Best Packable Backpacks [2023 UPDATE] — Ultimate Gear Lists (2024)

Best Packable Backpacks [2023 UPDATE] — Ultimate Gear Lists (1)


Author: Sam Brilleman

The Short Version

The Long Version

Exploring downtown New York? Hiking in the hills of Oregon? Sightseeing in Tokyo?

When travelling, a daypack is going to be a necessity! Whether you are exploring a city or hiking out in nature a daypack is vital for carrying items on your outings. But not everyone wants to carry a heavy daypack in addition to their main luggage.

The perfect solution?

… A lightweight packable backpack!

A packable backpack can be stored away in your main luggage when not required, and then unpacked and put into action when necessary.

Best Packable Backpacks [2023 UPDATE] — Ultimate Gear Lists (2)

In this review I cover the best packable backpacks on the market. I’ve included ultralight and ultra-packable options — weighing as little as 1 ounce! — as well as some slightly heavier options that provide more features or functionality such as waterproofness, hip belts, or external pockets.

If you love reading this review of the best packable backpacks, then you'll likely love reading some of our other gear review pages:

  • Gear Reviews Overview Page

  • Best Backpacks

  • Best Backpacking Tents

  • Best Down Jackets

WEIGHT: 3.8 oz / 109 grams

VOLUME: 18 litres

PROS: Ultralight, Packs down tiny, One additional stash pocket

CONS: Not super comfortable under heavy loads

The Osprey Ultralight Stuff Pack is a seriously ultralight and ultra-packable daypack, from a company well-known for making some of the best travel backpacks.

At 3.8 ounces (109 grams) it may not be quite as lightweight as the Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Nano Daypack (1.0 oz, 30 grams) or the Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Daypack (2.5 oz, 72 grams). But the benefit of Osprey’s offering is that you get a zippered stash pocket in addition to the main compartment, whilst the Sea to Summit daypacks have no additional pockets.

I believe that the additional weight is justified by the convenience of a stash pocket for storing small items like your wallet, phone, keys, etc. Otherwise those items tend to get lost at the bottom of the main compartment.

The shoulder straps on Osprey Ultralight Stuff Pack are made from a permeated mesh. The shoulder straps are pretty comfortable under lighter loads. Of course this isn’t the sort of daypack designed for heavier loads — if you are looking for something to carry more weight then consider the Gossamer Gear Vagabond Packable described below.

This daypack also requires some thought when packing the main compartment, since there is no padding on the back panel (meaning you want to avoid having sharp items in the main compartment that might poke into your back).

The material is a water-resistant 40-denier ripstop nylon. As you might expect for a daypack this lightweight, there are very few features. There is a mesh pocket on one side, but it isn’t particularly stretchy or supportive — you can use it for a small (e.g. 750ml) water bottle, but anything larger than that wouldn’t be very secure.

The Osprey Ultralight Stuff Pack packs down into a small storage pocket (i.e. stuff sack) that is permanently sewn inside the stash pocket. When packed away, this daypack is about the size of a tennis ball, which is pretty impressive! And of course you get peace of mind with Osprey’s All Mighty Guarantee.

WEIGHT: 1.0 oz / 30 grams

VOLUME: 18 litres

PROS: Amazingly ultralight, Packs down tiny

CONS: No additional pockets, Material isn’t the most durable

The Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Nano Daypack has specs that are pretty difficult to believe. Weighing in at just 1 ounce (30 grams) the Ultra-Sil Nano Daypack is almost certainly the lightest packable backpack in the world. And when not in use it compresses down to the size of a chicken egg!

The Nano Daypack is essentially a lighter and more compressible version of Sea to Summit’s more popular Ultra-Sil Daypack.

Whilst the Ultra-Sil Daypack weighs in at 2.5 oz (72 grams) its “Nano” sibling weighs in at just 1 oz (30 grams). To achieve those additional weight savings Sea to Summit have used a 15-denier ripstop nylon instead of 30-denier. This means some compromises in terms of durability — but for occasional use the 15-denier fabric should be durable enough.

If you plan to use your daypack regularly then perhaps consider a more durable alternative. But if you want the lightest possible daypack for occasional use whilst travelling, then the Nano Daypack is likely to be it.

