For minimalist travellers, a packable daypack is essential. They compress down super small and easily fit into your main bag when not in use. Some will even fit straight into your pocket!
Over the years, we’ve used a range of collapsible backpacks while travelling through Southeast Asia, South America and Europe. We’ve hiked through mountain ranges, jungles, cave systems and even along abandoned train lines. Our stowable bags have been put through their paces and we’ve learnt a lot about what makes the best packable daypacks for travel!
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Best Packable Daypacks for Travel: Quick Answers!
- Best Overall Packable Backpack— Osprey Ultralight Stuff Pack
- Best Packable Backpack for Hiking — Gossamer Gear Vagabond Packable
- Best Budget-Friendly Packable Backpack — Gonex 20-litre
- Lightest Packable Backpack — Sea To Summit Ultra-Sil Nano Daypack
- Best Waterproof Packable Daypack – Osprey UL Dry Stuff Pack
The Best Packable Daypacks
Osprey Ultralight Stuff Pack
Price Range: $$$
Best Feature: Very durable considering its size and weight
Feature To Improve: A sternum strap would be a welcome addition
Osprey’s Ultralight Stuff Pack is one of the lightest packable daypacks available. But that’s not to say the pack isn’t durable. It’s made from 40D ripstop nylon, which is the same robust material Osprey use in their packing cubes.
It has an 18-litre capacity, which is plenty for carrying gear for a day exploring the city, or a short hike along well-worn trails. Don’t expect this bag to be suitable for anything more strenuous though. There’s zero support and the Deluxe AirMesh straps, while relatively comfortable, are not built for carrying a lot of weight.
The bag weighs just over 110g, which is about the same as 4 AA batteries. It packs down to smaller than an apple, which makes it real easy to stash inside your main travel bag when not in use.
There’s no internal organisation in this bag. It features one large compartment which you’ll just be able to squeeze a 13-inch computer into. To be honest, I wouldn’t want to carry a valuable bit of tech in a bag like this — not without a sturdy case at least. You’ll also notice a small quick-access pocket and a tiny internal security pocket for things like your wallet and keys.
The bag is available in a range of colours. We prefer the darker options as they don’t draw much attention.
Osprey also offer the UL Dry Stuff Pack which brings the same lightweight, collapsible design but with added waterproofing.
Gossamer Gear Vagabond Packable
Price Range: $$$$$
Best Feature: Comfortable with tons of storage
Feature To Improve: Recessed zip for the main pocket has a habit of collecting debris or water
Inspired by Gossamer Gear’s ultralight hiking packs, the Vagabond Packable can handle whatever you throw at it. It excels for long hikes and easily copes with being dragged around towns or cities.
With its 23-litre capacity, the bag holds everything you need for a day out exploring. The main pocket houses a water bladder sleeve but unfortunately has no space for a laptop. You can use the hydration bladder sleeve at a push but there’s no padding and it’s not a floating pocket.
On the exterior, the pack features a huge stretchy mesh pocket. This can store everything from snacks to wet gear. There’s tons of space in there! As well as this, there are two water bottle pockets, both of which also stretch to hold any reasonably sized bottle.
To keep water out, the material is treated with a DWR coating and each zipper is water-resistant. This is especially important because the zipper for the main pocket sits in a recess that has a habit of collecting water!
When it comes time to pack the bag down, it can be folded into the small external zip pocket. In its fully compressed state, the bag is about the same size as two iPhone 11s side by side. It weighs 317g in total.
If you plan on using this bag for hiking, it’s worth looking into Gossamer Gear’s Fast Belt. This hip belt can be attached to the Vagabond Packable, making hiking long distances with a full load a more comfortable prospect.
Sea To Summit Ultra-Sil Nano Daypack
Price Range: $$
Best Feature: Small and light
Feature To Improve: The zipper isn’t the most durable
Clocking in at just 30g and packing down to the size of a golf ball, the Ultra-Sil Nano Daypack from Sea to Summit is one of the lightest packable backpacks available.
To keep the weight so low, Sea to Summit opted to make this pack from 15D nylon. This super thin material means the pack is less durable than some of the competition. However, it features bar tack reinforcement stitches in areas of high wear. If you look after the bag and avoid scraping it on rough surfaces, it will last long enough to get your money’s worth from it.
