Tips for Choosing the Best Hiking Daypack

September 9, 2019

When you set out on a hike, you should always expect the unexpected. You never know when you could wind up stranded in the middle of nowhere with nothing but the gear in your daypack to get you through. When you’re on the trail, your pack needs to provide plenty of storage and easy access to its contents while being comfortable enough to wear for hours. Let’s look at some tips for choosing the best hiking daypack.

Daypack Capacity

Backpack volume usually gets measured in liters rather than cubic inches. Daypacks are typically smaller than full-size backpacks meant for longer trips. There is still a pretty wide range of sizes, however.

10 Liters or Less

The smallest daypacks are good for short hikes where you won’t be venturing far from civilization. They’ll hold water, food, and some bad-weather gear but there’s limited space for much else.

11 to 20 Liters

The next step up adds rooms for extra clothes and snacks. If you’re going to be out on the trail for most of the day or there’s a chance of inclement weather, you’ll have more flexibility with this size.

21 to 35 Liters

This is as large as daypacks get. You’ll be able to pack extra clothes, food, and all the other 10 hiking essentials along with extras like a camera or lightweight cooking gear.  This size is large enough to use for multi day treks where one stays in huts, hostels or hotels.

Size and Fit

The size isn’t only about the capacity, it also affects how the pack fits. There are two types of daypacks, traditional frameless and technical framed.  Traditional daypacks predominantly use the shoulder straps to carry the weight, and are much simpler to fit.  Try it on, and how does it feel.  Technical daypacks are similar to their larger full size equivalents.  For these fit is more crucial as the point of the frame is to set the weight on the hiker’s hips.

When choosing this pack, consider your torso length, not your height or physical size. Torso length is referenced from the top of the hip bone to the C7 vertebrae.  These packs have a hip belt which is worn so the top of the hip bone is nested in the pad of the belt.  Length is correct when the shoulder straps curve down the back a couple inches.  One should have even contact along the strap with no gaps.  Many packs are gender specific to better fit.

The belt should fit snugly but not too tight. Try the pack on loaded.  The majority of the weight should be on the hips.  If unsure, pack fitters knowledgeable in the different models can help find the pack that fits best.

Other Features to Consider for the Best Hiking Daypack

Packs with frames are often more rigid and will typically carry more weight. Frameless packs are lighter and will compress down to a smaller size if you’re packing it inside a larger camping backpack to use for shorter outings from your basecamp.

How you access the pack’s contents is another important factor

Look for a daypack that has access from the top, front, bottom, and sides. Load it strategically so you can get at everything in it without pulling out half the contents. This not only makes it easier to manage, but it also means you won’t have to block the trail while you’re unpacking and repacking things which isn’t good trail etiquette.

Look for water storage features. Most daypacks have a pocket for a hydration pack and some come with one. Look for external pockets for a water bottle to give you more flexibility.

Choose a Daypack that Suits Your Needs

You’ll find plenty of reviews on the internet that will claim to reveal the best hiking daypack. Reviews are helpful but what’s best for one hiker isn’t necessarily what’s best for another.

Figure out how you’re going to use your pack and look for one that meets your needs. Look at it in person if possible to check the fit and if you can’t, make sure wherever you buy it has a good return policy.

Bill Jackson’s Shop for Adventure carries a wide range of backpacking gear.

Whether you’re venturing out for a couple of hours or a couple of weeks, we’ve got the equipment to get you prepared. Come down to the store today and one of our outdoor experts will help you find the perfect daypack along with any other gear you need.