In his previous life he taught Woodwinds and Jazz at the university level for 30 years. As a professor he took his bands to England, Ireland, Czech Republic, Austria, Switzerland, and England. Since “retiring” he and his wife/ETC co-founder Betsy travel Europe nine months out of the year. Together they have visited over 40 countries and counting! He loves cooking, hiking, listening and playing music, and wine and holds a Level 3 certification from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust.

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