The 18-litre capacity provides plenty of room for day to day items like snacks, jumpers and drinks but don’t expect to fit too much more in. There’s no internal organisation or external pockets. The bag is just one compartment with straps attached. There’s an asymmetrical zipper that keeps the weight down but makes it fiddly to dig out gear when the bag is full.
Sea to Summit claim this bag can carry up to 20kg. That’s more than 600 times its own weight — It’s like the ant of the backpack world!
We don’t recommend carrying this much gear in the bag as it will be super uncomfortable. But the fact it can cope with such big loads is undoubtedly a testament to the bag’s build quality.
REI Co-op Stuff Travel Pack
Price Range: $$
Best Feature: Built with eco-friendly materials
Feature To Improve: Not the comfiest bag
The sleek Stuff Travel Pack from REI ticks all the boxes for a minimalist daypack. It packs down into an interior stuff pocket and weighs just 170g. When packed, you can easily stuff this bag into your main pack. It will even fit into a jacket pocket if necessary.
Access to the 20-litre bag is via the zippered lid. It opens wide, making it easy to get stuff in and out. However, the tall thin shape of the bag can make cramming in awkward gear a challenge. There’s no back panel or cushioning so you’ll need to pack the bag well or you’ll feel everything digging into your back.
It’s also worth noting that the straps for this bag are ultra-thin. This isn’t a problem when carrying a small amount of stuff but they get uncomfortable when the bag is full.
On the outside, the bag features a stuff pocket that’s big enough for a jumper or jacket. You can also use this pocket to carry water bottles but due to its position, you won’t be able to reach it with the bag on. You have to take the bag off every time you want a drink — or ask a friend to help you!
Gonex 20-litre Packable Backpack
Price Range: $
Best Feature: The price
Feature To Improve: Water resistance doesn’t last very long
The 20-litre packable backpack by Gonex is the best budget-friendly packable daypack we’ve come across. It’s available in a range of colours but as always, the dark options help you blend in more while travelling.
The bag weighs just over 185g. It’s towards the heavy end of packable daypacks but still significantly lighter than a standard rucksack. The material used in its construction has a water-resistant treatment but this doesn’t last long. We don’t recommend using this bag if you need to keep your gear dry.
The main compartment features no dividers but has a small zipper pocket for storing items you don’t want to lose. It’s a good idea to attach a carabiner to this pocket so you can store keys without worrying about them falling out. At the front is a small, easy access pocket — perfect for those items you need to grab in a hurry. There are also two mesh water bottle pockets on the outside which allow you to carry plenty of water for a day’s exploring.
The straps are lightly padded but you’ll feel it if you try to carry heavy loads. As with most of the other collapsible daypacks in this list, there’s no frame or padding on the back panel of this bag — carrying heavy loads is not recommended!
When compressed, the bag is about the same size as two iPhone X side by side.
Tortuga Outbreaker Daypack
Price Range: $$$$$
Best Feature: Padded back panel and shoulder straps make the bag comfy to carry even when full
Feature To Improve: Padding on the laptop sleeve would be a welcome addition
Tortuga’s Outbreaker daypack isn’t a compressible bag. It won’t crush down to the size of an apple and easily slip into your pocket. But it is packable. The bag squashes down flat and won’t take up too much room in your main travel bag. It can be folded to make it a little smaller but the padded back panel tends to stop you folding it more than once. There’s also a risk of damaging the DWR coating if you fold it too often.
Instead of focussing on making the bag as packable as possible, Tortuga made this bag super comfortable to carry. It features a padded back panel that allows air to flow to your back. The shoulder straps are also well padded and perforated for maximum comfort. Even when filled to capacity, this 21-litre bag carries well.
Made from VX03 sailcloth and treated with a DWR coating, the Outbreaker Daypack is durable and highly water-resistant. It won’t keep your gear dry in a storm but is more than enough for short showers.
At 500g the bag is heavy compared to other packable daypacks. However, it’s still lighter than most standard daypacks.
The laptop sleeve can fit 15-inch machines but only if they’re not in a case. It’s not padded either so be careful if you choose to carry your computer in it!
Overall this bag is a good hybrid between collapsible and standard daypacks. It’s more supportive than other packable bags while still being relatively easy to tuck into your main travel bag.
