Updated October 17th, 2018.
Choosing the best daypack for travel is very important. Your travel daypack is your number 1 companion that’s by your side at all times during your adventures.
Most backpackers to Southeast Asia choose to take two bags. The first, a larger backpack where they keep all of their clothes, toiletries and other items. (See our article on the best bigger backpacks here.) The second, a smaller travel day pack where they keep their valuables when they’re in transit in airports, train and bus stations.
Unless you pack super light and you’re able to fit everything in one small rucksack that you can take as hand luggage on flights and you’re able to tuck it under the seat in front of you on buses, then taking two bags is essential.
For safety reasons, you’ll want to keep your valuables on your body at all times.
Your larger rucksack will go in the luggage compartment on planes and be stored under the bus (or sometimes on the roof of the bus) when you’re travelling locally. Your day pack (which contains expensive items such as your camera, phone, passport, kindle, laptop, credit cards etc.) will stay within your grasp, on your back or on your lap.
Once you’re settled in a place that you want to explore for a few days. Your daypack will also double up as the bag that you take with you sightseeing or hiking. At these times, you’ll lock your valuables away in a locker at the hostel, or safely in your hotel room, and you’ll repack your daypack with essential items for your day exploring; money, your phone, camera, water bottle, sarong, rain jacket, etc.
As you can see that your daypack is a piece of luggage with great importance. With its two functions; the protector of your precious items, and your daily object holder, the bag will need to have several features to ensure it’s up to the task.
What features are important when buying a travel daypack?
Most people prefer to look for an ultralight day pack that’s super comfortable to carry around. After all, unlike your main backpack, your daypack will stay on your back day in day out, whether you’re exploring an urban jungle or an actual leafy jungle! Most bag manufacturers these days know that it’s important to create a lightweight daypack – that’s under 500g if possible. However, it’s possible to find bags that weight as little as 100g. Our opinion – the lighter the better!
Packs away in your larger back
At times while you’re travelling you’ll want to do away with having two bags and pack your daypack within your larger backpack. If you want the option of doing this then you’ll need to look for a ‘packable daypack’ that compresses down small enough to fit into your main rucksack.
Concealed and/or lockable zips
As we mentioned earlier, your day pack is the bag that you’re going to rely on to keep all of your precious valuables safe. Some backpack brands make safety their priority and conceal the zips making it more difficult for a criminal to access. Zips that are lockable with a small padlock are also a good idea.
Another thing to look at when you’re assessing the bag in terms of safety and security is the type of material that the bag is made out of. Some backpacks these days are made out of slash resistant fabric which means that a thief isn’t able to slash open your bag with a knife as you ride the metro. (A rare occurrence in Southeast Asia. Nevertheless, it’s better to be prepared!)
Lots of pockets
The more organised travellers amongst you will love a bag that has lots of pockets for sorting your belongings. Phone, wallet and other valuables in this zippable pouch, clothing in this pouch, snacks in this pouch. I must admit, I love a bag with lots of compartments making it much easier to access your stuff.
A place to attach a water bottle
Keeping on the organisational topic, a place to attach a water bottle is a great feature for a backpacking day pack to have. Who’s had the experience of putting a cold water bottle inside your bag only to have it wet all of your stuff because of the condensation? Having a place on the side of your bag to attach your bottle is much better and means easy access when you need a drink!
Essential if there’s any chance that you may be travelling during the rainy season in Southeast Asia. Some daypacks come with a removable waterproof case that tucks neatly inside the bag when it’s not needed so that you can make sure you’re prepared for all weather. A good waterproof cover will ensure that important electrical items like your phone and camera aren’t damaged or broken.
I’ll save the most important one until last. Of course, it’s important that your day pack is comfortable and fits your body perfectly. As every person’s body is different, choosing the right pack is a personal choice and it’s wise to try the bag on in the shop and have the staff adjust the straps to perfectly fit your shape.
A good bag should have adjustable shoulder, chest and hip straps. Hip straps are very important as you want to make sure the weight is distributed across your hips, rather than dragging on
If you’re buying online, when the bag arrives at your home, make sure that you fill it up with as much weight as you plan to carry and take a walk to the local shops. You’ll soon be able to tell if you’re going to be comfortable carrying that bag around the streets of Southeast Asia!
Whenever you buy an important or expensive item, it’s essential to check out the guarantee that’s offered by the manufacturer. Some of the brands below, like Osprey, have an excellent reputation when it comes to the product guarantee. When shopping for a daypack you’ll see a variety of warranties offered, from a lifetime guarantee to 5 years to one year. Generally, the better the brand (and the more expensive the backpack) the better the warranty.
