A good daypack will easily become your go to item for every hike. If you’re used to carrying a water bottle by hand or throwing on any old backpack when setting out for a hike, a good quality daypack will be a game changer for you. The best daypacks for hiking aren’t just any old backpack, they are specifically made with the trail and your needs while hiking in mind.
Women’s daypacks are specifically designed with a women’s anatomy in mind. They include features like more slanted hip straps and narrower shoulder straps that will fit better overall. If you’re a female and struggling to find a pack that fits you comfortably, we’ve got your back.
In this blog post, we share our favorite hiking daypacks for female adventurers as well as some helpful information to help you choose the best daypack for you including what sizes and features to look for.
Ready to go? Here are the best hiking daypacks for women and how to choose one that will work for you.
The Best Hiking Daypacks for Women
The best daypacks for hiking are durable, lightweight, and long lasting. They also have helpful technical features like external pockets, breathable materials, a hipbelt, straps for your trekking poles, and more. At the end of this blog post we talk more about these features, daypack sizing, and what to look for. But first, here are our favorite hiking daypacks for women for a day on the trail from smallest to largest.
Gregory Maya 16 Pack
The Gregory Maya 16 is a smaller daypack perfect for short day hikes, trail runs, or anytime you want to go super light and don’t need to bring lots of extra gear or layers. The mesh back panel helps with airflow and there is a separate zippered hydration pocket. This pack has lots of thoughtful touches like an easily accessible place to stow your sunglasses, a small front pouch with a soft interior for things like sunglasses and your phone, front and side stretch mesh pockets, hip belt pockets, and more. The women’s specific model is designed to fit you comfortably with straps that flex with your movement.
Cotopaxi Luzon Del Dia 18L Daypack
Eco-friendly option: The Cotopaxi Luzon 18L Del Dia Daypack is frameless so it’s lightweight and packs down easily. The main compartment is large enough to cram extra layers in and has a drawstring closure so there’s no fumbling around with a zipper. Plus, there’s a hydration sleeve and adjustable straps that tighten it up to customize the fit. The lack of technical features means it’s not the best daypack for serious hikes, but for travel, light day hikes, and other activities, it’s a great option. We also love Cotopaxi’s ethos and their use of recycled fabrics handpicked by their staff.
Osprey Tempest 20 Daypack
The Osprey Tempest 20 Daypack is a great mid-size option – not too big and not too small. It has chest and waist straps for added support and comes in a women’s specific fit. The front mesh pocket stretches so you can stash an easily accessible extra layer. It has an external hydration sleeve which is handy although the hydration reservoir is not included.
CamelBak Helena 20 Hydration Pack
The CamelBak Helena 20 Hydration Pack comes with a 2.5 L hydration reservoir so you’ll be ready to go. You’ll find all the basics you need, like a big pocket for extra layers and food, a small zippered pocket for essentials, a side stretch pocket, and a stretch front overflow pocket. The women’s specific fit, waistband, and breathable padded backing will keep you comfortable on the trail.
Osprey Mira 22 Hydration Pack
The Osprey Mira 22 Hydration Pack is a great all-around daypack. I took a similar Osprey daypack with me to Everest Basecamp and to Canada. It’s got a 2.5-liter hydration reservoir, lots of pockets, and a comfortable hip belt. I also like the mesh pouch for extra layers. The hip belt hugs around your body, which I like, but may not be as comfortable depending on your body type.
Deuter Speed Lite 22 SL Pack
Deuter makes a great pack, and while we haven’t tried their Speed Lite 22 SL Pack yet, we’ve heard good things and are a big fan of their packs in general. This women’s specific hiking daypack is known to be durable and lightweight with just the right amount of tech features. It has stretch side water bottle pockets as well as a space for a hydration reservoir so you can go either way, and it’s got other handy features like a stretchy mesh pocket in front, hip belt pockets, accessory loops for trekking poles, and more.
REI Co-op Flash 22 Pack
Packable option: While we normally recommend a pack with more support and technical features for hiking, if you want something super lightweight and packable, check out the REI Flash 22 Pack. It has no back support, but it’s handy for travel if you want something to throw in your suitcase or carry on for short hikes or outings. Plus it comes in lots of fun colors and patterns right now!