Zomake 25-litre Ultra Lightweight Packable Backpack
Price Range: $
Best Feature: Organisational compartments and a laptop sleeve
Feature To Improve: Water bottle pockets can only hold small bottles
The 25-litre packable backpack from Zomake is one of the heaviest bags we’ve discussed. It weighs in at 290g — significantly less than a standard daypack but heavy for a stowable bag. A lot of the weight comes from the number of pockets and organisational pouches within the bag.
The main compartment features a laptop sleeve and small zipper pocket for valuables. You should be aware though, the laptop sleeve has no padding so we don’t recommend using it too often unless you’ve got a good case for your computer. There’s also a quick access external pocket that houses a further two mesh compartments. Finally, there are two mesh water bottle pockets but these aren’t good for larger bottles.
While the daypack is advertised as water-resistant, this isn’t really the case. It can repel a small amount of water but any real shower will wet it out fast. Don’t rely on it to keep your gear dry.
When compressed, the bag is around the size of two smartphones side by side. You can easily squash it into your main pack but don’t expect to be able to carry it in your coat pocket.
Padded straps keep this bag comfortable for extended periods although the lack of back support means you won’t want to carry too much at once.
What To Consider When Choosing A Collapsible Daypack
Where and when will you be using the bag?
The biggest consideration is what you’ll use the bag for. Keep this in mind as you read the rest of the list. If the bag will be used for day hikes, it will need to ensure it’s big enough to hold all the gear you require.
Likewise, if you’re likely to get caught in bad weather, a bag with some level of water resistance will be important.
Collapsible backpack capacity is usually between 10-30-litres.
If you’ll be spending a lot of time on short sightseeing trips in towns or cities, a smaller bag will be enough to carry a drink, some snacks and a jumper. However, if you’re going to be out all day, or going further afield, you’ll want a bag on the higher end of this range so you can fit enough gear inside.
Size When Packed
The benefit of a foldable backpack is they take up very little space. They can be squashed down and easily stowed in your main travel bag.
But not all collapsible daypacks compress down to the same size. Some fit in your pocket, others slide easily into your backpack. There are also a few which don’t compress very much but will lie almost flat inside your main bag.
The size of your main pack and how much space you have left will determine how important the packed size of your daypack is.
It’s worth noting that the overall capacity of your daypack doesn’t always correlate with packed size. There are plenty of 30-litre collapsible daypacks that pack down much smaller than 15-litre compressible packs.
Weight is an important factor for those travelling light. Most packable backpacks weigh no more than 200g, with many weighing below 100g.
There’s no point spending money on a bag that doesn’t suit your travel style. If you’re someone who likes a ton of organisational pockets in your bags, don’t overlook this when choosing a daypack.
Likewise, if you prefer to have just a single main compartment, you’ll find a packable daypack to suit you.
Most collapsible backpacks include a main pocket, an external pocket and at least one water bottle pocket.
Straps with a small amount of padding are always a good idea if you want a comfortable carrying experience from your bag.
However, a lot of packable daypack manufacturers forgo the padding to keep the overall weight of their bags down. As you’re unlikely to carry heavy loads in a lightweight collapsible bag, this isn’t always a big deal.
If padded straps are a requirement for you, ensure the packs you’re looking at include them!
Bags that fall apart after a few uses are a waste of everyone’s time and money. They end up in landfill, poison water sources, kill local wildlife and take thousands of years to break down.
When looking at packable daypacks, ensure the quality of the bag looks good. Read reviews and make sure users aren’t complaining that the bags fall apart quickly.
But remember, good quality doesn’t have to cost a fortune. While it’s more likely an expensive bag will outlast a cheaper version, you can find some very budget-friendly daypacks that last years if looked after!
Packable Backpack FAQs
What is a packable backpack?
A packable backpack is a thin, lightweight bag that can be compressed down small for easy storage when not in use. They often pack down into small pockets but some include stuff sacks to pack them into.
They’re popular with travellers and backpackers because they’re relatively cheap, lightweight and ultra-useful!
Why travel with a packable backpack?
Travelling with a packable backpack allows you to carry your day to day essentials as you explore each new destination.
When using a collapsible daypack, you can leave the bulk of your belongings in your main bag at your accommodation. When not in use, the daypack can easily be stowed with the rest of your gear.
What is the lightest packable backpack?
The lightest packable backpack is the Sea To Summit Ultra-Sil Nano Daypack. It weighs just 30g and packs down to the size of a golf ball!
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