One other small difference to note is that Sea to Summit have used a one-way zipper on the Nano Daypack instead of the two-way zipper found on the original Ultra-Sil Daypack.

The Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Nano Daypack comes in a range of colours. But otherwise it is ultralight simplicity at its best. If you want the lightest possible daypack to take travelling then look no further, this is it.

WEIGHT: 11.2 oz / 317 grams

VOLUME: Not specified

PROS: Lots of external pockets, Compatible with “fast belt” (hip belt)

CONS: Heavier than simpler ultralight packable options

The Gossamer Gear Vagabond Packable is covered in features that make it a great choice for hiking.

If you need a packable backpack that is substantial enough for day hikes then the Gossamer Gear Vagabond Packable may just be it. This backpack is a packable version of Gossamer Gear’s most popular daypack — the Vagabond Daypack.

Although the Vagabond Packable weighs only 11.2 ounces (317 grams) it comes with a host of useful features.

It has two side pockets (each large enough for a 1 litre water bottle), a front mesh pocket, and two shoulder strap pockets. It also has daisy chains for strapping on excess gear.

It is treated with a durable water repellent (DWR) to increase the water resistance of the fabric. This won’t make the bag waterproof, but should protect you against most rain showers.

One of the best aspects of the Vagabond Packable is that it is compatible with the Gossamer Gear Fast Belt. This means that you have the option to add on a fully functioning hip belt with pockets. This addition helps significantly with load transfer, meaning that the Vagabond Packable is suitable serious day hikes when you might be covering longer distances or carrying heavier loads.

WEIGHT: 12 oz / 340 grams

VOLUME: 16 litres

PROS: Super stylish, Doesn’t look like a packable backpack, Water resistant, Several pockets

CONS: Expensive, Heavier than the ultralight options

If you are looking for a packable backpack that is stylish enough to take to a day of work at a corporate office, then look no further than the Waterfield Packable Backpack.

This boutique company based in San Francisco designs and manufactures premium quality backpacks, carry cases, and other accessories. Their products are manufactured in their San Francisco workshop and sold direct to customers through their online shop, and not through intermediate retailers.

This packable backpack might be a step up in price from the others on our list, but for the extra dollars you get a product that shows its quality. The custom-designed exterior material is wrinkle free and has a premium matte finish – meaning this backpack looks just as at home in the airport lounge as it does on the shoulders of a backpacker riding a tuk tuk through central Bangkok. The interior is lined with a ripstop nylon that has a silver diamond-pattern that adds an additional touch of style.

It has a main compartment that will hold most small and medium sized laptops and is accessible through a double waterproof zipper. It also has a front zippered pocket (with an internal key loop), and an exterior sleeve pocket on each side.

In the main compartment it has a reasonably large internal zippered pocket that can be used for storing loose items (or those that you want to store more securely, i.e. not in the front zippered pocket) – this internal pocket doubles as the storage pocket for when the bag is packed away.

Something else I like about this backpack is that it is available in several colors that are deep and earthy rather than bright and bold.

At 12 ounces and with a fairly hefty price tag, this might not be the cheapest or lightest packable backpack around. But if you are willing to spend some extra dollars in the name of style and quality then look no further than the Waterfield Packable Backpack.

WEIGHT: 3.8 oz / 110 grams

VOLUME: 22 litres

PROS: Waterproof, Ultralight, Packs down tiny

CONS: No additional pockets, Not super comfortable under heavy loads

The Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Dry Daypack is a waterproof version of Sea to Summit’s Ultra-Sil Daypack. Both daypacks use the same 30-denier fabric, but the waterproof version uses a roll top closure for the main compartment instead of a two-way zipper. This ensures that water stays out.

For a waterproof daypack the Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Dry Daypack is seriously light (3.8 oz, 110 grams). This means some sacrifices in terms of comfort and features. But we believe they are justified. The minimal weight and pack size of this waterproof daypack makes it ideal for travelling.

The daypack is comfortable under lighter loads. However the shoulder straps aren’t padded, so you won’t want to pack it with too much weight. There also isn’t any padding in the back panel, so you’ll want to pack it such that no sharp items stick into your back.