What is the best size for a travel daypack?
Daypacks can range anywhere from 10-35 litres, with the average size being around 20 litres. Which size bag you go for depends on your preference, the size of your belongings and the activities that you are planning on doing with the bag.
General sightseeing and city exploring? 15-20 litre bags will generally do. At this size, the bag is large enough to fit a water bottle, camera, phone, wallet, sarong, rain jacket, book and other essential items. There’s some extra space if you pick up some souvenirs, but you’re not carrying around extra weight that you don’t need.
Planning for trekking? If you plan to use your day pack as a hiking day pack, where you’re on the trail for several days or more, then you might want to consider a larger size. In this case, 25-30 litres may be better. You may want to pack several changes of clothes, additional water, some snacks and a spare pair of shoes, along with your other essential items.
Assess what you will be using the bag for and that should give you an indication of what size you will need.
How much should you spend on a day pack?
Over the years I’ve been backpacking, I’ve learnt a lot about travel gear. I’ve gone from a cheap-ass traveller who tries to scrimp and save every penny on equipment, travel insurance and other travel essentials, to someone who understands the statement: you get what you pay for!
While a day pack may seem like a trivial item, it is the one thing that you’re going to have on your body at all times. It’s responsible for keeping your valuables safe and secure, keeping your body comfortable, not injuring your back and shoulders, and carrying everything you’ll need for the day around with you. It’s a pretty important purchase.
Honestly, when I first went backpacking I bought a day pack from my local Decathlon for around $15 USD. It did the trick. However, it wasn’t waterproof, there were only a few compartments, nowhere to attach a water bottle, no anti-theft features whatsoever, and I definitely got a very sweaty back when I carried it around for too long!
I replaced the bag with another similar cheap model every two years or so and after a while, I realised that my habits as a cheap disposable shopper were not doing myself (nor the environment) much good. The top four bags in the list below are lifetime investments. Yes, they may be more expensive than what you can pick up in your local sports store, but they are built to endure rough and tumble travel for the rest of your life. And the lifetime guarantee offered by the top bag is a testament to this.
Like with other outdoor equipment (a larger rucksack, hiking boots, rain jacket, head torch etc.) my new motto is –purchase the best quality item once and you’ll never have to purchase again! It will save you money in the long run and help to rid the world of the fast, cheap and low-quality shopping culture that has become the norm.
What are the trusted brands for day packs?
We asked our readers to tell us about the brands that they trust when it comes to finding the best travel day pack and these are the brands that get consistently mentioned…
Osprey – The Osprey brand is consistently mentioned when it comes to luggage for backpacking. From the best travel backpack to backpacks with wheels, travellers LOVE this brand. Bags by Osprey are made to perfection with adventurous travellers in mind. Plus, the lifetime guarantee is a massive bonus for the budget traveller. Although Osprey bags are not cheap, buying one of them is a lifetime investment. You’re never going to need to buy another bag again!
Pacsafe – This is a brand who have made safety and security their number one priority and they make the best anti-theft day packs in the world. If you’re concerned about the safety of your belongings or are going to be travelling to some dodgy areas, then this is the brand for you! They have a guarantee of 5 years on all their backpacks.
Tortuga – Tortuga is a trusted bag manufacturer renowned for the quality of their products. Started by two travellers, Fred and Jeremy, it’s clear that they put a lot of thought and passion into the design of their products. Tortuga has a warranty they call the common decency guarantee. If there’s something wrong with the bag and it’s their fault, they’ll fix it, simple as that.
Lowe Alpine – A much-loved outdoors brand started by three brothers and outdoor-enthusiasts; Greg, Mike and Jeff Lowe in the 1960s. (Jeff Lowe who was a legendary rock climber recently died at age 67.) Over the years, the brand has become a trusted manufacturer of outdoor gear such as backpacks and trekking gear and their products are consistently well-made and great value for money. A favourite amongst adventurous travellers.
Daypack Reviews! Top 5
The following bags were recommended by our readers. From their suggestions, we’ve studied the features of each bag, took the price into consideration, as well as the online reviews, and have put the bags in order from 1 to 5. (1 being the best bag!)
While we think that the number one bag on this list is actually the best daypack for travel out there, this doesn’t mean that it’s YOUR perfect bag. Each bag on the list offers something a little different, a unique feature that may make it particularly suitable for your style of travel. So, without further ado…
1. Osprey Daylite Plus – Best Overall Bag
- Size: 20L
- Weight: 450 grams
- Price: $65 USD
- Best Feature: Lifetime Guarantee.