Check price: REI
Patagonia Nine Trails 26L Pack
The Patagonia Nine Trails 26L Pack is just the right size for long day hikes and adventures. It has a large U-shaped front zipper for easy packing and interior access, a stretchy exterior pocket, hip belt pockets, and a separate stash pocket for smaller items. This sleek-looking pack is durable, lightweight, and has a water-repellent finish. It makes a great carry-on travel pack too.
Deuter Trail 28 SL Pack
Best for climbing: If you’re a climber or if you plan on going on all day hikes and other more extensive outdoor adventures where you need to carry more gear, layers, and food, you may want something a little larger like the Deuter Trail 28 SL. This pack has a comfortable padded back and straps that are adjustable so you can get the fit just right for you. It also has all the technical features you might need like helmet and carabiner loops, a two-way front zipper for easy interior access, hip belt pockets, a side stretch pocket, and internal pockets for valuables. It even comes with a rain cover and is also hydration-reservoir compatible. This pack makes a great carry-on too.
Mystery Ranch Scree 32L Backpack
The Mystery Ranch Scree 32L Backpack is a great hiking daypack for women for all-day hikes and adventures. The unique 3-zipper design provides easy access to interior items and the zippered stash pockets on the lid and hip belt keep your smaller essentials easily accessible. The padded mesh backing and straps should keep you comfortable on the trail, and the hydration sleeve and side water bottle pockets will help you stay hydrated. This women’s specific pack comes in two different sizes and makes a great carry-on too.
Mindshift Gear Rotation 180 Horizon 34 Backpack
Best for photography: The Mindshift Gear Rotation 180 Horizon 34 Backpack is the best backpack I’ve found for hiking with a camera. If you are a photographer who is sick of taking off your pack every time you want to snap a photo, this pack is for you. The part of the bag that holds your camera and lens rotates around to the front of your body, while the pack stays in place. It makes camera access a cinch and takes a lot of pressure off of your neck if you are used to hiking with your camera swinging across your body. The only downside of this pack is that it doesn’t really fit my 15″ Macbook Pro. That’s obviously not a problem for a day hike, but it is an issue for trips when I need to bring my laptop.
Check price: Amazon
REI Co-op Trail 40 Pack
The REI Co-op Trail 40 Pack is a new favorite. This higher capacity daypack has awesome organization compartments and a helpful U-shaped zipper in the front that fully opens the main compartment making it super easy to pack and to locate items. The zippered belt pockets are large enough to hold your cell phone and other must-haves that you want at your hip.
Check price: REI
How to Choose a Daypack
The kind of hikes you plan on using your daypack for and how versatile you want your pack to be will be big factors in determining the best daypack for you. We’ll cover that below along with a couple other key factors to consider. But first, what exactly is the difference between a regular backpack and a backpack for hiking? We’re glad you asked.
Hiking backpacks (or daypacks when used for day hikes) are made to be durable, lightweight, and comfortable while you hike. With the right size and fit, you should hardly even notice you’re carrying one when you’re hiking. A good hiking daypack should stand up to the wear and tear of the trail – it shouldn’t rip if you snag it on a thorny bush or slide it across rocks. They also have a number of technical features that come in handy while hiking – things like a place for your water bottle or hydration reservoir, exterior pockets for easy access to snacks, your phone, extra layers, or whatever else is important to you, straps for attaching things like trekking poles, and more.
If you’ve never hiked with a good hiking daypack, you’ll never go back once you get one. And if you’re in the market for a new one, we hope the tips below will help you upgrade to a new daypack that you absolutely love.
What Size Daypack Do You Need?
Going on a serious, all-day hike requires a more technical pack with more support than you would need for a two-hour hike. For a longer hike, you’ll want a slightly bigger pack to fit more snacks, layers, water, and other hiking essentials. You’ll also want something more comfortable with padded backing, padded straps, and a hip belt and chest strap to distribute the weight so it’s not all on your shoulders. And you’ll likely want something with space for a hydration reservoir so you can carry more water for easy drinking compared to packing a water bottle.
