For one-bag travelers, there’s nothing better than a packable backpack. They combine the utility of a small, light bag designed for short adventures with the convenience of being able to shove it into a side pocket.
Whether you’re taking your big hiking backpack into the wilderness or filling your carry-on luggage for your next trip abroad, these bags are great companions.
You can explore side trails without lugging your tent with you, or take a packed lunch and your camera on your next sightseeing tour. Or simply have an extra bag for all your souvenirs when you return home!
When we had to choose our top pick of all the packable daypacks, the Tortuga Setout Packable Daypack
easily stood head and shoulders above the rest. With its stylish design and excellent functionality, this is a bag we highly recommend to all travelers.
What we really like about the Tortuga Setout is that it has just the right amount of features without being too bulky. While some packable daypacks try to strip everything they can out of the design to make it as feather-light as possible, Tortuga has acknowledged that you need a few extras in there to make travel daypacks comfortable and convenient to use.
For example, while some packable daypacks leave out padding altogether, this backpack keeps some padding in the straps so you aren’t dealing with sore shoulders while you walk around all day. There’s a bit more in the back too, so that your camera isn’t digging into your spine when you’re trying to listen to your tour guide.
The Tortuga Setout Packable Daypack also comes with a sternum strap, an uncommon feature in this list which we found surprisingly useful: it keeps the bag from slipping off your shoulders when it’s not fully loaded.
We love how comfortable this daypack is, which is due to the great design of the straps and the light weight of the bag. It folds up entirely into its own front pocket, making it super convenient to bring with you on any adventure, whether you’re taking a hike or an overseas holiday.
Frankly, we think the Tortuga packable daypack is as close to perfect as you’re likely to get. We highly recommend keeping this one in mind.
We were pretty surprised when we found out that Amazon (yes, that Amazon) has their own line of backpacks, and to be honest, we weren’t expecting much.
Essentially, you have two reasons to buy AmazonBasics Ultralight Packable Daypack
: it’s very cheap and very light. At just 6.7oz, this is a feather-light packable daypack. If you’re concerned about your carry-on luggage weight or being weighed down on the trail, you can leave those worries behind with this daypack. The price point definitely leaves you a bit of extra room in your budget too.
However, this product has a number of flaws. Our biggest concern is the straps, which are made of mesh only. This sheds weight but means there is zero padding, so you’ll be uncomfortable if you’re carrying a heavier load. The bag itself is roomy at 25L, but with no shoulder padding, all of that packing space seems more like a trap to easily carry extra stuff.
Furthermore, while this daypack has a few pockets, the front zippered pocket zips vertically, making it difficult to actually use.
This is not a bad daypack by any means, and if you are looking for a light bag on a budget, it works. However, if comfort and utility are concerns for you, there are better packs on the market.
Gonex is the new kid on the block in the travel gear scene. Founded in China in 2015, Gonex aims to bring a selection of quality backpacks and outdoor equipment to the world at a very low price. This is their latest travel gear offering, and to our eyes, it looks very promising.
There are a lot of nice touches to this bag. At 6.4oz, you’ll barely feel this one on your back or in your luggage.
At the low price point, the Gonex
also won’t hurt your wallet. These packs last for years with their structural integrity intact (although some users have noted that the lining starts to deteriorate after a few months).
The bag has some padding structure in the shoulder straps, which stops them from bunching up and hurting your shoulders.
As for the organization, Gonex has you covered. There are two mesh pockets on the side for easy access, a sizeable front pocket for smaller bits, and a zippered pocket on the inside for valuables, which is also the containment pouch for the bag when it’s scrunched up.
While it was designed with the trail in mind, Gonex has intended this bag to be useful for many urban purposes, such as shopping, commuting, and travel; we think they’ve done a solid job of providing that.
Eagle Creek has been around for awhile, and they know their stuff: useful, aesthetic gear with features that travelers need. This packable daypack definitely fits that bill.