As with all the Sea to Summit daypacks the key here is lightweight simplicity. If you are looking for an ultralight and ultra-packable daypack then the range of Sea to Summit daypacks should be on your radar. If you need the peace of mind found with a waterproof roll-top closure — for example you might be carrying a laptop or camera gear in the daypack — then Dry Daypack could be the one you choose.


WEIGHT: 4.8 oz / 136 grams

VOLUME: 16 litres

PROS: Lightweight, Compression straps on sides, Water resistant zippers

CONS: Not as light as some of the competition

The Matador FreeFly16 is a good looking packable daypack. It doesn’t quite have the specs to edge out the competition — namely the Sea to Summit and Osprey daypacks — but it isn’t far off.

It weighs in at an ounce or two heavier than the Osprey and Sea to Summit daypacks, but offers little in terms of additional features. The thing I do like about this backpack is that the side pockets are much more functional than the side pocket found on the Osprey Ultralight Stuff Pack. There is also a small compression strap on each side that allows you to secure in items such as a water bottle.

The Matador FreeFly16 is made from a waterproof 30-denier ripstop nylon. The use of water-resistant zippers is another nice addition, effectively making this backpack waterproof against everything except the heaviest downpours.

There is a zippered stash pocket in addition to the main compartment. The location of the stash pocket on the front of the bag helps to keep small items from digging into your back, but makes it slightly less secure when travelling. In comparison, the Osprey Ultralight Stuff Pack has its stash pocket located in a position that makes it feel more secure for storing items like a phone or wallet when travelling (i.e. it would be harder for someone to gain access without you being aware). The Osprey offering also comes with a limited lifetime warranty that blows the Matador one year warranty out of the water.

Interestingly it has a detachable stuff sack for storing it, rather than an integrated stuff sack. Unfortunately this can make it easier to misplace the stuff sack.

The Matador FreeFly16 is only offered in two colours — Charcoal Grey and Coyote Brown — both of which are pretty good looking.

It may not have won in any of our categories, but the Matador FreeFly16 is still a great packable daypack that wins points for style and water-resistance.

WEIGHT: 2.5 oz / 72 grams

VOLUME: 20 litres

PROS: Ultralight, Packs down tiny

CONS: No additional pockets, Not super comfortable under heavy loads

For many people the Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Daypack will provide everything you need from a packable backpack… in one of the smallest and lightest possible packages.

This backpack is a slightly more durable version of our “Best for Ultralight” category winner — the Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Nano Daypack.

This version of the daypack is made with a more durable 30 denier ripstop nylon that should provide a longer lifespan and additional water resistance compared with the “Nano” version. This version of the daypack also has a two-way zipper and a daisy chain for attaching a bike light.

If you are going to be using your backpack regularly then this may be the better option due to the added durability. Alternatively, if you want the lightest possible packable daypack then opt for the Nano version described above.


If you loved this gear review article, then you'll likely love reading our other gear-fiend related articles:

  • Gear Reviews Overview Page

  • Best Backpacks

  • Best Hoodless Sleeping Bags

  • Best Down Jackets

Happy hiking and take care out there in the wild!

Best Packable Backpacks [2023 UPDATE] — Ultimate Gear Lists (2024)


Best Packable Backpacks [2023 UPDATE] — Ultimate Gear Lists? ›

Packable day packs are great for hiding away in your onebag, but then taking out at your destination for when you're walking around out and about. It means you don't need to carry your travel bag around.

Are packable backpacks worth it? ›

Packable day packs are great for hiding away in your onebag, but then taking out at your destination for when you're walking around out and about. It means you don't need to carry your travel bag around.

Is 70L too big for carry-on? ›

Being able to compress the 70L allows you to use it as carry-on for all major airlines in the US and Canada. It's super easy: fill your 70L about ½ full (we recommend using the RUX Bag to help separate your belongings).

Is 40L enough for 2 weeks? ›

As a general rule, 40 L means enough clothes without washing for a week. Remember in hot weather you will wear smaller clothes and in colder weather you will be able to wear your clothes more than once. There are issues if you are bring specific things like several pairs of shoes, camera, drone etc.

