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Best Travel Daypacks: Ultimate Buyers Guide 2019

by , October 28, 2019

Whether you’re going on a short getaway or round-the-world adventure, you’re going to be bringing travel luggage with you. Maybe you’re opting for one-bag travel. Perhaps you want to pair a carry-on bag with checked luggage. But however you choose to travel, while luggage will get your gear to your accommodation, you don’t want to lug around a heavy bag every time you want to venture out and explore. This is where the best travel daypacks come in.

Tortuga Setout Packable Daypack

So what’s a travel daypack?

A fairly small backpack, usually ranging from 10L to 25L, that can serve as your day bag for day-to-day use during your travels.

Different daypacks do different things so you need to consider what you want yours to do. Will it need to carry tech? Is packability and minimal weight a priority? Should it be able to flex in volume and adjust to larger or smaller loads? Do you need lots of organization? Should it suit outdoor hikes, urban use or both? Does it need to look good for work and play or attach to wheeled luggage? It’s a lot to consider, but carry needs can differ greatly from one trip to the next and you’ll want to be prepared. However, here are a few things to think about that could help you narrow down suitable packs.

Weight and durability

Ideally, a travel daypack should be lightweight (you don’t want it eating into your precious baggage weight allowance). And if you want durability to match, then we suggest looking into fabrics like Dyneema or X-Pac. They’re both lightweight and durable, but come with a heightened price tag too.

If you’re looking for something lightweight but more affordable, this usually involves sacrifices in durability. The more durable a pack is, the heavier it tends to be. And while lighter packs can help you shed packing weight, they might not hold up as well to demanding use. If you’re sticking to fairly relaxed sightseeing, this likely won’t be a problem. If you’re planning to venture into rugged terrain or put your daypack through its paces, you might want to consider taking a weight hit with fabrics like Cordura and ballistic nylon.

Size

This depends very much on your personal carry requirements. Your daypack should be suitably sized to carry whatever essentials you need for the day. Perhaps that’s a wallet, phone and small camera. Alternatively it could be an outer layer, lunch, maps and other trail hiking supplies. Ideally, whatever option you go for, try to get a pack that’s compact enough to use with a range of transport (such as fitting under a plane seat, to wear while cycling, or easy enough to stow in a taxi or on a bus or train). That way, you won’t be restricted to particular transport options while venturing out and about. Also think about designs that can pack up compactly into a pouch or lay flat in your luggage until needed.

Aer Flight Pack 2

Comfort

A daypack is your go-to bag for carrying all the essentials you need for the day. So it should offer suitable comfort depending on your load and setting. The heavier the load, the more built-in comfort you’ll want from your daypack. If you’ll be carrying it non-stop for long periods of time (such as on a day hike), you’ll want a comfortable harness, a ventilated back panel and a sternum strap to help stabilize the load (potentially a hip belt too depending on your gear setup). If you have a fairly casual day of sightseeing planned, with the potential to set the bag down throughout the day, then you can get away with less comfort if you want to prioritize other features such as light weight or packability.

Organization

Organization will again depend on your load and preferences. If you’re carrying a lot of gear, in particular smaller items, you’ll likely find it more convenient if a variety of pockets are on hand to store gear securely while keeping it accessible. If you’re carrying tech you’ll want to look for padded, protective storage. And even if you’re running with a minimal setup, quick-access pockets are still useful for keeping items like a water bottle, phone or wallet easily accessible. Plus don’t forget you can create your own organization with pouches and organizers, so if you find a daypack you love that just falls a little short in the organization department, don’t fret. It’s an easy fix.

Aesthetics

The nature of your trip will help guide your choice when it comes to daypack aesthetics. If you need the pack to blend into more formal settings (such as on work trips), opt for clean silhouettes and subdued colorways like navy, gray or black for a more professional appearance. Fabrics will also play a role here, with some materials able to transition between urban and outdoor environments and work or play, while others are better suited to one or the other. Additionally, some packs look more touristy than others, so if you want to avoid drawing attention to yourself, try to avoid bright colors and prominent branding. However, if they speak to your personality and you don’t need a pack for formal settings, there’s no reason you can’t rock that color pop if you really want to.