- Worst Feature: It’s not waterproof.
Many long-term travellers say this is THE perfect travel daypack. It’s lightweight (450 grams), durable, comfortable and the price tag isn’t too bad either. The bag is unisex and comes in 11 different colours so you can find the perfect colour to match your personality!
What’s so great about the Osprey Daylite Plus?
1. Variety of pockets and compartments – The bag consists of a spacious main compartment, side mesh pockets, a front mesh pocket with organiser and clip, an interior sleeve that fits a laptop, tablet or even a hydration reservoir, a front panel and so-called ‘shove-it’ pocket and a zippered front panel slash pocket. All in all – if you like organising your belongings into separate compartments, you’re going to love this bag!
2. Attaches to a larger backpack – The Osprey Daylite and Osprey Daylite Plus are designed to attach to the larger Osprey packs. (Specific bags they attach to are the Aether/Ariel, Volt/Viva, Ace 75, Sojourn, Farpoint and Porter.) So if you’re lucky enough to already have a big Osprey rucksack, why not get the whole set!
3. Comfort – The straps are padded with mesh foam and the chest and hip straps are adjustable meaning that you can alter the bag to suit the shape of your body. One reader told us that once it’s set up properly on your back, you hardly know it’s on!
4. Ventilation – The back panel is made with high-quality mesh-covered die-cut foam for that important breathability factor. While many larger rucksacks have a frame that allows the bag to sit away from your bag (and therefore avoid sweaty back syndrome) often daypacks are not large enough for such a system. Plus, their main aim is to be lightweight, which means a metal frame is a no-no. For a smaller pack, the Osprey Daylite takes ventilation into consideration and they’ve done a good job in keeping the air flowing as you walk around. This aspect alone makes the bag a perfect match when travelling in the hot and humid temperatures of Southeast Asia!
5. Lifetime guarantee – We mentioned it earlier when talking about the Osprey brand but it really does deserve to be mentioned again! Osprey calls it the ‘All Mighty Guarantee’. On their website, their founder, Mike Pfotenhauer, states “we will repair any damage or defect to the bag free of charge whether it was purchased in 1974 or yesterday!” Now, that’s a guarantee!
On its own, the bag is not waterproof which means that if you want to make it so you will have to invest in a waterproof cover. Osprey has their own waterproof cover for this particular bag which is $23 USD. You can get it on Amazon cheaper here.
Other sizes: The Osprey Daylite Plus is a larger model of their original version, the Osprey Daylite, which has a capacity of 13 Litres as opposed to 20 Litres. If you’re looking for a smaller bag then this could be a great option for you!
2. Pacsafe Venturesafe – Best Anti-Theft Bag
- Size: 25L
- Weight: 880 grams
- Price: $120 USD
- Best Feature: Amazing security measures.
- Worst Feature: Heavier than other bags on this list.
This bag is for those who are concerned about the safety of their belongings. If you have an expensive camera or other valuable electrical equipment, are travelling to somewhere with a reputation for being dangerous, or simply want to invest in a secure backpack that will last you a long time, then you’re going to love this bag!
What’s so great about the Pacsafe Venturesafe?
1. Security – The Pacsafe is made out of eXomesh Slashguard fabric – which is a lightweight, stainless steel wire mesh that prevents thieves from slashing through your bag with a knife. With turn-and-lock security hooks on the straps and zipper-clips, this bag beats all others in terms of preventing pick-pockets from getting their hands on your precious stuff! Not only that but the bag’s pockets are made from RFID blocking material meaning that those clever thieves won’t be able to scan your credit cards by just standing next to you. (Although many experts now claim that RFID crime is not real.)
2. Spacious compartments – The main compartment is very spacious and there’s a padded interior sleeve that’s large enough to fit a 15″ laptop. The front pouch is great for smaller items and has organisational pockets for your phone, wallet and pen, as well as a key holder. The bag also has two pockets on the side for water bottles.
3. Comfort – The bag has adjustable padded shoulder straps, as well as chest and hip straps so you can alter it to fit your height and body shape. When scouring the reviews on Amazon, some women with smaller frames do say that they found it difficult to get the bag to fit them snugly so if you’re a small woman (like me) then do your research before buying this bag.