What is the best size day pack for travel? ›

21-35 liters: This is the sweet spot for most hiking and travel daypacks. There's enough capacity to hold food, clothing and some extras, like a camera and a book. 36-50 liters: These larger packs are ideal for trips that require additional clothing and gear, such as climbing, mountaineering or non-summer hiking.

What is the best day pack to buy? ›

Best hiking daypacks reviewed:
  1. Osprey Stratos 26. Gear of the Year winner 2024. ...
  2. Lowe Alpine AirZone Ultra 26. Best in test. ...
  3. Salewa Alp Mate 26 Backpack. best value. ...
  4. Decathlon Quechua Mountain Walking 30L Backpack MH500. ...
  5. Mammut Lithium 25. ...
  6. Osprey Talon 22. ...
  7. Cotopaxi Batac 24L Backpack. ...
  8. Arc'teryx Aerios 18 Backpack.
Apr 16, 2024

What is a good backpack to travel with via airplane? ›

ProductsProduct LinksComfort
Best Overall: Cotopaxi Allpa 35L Travel Pack$200 at Amazon5/5
Best for Long Trips: Away The Outdoor Convertible Backpack 45L$220 at
Best Budget: Asenlin 40L Travel Backpack$40 at Amazon5/5
Best for Photographers: Peak Design Travel Backpack 45L$300 at Amazon5/5
6 more rows
May 22, 2024

What is the number one backpack brand? ›

The Best Backpack Brands, Overall:

Best Overall Backpack Option: The North Face. Best for Durability: L.L. Bean. Best Budget Option: adidas. Best for Quality: Patagonia.

What is the best size backpack for flying? ›

Your backpack will generally be allowed as a carry-on if it's under 50 liters, or about 22 x 14 x 9 inches. Get a 45-liter backpack if you want to carry as much stuff as possible on the plane with you. All Knack Packs are carry-on friendly backpacks (under 50 liters).

What is the most accepted carry-on size? ›

In general, standard domestic carry-on luggage size is 22 x 14 x 9 inches. If you're flying internationally, that may vary a little to 21.5 x 15.5 x 9 inches.

What if my carry-on is slightly too big? ›

If your carry-on luggage exceeds the airline's size or weight requirements, it may be subject to additional fees or required to be checked as regular luggage. Fees vary by airline and can depend on factors such as the size or weight of the item and your fare class.

Is 60l backpack too big for carry-on? ›

In many cases, as long as it's not larger than about 55L, yes, you can use many backpacking backpacks as a carry on. Or, if you want to check extra gear like tent stakes and trekking poles, check it all. Just pack it up in a more durable bag first to protect your precious gear.

What size backpack for 2 weeks in Europe? ›

When traveling across Europe with only a backpack for up to two weeks, it's crucial to choose a backpack with the right features. Opt for a 40-45-liter backpack with padded shoulder straps, a waist belt for comfort, and multiple compartments for organization.

What size backpack for a 3 week trip? ›

After all these years of travelling and living on the road with my 40L backpack, you can imagine how easy it is to pack everything. I arrive and leave a place with the same things in my bag unless I throw away broken stuff or old clothes and buy a new one. Packing for 3 weeks was never a problem.

What size backpack for a 10 day trip? ›

Large Backpacks: 40+ Liters

Large backpacks have a capacity of 40 liters or more, which is plenty of space for all your travel gear, even on longer journeys. If you're planning a backpacking trip for seven to ten days (or longer if you're travel-savvy and can pack light), this is the size you'll want.

What is the point of mini backpacks? ›

To carry a light load when you do not want to carry a larger load. For Example, if I am going on a hike, say ten miles, I might want a snack, some water or a bottle of chianti, a camera change of socks and maybe a poncho or light jacket. Too little for a full rucksack, perfect for a short walk.

Is a suitcase or backpack better for Travelling? ›

Suitcases can be great for those who need to check a lot of items, while backpacks are great for those who are taking a shorter trip and don't want to lug around a large suitcase. For trips that involve both plane and train travel, duffel bags are a great choice, as they are both lightweight and versatile.

Should I get an anti theft backpack? ›

While no bag can completely eliminate the risk of theft, using an anti-theft bag can make it more difficult for thieves to steal your valuables, providing you with peace of mind and an added layer of security.


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