Aer Go Pack

Versatility

How versatile do you need your daypack to be? Will you be sticking to urban environments, venturing only in outdoor terrain, or perhaps criss-crossing between settings on one trip? Consider where you’ll be using your pack and what it needs to carry before choosing one that will meet your needs sufficiently. But what if you’re struggling to find a daypack that will cover all of your travel needs all the time? Here’s the thing, you probably won’t ever find that pack. Unless you’re restricted to a particular type of travel, you’ll likely find your carry needs and travel needs changing. So you may want to choose more than one daypack to suit different needs. Do we suggest buying ten? Nope, that’s probably overkill. But a couple of options won’t hurt.

Triple Aught Design Azimuth Pack

Now that you’ve got a few considerations to mull over, let’s take a closer look at different types of daypacks that might be right for you.


Traditional daypacks

Traditional daypacks are your fully featured options. Think the kind of pack you’d use as an EDC bag. They’re more comfortable than lighter, pared-back options and are better for hauling heavier loads. However, not all traditional daypacks are ideal for travel and you may struggle to find ones that pack down compactly. If you are planning to use one as a travel daypack, it should be able to pack flat in your luggage or serve as a personal item that can be carried onto a plane.

Best of the best

Haglöfs Särna 20L Backpack (US$66.95)

Haglöfs Särna 20L Backpack

With its understated style the versatile Haglöfs Särna adapts easily to a range of travel settings. The durable, sustainable construction features bluesign® approved fabrics and leather detailing. And with an interior and exterior pocket as well as an interior 13″ laptop sleeve, you can keep essentials tidy on the go.

Osprey Arcane Large Daypack (from US$76.97)

Osprey Arcane Large Day Pack

The clean silhouette of the 20L Osprey Arcane Large Daypack allows it to transition between casual and more formal settings, making it versatile for work and leisure trips alike. The padded back panel and shoulder straps keep you comfy, while a quick-access front pocket and interior organization including a 15″ laptop sleeve store essentials neatly. Plus the ability to unhook the left shoulder strap and secure it around stationary objects offers peace of mind on your travels. And if you want something a little more compact, it comes in a small 10L version too.

Haglöfs Tight Malung Large (US$87.69)

Haglöfs Tight Malung Large

Want a pack that can embrace urban and outdoor excursions alike? The Haglöfs Tight Malung Large is a great pick. Its durable, sustainable construction stands up to demanding travel use, with a sternum strap to help stabilize the load. And speaking of loads, there’s a choice of pockets, an interior 15″ laptop sleeve, and compression straps to help keep your gear in check.

Tortuga Outbreaker Daypack (US$99)

Tortuga Outbreaker Travel Daypack

Tortuga’s Outbreaker Daypack takes all sorts of trips in its stride, offering a weatherproof build to protect gear from the elements, along with a range of pocketing to store travel essentials at the ready. The 21L bag packs down flat in your luggage and provides sweat-wicking padding for comfortable explorations.

Thule Subterra Backpack 23L (US$119.95)

Thule Subterra Backpack 23L

A good choice for travelers who carry a lot of tech, Thule’s 23L Subterra Backpack provides a padded 15″ laptop sleeve, a soft-lined tablet pocket, as well as a PowerPocket for cord management between your tech device and portable charger. A breathable, padded back harness and removable sternum strap keep you carrying comfortably. And there’s also a luggage pass-through panel for securing the pack to wheeled luggage.

Bellroy Classic Backpack (US$139)

Bellroy Classic Backpack

Keen for a pack that transitions between everyday and travel use? With its timeless, pared-back aesthetics and a useful mix of organization, Bellroy’s Classic Backpack is a solid choice. Contoured straps and lumbar support provide carry comfort on the move. And the main compartment opens wide for easy access to gear, including secure storage for a 15″ laptop.

