Reviewed: seven of the best daypacks for walkers

Whether you love stomping over mountains or ambling around lakesides, a trusty rucksack is an essential item on the outdoor-lover's kit list. But which one to buy for a day's roaming? We try out seven of the best daypacks for walkers from leading brands, all 35L or less in volume 

GettyImages-522217355-2484ee2

1 Creon Pro 30

Mammut, £125

Mammut-0e7b7e2
For men; women’s version available

Weight: 1,390g

Advertisement

Rain cover: included

• Sizing: adjustable

Hydration system compatible: yes

VERDICT: Not the best looking of the packs in our test, but it’s neat and handsome enough, and you can’t fault it for practicality and flexibility. Its 30-litre volume is generous for day trips. It’s not light but it’s so comfortable you wouldn’t notice, thanks to the substantial frame. Adjustable back length helps you achieve a good fit. The harness is well padded over shoulders and waist. The excellent ventilation allows cool air to circulate between pack and back, making it a good pick for year-round use. The main compartment is easily accessible from top or side, and there are pockets galore – a pair in the lid, two at the sides, two roomy ones on the front, stretchy ones at the sides, and an unusually spacious belt pocket. The built-in rain cover is a bonus, too.

RATING: 6/10

JP

2 Futura 24 SL

Deuter, £110

Deuter-8f7caeb

• For women; men’s version available

Weight: 1,390g

• Rain cover: included

• Sizing: One size

Hydration system compatible: yes

VERDICT: This pack is on the heavier side due to its internal steel frame, but it is so well engineered that the weight is distributed evenly and it feels almost buoyant to wear. Tough and durable, it is exceptionally comfortable and stable. The ventilation panel is particularly airy and effective. It also has a hydro pack compartment and hiking pole loops. The long zipped opening allows you to open the pack right up to avoid any awkward rummaging and there are three roomy external mesh pockets for wet items or things you want quick access too.

A well-pocketed front section for organising smaller items makes the pack just as useful for work and city visits as for outdoor activities. It gets brownie points for having a rain cover stashed in a pocket beneath. The women’s fit is slightly short in back length than the men’s.

RATING: 8/10

JB

3 Aeon 27

Lowe Alpine, £90

Lowe_Alpine-971211b

• For men; women’s version available.

Weight: 826g

• Rain cover: not included

• Hydration system compatible: yes

• Sizing: two sizes

VERDICT: Unlike rigid-frame packs, the Aeon’s back flexes, so that it moulds to the shape of your spine. And sure enough it is remarkably comfortable – unless you overfill it, when it will feel a little rigid against your back. The Air Control system – a moulded back covered in mesh – is designed to keep your back cool. There are three stretchy external pockets – one central and a pair at the sides; plus two on the belt. But it seems smaller than its 27-litre volume. Why? Well, the main compartment is accessible, via a zip that loops down both sides, but it’s rather long and narrow. More to the point, the crucial top pockets are a little pokey and there’s no rain cover. Still, it’s neat and stylish, light at 826g, and with a pleasingly compact profile.

 RATING: 7/10

JP

4 Nine Trails Pack 26L

Patagonia, £130

Patagonia-62b0ce9

• For women; Men’s version available

Weight: 910g

• Rain cover: not included

Hydration system compatible: yes

• Sizing: two sizes

VERDICT: A tough, durable rucksack, this has a snug, streamlined fit, without dangly straps or pole attachments. It sits close to your body, and feels stable. It’s comfortable when walking at a moderate speed and climate, but the snug fit does compromise the air-flow system – making it feel sweaty in hot weather. It is less roomy than some rucksacks and requires careful packing. It does have a hydro-pack pocket, but with the exception of the large mesh front one, I found the other pockets a little ungenerous, so this would better suit people who aren’t constantly delving for a notebook. The pack is well-made and the robust fabric has been weather-proofed, but the long zip opening means that additional dry-bags or a waterproof cover are necessary in prolonged wet weather.

RATING: 6/10

JB

5 Tempest 30

Osprey, £100

Osprey-35d7779

• For women; men’s version available.

Weight: 860g

• Rain cover: not included

Hydration system compatible: yes

Sizing: one size for women, two for men’s version (Talon 33)

VERDICT: This rucksack is both light and structural. It keeps weight close to the hips, and despite lacking a rigid frame, it is comfortable and supportive. The air ventilation panel works well. It has a roomy main cavity with good compression straps, and for smaller items it has outer pockets on the hip belts and lid including three stretchy mesh pockets for waterproofs. An LED light attachment pocket on the strap can double up as a pen holder. It has pole and ice-axe loops and its hydro pack pocket is handily external. Only small and medium sizes are available, but the adjustable back length is good. The tough fabric is water-resistant, but if you’re expecting consistent rain, Osprey recommend their £18 rain cover. The reflective lettering makes you more visible to traffic in the dark.

