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Hiking simple: Top 5 Small Hiking Backpacks

If you’ve ever walked into an outdoor/naturist store, you’ve probably noticed something – there is an absurd amount of equipment apparently involved with being outdoorsy.

Everything from trail runners, to rash guards, to liners to invisible head nets (seriously!). The overwhelming experience of gearing up for outdoor excursions almost takes away from the joy of it all – and really, hiking, camping and the great outdoors should be a somewhat carnal and minimalist experience.

While different travel equipment certainly have their place, all you need for an incredible day hike are 2 things: comfortable clothing, and a great small hiking backpack.

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How do I choose a hiking backpack?

There are essentially 2 “Rules of Fit†you need to make when choosing a hiking backpack: how well does it fit & how well do things fit inside it?

The first step is making sure your hiking backpack actually fits you physically. A good hiking backpack is an extension of your body, and should feel as natural as a pair of gloves or hiking boots.

The second step is to make sure it’s well-organized inside. Red flags are shoddy lining (the last thing you need is poor fabric tearing up halfway through your trip) and inconvenient pockets – what’s the use of a bottle flap if it doesn’t fit your bottle?

See our other review if you are also shopping for a hiking backpack for kids.

What is a good sized backpack for travelling?

While it’s certainly possible to grab a “hybrid†hiking backpack that you can carry both on day trips and longer excursions, it’s not recommended – better to have a small hiking backpack for all your day trips, and a bigger set for long excursions/portaging/etc.

For single or 2-day trips, you should carry something light with enough space to pack your essentials. A good small hiking backpack runs anywhere up to 45L – look for lightweight packing materials that make carrying easier.

For longer multi-day trips, the ideal backpack is in the 40-80 L range, and long-term expeditions (1 week+) demand close to the 100 L range to be comfortable.

See our other review if you are also shopping for a hiking backpack for women.

What is a small day pack?

Small daypacks typically run in the lower end of small hiking backpacks – ideally, somewhere in the 20L to 35L range. Anything bigger and your relaxing day of hiking will turn into a bit of a slog – anything lighter and you’ll have to give up essentials you really shouldn’t do without, regardless of how far out you venture.

Day packs also tend to fit a little bit differently – they’re designed more with torso length in mind, so they fit almost invisibly on your back. This is slightly contrasted with bigger bags which are designed based on hip/waist size, designed to leverage your lower back to carry larger weights.

Simply put: a good sized daypack is designed to give you the most comfortable day trip possible, while ensuring you have all the essentials you need to get home safely & comfortably.

Now, without further ado – The top 5 small hiking backpacks to consider for your next day trip.

Mubasel Gear Insulated Hydration Backpack

The Mubasel pack features padded shoulder straps, a mesh system for breathability, and it’s crowning jewel – a hydration pack (rather unfortunately named a “bladderâ€) designed to carry and keep cool a whopping 2L of water.

The Mubasel pack is perfect for people who’s outdoor adventures are on the more active end of the spectrum – uphill hiking, cycling, backwoods camping, etc. The mesh fabric is also specially designed to avoid getting stuffy on long, sweaty marches.

PROS:
  • Mesh fabric for high breathability
  • Convenient hands-free hydration
CONS:
  • Limited storage capacities (hard to fit larger items, like sweaters or rollovers)
  • No lifetime warranty
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Venture Pal Lightweight Packable Durable Travel Hiking Backpack Daypack

The Venture Pal is on the heavy end of the spectrum of day packs, weighing in at a tight 35 Litres. It’s designed as a hybrid backpack, good for day journeys but featuring double-layer padded fabric to keep it comfortable on longer excursions.

The Venture Pal is ideally suited for people who primarily do day trips, but occasionally do long-term excursions, just not enough to justify investing in a pack specifically for multi-day trips. As far as hybrid day packs go, the Venture Pal is best in it’s class – just prepare to sacrifice a bit of comfort on day trips.

PROS:
  • Strong build, down to the SBS metal zippers
  • Mesh shoulder straps and double-padding keeps it comfortable on longer trips
  • Folds into a pocket for easy portability
CONS:
  • Slightly too heavy for exclusive daily use
  • Water resistant liner has some quality issues
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Totalpac Lightweight Foldable Packable

The Totalpac is one of the cheapest on the market, and offers an extremely lightweight bag (11oz) with no shortage of storage options (11 different pockets). It also comes with a USB cable for charging on the go.

The Totalpac is ideally suited for lightweight excursions and family trips – it can be packed very tightly, and carries a very small weight. It’s not well suited for heavier trips or rugged adventures, but does really well for casual, lightweight day trips.

PROS:
  • Extremely lightweight and portable
  • Doubles as a multi-purpose city backpack
CONS:
  • Some of the material feels flimsy
  • USB port adds unnecessary weight
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Osprey Packs Daylite Daypack 

If you’re buying for brand, there’s no brand with a stronger reputation in the outdoor pack market than Osprey. While typically known for their 45L+ lines, the Daylite Daypack comes at a premium cost but brings all the quality, robustness & famous lifetime guarantee that Osprey is known for.

If you’re an avid hiker who goes on regular day trips, and is looking for an extremely high quality bag that will never waver, Osprey is the right brand for you. It carries a premium price point – nearly double some of the other options on this list – but the price is well earned, and the quality is unparalleled.

PROS:
  • Extremely high-quality
  • Osprey life-time reliability guarantee
  • Beautiful design & silhouette
CONS:
  • High price point
  • Lack of versatility for city usage
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Sunhiker Small Cycling Hiking Backpack

Last but not least, the jack of all trades – the Sunhiker. While it doesn’t stand out on any particular feature, it’s all-round a solid built backpack. It’s well suited for anything from casual hikes to all-terrain cycling, features anti-tear and waterproof build and high quality shoulder straps and back-padding for longer trips.

If you’re unsure about what pack to get, and none of the other options on the list are an immediate fit, the Sunhiker is probably your best bet. It doesn’t do anything extremely well, but it does everything well – you can rest easy buying a sunhiker, knowing whatever day trips you have planned, this bag will handle reliably.

PROS:
  • Extremely tear-resistant, ideal for all-terrain excursions
  • Lightweight material & insulating mesh makes it suitable for any weather
CONS:
  • Lacks any defining features
  • Small size can be uncomfortable for people with larger builds

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