Topo Designs Daypack (US$148.95)

Topo Designs Daypack

Want a rugged, adaptable pack with a straightforward design that handles quick hikes and city sightseeing alike? The Topo Designs Daypack steps up to take on the challenge. The pack is handmade in Colorado with a burly 1000D Cordura and padded back panel. Exterior quick-access pockets complement the interior 15″ laptop sleeve and organizational panel, keeping smaller and larger items alike neat and secure.

Arc’teryx Blade 6 Backpack (US$149)

Arc’teryx Blade 6 Backpack

Looking for a small, lightweight pack that navigates smoothly through crowds? The Arc’teryx Blade 6 does the job well, offering a sleek and slim profile for compactly carrying essentials. The side zipper provides easy access to the main compartment, where you’ll find storage for tech as well as a pocket with cable passthrough for on-the-go charging.

Trakke Fingal Backpack (US$155.65)

Trakke Fingal Backpack

Trakke’s updated Fingal Backpack combines a more structured silhouette with additional pockets to keep you carrying in organized style. The pack holds its shape whether full or empty and offers a handy mix of pockets to store travel essentials, including a padded 13″ laptop sleeve. And with its rugged handmade construction featuring weatherproof waxed canvas, you’re good to go come rain or shine.

Millican Smith The Roll Pack 15L – With Pockets (around US$160)

Millican Smith The Roll Pack 15L – With Pockets

Another versatile option to conquer the urban/outdoor divide, the Millican Smith The Roll Pack 15L – With Pockets does just what it suggests, offering a variety of handy pockets to store your gear close at hand. A quick-access 13″ laptop sleeve and range of exterior pockets keep frequently used items at the ready, while the rolltop main compartment offers further interior pockets to store tech, documents and more. The pack is made with 65% recycled, weatherproof Bionic Canvas and includes a removable sternum strap.

Aer Flight Pack 2 (US$160)

Aer Flight Pack 2

Great access, useful organization, clean aesthetics and multiple carry options make Aer’s Flight Pack 2 a worthy companion for both work and holiday trips. Dual compartments and an assortment of pockets ensure your travel gear is always within easy reach. And the option to carry the bag as a backpack, shoulder bag or briefcase (plus a handy luggage pass-through sleeve) keeps you carrying agilely throughout your trip.

Also check it out in the lighter and limited edition X-Pac.

WANDRD PRVKE 21L (US$184)

WANDRD PRVKE

The WANDRD PRVKE 21L backpack combines versatile access with a tough, weatherproof build, comfortable harness and adaptable design to suit diverse carry requirements. The rolltop main compartment provides flexible storage for larger and smaller loads alike, with quick side access and a lay-flat laptop compartment for added convenience. And you can pair the pack with optional accessories to create a dependable camera bag too.

Alchemy Equipment AEL017 20 Litre Roll Top Daypack (around US$189)

Alchemy Equipment AEL017 20L Roll Top Daypack

Alchemy Equipment’s AEL017 20 Litre Roll Top Daypack offers a considered blend of attractive styling and functional design. The magnetic rolltop and compression strap adapt to changing loads, with an interior 13″ laptop sleeve and exterior front and side pockets on hand to organize gear. A durable, water-resistant build and molded back panel round out this flexible, lightweight pack.

Tom Bihn Synapse 19 (US$200)

Tom Bihn Synapse 19

Dig pockets? Well, Tom Bihn’s Synapse 19 has plenty of them, providing lots of options for securing essentials close at hand. Made in the USA, it comes in a range of bluesign® certified fabrics and colorway options and is a great pick for users who appreciate useful organization while still retaining a compact carry silhouette when out and about.

