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A packable daypack has become an essential part of our packing list. It fits easily in our luggage and we can use it for sightseeing and shopping at our destination.
We’ve tried many backpacks and below you’ll find reviews of the best packable daypacks in 2021 from ultralight to fully featured with something for every budget.
- What is a Packable Daypack?
- Why Travel with a Packable Backpack?
- Our Top Picks
- Comparison Chart: The Best Packable Daypack 2021
- How to Choose the Best Packable Backpack
- The Best Mid-Sized Packable Daypacks
- The Best Ultralight Daypacks
- The Best Full Featured Foldable Backpacks
- Which Packable Daypack is Best for You?
What is a Packable Daypack?
A packable daypack is an ultralight backpack that can fit in your luggage (or even your pocket). They usually compress into a small pouch.
They come in a range of sizes, some tiny and ultralight with one compartment, others bulkier with many of the pockets and features you’d expect in a regular backpack.
They are also sometimes called a foldable backpack or collapsible backpack.
Why Travel with a Packable Backpack?
Our luggage is too large for days out so we need something smaller for sightseeing. A light, foldable backpack is ideal as it fits inside our main bags on travel days.
It also allows you to travel with just one carry-on bag (which is all some strict airlines allow) but still have a small bag for exploring.
A collapsible daypack is also useful when you don’t need a bag for the whole day. You could pack a folding backpack inside your handbag or pocket to use when needed—for shopping or if you want to remove your sweater or jacket later.
Our Top Picks
After trying out many daypacks, the Matador Freefly16 is our top pick for the best packable daypack.
It’s lightweight yet extremely durable, weatherproof, and more comfortable than most packable bags. See our review below for more details
If you want an ultralight daypack that packs down to a tiny size, we recommend the Osprey Stuff Pack.
The Matador Beast18 is the most comfortable backpack for hiking, but it’s bulkier and heavier than the rest.
Note: Our previous favourite was the Tortuga Setout Packable Daypack but this is no longer available.
Comparison Chart: The Best Packable Daypack 2021
|Daypack||Image||Capacity||Weight||Folds into Pocket?||Price||Best For|
|Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Daypack||20L||72g (2.5oz)||Yes||$$||Ultralight|
|Osprey Ultralight Stuff Pack||18L||90g (3.2oz)||Yes||$$||Ultralight (Our Pick)|
|Naturehike Packable Daypack||18L||120g (4.2oz)||Yes||$||Ultralight Budget|
|Eagle Creek Packable Daypack||13L||142g (5oz)||Yes||$$||Lightweight|
|Gonex Packable Backpack||20L||185g (6.5oz)||Yes||$||Budget Pick|
|Matador Freefly16 Packable Backpack||16L||190g (6.7oz)||Yes||$$$||Top Pick|
|New Outlander Packable Daypack||20L||198g (7oz)||Yes||$||Budget|
|REI Co-op Flash 18 Pack||18L||255g (9oz)||No||$$||Hiking|
|Matador Freerain22 Waterproof Backpack||22L||300g (10.6oz)||Yes||$$$||Waterproof|
|Tortuga Outbreaker Daypack||21L||499g (1 lb 2oz)||No||$$$||Laptop|
|Matador Beast18 Technical Backpack||18L||595g (1lb 5oz)||Yes||$$$||Hiking (Our Pick)|
How to Choose the Best Packable Backpack
The main consideration when choosing a packable daypack is whether you will prioritise weight and packability or features and comfort.
The lightest daypacks only have one main compartment and flimsier shoulder straps, whereas most full-featured and comfortable packs weigh considerably more.
We opt for the middle ground. We like backpacks with at least one external zipped pocket and comfortable shoulder straps, but otherwise prioritise weight and packability over features.
Here are the features to consider when choosing a packable travel backpack:
- Capacity – We find 16 to 20 litres is plenty of space for a fleece, water bottle, snacks, and Kindle. We can even usually fit in both our laptops (16 and 13 inches) in neoprene cases (although we don’t recommend doing this too often in unpadded bags).
- Weight – The lighter, the better. We prefer under 250g (8.5oz). If you want ultralight, there are packs under 100g (3.5oz).
- Size When Packed – Most pack into the inside pocket to create a compact pouch that doesn’t take up much space in your main luggage.
- Pockets – We like to have at least one zipped pocket for small items.
- Water bottle holders – These are on the outside of the pack and can be useful for easy access to water.
- Hip belt – Most small lightweight backpacks don’t have one. It’s only necessary if you’ll be carrying a heavy load as it transfers the bag’s weight from your shoulders to your hips. The Matador Beast18 is the only daypack on this list with a comfortable padded hip belt.
