Small hiking backpacks, more commonly known as daypacks, are a staple for any hiker. Whether it’s a short bike ride or a day-long hike, your daypack will be your most trusted companion.
Generally, the best small hiking backpacks are the ones that will allow you to carry sufficient food and water for the hike, along with implements such as a first aid kit. General features such as waterproof capability should also be included.
However, it can be time-consuming to have to sit around and figure out the right combination of features. Not to worry—we’ve done the research, so you don’t have to.
Find our top picks for the best daypacks below; otherwise, let our buying guide assist you.
Top 10 Best Small Hiking Backpacks
So, without further ado, we present to you after much research and consideration, our picks of the top 10 small hiking backpacks.
#1. Sunhiker M0714 Small Hiking Backpack
First things first: at a capacity of 20-25 liters makes this backpack an optimal size for most hikers. It comes with two hydration compartments (one on each side), and sufficient compartments for you to organize your things into—as any respectable hiking backpack should!
So, whether you’re going on a short day hike of a few hours or spending all day out on the trail, this daypack will be able to accommodate your needs.
We’re also a big fan of the breathable padded mesh back panel. It will ensure that your back doesn’t sweat too much when you have the backpack against it, thereby increasing your overall comfort when you’re carrying it.
And your comfort is ensured thanks to the padded shoulder straps, as well. Add to this the whistle buckle that lets you secure the backpack in place, and you’ll see why this daypack checks all our boxes for comfortability.
Made from quality nylon that is resistant to tearing and scratching, this bag can be expected to last you a decent number of trips. However, remember the price you’d be paying for it—while it’s definitely a convenient daypack, not a lot can be said for its sturdiness. So, this pack is probably not well-suited to seasoned hikers.
- Comes in a variety of attractive color options
- Fully resistant to water
- 25-liter capacity is optimal for most hikers
- Comes with an affordable price tag
- Fairly durable
#2. HIKPRO 20L Lightweight Hiking Daypack
Two of the most important factors that come into that consideration when deciding how great a backpack is are: whether the pack is lightweight and whether it’s portable.
This backpack ticks both of those boxes, but you wouldn’t believe it from the roomy 20-liter capacity. Not only is it lightweight, either. Should you need to transport this thing anywhere, it’s foldable, too; up to the size of a sandwich! For all these reasons, you can call it the best lightweight hiking backpack out there.
And when you’re actually using it, you’ll have no dearth of options for organization. This backpack comes with 3 zippered compartments on top of its large main compartment–including one outer compartment for things you need to be able to easily access, e.g., your headphones.
But all of that would amount to nothing if this backpack didn’t offer the user a level of comfort and usability. And on that front, there is no need to worry. The shoulder straps are wide to accommodate users of all builds, and their mesh construction also allows for great ventilation when you’re wearing the backpack.
Finally, the lock and length adjustment has been ergonomically designed, so you can see the manufacturers thought for everything.
A word of warning: as happens with cheaper backpacks, durability does seem to be a concern with this backpack. However, do remember that it’s just a daypack. Under the right conditions, this pack will be able to last you up to 5 years; so, try not to expose it to harsh conditions.
- A perfect fit for both male and female hikers
- Comes in a variety of color options (e.g., black, green, blue, red)
- Ultra-lightweight, foldable and easily portable
- Features an ergonomic adjustment system
#3. Outlander Ultra Lightweight Hiking Backpack
The next backpack on our list is another high capacity, yet super lightweight, hiking backpack from Outlander. Despite weighing less than 0.5 pounds itself, this thing can offer up to 33 liters in capacity.
You know what that means–you can fit any number of your most important items into this thing, including a camera, a compact pair of shoes, or a few books.
And for other items that are just as important but are thankfully smaller, there are a good number of compartments for convenient and easy organization and storage. This includes one internal zippered security pocket for valuable items, e.g., your passport.
And when it’s not in use, this daypack can be folded up into an unbelievably more compact version of itself, which can then be stowed away in a little zippered pocket. That means you can keep it stored away when you’re not using it without worrying about whether it’s as you left it.
Oh, did we mention that this thing is waterproof? Yep–no matter how many water bodies you run into where you’re hiking, you don’t have to worry about your backpack’s life is at stake.
The nylon used to construct this bag is also quite durable, and this backpack is expected to last you at least 3 years. Plus, the stress points on the backpack are reinforced with bar tacking, so that’s another reason to expect this thing to have a long life.
