The Best Backpacks for Day Hikes

Woman hiking in grassy hills with yellow backpack

It holds your food. Your water. Your clothes. All of your necessities and comforts for your day hike are contained within your backpack, so you need something dependable.

Because you aren’t packing a tent or heavy accessories (like cooking equipment) for a day hike, you want something that is lightweight and convenient to sling over your shoulders. This shouldn’t come at the cost of functionality, however.

Here are my top choices for lightweight backpacks to fulfill your day hiking needs.

High Sierra Loop Daypack

Black High Sierra Loop backpack
Image by Gander Outdoors

The High Sierra Loop Daypack is a great all-around option for most day hikers. It has a large carrying capacity at 33 liters (yes, the unit of measurement for backpack space is in liters which seems strange) with lots of comfortable padding for your back and shoulders.

Two mesh pockets on the side will happily grasp your water bottles and an internal organizer and key fob will help you keep everything in order.

If you enjoy listening to your favorite tunes or podcasts on your hikes, you’ll also really love the dedicated media compartment which allows headphone cables to easily pass through the pack from your stored media device.

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Igloo Outdoorsman Gizmo Backpack

Blue and gray cooler backpack
Image by Gander Outdoors

If your day hikes typically involve a lunch stop with plenty of food and drink, this is the day pack for you.

The Igloo Gizmo’s main pocket is lined with MaxCold insulation, keeping your potato salad and sparkling water (or whatever you happen to enjoy on your hikes) ice cold and fresh. The pocket is so big, in fact, that you can carry 32 cans of whatever you please!

This pack is much more than a cooler, however, and will happily carry anything you can fit in the main cooler pocket. If you wish to keep dry and cool items separate, there is a padded dry storage pocket in the front to carry fragile items like your phone and sunglasses.

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5.11 Tactical RUSH12 Backpack

sandstone military style backpack
Image by Gander Outdoors

If you take your day hikes serious, and I mean really serious, the Tactical RUSH12 backpack is just what you are looking for.

With 16 pockets, including a dedicated water-resistant hydration compartment, this rugged military-grade pack will handle anything you can throw at it.

Its 1050D nylon construction offers ample webbing on the front to clip on anything you like (e.g. hats, smaller packs, binoculars) and provides superior water resistance.

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5.11 Covrt18 Backpack

black tactical backpack
Image by Gander Outdoors

This is the pack for hikers that prefer to carry a concealed firearm on their hike. The rolldown assault compartment (R.A.C.) can carefully conceal a full-size pistol and multiple magazines, with the TacTec System compartment allowing for quick and ambidextrous access.

Added pluses for this pack include water-resistant nylon construction, a fabric-lined sunglasses pocket, and a reinforced grab handle.

Whether it’s protection from dangerous animals or self-defense for peace of mind, the Covrt18 has you covered.

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Fire & Ash Weldon Pack

dark blue laptop backpack
Image by Gander Outdoors

The Weldon pack is a great dual option for both recreational and professional use.

Its side pockets are great for bringing water bottles on your hikes, but its padded laptop pocket will safely carry computers up to 17” in size.

A solid 30-liter capacity can fit all of the trail mix, sunscreen, and guide books you’d ever need, while its professional style will easily fit-in at the office.

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High Sierra Fatboy Daypack

Large blue hiking backpack
Image by Gander Outdoors

The largest pack on this list, the High Sierra Fatboy boasts a storage capacity of 39 liters, if you need it. Constructed with 1,000-denier Duralite material, its exterior is tough but very lightweight.

Also featured on the exterior is a Monster Hook, a strong clip capable of grasping your water bottle, hat, or whatever you may need easy access to.

One of the features I really like is the reflective accent on the straps for added safety in low-light conditions.

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Sportsman 365 Buck Ridge Day Pack

camouflage hunting backpack
Image by Gander Outdoors

If you’re a hunter like me, some of your day hikes are focused on scouting and game stalking. To do this effectively, you need a hunting-focused pack.

The Buck Ridge Day Pack features a realistic Realtree Edge camo exterior suitable for keeping you concealed in most regions of the country.

A hydration-ready compartment has you covered for when things get a little toasty and a quick access cell phone pocket has your phone or GPS readily accessible every step of the way.

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What do you like to bring along on your day hike? Please share how you prepare your pack in the comments below.

The best backpacks for day hikes


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