A typical daypack is less than 40 liters, however, there are exceptions so if you know you want to be able to carry more, then go ahead and size up. Here’s a brief overview of daypack sizes and the best activities to pair them with:
- 10 Liters or Less: Short, light day hikes, trail running, road biking
- 11-20 Liters: Mountain biking, longer day hikes, trail running
- 21-35 Liters: Long, intense day hikes, all day excursions, travel
- 36-50 Liters: Any activity that requires more gear like climbing, or photography, etc
Remember that you don’t need too big of a pack if you aren’t planning on carrying additional gear or lots of extra clothing layers. A smaller capacity pack will be more lightweight, compact, and comfortable while you hike. Why carry more than you need?
If you’re looking for a multi-day hiking backpack, check out our favorite backpacking pack recommendations.
Daypack Features to Consider
There are a few common technical features you’ll see on many of the hiking daypacks out there which you may or may not need. Here’s a rundown of what they are and when they might come in handy.
- Frames vs Frameless Packs: Some daypacks have an internal frame or lightweight frame sheet that makes the pack a bit sturdier. The frame helps the pack hold its shape and often helps keep it off your back to allow for airflow as well. A frame does make the pack slightly heavier overall, but the best daypack for more serious hiking will be one with a frame. Frameless packs are more simple and lightweight and can often be packed down to a compact size. If you want something you can throw in your travel backpack or carry on for shorter hikes and outings, a frameless pack might be the perfect choice for you.
- Waistbelt & Sternum Straps: Waistbelt and sternum straps help distribute the weight of your pack so it doesn’t all fall on your back and shoulders. They also help keep the pack in place which is not only important for hiking, but also for other activities you might use your pack for like trail running or biking. We consider them a must for longer hikes because they make hiking with a pack much more comfortable overall.
- Hydration Compartment & Water Bottle Pockets: Most daypacks have space in between the interior compartment and the frame to store a hydration reservoir. Not familiar with the term? A hydration reservoir is a plastic bladder that can be filled with water; it has a long tube attached so you can drink the water from the hydration pack while it’s in your backpack rather than digging out your water bottle. For those who’d rather stash their water on the outside of your bag for easy access, a water bottle side pocket is a common feature that is on nearly every pack. Some of the smaller, frameless, packable daypacks don’t have these features so consider this when making your purchase.
- Padding: Most daypacks out there, aside from the frameless, packable ones, have padding on the back and the straps. This provides added comfort and reduces chafing, and in some cases, the shape of the padding helps with airflow too.
- Mesh Ventilation: When you start to work up a sweat outside, a pack that sits close to your back can trap heat and start to become pretty uncomfortable. Many brands add mesh paneling to the inner back portion of the pack for ventilation. Believe us, you may not appreciate it at the start but on a hot hike, you’ll be glad to have it.
- External Pockets: Think about the items you normally bring along when you hike and what type of pockets and compartments would come in handy for you. We generally prefer daypacks with multiple pockets so we can pack all our extra layers in one, and smaller items like snacks and sunscreen in another. If you want to easily be able to take a layer on and off, you may want to look for a daypack with an external pocket. If you want snacks and your phone or other small items easily accessible while you hike, look for a daypack with hip belt pockets.
- Accessory Straps: Many hiking daypacks have straps for things like trekking poles, ice tools, climbing gear, and more. If you think you might want to carry gear like this on the outside of your pack, look for one with accessory straps.
How Should a Daypack Fit?
Unlike backpacking packs, a daypack fit isn’t as specific. Although there are children, women’s, and men’s specific fits, many are unisex and offer features like adjustable straps so you can customize the pack to fit your torso. We recommend trying on a new daypack before you buy to ensure that it feels comfortable and won’t rub and chafe when it’s fully loaded.
When you put the pack on, the top of the waist belt should sit slightly above the center of your hips. Tighten the waist belt so it’s snug but comfortable. Then you want to cinch the shoulder straps down. If there is a gap between your shoulders and the shoulder straps, the torso of the pack is too long. If the shoulder straps feel like they are weighing you down, the torso of the daypack might be too short, meaning you should size up.
What are your favorite hiking daypacks? Leave a comment below or join the discussion in our Bearfoot Theory Outdoor Adventurers Facebook Group.