- Can be folded into a zippered inner pocket when not in use
- Has multiple compartments and pockets for extra storage
- Comes with a carabiner clip to attach the zippered pocket anywhere
- Fully water-resistant
#4. Vibrelli Hydration Backpack for Cycling, Running, Hiking
As any experienced hiker knows, staying hydrated on the move is of utmost importance—and what better way to do it than to have your backpack be a direct supply of it? There’s nothing not to love about a good hydration backpack.
This one from Vibrelli is probably one of the best ones we’ve seen in a while. Its main highlight is the convenient and easy one-handed shut-off button that they’ve built into this thing. That goes a long way in preventing trip-ruining leaks and drips.
Another concern about hydration backpacks is usually related to the construction of the bladder itself, which, if infused with certain chemicals, can change the taste of the water and make it unpleasant. However, the bladder in this thing is made from medical grade PE, which not only doesn’t mess with the taste but keeps your water fresh.
And of course, the manufacturers haven’t forgotten to include extra space for your other belongings, either. This backpack comes with a storage compartment and additional mesh pocket so you can carry whatever else you may need, be it snacks, your phone, or a small camera.
As a parting word, we’d like to mention the level of comfort this thing offers to its users. Weighing only 14 ounces and with a streamlined, easily adjustable design, this hydration pack will be your trusted companion no matter whether you’re cycling, hiking or running.
- Suitable for a number of activities, e.g. running, cycling and hiking
- Features a one-handed shutoff button to avoid leaking
- Comes with a handy and easily accessible emergency whistle
- Fully adjustable chest and waist straps
- Shoulder straps are breathable and provide ventilation
#5. ZOMAKE Ultra Lightweight Small Hiking Daypack
Our favorite thing about daypack is that they’re suitable for a whole range of activities, and not just hiking. Think, for example, about a day-long trip to Disneyland, or a short family trip to a berry farm.
Hiking backpacks like this one from Zomake exemplify the overall convenience of a daypack, with multipurpose capabilities. At a 20-liter capacity storage space with multiple compartments, the durability and overall sturdiness of this backpack seem unbelievable.
Yet, you should believe it. Made with high-quality waterproof nylon and featuring SBS metal zippers resistant to abrasion, this daypack will see you through many day-long trips in whatever weather—just remember not to expose it too long periods of heavy rain.
And it wouldn’t be a proper daypack if it didn’t fold into a super convenient and compact version of itself. That’s what makes this a perfect choice as your airport carry-on luggage. It will also reduce downtime when you’re packing for the car ride to your hiking spot.
However, do note that this backpack doesn’t come with adjustable straps or a suspension system. While this means the pack doesn’t have the ability to distribute weight to reduce pressure on your frame, it does come with shoulder pads to relieve pressure. Remember, it’s a daypack and not a travel backpack!
- Coated with superior waterproof material
- Can be folded into a compact size of 6.7”x6.7”
- A perfect choice as an airport carry-on
#6. Mubasel Gear Insulated Hydration Backpack
What’s better than a hydration pack? A hydration pack that can also stand alone as a hiking backpack, of course! Yes—we’re talking about this spacious hydration backpack from Mubasel, which is probably one of our favorite items on this list. Here’s why.
Let’s start off with the hydration bladder since that is after all the highlights of this product. The 2-liter capacity promises to be a worthy companion on your longest hikes, keeping you hydrated for as long as you need. And because the bladder is insulated, you can expect your water to stay cool up to 4 hours until you’ve stored it in the bladder.
The design is also worth a mention, as it works against leaking and dripping. The large opening, quick and easy click connection (as opposed to the conventional screw design seen on many packs), and smooth flow design ensure that your water will stay put.
Now on to the product’s credibility as a backpack, which is also pretty high! It comes with 3 storage compartments, so you don’t need to worry about storing all your other required gear, such as your phone, camera, or packed lunch.
We also appreciate the padded, breathable and fully adjustable shoulder straps, which, along with the overall lightweight design, makes this backpack a great addition to your collection of hiking gear.
- Insulated bladder keeps your water cool for up to 4 hours
- Perfect for high-intensity and short hiking trips
- Also suitable for cycling and running
- Comes in a variety of attractive color options
- The hydration bladder is constructed from BPA free material
#7. Venture Pal Travel Hiking Daypack
In all the research we’ve done, this lightweight, yet sturdy backpack is definitely one of our favorites. It has everything we look for in a proper daypack without compromising on structural integrity. Here’s why we think so.
You can fit nearly anything into this pack. Despite the impressive 25 liter capacity and multiple storage options, this thing is almost unbelievably lightweight and easy to carry; plus, it can be folded into a compact shape too, of course.
