Having the right backpack when you’re out hiking is hugely important. It doesn’t matter how light the load, if your bag fits badly (or worse still, has straps that rub) a nice day’s walking can quickly turn into a nightmare.

Daysacks (or daypacks as they’re sometimes called) sometimes appear deceptively simple – especially compared to the enormous, multi-compartment backpacks that people lug around southeast Asia. But increasingly, brands are incorporating the technology from their 60- or 75-litre behemoths into clever 20-30-litre rucksacks.

Things to look out for include: ergonomic, adjustable waist straps that will take the weight off your shoulders and stop the bag moving around too much as you walk; padded shoulder straps, designed to stop rubbing; water-repellent fabrics, rain covers and watertight seals to keep your kit dry; easy access systems to make getting inside the bag easier; and multiple compartments designed to keep gear separate. The weight of the bag itself is also worth thinking about – generally the lighter and more high tech a daypack is, the more expensive it will be.

The final consideration of course is style. Daysacks tend to exist on a spectrum which ranges from smart, almost briefcase-like bags that you’d be happy to take to the office at one end, to nineties-looking neon mountaineering models at the other. We’ve tested a range of options here – most of which sit somewhere in between.

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Mountain Hardwear Scrambler 30 OutDry: £51.99, Wiggle

OutDry is an alternative to Gore-Tex, a patented waterproof fabric used exclusively by Columbia Sportswear and its sister brands, which include Mountain Hardwear. The designers of the Scrambler backpack have used this innovative fabric to create a main compartment that is “rain room tested”, claiming that this guarantees to keep your kit dry, whatever the weather.

This backpack features are impressive – there are carry loops for trekking poles and ice axes, and you can even strap skis to the outside should you wish to use this for ski touring in winter. If you’re looking for a daypack that will handle the most hardcore of hikes, you’d be hard pressed to find a better option, especially at this price.

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Osprey Talon 22: £70.99, Amazon

The Talon has been part of Osprey’s range for more than a decade, but the brand keeps improving it every year. This latest model includes an “airscape” back panel, designed to stop your back sweating, and comfortable hip and chest straps. The waist-belt pockets, interior compartments and the ability to use a Camelbak-style water reservoir make this this 22 litre, 810 gram model an excellent choice.

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Fjällräven Keb Hike 20: £175, Fjällräven

Fjällräven’s iconic Kånken rucksack may be their bestseller, but the boxy backpack beloved of hipsters everywhere probably isn’t the best if you want to go for a proper hike. Instead, opt for this versatile, good-looking daypack. Made of the Fjällräven’s own, super durable G-1000 material, it includes a waist belt, chest straps and compression straps on the side to keep your loads compact.

It’s heavier and pricier than the Osprey Talon despite its marginally smaller 20 litre capacity. But it straddles the gap between urban commuter bag and serious outdoor kit perfectly – it features an internal laptop sleeve and ski touring straps, making it one of the few bags on the market to cover both.

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Patagonia Arbor Classic Pack: £65, Patagonia

With its retro styling, internal laptop sleeve and folding top, this backpack is clearly aimed more at the commuter/casual hiker end of the daypack spectrum. At the same time, it’s made by Patagonia, who have impeccable outdoor credentials, and features all the basic essentials you’d need for a proper trek, including a waist strap, outer fabric that’s treated with a durable water repellent, and well-padded shoulder straps. At 590g for a 25 litre pack, it’s good and light too.

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Burton Day Hiker 25: £65, Burton

Burton – named after founder and snowboarding pioneer Jake Burton Carpenter – started out as a snowboard brand, but its gear has become increasingly popular with hikers in recent years. Features originally designed for snowboarding, like the board carry straps on the pack’s front, also work well for holding jackets or other bits of summer kit. And Burton have adapted the pack’s design too, adding a laptop sleeve and external water bottle holders.

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Lowe Alpine Ascent Superlight 30: £55.98, Amazon

Lowe Alpine’s impeccable pedigree as a climbing brand means that when they bill a rucksack as “the ultimate lightweight backpack” it’s worth sitting up and taking notice. This weighs just 580g, which is frankly ludicrous for a 30 litre pack, especially when you consider the features they’ve packed in here. The exterior fabric is water repellent, there are attachment points for gear on the outside and there’s even a fold-out bivvie mat for climbers. As the look and lines of the pack suggest, this is more aimed at serious mountain types than Sunday walkers, but if you’re into your climbing, daypacks don’t come much better than this.

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Deuter Futura 24 litre: £90, Deuter

German brand Deuter are one of the most respected backpack makers going. Try on this compact 24 litre daypack and you’ll soon see why. The foam-covered shoulder straps and the hip belt are nicely padded, and adjustable in almost any direction, so whatever shape and size your torso is, this will feel comfortable. At the same time, the back panel is designed to help air move around easily, stopping you from sweating.

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Mammut Creon Classic 35L: £69, Amazon

The Creon Classic has all the features you’d want from a daysack. There are carry straps for trekking poles, a hydration sleeve for a water bladder and an integrated, detachable rain cover. The best thing about this rucksack however is the back panel – it features Mammut’s “4 stream” design, which helps warm air move away from your back and helps to stop you sweating. The waist belt has anatomically shaped wings that help it sit on your hips more comfortably. Swiss brand Mammut have been in the outdoor gear business for over 100 years, and their experience shows in the design of this well-made, unfussy pack.

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Vaude Brenta: £69.99, Amazon

This 25 litre rucksack is packed with features, including external water bottle holders, pole attachment points and an integrated, detachable rain cover in a separate compartment. There are padded hip wings and shoulder straps, and compression straps to keep the contents of the bag compact. But the best thing about the Brenta is the back panel, which is designed to keep the pack itself away from your back, allowing air to circulate and stopping you sweating.

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Millican Smith the Roll Pack 25l: £130, Millican

Based in the Lake District and named after an adventurous eccentric who lived in a cave in Borrowdale, Millican make bags that are both fashionable and functional. Smith the Roll Pack is available in 15 litre and 25 litre versions, and made of 57 per cent recycled “bionic” canvas, giving it a retro feel that’s enhanced by the roll top fastening and the muted colour palette favoured by Millican’s designers. There’s a laptop sleeve and internal pockets for a phone, tablet, documents and other office gear, but add on the removable waist and sternum straps and this transforms into a proper hikers’ bag that’s great out on the trails.

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The verdict: day sacks for walking

All of the daypacks on this list are excellent, and deciding which is the best for you may depend on how you’re planning to use it. As an all-rounder, it’s hard to argue with the Mountain Hardwear Scrambler, which is why, for the second year in a row, we’ve picked this as our best buy. It’s got all the features you could ever want for hiking, but it’s the waterproof main compartment that really seals the deal.

If you’re looking for something that you can commute as well as hike with, then the Patagonia Arbor or the Millican Smith the Roll Pack may be your best bet; whereas if you’re after a bag to carry ropes and climbing gear to the bottom of crags, then you’re probably better off with the Lowe Alpine Ascent Superlight.

IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.

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