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You’ve got your PB&J, map, rain jacket, and canned beer wrapped in tinfoil. You could try to squeeze all that stuff into your cargo pockets—or you could load up a technical daypack built to handle your PB&J while you tackle the trail beneath your feet. We scoured the internet and found five well-reviewed options. From burly, larger-volume packs that can transition into overnighters to fast-and-light minimalist packs, there’s a daypack for you on this list.
At 3.1 pounds, the Scree isn’t light but the 32-liter bag is big enough to use as an overnighter. We also like Mystery Ranch’s three-zip design, which gives you quick access to the top of the pack or full access to the whole thing. It’s loaded with a hydration sleeve, compression straps, bottle pockets, stash pockets, and two rows of daisy chains for attaching a lot of coffee mugs. And since it’s made from burly 420-denier nylon, it’s going to withstand anything you throw at it.
Nine Trails is Patagonia’s new line of technical packs, designed for fast-and-light pursuits. This version is 28 liters and made from 210-denier Cordura fabric with a DWR finish. We like the pack’s clean lines and svelte design, but there are plenty of features built in, like a large stretch outer pocket, compression straps to tighten the load, and a harness system that can be fine-tuned to your body. It comes in two sizes (S/M; L/XL) and there’s a version with a women-specific harness and back panel. If 28 liters is too big, drop to the 20-liter size.
Designed for multisports and adventure racing, the Talon 22 is a highly functional daypack that can carry your gear across multiple disciplines. It’s loaded with thoughtful features, like trekking-pole attachments, a helmet-carry system, and an ice-tool loop. We also like the harness system, which has stretchy mesh shoulder straps, a seamless hipbelt, and a light aluminum frame in the back panel. It’s made from 70-denier nylon and comes in two sizes (S/M; M/L).
REI’s Flash series of packs takes a minimalist approach. The 18 is a stashable pack you can add to a larger multi-day bag, but the 22 hits the sweet spot, incorporating smart features while still maintaining the Flash simplicity. There are external stash pockets big enough for bottles, a bladder sleeve and port, and external tool loops in case you’re bringing trekking poles. We dig the breathable mesh back panel and lightly padded shoulder straps, which have a bit of stretch.
If you’re carrying only the bare essentials and want to move fast, the Aerios is your bag. This light, tiny, 10-liter hauler made from ripstop nylon hugs your back well enough for a trail run. There’s a slot for a hydration bladder and enough room for some food and an extra layer, and that’s about it. A smart bungee system lets you cinch the load and also gives you extra carrying capacity. The waist belt can be moved so you can position it higher or lower on your abdomen.