First thing’s first: the Eagle Creek Packable Daypack
just looks really cool. Most packable daypacks go for simple colors or plain black; Eagle Creek has found a way to make their version a fashion item. This is definitely one you could wear around the city as well as the trail.
Another standout feature is the security zippers: with a small padlock, you can secure your valuables from pickpockets in the streets or thieves in a hostel dorm.
At 13L, this is quite a compact bag–it’s fine for easily carrying clothes and snacks but not much else. While it may be inconvenient for some, the smaller size allows it to be even more economical on the scales than most daypacks, clocking in at just 5oz.
There is one small problem: the bag’s durability. While the bag is made of decent materials, there have been some reports of rips and faults not long after purchase. Eagle Creek offers a lifetime warranty, but that’s not something you will want to negotiate while on an adventure.
Eddie Bauer was a man who started making outdoor adventure gear almost 100 years ago. To this day, his company is a leader in American adventure gear, and we were excited to test their new bag.
The Eddie Bauer Stowaway Packable 20L
is a decent backpack. It has an ergonomic shape designed to hold your items close to your back and to evenly distribute weight. The shoulder straps have a fair bit of integrity with some padding for comfort. Although, once again, I wouldn’t want to be carrying anything heavier than a water bottle in this bag–it’s just not built to easily carry heavy loads, despite being a 20L.
There are several handy pockets on the outside and inside, but they have made the front pocket a vertical pocket. As we mentioned before, this isn’t a great design feature and it really limits what you can put inside that pocket.
In terms of material and design, this foldable daypack really shines. The polyester composite is partially waterproof, meaning that your stuff won’t be drenched in a sudden shower. The designers also thought to include a few loops to attach extra stuff to the back.
Finally, the amount of colors and designs for the Eddie Bauer Stowaway Packable 20L are pretty awesome. There are some really unique designs on the product website!
Osprey is one of our all-time favorite backpack brands. These guys are the heavyweights of the backpack world, at the top of the game for hiking and traveling gear, and this daypack is their latest hit.
has an extremely minimalist design. There is nothing on this backpack that doesn’t need to be there! You get a water bottle pocket, a tiny zip pocket, and that’s it. The whole thing tips the scales at 4oz and packs down into an apple-sized storage pocket.
It’s like wearing a bag made of air.
You would expect that such a lightweight bag would have made every comfort compromise possible, but surprisingly, it wears quite well. While you would not want to be hucking around a chunky camera or your rock collection in this bag, it’s perfect for your average day trek or sightseeing trip. It has the added plus of being moderately water-resistant, as well as coming in a few funky colors.
This bag is a feather-light way to easily carry your essentials with you, and it won’t add anything extra to your luggage. If you’re on the hunt for a weight-efficient daypack, this is one of the best options on the market.
Just when we thought backpacks couldn’t get any lighter, Sea to Summit came along to prove us wrong. We’re big fans of Sea to Summit at TravelFreak, so we were keen to see what this one had to offer.
Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil
weighs 2.5oz. That’s right, two point five ounces! It’s a shockingly lightweight piece of equipment that folds up into a keychain-sized pouch.
As you might expect, everything has been stripped out to make this bag lighter. There are no pockets except for the main compartment. There are a couple of webbing loops at the bottom where you can attach a bike light, but that’s the only frill about this backpack.
Sea to Summit has managed to design this daypack in a way that is still reasonably comfortable despite its thin shoulder straps and lack of padding, mostly thanks to its innovative stitching and a shape that hugs close to the back. This is a sturdy bag that will stand the test of time, built from durable materials and put together with care.
The standard warnings about light backpacks still apply to the Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil: the lack of padding impedes comfort, and it’s not suitable for carrying a lot of gear. But at 2.5oz this bag takes up virtually no space, and that’s essential for any light traveler.
Packs down to almost nothing at all
Excellent minimalist backpack with only one pocket
The last bag for our ultralight section is an interesting little gem. A product of the highly respected Canadian company Arc’teryx, this bag combines trail smarts with a smooth look that fits right into an urban environment.