Arc’teryx Granville 16 Zip Backpack (US$219)

Arc’teryx Granville 16 Zip Backpack

Fancy the clean styling of Arc’teryx’s Nomin without the hefty price tag? The Granville 16 Zip offers a more affordable alternative, pairing the brand’s technical expertise with a sleek design that glides easily between changing travel environments. The pack features AC² technology and WaterTight™ zippers to protect gear from the elements. Inside you’ll find organization for tech, documents and additional items. And coming in at just 0.75 kg (26 oz), this 16L pack won’t weigh you down.

Peak Design Everyday Backpack 20L (US$260)

Peak Design Everyday Backpack

There’s no shortage of features to love with Peak Design’s 20L Everyday Backpack. Dual side and top access. A range of pockets and FlexFold dividers for customized organization. A MagLatch closure for adjusting to different loads. A comfortable, weatherproof build. Plus a luggage strap to secure the pack to rolling luggage. Making this a great go-to option for work or play.

The Brown Buffalo Conceal Backpack 19L (US$295)

The Brown Buffalo Conceal Backpack V3

The 19L Brown Buffalo Conceal Backpack expertly fuses function and form, combining a sleek and understated exterior with thoughtful interior organization. The durable, water-resistant pack is made in the USA and includes a removable laptop sleeve that also doubles as a shoulder bag when you want to pare back your carry setup.


Packable daypacks

As the name suggests, packable daypacks prioritize packability. They tend to be ultralight bags that take up hardly any space in your larger bag or luggage. However, this space-saving design often means they’re stripped down and very minimal. In general, you won’t get a whole lot of features here. You also might need to get creative with your packing if you’re carrying hard or pointy objects (these often lacking structure or significant padding). And because they tend to use thinner materials for better packability, they’re not as durable as more bulky but tougher options out there.

Best of the best

Osprey Ultralight Stuff Pack (US$34.95)

Osprey Ultralight Stuff Pack

Osprey’s Ultralight Stuff Pack packs down into its own carry case until needed. But when you do, it’s ready for action with a comfortable Deluxe AirMesh™ harness. The 18L design weighs just 0.09 kg and features an exterior stretch pocket for a water bottle or other gear, a zippered pocket and an interior pocket. And reflective detailing helps keep you visible in low-light conditions too.

MEC Travel Light Daypack 16 (around US$35)

MEC Travel Light Daypack 16

MEC’s Travel Light Daypack 16 delivers what it promises, only weighing 242g. The bag is made from water-resistant 70-denier ripstop nylon and offers side and top pockets for storing essentials. It packs down into its own pocket for compact storage and includes ventilated, contoured shoulder straps and a removable foam back pad for carry comfort.

Tortuga Setout Packable Daypack (US$39)

Tortuga Setout Packable Daypack

With its padded, ventilated harness and lightweight, water-resistant build, Tortuga’s Setout Packable Daypack is ready for a day of exploration in both urban and outdoor settings. Front and side pockets store quick-access items, and the 19L main compartment offers more than enough space for larger essentials.

Arc’teryx Index 15 Backpack (US$59)

Arc'teryx Index 15

The Index 15 Backpack is a lightweight 15L daypack that weighs only 0.22 kg (8 oz) and stores compactly in its own top pocket. An interior slip pocket stores a 10″ tablet or a hydration bladder, while exterior attachment points allow you to secure bulky and quick-access items externally.

Topo Designs Light Pack (US$68.95)

Topo Designs Light Pack

The Topo Designs Light Pack embraces both urban and outdoor explorations, keeping gear safe with its padded base and sides. The pack has an interior 15″ laptop sleeve and an exterior front pocket with internal organization. Padded shoulder straps help keep you comfy, while a range of colorways let you express your personal style.