RATING: 9/10

JB

6 AllTrail 35L

Thule, £120

Thule-ac895f3

Weight: 1.26kg

Rain cover: included

Sizing: easily adjustable

Hydration system compatible: yes

VERDICT: This pack if made by a Swedish company you may know better for its roof boxes for cars. Like many Thule packs it has an uncluttered, monochrome appearance, without the fussy straps you get on some packs.

The apparent simplicity belies the many thoughtful design touches. There’s a good-sized top pocket for small stuff you want to lay your hands on quickly, a pair of stretchy external pockets, deep enough for water bottles, and a relatively big hip pocket that you can stash essentials in. Getting in to the main compartment is really easy, thanks to two long zips. It’s a very roomy pack, at 35L the biggest we tested, and at that volume necessarily bulky in comparison to the Aeon 27; the compression straps keep a half-full pack stable, but it might be worth considering whether you really need a pack this large.

There are the standard hiking pole loops on the back, but, interestingly, there’s also an unusual pole holder on the belt, allowing you to quickly attach your poles using what looks like a heavy duty watch strap. It works rather well, holding the poles at an angle to one side of your hip.

Even better, Thule offer the option to customise your pack by removing the pole holder and replacing it with one of Thule’s clip-on storage options: these include a roomy pouch (an extra £15), SLR camera case (£25) or water bottle (£8). That’s a great idea.

There are some trade-offs to that minimal look. Rather than have a large external pocket, there’s an easy-to-access pocket on the inside; which looks neater but isn’t a great place to stuff a sopping wet rain jacket, unless you pack the rest of your contents safe in a dry bag.

The back is more old-school than some of the other aspects: flattish and rigid, lined with a foam pad covered with a wicking fabric. While the harness and belt are well designed, and the sizing is easily adjustable through a big Velcro flap, the overall comfort level is not as strong as Haglofs’ Vina 30. Even so, it was perfectly adequate with a heavy (12kg) load for nine miles in my test.

RATING: 8/10

JP
 

7 Vina 30

Haglofs, £110

Haglofs_1-f0db86c

• Weight: 1.1kg

Rain cover: Not included

• Hydration system compatible: yes

• Sizing: One size available in UK

VERDICT: The Vina 30 is supremely comfortable: the mesh backing allowing the weight to settle softly on to your back. The wide belt and harness spreads the load evenly on your hips and shoulders.

It’s well ventilated too – the mesh keeps the weight of the pack away from your back and allows air to circulate. On belt and harness, a combination of mesh fabric and perforations allows cool air in. 

The packs builds in lots of now fairly standard gains: hoops for hiking poles; compression straps keep the load stable. A big stretchy pocket on the back is useful for wet-weather gear, and a small stretchy side pocket easily accommodates a water bottle. If you prefer, the pack has an inner sleeve designed for a hydration system – a rubber water bottle with a drinking tube.

But there are more unexpected touches, too: the zip-up pocket at the bottom left of the pack, for example. You can open it and fetch stuff out on the go, without removing the pack. The belt also has a pair of generous stretchy pockets, big enough for a compact binoculars or a sunglasses case. The Vina 30’s top pocket is – hallelujah! – an unusually practical size, big enough for the hats, snacks, buffs, sweets, first aid kit, and umpteen other bits and pieces that it’s good to have handy.

The main compartment is easy to access thanks to a full-length zip.It’s spacious, too, providing a generous 30L volume.

There are two snags. First, some of the clips are irritatingly fiddly. You have to take care slide them straight in, using both hands, or they get snagged. With cold hands or gloves, that could be especially vexing. Second, there’s no rain integral cover. OK, the fabric is treated with DWR – but I wouldn’t expect that to keep your kit dry in a prolonged downpour, especially after the pack has picked up a bit of wear. So you have to fork out an extra £26 for the separate rain cover, or use a dry bag inside the pack.

But otherwise this is an excellent pack. 

RATING: 8/10

JP

Reviews by Julie Brominicks (JB) and Joe Pontin (JP)

• Main picture: Getty Images

Advertisement

Backpacks 1, 2, 3, 5, 6: pictured by Steve Sayers, The Secret Studio