No matter what it is that you need to bring along with you for the trip—be it just a few essentials or heavier items like your digital camera, this bag can accommodate it. And of course, it comes with reliable mesh side compartments for water bottle storage.
However, probably our favorite thing about this daypack is the fact that it’s made from polyester instead of nylon. While nylon is also a great and popular option as backpack material, polyester does prove to be significantly more durable in many cases. What’s better is that you’re getting to enjoy the benefits of this without paying more.
Many consider it as the best small hunting backpack out there. And if you look at its features it’s hard to disagree with them. On the whole, this is a great daypack, especially if you’re looking for one that will particularly fit small to medium frames.
- Made from great quality polyester fully resistant to water
- Two external zipped pockets provide easy access to all you need
- Reinforced stress points using numerous bar tacks
- Features convenient and durable 2-way abrasion-resistant zippers
#8. Mardingtop 25L/28L/35L Tactical Backpack
While most hiking backpacks are suitable only for day-long, low-intensity hiking trips, there are some, like this one, which goes far beyond. That’s right–this isn’t just a regular hiking backpack; it’s a military backpack!
Sounds impressive? That’s because it is. Made of 600D polyester and featuring YKK zippers, this backpack is sturdy, and made for the long haul; just ask the 2-liter hydration bladder capacity! You will receive water through the tube at the top of the bag–convenient and fast.
If you’re in doubt about whether this backpack means business, consider the adjustable and comfortable chest straps. This guy can accommodate all weights, no matter how heavy. The design of the waist belt is such that it’s stitched in but can be slid into the middle space that, with the back padding, will give you a snug fit.
Oh, did we mention that this thing looks great? The overall design and appearance of this backpack is clean and simple—and the color options are muted and minimalistic; not everyone is a fan of bright blue, red or pink, right?
Overall, this backpack isn’t just a daypack, and it’s definitely the sturdiest one on our list; it’s suitable for longer trips, e.g., camping or traveling. And if you want to buy it for daily use, it’s definitely sturdy enough for that as well, of course!
- Comes in 25, 28 and 35-liter capacities
- Adjustable and sturdy strap design makes it a versatile backpack
- Suitable even for motorcycling enthusiasts
#9. AOTIAN Women Small Backpack
Not all backpacks are suited to all frames and shapes. Especially when it comes to the distinction between male and female body frames, a little adjustment goes a long way. In our experience, the best women’s hiking backpacks are the ones that are smaller without compromising on capacity or performance.
We say that because this daypack from Aotian seems to fit the description almost perfectly. Made from 100% high-quality nylon with a hardy and durable polyester inner lining, this women’s backpack is very well-suited to all sorts of outdoor activities. Whether you’re hiking, climbing, running, biking or even camping, this is a great choice.
The dimensions of this backpack are 9.4″x12″x4, so yes, it’s a mini backpack; however, it can easily fit everything you need, be it a water bottle, your iPad, snacks for the whole group, or a small makeup bag.
Plus, it also looks great: the minimalistic design, and tasteful color options (e.g. maroon and navy blue), together with the compact look, it will definitely be the perfect choice to complete any casual outfit. So, this is a great accessory even when you’re off the trail.
- Comes in a great assortment of color options
- Goes great with any outfit even when you’re not hiking
- Fits a large number of day-to-day accessories
- Has a cute and minimalistic design
#10. SHARKMOUTH Tactical MOLLE Hydration Pack Backpack For Hiking
The final item on our list is this hardy and reliable hydration backpack from Sharkmouth. Despite weighing only 26 ounces when not filled, this thing can still accommodate all your belongings, and then some.
So many things can be required on a hiking trip: other than your wallet, keys, lunch pack, first-aid kits, you might also need gloves, shades or sunscreen. Not to worry–this backpack can fit it all.
But the highlight of this item is undoubtedly the 2-liter hydration compartment. Because the thick aluminum foil construction keeps it closely insulated, you can expect your water (or any other drink you put in there!) to stay cool for up to 4 hours.
And because the construction is BPA-free, you don’t have to worry about your drink being tainted with an unpleasant taste or odor.
The ergonomic design is also definitely worth noting. As any good backpack should, this one incorporates adjustable waist, shoulder and chest straps, to keep you comfortable and adequately supported on the move.
However, it’s worth noting that this small hiking backpack is a bit on the pricey side, even though the features it offers can be said to be fairly standard. If you’re just looking for a standard daypack, then you can get away with spending less. Still—given how sturdy it is, we can let this drawback slide.
