Never underestimate the power of a great day pack. It not only makes perfect sense to carry around on your daily exploration. A lot of things won't fit in your pockets like cameras and sunscreen. You also won't want to carry a full backpack the whole day. You want something useful and also unobtrusive enough that you won't need to mind your bag all the time. On your flights, a good day pack can also double as a spare carry-on.
A day pack is as good as an accessory, so go for something you won't be ashamed of carrying around wherever you go. Day packs come in different colors, forms, and sizes, but generally, they come in two main categories: urban and athletic.
Urban day packs are more slick and stylish. They're more fashionable and have good organization features. Athletic day packs tend to have bells and whistles to have room and functionality for more active users. They tend to look out-of-place in urban settings but are more comfortable.
The point of having a day pack is having something that won't make things more complicated. There are day packs that fold into a pouch. There are day packs that can be folded and stowed away. There are day packs that have detachable parts. It's not completely necessary, but it would be a good feature if you plan on packing it inside a bigger carry-on or you simply don't have a lot of storage space at home.
Another consideration is how lightweight the bag is. The lighter the better. It may feel light the first moment you carry it, but as the day goes on, the bag will weigh down more.
Day packs can be in a form of a backpack, a sling bag, a tote bag, or a shoulder bag. Go for the type that works best for your activity. Also watch out for shoulder pads, length of the straps, and overall fit and drop of the bag against your body.
Pay attention to zippers, pockets, and closures. While external pockets are great, it's an easy area for pickpockets to get to. You don't always have to padlock your day pack, but make sure the security features and bag closures are suitable for the places you'll go to.
The Fjallraven Rucksack No. 21 is a great day pack if you want to stray away from the generic looking backpacks everyone on the street carries around. It's a great rugged-looking urban bag and comes in a host of different colors. Its minimalist design is perfect for going through busy streets or going on-board trains and buses.
The backpack is also comfortable to wear. It has padded shoulder straps that attach to adjustable leather straps. It's body-hugging and fit, helping keep the bag stable and close to your body. The padded back keeps the bag's weight comfortable against your body.
It has several organization functions, too. The main compartment houses a padded laptop sleeve, two slip pockets, and a zip pocket. It also has a removable seat pad and a pocket that holds a thermos in an upright position. It closes with a drawstring for a tight and secure fit. There are two large outer compartments for items you're too lazy to open the string for. A flap closes over the whole bag and secures with metal nubs.
While the minimalist look is stylish, it doesn't give much way for more storage. There are no slots or pockets for pens, cards, or gadgets. It's great for day hikes, leisure walks, and city tours. However, if this will be doubling as a work-anywhere kind of bag, you'll find it lacking of functionality.
The Burton Tinder Pack has a classic design and polished look that appeals to a lot of travelers. It also comes in over 40 color combinations, so you can choose something more subtle or something very loud. In terms of functionality, it can look very simple and slick, but this bag packs a lot of punch.
The build is very strong and sturdy. You can pack anything from books to boots to groceries together with your gadgets and laptop without worry. The roomy interior has a padded laptop compartment that can store a 15-inch laptop. There is an external side zipper so you can access the laptop without having to open the entire bag. It also has an interior zippered mesh pocket to make it easier to see the contents inside. The main compartment is cinched close with a drawstring.
The bag closes with a flap that secures with two push buckles. The flap has another pocket to store smaller and quick-access items.
Comfort is also a plus with its ergonomic padded shoulder straps and padded back.
While its a perfect urban bag, there are some lacking organization functions like a place for your water bottle. There is one exterior pocket that may not be enough space for a more outdoorsy adventure. Carrying a volume of 25L, it has room for a lot of stuff, but can be quite large for smaller frames or for quick trips in the city. Despite its size, it's a very lightweight backpack at just 1 pound.
One of the simplest day packs you'll find on the list, the Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Day Pack is a no-frills day pack you can take anywhere. It folds and rolls into its own pouch so small that you can actually attach it to a key chain. It can double as a great emergency bag that you'll just have with your wherever you go without having to put much thought into it.
There's not much to this bag other than the main compartment. It's extremely light but can carry a ton of weight. It's made with silicone nylon that makes it practically wear-and-tear proof. It also makes the bag water resistant. There are reinforced bar tack stitching in all stress points to ensure that the bag doesn't give away from the weight of the contents.