Mystery Ranch In and Out Pack (US$79)

Mystery Ranch In and Out Packable Backpack

The 19L In and Out Pack offers Mystery Ranch’s burly dependability and comfort in a more packable-friendly format. It stuffs into its own front pocket, yet unpacks to provide a comfortable and functional pack for summit hikes and city streets alike. Contoured shoulder straps and a sternum strap help keep the load comfortable, while the 100D CORDURA® Mini Rip is durable and abrasion resistant yet lightweight. Multiple pockets and attachment points organize your gear. And the pack is hydration bladder compatible for easy on-the-go hydration.

Aer Go Pack (US$85)

Aer Go Pack

Urban-friendly styling, functional design and a packable form come together in Aer’s Go Pack. Designed to help you blend into urban environments while offering travel-friendly packability, the bag features a durable and stylish 300D Cordura® ripstop exterior, quick-access pockets, an interior 13″ laptop sleeve and a luggage pass-through strap. All in a design that packs flat or rolls up for compact storage in luggage.

WANDRD VEER Packable Bag (US$99)

WANDRD VEER Packable Bag

A lot of packable daypacks sacrifice comfort for packability. But the WANDRD VEER is designed to provide both thanks to a removable inflatable back panel. The back panel also provides structure to the pack, while allowing it to pack down compactly when not in use. Additionally, the lightweight and weather-resistant pack can be paired with an optional inflatable camera cube for flexible camera protection.

Pacsafe Vibe 25L ECONYL Anti-theft Backpack (US$119.95)

Pacsafe Vibe 25L ECONYL Anti-theft Backpack

Chic style, eco-conscious construction and discreet anti-theft features all in one pack? The Pacsafe Vibe 25L ECONYL Anti-theft Backpack delivers it all. The pack is made with ECONYL® regenerated nylon fiber and offers an assortment of pockets including a 13″ laptop sleeve that doubles as hydration bladder storage. Anti-theft features such as cut-resistant materials and straps, lockable zippers, RFID-blocking pockets and the ability to secure the pack to fixed objects provide welcome peace of mind during your travels too.

Triple Aught Design Azimuth Pack (US$120)

TAD’s Azimuth Pack is an adaptable companion for urban and outdoor adventures, offering convenient top and side access and a durable, lightweight and weather-resistant build. A selection of pockets and attachment points let you tailor your setup to changing needs. And it’s compatible with a hydration bladder when you want to venture further afield.


Expandable and compressible backpacks

These are larger travel backpacks designed to carry all of your stuff, but then compress down to ‘daypack’ size once you’ve dumped your kit in your accommodation. They won’t fly as well under the radar as a traditional daypack. Plus you’ll need to remove and store the majority of your gear at your accommodation (packing cubes and pouches come in handy here) when you’re ready to explore with only daily essentials like water, a jacket, camera and snacks. However, if you want to cut down your carry they’re a great all-in-one option for luggage and daypack combined (or if you simply want more volume flexibility from your bag). And since they function as fully-fledged travel packs, they generally rate pretty high in comfort and durability too.

Best of the best

Kathmandu Federate Travel Pack (US$169)

Kathmandu Federate Travel Pack

Kathmandu’s Federate Travel Pack helps you avoid looking like a tourist in urban settings, while offering useful features such as top and side access, lay-flat laptop storage, a removable organizer and a stowable hip belt. And with its ability to compress into a smaller pack, you can enjoy more streamlined carry with smaller loads.

Tortuga Setout Divide Backpack (US$179)

Tortuga Setout Divide Backpack

Want the flexibility to squeeze in extra or compress your carry as required? Tortuga’s Setout Divide lets you do both with an expandable design that increases from 26L to 34L. The clamshell main compartment offers easy packing and a front organization compartment and rear tech storage keeps quick-access items readily accessible. Add in the comfy padded harness and removable hip belt and you’re all set for enjoyable travels.