- Features an attractive and eye-catching USA flag patch
- Keeps your liquid or water cool for up to 4 hours straight
- Made from sturdy 900D polyester for heavy-duty hiking trips
- Lightweight despite its sturdy and durable construction
Buying Guide For Small Hiking Backpack
Are you having a hard time making a decision? Not to worry.
Generally, the following are the factors you need to consider when looking for the best small hiking daypack.
The range for daypacks’ capacity is big: they come in 5-liter capacities, but also in 40-liter capacities. Choosing the right size depends entirely on you.
A small pack is suitable for light hikers, or those hiking only short distances. In such a case, you presumably only need to pack a few essentials such as snacks, a water bottle, maybe a rain jacket.
However, most hikers need space for a lot more. Here’s a table of what capacity daypack will suit which type of hike best.
|Type of hike||Required capacity (liters)|
|Short day hike||10-20|
|Medium day hike||20-30|
|Long day hike||30-40|
All of that being said, if you’re still unsure, we recommend a daypack with a capacity of 25 liters. In our experience, this is a capacity that suits most hikers’ needs.
Remember to buy one that features plenty of pockets and compartments for easy organization of your gear.
The great thing about daypacks is their versatility—they not only come in all sizes but all shapes, as well.
For example, if you only need a daypack for casual/light use, then it’s okay to spend a little less and opt for a lighter one without features such as compression straps or a hipbelt.
However, heavy-duty ones also exist, should you need one—they might come with features such as compression straps, external gear loops, helmet holders, tool pockets, or even a laptop sleeve.
As you can see, small hiking backpacks come in many varieties. The reason is to fit the specific needs of all kinds of hikers. So, focus on your particular requirements when making a decision.
It goes without saying that your hiking backpack shouldn’t make you uncomfortable—it’s there to make your life easier, not harder, after all. And especially if you’re going on long hikes, the wrong backpack can totally ruin your experience.
The most comfortable daypacks tend to be the ones that come with a hipbelt and/or a decent suspension system for even weight distribution so as not to hamper your movements when you’re hiking.
Padding on the shoulder straps is also something to look out for, as this will also reduce the amount of duress placed on your body. Ventilation paneling is another important feature.
- Ventilation Capability
In our opinion, the best small backpack for hiking would be the one that will come with some sort of ventilation system where your back makes contact with the pack—in the back panel. Usually, these back panels are made from foam or mesh.
This is because, as you know, hiking can be a highly strenuous physical activity that makes the body heat up. If you don’t have a daypack with a ventilation panel, your body will heat up more quickly and tire you out faster.
Unfortunately, most of the cheaper daypacks on the market will tend not to have ventilation panels. However, if body temperature regulation is not a priority for you, then you can view this as an optional feature.
- General Features
In general, any daypack you buy should come with the following features for your comfort and convenience.
Pockets/extra compartments are important if you want to keep your things organized and readily available. A hydration compartment is of great use, for example.
Waterproofing is required to protect the pack’s interior.
A sturdy frame usually made from plastic/metal to support the shape of the pack.
FAQ of Small Hiking Backpack
- What capacity small hiking backpack would suit me best?
The good news is that hiking backpacks come in all sorts of size specifications—there are ones with 5-liter capacity and also ones with a 40-liter capacity. The sweet spot seems to be the 25 liters, though.
- What purpose does a ventilation panel serve on a daypack?
Ventilation panels serve the purpose of helping regulate your body temperature when you start sweating through your back. They are usually made from foam or mesh.
- Is it really important to buy a backpack with a suspension system?
Yes—if you’re a hiker who needs lots of gear while on the move. Since you’ll be carrying a load on your back for moderate to long distances, a suspension system will lower the pressure on you by evenly distributing weight. If you only pack a few essentials, though, a suspension system doesn’t have to be a priority.
- Can I use a daypack for long camping trips?
Daypacks are designed to be used for day-long hiking trips—they’re not very heavy-duty, and it’s also why they cost significantly less than other backpack types. So, no—you can’t use one for a camping trip, at least, not comfortably!
So, as you can see, the best small hiking backpacks come in all shapes and sizes. While the perfect fit varies, the HIKPRO is the one we’d recommend to most people.
On the other hand, if you can spend a little bit extra, the Mardingtop is a clear winner for not just hiking, but a plethora of other activities.
If a hydration backpack is what you seek, then the Mubasel is our favorite.
And if none of these recommendations suit you, you can always refer back to our buying guide. Good luck!