- Sternum strap – A chest strap for extra support and to keep the bag from moving around. They aren’t common on packable daypacks, but they have become a must-have for us as they make a big difference to comfort. The Matador Freefly16 is the lightest daypack on this list with a sternum strap. All the bags in the Full Featured section also have them.
- Back and shoulder strap padding – Most don’t have back padding and only light shoulder padding. For heavier loads you might need more.
- Laptop compartment – This will add significantly to the weight, but it’s a good idea if you’ll be carrying around a laptop often as most don’t offer any protection. The Tortuga Outbreaker is best for laptops.
- Hydration port – If you prefer drinking from a water bladder, look for this. They aren’t common in ultralight bags but the REI Flash Pack and Matador Beast18 do have them.
- Weather resistance – Most daypacks aren’t waterproof but look for ones that are water resistant. The Matador Freerain22 is a fully waterproof daypack. The Freefly16, Tortuga Outbreaker, and Beast18 are also highly weather resistant.
- Durability – Look for quality fabric and zips.
All the backpacks reviewed below are unisex.
The Best Mid-Sized Packable Daypacks
These packable backpacks offer a good balance between packability/weight and comfort/features. All the bags in this category pack down to a similar size.
Weight: 190g (6.7oz)
Colours: Black only
Matador makes high-performance, packable travel gear from quality materials. I’ve been so impressed by their range of packable backpacks that I’ve added three to this list.
Their lightest bag—the Matador Freefly16—is our new favourite packable backpack. It’s the ideal balance between packability, comfort, and style.
The backpack is small and light, but it has a number of features you don’t usually find on a packable bag.
The adjustable sternum strap makes the backpack more comfortable than most as it keeps the shoulder straps in place.
It’s set up for outdoor activities with gear loops, shock cord captures, and buckle compression straps, so you can attach hiking poles and tools to the outside of the bag.
There are also two mesh water bottle pockets on the sides and one large zipped front pocket. This is almost the entire length of the bag, so I would prefer a smaller pocket within it.
The main compartment is large enough to fit Simon’s MacBook Pro 16-inch laptop in a case (there’s no padding in the bag for protection).
The mesh shoulder straps didn’t look like they’d have enough padding, but they are weight distributing and surprisingly comfortable. They are also breathable, don’t absorb sweat, and dry quickly.
The two biggest downsides of the Freefly16 are the price ($79.99) and that it doesn’t pack into its own pocket.
Instead, it packs into a separate mesh bag with a drawstring which you can squeeze into a small ball. I don’t love that it’s an extra thing to carry that could be lost, but overall it’s not a big deal.
For us the cost is worth it for the quality of the materials including Robic nylon and YKK zippers. The bottom of the bag (where holes are most likely to form in these ultralight bags) is reinforced with an even stronger fabric.
I expect the backpack to be very durable, which is reflected in the 3-year warranty.
The Freefly16 is also much more weatherproof than most backpacks with UTS coating, sealed seams, and sealing zippers.
It should stand up to most rain showers, but if you need a fully waterproof backpack, check out the Freerain 22 below.
Another great option: If you’ll be using the daypack for trips to cafes more than hiking, consider Matador’s On-Grid Packable Daypack.
It’s a similar size to the Freefly16, but it has more pockets (including a laptop sleeve), packs into its own pocket, and sells at a lower price. It lacks a sternum strap, though, and isn’t as water resistant.
Weight: 185g (6.5oz)
Colours: 8 available
We travelled with the budget Gonex daypack a few years ago. It worked well at the time, but we’ve since outgrown it and now prefer higher quality bags with more style, durability, and comfort. It is very affordable, though.
The Gonex is not the best looking backpack, but it has a simple black design (other colours are available).
There’s a good amount of storage with a zipped front pocket, two mesh water bottle pockets on the sides, and a zipped inside pocket that doubles as the storage pouch it folds into.
It’s lightweight and packs in our luggage easily, but it fits a surprising amount of stuff—we can fit Simon’s 16-inch MacBook Pro in it along with my 13-inch laptop and 12-inch iPad Pro (all in cases).
There’s no padding, so it’s not the best option for electronics, but we have used it for them occasionally.
It’s the cheapest backpack on this list but is made from water and tear resistant nylon and is surprisingly durable.
Don’t expect it to last forever, but we travelled with it for over a year to eight countries and used it regularly for hikes, day trips, and shopping.
We did replace our Gonex after a year as it was looking a little worn and the inside lining was beginning to shed.
The Gonex is fairly comfortable to carry despite the minimal padding on the shoulder straps, although for long hikes it’s not ideal.
The Gonex is a great daypack for travel if you are on a budget.
Capacity: 20L (33L version also available)
Weight: 198g (7oz)
Colours: 11 available
The New Outlander backpack is very similar to the Gonex, but it has two zipped pockets on the front as well as a zipped pocket inside and two mesh water bottle holders on the sides.