Aer Travel Pack 2 (US$230)

Aer Travel Pack 2

Aer’s Travel Pack 2 serves up a well-considered range of features to make your travels smoother. The main compartment opens flat for convenient packing and access, while a front organization compartment and rear tech storage keep your frequently used gear close at hand. There’s also separate storage for shoes or dirty laundry, as well as a luggage pass-through for convenient portability with wheeled luggage. And the ability to compress the pack into slimmer daypack mode makes it a viable carry option for day-to-day essentials.

Also check it out in the lighter and limited edition X-Pac.

Peak Design Travel Backpack (US$299.95)

Peak Design Travel Backpack

When it comes to flexible volume, Peak Design’s Travel Backpack has it down pat. Its default 35L configuration can be expanded to 45L or alternatively compressed to 30L, giving you plenty of options for packing larger loads or keeping it compact for day use at your destination. The weatherproof 100% recycled nylon canvas shell and water-resistant zippers help protect your gear in inclement weather. And with its front, back and dual side access and multiple pockets you can easily reach gear throughout the bag.


Detachable and attachable daypacks

So you need a larger piece of luggage. But you also want a daypack. And you want your larger luggage to be a backpack too. You may want to pair separate pieces together. Alternatively you might want to go with a combo backpack and daypack option that allows you to combine a larger backpack with a smaller detachable daypack. The benefit of this setup is all-in-one carry and increased volume for larger loads, yet it’s easy enough to separate the daypack for use as your personal carry-on item or as your destination day bag. Just make sure to check your airline luggage restrictions to ensure your chosen combo fits within the limits. And of course, carrying both bags on your back will be more strenuous than for example pairing a daypack with wheeled luggage. Though a pack-only combination may work better if you’re traveling over rough terrain or encountering a lot of stairs. Again, consider your trip and whether this option is best for you.

Best of the best

Osprey Daylite Plus Daypack (US$64.70)

Osprey Daylite Plus 20L Backpack

Osprey’s Daylite Plus Daypack works great as a simple way to add additional volume to a range of Osprey travel packs. However, while it secures to several larger Osprey packs, it also works well as a standalone daypack for exploring your destination with a pared-back carry setup. The 20L pack weighs just 0.54 kg and offers a padded laptop and tablet sleeve, external hydration bladder storage, and quick-access pockets for on-the-go essentials.

MEC Supercontinent 65 Backpack (around US$107)

MEC Supercontinent 65 Backpack

MEC’s Supercontinent 65 Backpack combines a 50L pack with a removable 15L daypack, making it easy to leave the bulk of your luggage at your accommodation and explore your destination with just the daypack. And with a clamshell opening for the larger pack, an included rain cover, and supportive harness you’re ready to take on diverse trips with ease.

Deuter Transit 50 Backpack (US$135)

Deuter Transit 50

The Deuter Transit 50 Backpack offers a great all-in-one carry option for transporting all your gear from A to B, while being able to shed the load for day explorations. The larger 50L pack has an adjustable, stowable harness to suit different torso lengths. A wide opening makes it easy to pack and retrieve your gear, with a choice of pockets on hand for organization. The detachable 12L daypack also offers a range of pockets to neatly store smaller items for day-to-day use.

Osprey Farpoint 55 (from US$169.51)

Osprey’s Farpoint 55 in the M/L option combines a 42L main pack with a detachable 13L daypack. The main pack features front panel access and a stowable harness for snag-free storage in tight spaces. The daypack includes a sternum strap with integrated whistle and can be carried separately or attached to the front of the larger pack or alternatively secured in front of your chest.

Osprey Ozone Duplex 65 Travel Pack (US$219.95)

Osprey Ozone Duplex 65 Travel Pack

The highly adaptable Osprey Ozone Duplex 65 Travel Pack offers the benefits of two packs in one. A daypack that carries against your back, along with a cargo bag that secures to the daypack. The comfy and adjustable daypack harness suits a variety of torso lengths, with rear panel access to easily reach gear even when the cargo bag is attached. The cargo bag features a wide opening for packing convenience and can be carried as a standalone shoulder bag.


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