The thing we like most about this Arc’teryx Index 15
is the structure. Not only does it have an awesome body-hugging shape, but it also has great access to the main compartment thanks to its clamshell, vertical zipper hybrid. It also has a secondary zipped pocket on the outside as well as a smaller one on the inside for your valuables.
The Arc’teryx Index 15 also has a pocket to carry a hydration bladder or a tablet, depending on what your adventure is that day. It’s one of the most unique features on this list.
However, we don’t love the straps. Once again, there is no padding or breathability whatsoever on the shoulders. Even though this daypack is not going to be used to carry heavy items, padded shoulder straps are essential for comfortable walking.
It’s up to you as to whether the strap situation is a deal-breaker. For what it’s worth, this is one of the best-looking bags you’ll find from a hiking company, and it absolutely fits an urban aesthetic. It’s up to you if it’s worth it!
WANDRD earned its fame a few years ago with a Kickstarter to build a backpack for photographers, and they ended up with the PRVKE. With the enormous success of that initial product, they’ve come back again with VEER,
a daypack designed for photographers.
This bag’s unique features are impressive and it’s designed to carry a lot of stuff. The standouts are the inflatable components: to save packing space and increase comfort, the back padding is actually a tubing system that you manually inflate. The bag also comes with a space-efficient inflatable camera cube that protects your precious gear from any knocks and bumps.
Structurally, this bag is pretty sound. It wears well, with aerated padding in the shoulders and back for sweat-wicking, and a good fit for your spine’s natural curvature. The sternum strap adds even more support. The bag itself is made of very robust materials and WANDRD offers a lot of compatible add-ons for your lenses and other equipment, plus some daisy chains to lash a tripod onto the back of the bag.
When not in use, it packs to the size of a tissue box.
Would we recommend it to you? Only if you’re a photographer. There are a lot of interesting features in this bag, but the $99 price tag is difficult to justify unless you’re camera-happy.
Inflatable strap padding and camera cube
Natural and ergonomic fit
Built for photographers
Relatively large when packed
Not so good for non-photographers
WANDRD VEER Specs:
18 x 11 x 9 inches
Dimensions When Packed
6 x 9 x 2 inches
Weather Resistant N100D Robic Dynatec and N210D Robic HD Oxford
The Tortuga Outbreaker
is a change of pace from the other backpacks on this list. Instead of packing into a tiny bag, this packable daypack is designed to fold flat into another piece of luggage as a convenient space saver. It’s perfect for business travelers or city hoppers.
This bag has a lot of extra features. Since weight wasn’t a priority for the designers of this daypack, it comes with lots of bells and whistles. There is excellent padding on the shoulders and back, with sweat-wicking aerated foam used on both to help keep your skin dry. The main compartment is an organizational beast, with pockets galore for all your essentials, including laptop and iPad sleeves.
The canvas is water-resistant, and crucially, so are the zippers, which are usually the weak point of any waterproof bag. All of this weighs a little over a pound, and while that’s more than the ultralight bags, it’s still a very light backpack.
There are some drawbacks: the design is very blocky and black is the only color choice. It’s also expensive and not suited to being taken into nature. However, if you’re on a business trip, or just looking for something to take to college or work, this bag is a great investment.
Canadian company Arkadia started in 2017 with a Kickstarter campaign. From day one, they have been focused on providing quality waterproof gear at a great price.
The Arkadia Sea to Sky Pack
is a pretty neat daypack. The main compartment is totally waterproof, with a roll and clip entry point instead of zippers for maximum water resistance. At just 5.5oz, it still manages to be very light while still holding an impressive 24L of carrying space.
It’s short on organization – as expected from a packable daypack – but still has a front pocket and two bottle pockets on either side.
There are a few drawbacks to this bag. Most importantly, the entire bag is not waterproof–only the main compartment. The front pocket, while it is water-resistant, is not waterproof, so anything you put in there will not stay totally dry. On top of that, the bag does not pack into a built-in pocket, but into a separate bag; otherwise, you won’t be able to pack up the backpack.
