Ultralight, packable daypacks offer convenience, safety and comfort for shopping, photography, sight-seeing, hiking, camping, overnighting, kayaking, canoeing and traveling by bus, train or airline.
Ultralight hikers adopted these daypacks years ago for thru-hiking trails like the 2200-mile Appalachian Trail and the 400-mile Pacific Coast Trail. Now, bicyclists, canoe campers, kayakers, paddle boarders, travelers and shoppers are using them, too.
The conservative little backpacks are just the right size for daily shopping in the village. I carry tissue paper for bathroom stops, my camera, cellphone, wallet and notebook and pen for jotting thoughts and writing directions. For overnighting I add my toothbrush and shaving kit and a change of underwear and socks.
In Colombia where I live, the supermarkets charge extra for plastic bags to carry groceries. Big box stores like Home Center have stopped giving out plastic bags altogether.
This is a national movement and the hoped for result will be fewer plastic bags in the trash and more consciousness of the need to stop putting so much waste plastic into the landfills and into our rivers and streams.
In the Colombian culture shopping every day in nearby shops and supermarkets is common. When the stores stopped offering plastic bags, I switched to a medium size folding cloth bag to carry to the grocery store and fill with groceries.
I have a larger cloth bag for shopping when I am buying larger items such as new shoes or a new coffeepot.
The cloth bag is heavy to carry on the long walk back to my house. My hands and arms get tired. Sometimes I use my 30-liter laptop backpack for shopping but it is bulky and hot to carry. It weighs 5 pounds by itself, and with the padded laptop compartment it is hard to pack groceries.
I went looking for a solution and discovered daypacks made from ultralight, waterproof nylon. They pack as small as a tennis ball and weigh as little as 2.3 ounces and can expand to carry 20 liters and up to 20 pounds of groceries. I’ve even carried a medium size watermelon.
When I am traveling the packable daypack fits in my main travel bag, ready for day use when I get to my destination. It doesn't need a sternum strap or a waist belt. When I am not using it, I can stuff it into the attached stuff bag and clip it to my belt loop with the carabiner.
The daypack is convenient for shopping and carrying groceries. I also use it as a day pack when I am taking photos and interviewing people. It fits in overhead bins on airplanes and package racks on inter-city buses. It is small enough to sit on the floor by my feet in the taxi.
At home I leave it laying on the table by the door next to my umbrella and keys, ready to go at a moment's notice.
Clipping the day pack to my belt loop when I leave the house is just as automatic as making sure I tuck my wallet in my pocket.
These packable daypacks don’t have a laptop protection compartment so I carry my MacBook Air 13 laptop in a padded sleeve that fits in the daypack. In a pinch I've even used a bubble wrap mailing envelope as a laptop sleeve.
When I travel overnight the daypack is the perfect size for a change of underwear and socks, shaving kit and toothbrush, camera, small binoculars, folding umbrella, baseball cap, handkerchief, cell phone, journal and pen, reading glasses, sunscreen and sunglasses.
The daypack keeps everything organized in a neat bundle on my back, out of the way, easy to carry. My hands are free to handle merchandise, use my hiking pole, take photos, carry the umbrella and greet people.
The daypacks are available in a range of colors. Subdued grey blends in with the crowd, forest green is traditional for fishing and camping and hunter orange for hunting and backcountry adventures.
The Sea to Summit UltraSil Daypack is a 2.5-ounce minimalist backpack with a huge capacity for outdoor adventures. Made from a 30D diamond rip-stop siliconized Cordura fabric.
The Ultra-Sil Day Pack won the Backpacker Magazine Editors’ Choice Gold award for 2017. Packs down small so you can carry it in your jacket pocket, a purse or a waist pack. The attached stuff bag comes with an attached carabiner to clip to a belt loop or use as a key ring.
Two-way zipper closure for easy access, and padded, reinforced shoulder straps for increased comfort. There is a webbing daisy-chain attachment on the front of the pack for attaching items such as bike light or water bottle.
The dimensions are 11x8x19 inches / 28x20x48 cm and when stored in the attached stuff sack packs down to only 2.5x3.5 inches. It weighs only 2.5 ounces / 72g.
The Osprey Ultralight Stuff Pack18-liter has a stretchable pocket on the left side for folded hiking pole or water bottle. There are three exterior pockets and a convenient grab handle. The backpack stows in its top pocket. Made from water resistant, quick drying ripstop nylon. Weighs 4 ounces.
The Diamond Head Pali 20-liter daypack is the lightest of the daypacks we reviewed. It weighs 2.3 ounces and packs to only 2.5x3 inches. The Pali 20L day backpack offers silicone infused proprietary waterproof ripstop nylon material for protection from a light rain, snow and splashes. This foldable backpack design is ideal for camping, hiking, travel, day trips, or skiing and snowboarding.
The Eddie Bauer Unisex Adult Stowaway 20L features durable 200-denier ripstop polyester that stands up to the rigors of adventure, travel and daily use.
The packable backpack has a StormRepel DWR water-resistant finish that sheds moisture so it doesn’t soak into the fabric.
There are two elasticized mesh side pockets for carrying water bottles, hiking poles or other essentials. The three external zip pockets offer easy access to things you need throughout the day. The large capacity provides access to the main compartment and the two smaller zip pockets keep important items easy to reach.
There is an interior Velcro back panel pocket and four front lashing loops for carrying jacket or hiking poles. The adjustable, padded shoulder straps offer comfort and stability and the top grab handle is very convenient for lifting. The Stowaway is ideal as a hiking day pack, travel backpack, shopping bag, gym bag, school backpack and more.
It has a 20-liter, 1,220 cubic inch capacity and weighs only 11 ounces. Measuring 18¨x10¨x9¨, it is the largest of the 20-liter daypacks in this review.
The Eddie Bauer Unisex Adult Stowaway 30L is the largest packable daypack in our review. It measures 19"x 12"x 9" (9"x 8"x 2.5" stowed) and weighs 13 ounces. The durable ripstop polyester has a water-repellent finish.
The daypack folds into its own pocket and the exterior stretch mesh pocket with buckle closure is ideal for stashing a jacket. The top grab handle is convenient for lifting.
All the daypacks have waterproof material but the packs are not waterproof because of sewn seams and zippers. But they are water resistant and they do a good job of shedding rain.
Keeping the daypack clean is important since any dirty spots will attract water which may leak.
You can clean and re-waterproof the daypacks with Nikwax spray-on waterproofing products that are water based, biodegradable, and contain no PFCs, VOCs, optical brighteners, or added scent.
You can also use the Nikwax on your full size backpack, tents, rain flies, suitcases and other travel bags.
Andy Lee is a retired American writer living in Pereira, Colombia. Contact Andy@AndyLeeOutdoors.com.
He is administrator of the Facebook group Adventure Canoe and Kayak Camping and author of Five Hundred Miles to the Sea, Adventure Canoe and Kayak Camping Book 1.