The Pacsafe is almost double the weight of the Osprey Daylite (450 grams). Those extra security features, like the wire mesh slash-proof material, must put the weight up! The bag is also twice the price of the Osprey, again, likely because of the security features.
Again, the bag is not waterproof and you’ll need a waterproof cover to protect electrical items. And there are not as many compartments as the Osprey. All in all, great for security, but other than that the bag is pretty basic for the price.
Other sizes: The bag also comes in a variety of sizes for those wanting to use the bag for different purposes – 10L, 25L, 30L, 40L, 60L.
3. Tortuga Outbreaker Daybag – Best Waterproof Daypack
- Size: 21L
- Weight: 500 grams
- Price: $99 USD
- Best Feature: It’s waterproof.
- Worst Feature: Too simplistic for some.
Currently unavailable on Amazon.
A versatile, durable and lightweight daypack that can be used for hiking, taking to the beach, travelling on aeroplanes or carrying a laptop to the cafe… The Tortuga Outbreaker appeals to the minimalistic traveller as it’s simple, yet quality design makes it a wise choice for those who want to use the bag in all walks of life, not just as a day bag for travel.
What’s so great about the Tortuga Outbreaker?
1. Compression – The bag packs down flat so it’s great for those of you who, at times, will want to pack the bag in their larger rucksack and just have one bag. It fits into most carry-on bags very easily.
2. Waterproof – The only bag on this list that’s waterproof! The bag is made out of X-Pac sailcloth, an incredible weather-resistant fabric that almost feels like paper to touch. This makes it a great bag for digital nomads or those carrying around a laptop, camera and/or other electronic equipment. No additional waterproof cover needed! The material is also very lightweight (500 grams) and durable.
3. Compartments – The bag is designed with simplicity in mind. The manufacturers haven’t gone overboard with pockets, but the ones that are there are useful and well-made. The larger compartment is spacious and easily fits a 15″ laptop. There’s an easy-access front pocket with a key-holder, as well as two water bottle holders on either side. For the security conscious amongst you, you’ll be pleased to hear that the zips are lockable.
4. Comfort – The back of the backpack is structured to be as breathable as possible with ‘sweat-wicking’ shoulder straps made out of the high-tech fabric Ariaprene. The bag has a chest strap to help take the load off your back when you’re carrying heavier items
To quote Henry Ford: “A customer can have any colour as long as it’s black.” The lack of colour variations of the bag may put off some of the more fashion-conscious travellers. Another strange thing about the Tortuga Outbreaker is that some people complain that it’s a ‘noisy bag’. The crinkly sail-cloth sounds like you are scrunching up paper when you touch it which may make you unpopular in the dorm room!
Other sizes: If you want a larger rucksack, the Tortuga Outbreaker also comes in 35L and 45L.
4. Lowe Alpine Edge II – Best Hiking Backpack
- Size: 22L
- Weight: 530 grams
- Price: $59.95 USD
- Best Feature: Tons of pockets.
- Worst Feature: Not the most stylish bag.
This lightweight and durable bag is the perfect companion for a hiking trip. For those of you who love to have lots of different compartments to organise your belongings, this bag is a dream come true.
What’s so great about the Lowe Alpine Edge II?
1. Specific Trekking Features – The bag has clearly been designed with hikers in mind. There are two deep stretchy mesh side pockets to fit different sized water bottles. There’s also a specific space and grips to hold a walking pole for those of you who use one. There’s even a fixture to hold an LED light if you’re trekking in the dark.
2. Pockets Galore – The small front pocket is great for storing a small guide-book, a paper map (if you still use them!) or documents that you need to access easily when in transit – boarding pass etc. There’s another larger front pocket that consists of (yes you guessed it!) another mesh pocket that’s perfect for securing more precious items such as a passport or wallet. The larger compartment is spacious and can fit a picnic, rain jacket, first-aid-kit and other items that you may need when you’re trekking.
3. Comfort – The back of the bag has good ventilation which means you won’t get such a sweaty back when trekking in the jungles of Southeast Asia. (Some sweat is inevitable!) There’s a chest strap and a hip strap, perfect for distributing the weight while you’re walking. (The hip strap even has its own pocket, perfect for snacks!)
4. Compression – The compression straps pull the bag together to make it smaller when there’s less stuff inside and allow for more space when you need it. The bag is made
The bag is quite narrow and fitting in a laptop, depending on the size, could be a squeeze. Those of you who are more into city-slicking than trail-hopping may want a bag that is a bit more stylish.
Other sizes: The bag also has a smaller 18L version.