Overall, it’s a pretty cool bag, and the waterproof functionality is a great thing to have for anyone hiking in rainy or watery areas. Just keep in mind that this is not a miracle product that repels all moisture.
If the Arkadia backpack didn’t strike your fancy, take a look at the Matador Freerain24 2.0
. This Colorado-based company specializes in gear for intrepid travelers.
Matador has gone out of their way to make the bag as waterproof as possible. With CORDURA fabric, internally sealed seams, and a roll and clip opening, this bag can take some liquid punishment. There are videos of the FreeRain24 being sprayed with hoses and dumped in showers with no seepage into the main compartment!
Unfortunately, the exterior pockets are once again only water-resistant, so beware of putting your phones or wallets in there.
Besides the waterproofing, there are some other features that we like about this packable daypack. There is a sternum strap and plenty of adjustment options (without the straps getting too messy). The shoulders have lots of support for carrying bigger loads. Crucially, the material used is designed to be very resistant to wear and tear, which is how most waterproof bags stop being waterproof.
All in all, it’s a very decent daypack. While waterproofing is the key feature, there is plenty more to like about the Matador FreeRain.
You’ve probably seen Herschel’s iconic backpacks. They’re a staple of any hipster neighborhood, serving as a reliable, stylish way to carry your goods from A to B. As a companion to their bigger bags, Herschel now has a packable daypack that slides right in with your gear.
The aesthetics of this Herschel backpack
are minimalist urban chic, designed to be a fashion item as well as a backpack. In a way, it represents a stripped-down version of their main backpack line and comes in a rainbow variety of colors: everything from plain black to sunny pastels, all the way up to classic floral patterns.
The tradeoff comes in the functionality. This is not a comfortable backpack. The straps are very thin, with the tightening straps and shoulder straps made of the same material with zero padding. This makes it light, but your shoulders won’t thank you after a long day of walking, or if you have to carry more than a pound in weight.
Furthermore, while this daypack is made of decent materials, it isn’t designed to be as robust as Herschel’s main offerings. While this is to be expected from a stripped-down packable daypack, there have been some reports of this bag falling apart very quickly.
This bag is a great fashion item, but if you want a reliable piece of equipment to wear a lot, this probably isn’t what you’re looking for.
This one is for hikers and climbers – the Marmot Kompressor
rolls up into its own lid! This is something a bit different from the other bags here, but we think you might like it.
The first thing you notice about the Kompressor is that it has a lot of extra features. There are compression straps, a sternum strap, a lid, loops, and clips to hang things from – things that you don’t see on other packable daypacks. You get the lightweight and convenience of the packable backpack, as well as the utility and durability of a proper backpack.
So, does it work? Well, there are a lot of upsides. This bag is lighter than a standard daypack, coming in at under a pound but still holding a solid 18L. The drawstring opening will allow you to pack more efficiently than zippers, and the lid adds some weatherproofing, although the backpack does not claim to be waterproof.
On the downside, you get very little padding, but it still weighs more than most packable daypacks. It’s also significantly larger than other bags when packed, which may be a concern if you’re short on space.
There’s also a hydration port and reservoir clip, but no hydration bladder. As a hiking and climbing pack, we really feel like this could do with a bladder.
Overall, this could be a good bet if you’re looking to carry less stuff on the trail. Climbers, in particular, will appreciate the lightweight structure without the full sacrifice of durability. However, you should think carefully about whether a traditional backpack may be what you really want.
If you’re looking for something truly unique, this is the bag for you. That’s because every single Batac backpack
is a unique item, created by the Cotopaxi workers from scrap material from other products. How cool is that?
The fact that it’s made from leftovers means that each bag is slightly unique in build as well as color. While each bag has the same broad strokes in terms of structure and design, some bags will have slightly different materials in terms of elasticity, breathability, and flexibility. All Batac bags are made with ripstop nylon, so there’s no need to worry about the quality of the materials overall.
Oh, and did I mention color? These bags are a riot of visual delight, with all kinds of different colors patched together according to the whims of the manufacturer. This is definitely the daypack for someone who wants a bit of self-expression.