It's not meant to be a dedicated day pack, but its perfect for spontaneous trips or trips with no specific itinerary. This is something you can whip out when needed and keep out of the way when not. If going on a hike, this is great to bring along for side trips while leaving your main bag at the campsite. It's also great for visiting street fairs or markets where you can just keep this bag in your purse and take it out if there are things you want to buy.
There are few day packs that can look cool enough on the streets and rugged enough for the trees. The Osprey Daylite Plus is a beautiful synergy of urban style and athletic functionality when it comes to day packs. This ultra-light day pack and sleek modern design makes it a great option for varying trips.
It is made up of solid rubber making it not only durable but also flexible, scratch-resistant, and water-resistant. The padded and perforated back and shoulder straps make carrying this bag so comfortable and breezy that you will likely survive walking and hiking for miles under the scorching sun. The detachable hip belt keeps the bag secure despite any kind of movement.
There is a roomy front panel to store any kind of quick-access item. It can even fit lightweight rain jackets. There is also a front "shove it" pocket where you can literally shove items into the unzippered but snug pocket. There are elasticated side pockets for water bottles and other items. The elastic band is a little loose, however. If the bag is not full, water bottles won't stay upright.
The interior has a multi-function padded pocket that can fit a laptop or a hydration bag.
It's great for any kind of day travel, but longer or more rigorous hikes might need something bigger and more functional.
When it comes to athletic day packs, the Deuter Speed Lite 20 is top-notch. Another lightweight option that doesn't sacrifice size or function, this bag is the perfect outdoor accessory.
The technology applied to this bag is meant for all-around versatility and advanced ergonomics for optimal comfort and performance. It's equipped with padded AirMesh shoulder straps, a height-adjustable chest strap and removable hip belt, all of which give you total control over fit. There are two compression straps on each side, which can also hold skis, poles, or rackets.
The build of the bag is designed to withstand high-speed endurance sports, alpine day hikes, or summit backpacking for mountaineering. The bag is kept stable with a flexible and tensioned Delrin U-shaped frame without any added weight. Combine this with the Speed Lite's unique V-cut profile and you have a compact carrying system with even load distribution.
Organization is not a problem with this bag. There are specialized compartments for a 3-liter hydration system, external and internal pockets for valuables and smaller items, and a dedicated compartment for wet gear or clothing. Mesh side pockets can hold snacks or water bottles, and mesh front pockets are meant for gloves or small quick-access items. It has 3M reflectors for visibility, reinforced pull loops on zippers, and an SOS-Label with life-saving tips in case you get into trouble during your hike.
It's great for even precarious conditions, but not exactly the best on the streets. This is something that will stand out in urban environments, and not always for a good reason.
A very stylish day pack option is the Timbuk2 Uptown Travel Backpack. If you have a lot of stuff or you're a stickler for organized travel, then the many pockets and compartments of this bag is your dream come true.
There are two compartments to this bag. The main compartment is roomy, while the dedicated padded laptop compartment lets you go through security checkpoints with ease. Within the main compartment are more slip and zippered pockets so you can categorize your items inside. There are front and side pockets for quick-access items.
Despite the large volume of space that the bag can accommodate, the design of the bag is made to conform to the carrier's body to keep the bag stable and comfortable. It has a unique and ergonomic strap design that not only gives a comfortable fit, but naturally lets you maintain an upright posture as you walk. The back panels are ventilated for increasing comfort on long-distance and hot travels.
It's another great bag to bring from city to forest, but it's not weatherproof. While it's made of Ballistic Nylon for durability, it doesn't have any special coating or feature to make it water-resistant. Hiking in the rain will get everything inside the bag wet.
There is no one day pack that will be perfect for both urban and outdoor use. When purchasing a day pack, consider where you'll use it most, and just make extra preparations when using the bag for other situations.
The best and most versatile urban day pack is the Timbuk2 Uptown Travel Backpack. It's stylish, has a lot of organization options, and also travel-friendly.
The perfect athletic day pack is the Deuter Speed Lite 20. It's made specifically to withstand less forgiving conditions and comes with all the pockets and organization functions you need.
While there are a lot of sling bag or messenger bag options, it would still be best to go for a backpack. It keeps the weight on your body balanced against your back and it frees up your hands to enjoy and explore your surroundings.
Roger is a little obsessed with travel. He has been to over 40 countries, broken 3 suitcases and owned over 10 backpacks in 12 months. What he doesn't know about travel, ain't worth knowing!