5. Outlander Lightweight Packable Day Pack – Best Ultralight Daypack
- Size: 20L
- Weight: 230 grams
- Price: $17 USD
- Best Feature: Cheapest buy.
- Worst Feature: Not the most durable bag.
Starting at just $17 USD, this is the cheapest bag on the list and you’ll be surprised at how many features it has! As well as being the lowest cost, it’s also the lightest weight backpack, and it’s packable too. While cheapest isn’t always the best, the 7,000+ excellent reviews on Amazon of this product suggest that it gets a whole lot right. Perhaps not a bag that will be your lifelong companion, but perfect for a shorter backpacking trip.
1. Packable and compact – While this backpack holds a surprising amount of belongings, it also packs down to the size of ‘a large hamburger’ so the manufacturers say. The packable daypack comes with a zippered pouch that fits the entire backpack inside which is great when in transit. Being super lightweight (less than 230 grams!) this means that you can pack the bag in your larger rucksack when you’re not using it and hardly even notice it!
2. Weather Resistant – While weather-resistant does NOT mean waterproof, it does mean that the bag will go some way in keeping the rain off your belongings if you’re caught in a light shower.
3. Compartments – The bag has a spacious main compartment, as well as two zipped pockets on the front of the bag for smaller items and a zipped inner pocket for securing more valuable items. There are two mesh pockets on the side of the bag for water bottles.
4. Carabiner – The bag comes with a carabiner clip so that you can attach the bag when it’s in pouch form to a larger backpack, or attach things to the bag itself when you’re out and about. Carabiners are a backpacker’s best friend!
Some active travellers have complained about the durability of the bag, saying that after only a few months out on the trail, the fabric of the backpack and the straps started to fray, making the bag look shabby. For rugged outdoorsy types, this bag may not be the lifelong companion you’re looking for. Although the manufacturer claims a ‘lifetime warranty’, many customers have had very disappointing experiences in getting items repaired and/or replaced. (That’s why Osprey is number 1 on our list as the best day backpack!)
Other sizes: This same backpack also has a 33L version.
…and one more for good luck!
The Digital Nomad Special! – Standard Luggage Daily Backpack
- Size: 18L
- Weight: 998 grams
- Price: $119 USD
- Best Feature: Very easy to organise your things and be sure that nothing gets creased.
- Worst Feature: Pretty small for the price.
Standard Luggage’s Daily Backpack is definitely more for those of you who have chosen to make travel your profession and want a daypack in which to carry your laptop from beach to trendy cafe and all the other places you like to take Instagram shots of your ultra-desirable “location-independent lifestyle”! Not only for backpackers, you can use this backpack in your ‘normal’ life too! Whatever that may be…
What’s so great about the Standard Luggage Daily?
1. Designed with techies in mind – Standard Luggage have designed a durable and stylish bag that focuses on the gadgets used by digital-nomads. The main pocket has a laptop sleeve into which you can slide most 15″ laptops on the market. There are pockets for cameras, ones for notepads or books (that are kept very nice and flat). There are even a couple of pen holders!
More surprising still is that the bag comes complete with a built-in USB charger, so that you can charge up your phone/whatever safely inside your bag. They really have thought of everything.
2. Safety is a priority – Aside from keeping your phone safe, the laptop compartment is also very difficult for 3rd parties to access whilst the bag is worn. There is also a valuables-pocket that has an opening on the back-side of the bag, which is very well hidden from sneaky hands. If you frequently carry around expensive items like cameras, laptops and phones, you’ll feel real peace of mind when they’re in your Daily!
3. Not to mention safety from the rain – Unlike the other bags on this list, the Daily Backpack comes with its own waterproof rain cover which can be compressed to a very small size and carried around inside the bag. Very handy!
4. Comfort / Ease of use – The bag is designed to leave a gap between your back and the material to prevent that sticky sweaty back that plagues those of us who choose to work in hotter climates. On top of this, the sturdiness of the design makes it feel like your back is literally straightened in the process of wearing it.
In addition, the bag has a band on the strap side that allows you to attach the daypack to the handle of wheelie luggage, meaning you can incorporate all of your baggage into one easy to pull piece. Check out the review we did here of their carry-on luggage!
5. Versatility – As is the case with other bags by The Standard Luggage Co. this one operates in three different formats (the straps for each of these formats are detachable). You can use it as a standard rucksack, a shoulder bag or carry it like a briefcase.
The Standard Luggage Daily is certainly not the cheapest bag on the market.
Which is your favourite daypack? Tell us in the comments!
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