Enormous, multi-compartment travellers’ backpacks get all the glory, but the humble daypack represents a science all of its own. While it is tempting to sling a sandwich in your ordinary commuter bag and head for the hills on a one-day hike, a proper daypack can support you over more miles, in more adventurous terrain, and will never let your sandwiches get soggy.

Walking covers a multitude of days out, from a gentle stroll along the towpath to Sunday lunch, to an axe-aided scramble in the sleet. We tested bags that should suit both ends of the spectrum – from Patagonia’s city-friendly backpack to Mammut’s mountain-ready kit.

We tested all the bags on medium-length walks – around 10-15 miles – on terrain that suited their USP.

Thanks to the English weather, all of them were well tested for waterproofing. In terms of pack weight, our baseline was a day’s worth of supplies – a packed lunch, snacks, water, walking poles, a waterproof layer and a map – and for the larger (30l plus) bags we tried to fit an overnight “microadventure” camping kit in, too (a bivvy bag, lightweight sleeping bag and rollmat).

Generally a volume of 20 litres is ideal for a daypack – that’s not so hefty that it weighs you down if you want to go fast and light, but has enough space for a couple of layers, food and a flask or even a flask or lightweight camping stove for a cuppa.

Many of the bags we tested would also suit a longer trip, though – in particular the Mammut, with its innovative flexible back system, and the Osprey.

In summer our reviewer can manage a week-long walk with 30l of kit (sleeping in hostels, not camping), so if you have a few trips in mind this year, it’s worth sizing up – all of these packs are light to mid-weight and have excellent compression, so on a day hike the extra volume won’t bother you.

We were really impressed by the number of sustainable and eco-friendly options on the market at the moment: the majority of bags we tested had some kind of ethical credential, whether that was the supply chain or the fabric. The fact that the “greenest” bags we tested – like the Fjallraven and the Osprey – were also the most attractive shows that the industry is waking up to consumer demand and living up to the hiker’s motto: leave no trace.

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The verdict: Daypacks for walking

The Fjallraven keb hike is a smart and beautiful bag that can also survive cross-country skiing and mountaineering – exactly what you want in a versatile daypack. If your route has more inns than inclines, the Vango trail bag is a perfect souped-up city bag.

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