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Choosing a Daypack


There are many different factors and a multitude of different day backpacks for outdoor activities, which can make the choice of which one to buy very difficult. Here at Nomad we've been fitting travellers with small backpacks and daysacks for over 25 years, and have compiled our top tips and some pros & cons that will help you decide on the right daysack for you, whether you need a small hiking backpack, a cycling bag or a trail running day backpack.

One factor it is worth considering is what you will use the bag for in the future. If you are buying a daysack for a trek, but most of your journeys are cultural and city based, it may be worth compromising on the perfect trekking bag for something which you will be more likely to get lots of use from in your regular activities. Some daysacks will have all the bells and whistles for a wet hill walking weekend, but you may prefer to go for something a bit more sleek and stylish, and invest in a waterproof rain cover for those irregular weekends away.

What size should it be?

On average, daysacks are about 20 to 35 litres. If you are going to colder regions you will need to leave space for insulating clothing, hats and gloves. The table on the right gives you a rough idea of what you can fit in different sized daysacks. As a rule of thumb if in doubt, go larger - it will save you having to carry more bags. But, remember you don’t have to fill it!

 10-20 Litre

Short walks or a day in town with the basics      
 25 Litre A day out with the basics + waterproofs + a snack
35 Litre A long day with everything a 25 Liter can carry + a meal + insulation against the cold 
45 Litre  A weekend trip with everything a 35 Litre can carry + sleeping & hygiene gear
Also suitable for lightweight and compact travellers


The best daysacks for trekking have an air flow mesh back that hold the bag away from your back. This allows, as the name suggests, air flow and stops your back becoming wet during exertion which will chill when you stop for a rest. The mesh should be on a light frame giving the bag rigidity which helps distribute the weight. However, these bags do not pack down easily and are not as convenient for packing away. So, if you're on a longer trip and carrying the backpack for day trips, a framed mesh backsystem won't be the best option. If you decide not to go for a framed mesh back, make sure that the daysack is designed to maximise air flow.

Conventional style daysack or modern?

Daysacks come in two styles; conventional rucksack style daysacks look like traditional toploaders with an opening at the top. Modern style backpacks have a half moon zip across the front, with very easy access and plenty of pockets and attachment points. Which one you go for depends on which style you prefer.

Conventional, toploading style
25 Litre daysack
Modern, half moon zip style
28 Litre daysack

Is it waterproof?

Very few are waterproof as there are so many seams and zips that can allow water through even though most bags will be made from waterproof material. Many daysacks will come with a waterproof cover . If the bag you choose does not, consider buying one separately or taking the very useful roll and clip dry bags to pack your belongings inside the daysack. They come in many colours and sizes and will not only keep your essentials dry and dust free but will help you to be organised.

Accomodating your water

There are two choices when it comes to carrying water. Popular now are the bladder style bottles with a hose attachment so that you can drink on the go. For these make sure your daysack has a compartment for it and an outlet point for the hose. Some bag makers such as Osprey have cleverly put this compartment behind the back system on the outside of the bag for easier access. If you prefer the more traditional style water bottles, make sure there is somewhere to put them on the outside of your daysack so that you don’t have to take off your bag to drink.

Walking poles

Walking poles are used more and more these days as a walking aid. If you use them or think you may do in the future, make sure your day backpack has attachment points for these when they are not in use so you don't need to carry them in hand.

Shoulder Bags

If you don't need to carry trekking accessories, but need a day bag to carry essentials for sightseeing & city day trips, a shoulder bag may be a better option for you. Carrying everything you need for a day out under your arm gives you quick and easy access to your camera & notebook for those magic moments. Whereas a backpack sits out out of view, a shoulder bag keeps your stuff in sight, which is great for ensuring thieves don't get at it.

How much should I spend on a daypack?

The price will depend on: the quality of the fabric the daysack is made from, the number of features the bag offers (pockets, anchor points etc) and the sophistication of the back system. The better quality (i.e. the most durable) will be made from Nylon. The more basic models will be made from Polyester. Expect to pay anywhere between £30 and £100.