Whether your adventure is in the cobble-stoned streets of Europe, the beaches of South East Asia or the crazy streets of Manhattan, there are some items you don’t want to leave in your hotel room. But even if you’re traveling light, or are doing one bag travel, you don’t want to lug around your main pack during your day-to-day excursions. This is where an ultralight day pack comes in.
Weight and packability are important considerations in a good daypack, but you also need to figure out what features are important to you. Because they need to pack down into your main luggage, most daypacks don’t have any structure, or a lot of compartments.
Sometimes, you might get around the lack of structure by adding a panel organizer such as the Grid-it tech panel which can help give a bag some structure, or you could add a jacket or sweater to act as ballast. Maybe your hotel or AirBnB doesn’t have a safe where you can leave your valuables, and you need to carry around your tablet or laptop, so you might need something with a sleeve or pouch. Regardless of what you want to carry on a day-to-day, you want a pack that can easily handle all your daypack must-haves.
You don’t want to just grab whatever bag you can find. Having a reliably daypack is a definite win-win in any travel situation. It doesn’t take up much space or weight in your main luggage, but it’s also insanely useful for those on-trip excursions. Did too much shopping or accidentally purchased too many souvenirs? They can also work as a great overflow bag, and can easily serve as your personal item (under-seat bag) on the plane.
If you want something as small as possible and as light as possible, this is what you want. This is your prototypical day pack – it’s ultralight, and made of ultra-thin rip stop nylon. But what we love about the Osprey Ultralight Stuff Sack is that it keeps things as simple as possible, while still adding some nice touches. There’s a simple logo on the face of the pack, and some branding on the strap, but otherwise, it doesn’t draw too much attention to itself.
There are two easily accessible stretchy side pockets for your water bottles and a quick access pocket on top of the bag. The straps are air-mesh, which helps a lot with airflow, especially in hot and humid conditions. It has dual-zippers, with really nice zipper pull tabs, which is a really nice surprise at this price point. These zipper pulls are extremely useful, especially if the bag isn’t full, since there is practically no structure to this bag at all.
Osprey Ultralight Stuff Pack specs:
Capacity: ~18 Liters
Dimensions: 17″ H x 9″ W x 7″ D
The Matador Daylight is similar to the Osprey bag above. It comes out very slightly heavier, and packs down to fit the palm of your hand. It’s has a slightly smaller capacity than the Osprey, and it’s also more expensive, but it has even less branding. Constructed with high quality cordura fabric, this bag is also extremely water resistant. Similar to the Osprey, the straps are also breathable, and there are water bottle pockets on each side.
Matador also makes two other packable daypacks – the Matador RainFree 24 and the Matador – but the Daylite 16 is our favorite, and we think it offers better value.
Matador Daylite Specs:
Capacity: ~16 Liters
Dimensions: 17″ H x 11.5″ W x 6″ D
You can get the Matador Daylite here.
This is one of our favorite packs. With packable bags, the trade-offs are always between packability and features. Somehow, the Azimuth manages to get the balance right. While it’s not as packable as the Osprey and the Matador, it does still compress to about the size of a rain jacket or a medium-weight sweater.
It’s still unstructured, but it comes with a bit more bells and whistles than the first two bags above. But at $120, it comes in at quite a premium over the Osprey or the Matador.
The bag has two water bottle pockets on each side, with attachment loops to secure your bottles or to hold other gear. Main access to the bag is through the top water-resistant zip, but there are also two zippers running the entire length of the bag on each side. One leads to a very useful horizontal quick-access pocket while the other zip leads to the main compartment.
If weight and space aren’t at a premium (and price isn’t too much of an issue), the Azimuth is definitely worth consideration because it really achieves a great balance of packability and features.
Triple Aught Design Azimuth Specs:
Capacity: ~19 Liters
Dimensions: 16.5″ H x 12″ W x 6″D
You can get the Triple Aught Design Azimuth here.
This bag is the most unusual in this list. It offers quite a bit more organization and it also has quite a bit more structure than the others. That means it doesn’t really pack down as small as the other bags, but it can fold flat inside your suitcase or your main bag.
If you only want to carry the essentials on a day trip, this is the perfect bag. This bag is SMALL. Let me repeat that, this is a SMALL bag. Now you know why it’s called the mini.
It’s great for shorter or petite people. But it can work for anyone who wants to travel light, yet isn’t willing to give up the structure, features and organization of a regular bag. It’s more than enough to carry the essentials – rain layer, snacks, sunglasses, sunscreen, hat, camera, quick-dry beach towel, etc.. plus whatever souvenirs you grab during the day.
This also the most fully featured pack on our list – aside from the usual bottle pockets, it has dedicated internal pockets for your pens, wallet and other small items, it has lockable zippers, a tablet pouch, a passport sized RFID blocking pocket, and even a front loop for a bike light.
Eagle Creek also make a separate packable series of bags: the Eagle Creek Packable Daypack, the Packable Tote, the Packable Duffle, and the No Matter What duffle, but we do prefer the Travel Bug Mini for daypack use.
As long as you’re not 6 foot or taller or don’t need to carry a ton of stuff for short excursions, this small pack can be a nice upgrade over the typical unstructured daypack.
Eagle Creek Travel Bug Mini specs:
Capacity: ~10.5 Liters
Dimensions: 15″ H x 9.5″W x 5″ D
You can get the Eagle Creek Travel Bug Mini from Amazon.
With a 21L capacity, this is the largest bag in our list. Measuring 17″ H x 11″ W x 6.5″ D this is a full sized day pack, perfect if you need to carry a bit more. At 1.1lbs or just under 500 grams, this is also the heaviest pack in our list. But that’s still very light, compared to regular daypacks.
The Tortuga is made of ultra-light, highly water-resistant sailcloth. Yep, the same fabric used in boat sails. It’s paired with coated YKK zippers, which means this is also the most water-resistant pack in this list.
Like the Eagle Creek Mini Bug above, this pack won’t roll into the size of a lemon, but it will fold flat inside your main suitcase or other luggage. The material is very flexible, but because Tortuga have added quite a bit of padding to this pack, you don’t really want to fold it like the other packs.
There are 2 water bottle pockets on each side, and a nicely sized zippered front pocket protected with a storm flap. It can comfortably fit up to a 15″ laptop and all your daily essentials.
All of this does come at a price, at $99 direct from Tortuga, it is quite a bit more expensive than your typical packable daypack. It’s a great pack, but for our purposes, we prefer spending just a bit more for the Triple Aught Design Azimuth which we list above. We think the Azimuth offers just a bit more value, and is just a bit more feature packed, for daypack use.
Tortuga also still offer their previous generation daypack – the Tortugal Travel Daypack, a 20L pack which is more packable than the Outbreaker.
Unlike the Outbreaker, the Travel Daypack can be stuffed into its own pouch, just like the Azimuth pack above. Although the Travel Daypack is made of nylon, it does have the same ultra-comfortable foam padding that can be found on the newer Outbreaker. If you don’t need the extreme water resistance of the sailcloth on the Outbreaker, the Tortuga Travel Daypack is a great alternative, especially since it is considerably cheaper than the Outbreaker Daypack.
Tortuga Outbreaker Specs:
Capacity: 21 Liters
Dimensions: 17″ H x 11″ W x 6.5″ D
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