In terms of packability, this one won’t fold into its own pocket. However, as it is very lightweight and unstructured, so it compresses very easily and takes up relatively little space in a larger piece of luggage.
As far as other features go, there is a vertical zippered pocket down the side which we think is an excellent idea if you are after something in a hurry.
All in all, this is an unconventional choice to be sure. But we love the color splash that these backpacks provide, as well as the knowledge that this bag represents a little less waste in the world.
Eco-friendly choice as it’s made from leftover materials from other products
For almost a century, REI has been a go-to for people looking for high-quality merchandise, and we really love the fact that in this age of corporate juggernauts, they remain a member-owned cooperative. We had some pretty high expectations for this packable daypack.
As a bunch of avid hikers, we love the REI Co-op Stuff Travel Pack
. The tall, form-fitting build allows contents to be held close to the body to maximize weight distribution. There is enough padding for it to be reasonably comfortable without weighing us down too much. It comes in a small variety of colors which very much stick with the outdoors theme, just in case you missed the memo that this was designed for the trail.
With its high-quality build materials, you can rest assured that it will stand up to a bit of rough treatment, although we don’t recommend abusing it too much as it’s very thin.
An interesting feature is the front pocket. Instead of a zipped pocket, the designers have opted for an elasticated open-top pocket, which I actually think is a great idea. If you have anything that you want quick access to, you don’t need to bother digging through the main compartment. It makes much more sense than the vertical zippered pockets that other packable daypacks have used.
All in all, this is a decent piece of equipment at a reasonable price. If you haven’t found one you love in the list already, I would say this is an Ol’ Reliable that will see you through your adventures for years to come.
Packable backpacks are a rising trend in the travel and outdoor adventure world; they provide a valuable addition to any luggage. There are many factors that might go into your decision to buy one. Let’s start with why they’re are a great idea:
They make it easier to explore side trails if you take one in your hiking backpack. Leave the big fella at the campsite and race ahead with the baby version and some snacks!
They can be a great addition to your carry-on luggage on the plane. If you’re all about a one-bag travel lifestyle, these packs allow you to be so much more versatile. Plus, it means one less bag to keep track of once it’s stowed in your main luggage.
They’re super lightweight. They’re great for peak bashing and climbing in the summer.
So, when is a packable daypack not a good idea? If you have to carry a lot of heavy items, such as heavy camera equipment, lots of food, or several days of gear. Unfortunately, the fabrics that make these daypacks just aren’t strong enough to carry that kind of thing!
Let’s have a look at some key factors.
Advances in fabric technology mean that packable daypacks have gone from simple totes to essential equipment. This means there are quality products out there, so you shouldn’t settle for a backpack with the integrity of a supermarket bag.
Make sure you find a bag that will last, ideally built of high ripstop nylon or waterproof sailcloth.
A crucial asset in addition to materials. You won’t be carrying multiple water bottles with these packs (most don’t even have water bottle pockets). They’re designed to be as unobtrusive as possible, and excess weight can be pretty obtrusive. Be careful with how light you want your bag — too light, and the structural integrity will be compromised.
If you think you’ll need to carry lots of heavier stuff, make sure your pack has sternum straps to balance a heavier load.
While this is less of a concern in packs that won’t be carrying much weight, padding is still important. Not only does it provide that little bit of extra comfort, but good back and shoulder padding (and a good shoulder strap system) also provides air access to wick away excess sweat. Because, let’s face it, no one loves a shirt soaked in back sweat.
While most packable daypacks don’t claim to be waterproof, it’s nice to know that they won’t get soaked immediately if the rain starts falling. There are waterproof options out there, so make sure you take a look if you expect to be walking through wet and rainy areas.
While the Tortuga Setout is our favorite option in this list, it all comes down to choosing what’s right for you and what you want to carry. If you’re a city traveler, you probably don’t need the bells and whistles of a climbing backpack.
At the end of the day, these packs are meant to make traveling easier on you. We hope you find the bag of your travel dreams!