A carabiner clip is included so you can attach items to the backpack.
It has excellent reviews on Amazon, but for a budget bag we prefer the Gonex because it’s slightly lighter and cheaper, and the fabric looks less wrinkled.
If you’ll use the extra external pocket and are on a budget, this could be the best packable backpack for you.
Weight: 142g (5oz)
Colours: 3 available
The Eagle Creek Packable Daypack was hard to categorise on this list. It’s smaller and lighter than other mid-sized daypacks, but it’s not as light as the ultralight backpacks.
It’s a good option if you want a lightweight bag with a more stylish design than the ultralight daypacks.
It’s one of the nicest looking bags we reviewed with an attractive matte grey fabric (although it’s described as black) that’s ideal for city travel.
It’s the smallest bag on the list but still fits the basics for a day out. It packs down small into its outside pocket and has a clip for attaching it to your luggage (or use it for keys when it’s inside the pocket).
The main compartment is lockable which is a rare feature on these small daypacks.
There’s one mesh water bottle holder but no inside pocket or sternum strap. The back has no padding and the shoulder straps have the typical minimal mesh padding.
We’re a big fan of Eagle Creek packing cubes and trust the quality of their products—this daypack comes with a lifetime warranty.
For higher quality materials, a lighter weight, and a more stylish design, it could be worth paying more than the other budget picks.
The Best Ultralight Daypacks
The priority with these daypacks is to be as lightweight and packable as possible.
The downside is they are less comfortable and have fewer pockets than the backpacks above.
All of these pack down to roughly half the size of the daypacks above, with the Sea to Summit even smaller.
These packs are a good choice if you only want a bag for occasional use and won’t be carrying anything very heavy.
Weight: 72g (2.5oz)
Colours: 4 available
I really wanted to like the Sea to Summit daypack as it’s the lightest model available—just 72g/2.5oz—and folds down into a tiny pouch despite its 20-litre capacity.
Unfortunately, we didn’t like how this small day pack looked. It’s made from a wrinkly fabric that rustles and feels flimsy, although it’s actually very strong.
It has no pockets or any shape or structure, so when it’s not full it sags and looks unattractive.
It was the least comfortable of the backpacks we tried.
Sea to Summit has recently updated the daypack and it does look better than the version we tried. They have added web loops to the front for a bike light, and it comes with a carabiner to clip the packed up bag to things.
The Sea to Summit is a great lightweight daypack if weight and size are an absolute priority or you’ll only be using it occasionally. It’s the smallest and most compact bag (when packed down) on this list.
Weight: 90g (3.2oz)
Colours: 4 available
The Osprey daypack is the best lightweight backpack. It’s not much heavier than the Sea to Summit, although it’s a bit bigger when packed away.
It has the advantage of a little more padding, more pockets, and less wrinkly fabric.
The Osprey has one water bottle pocket on the side in a stretchy fine mesh that looks better than those on the budget backpacks.
There’s also one external zipped pocket, but it’s at the very top of the backpack behind the main zips. This makes it more secure but less accessible.
The fabric is quite crinkly and we didn’t find it very comfortable to carry, although the straps are better than others in this category. The bag is so light and flimsy that the shoulder straps moved around too much.
Osprey has a great reputation—I travelled with the Osprey Farpoint 40 for years—so I would expect the daypack to be durable.
If you are looking for an ultralight backpack that packs down small, the Osprey is ideal.
Weight: 120g (4.2oz)
Colours: 3 available
If you are looking for an ultralight daypack for under $20, consider the Naturehike.
While it’s heavier than the others in this category, it’s noticeably lighter and more compact than the mid-sized picks.
There’s one mesh water bottle holder and a front zipped pocket that’s narrow and deep.
There’s no internal pocket (despite what the listing says) except for the small drawstring pouch it folds into, which you could use for small items like keys.
At 18 litres it’s smaller than most of the other daypacks and as the zip doesn’t open as far, the opening is narrower.
We found the straps too narrow and flimsy, so as with the other ultralight backpacks, we’d only recommend it for occasional use or lighter loads.
The Best Full Featured Foldable Backpacks
These backpacks are similar to regular daypacks with more features and comfort than the packs above.
They do fit inside your luggage, but they are heavier and bulkier and don’t all pack down into a pouch.
These backpacks are ideal if you will only pack away your daypack occasionally (such as on the journey to your destination) and will use it regularly, especially for hiking or other activities where you might need to carry more.
In this section, you’ll find packable hiking backpacks with hydration reservoir compartments, waterproof packable backpacks, and even a packable laptop bag.
Weight: 300g (10.6oz)
Colours: Black only
The Matador Freerain22 is the most waterproof packable backpack we’ve found.
It has UTS coating, sealed seams, and a zipped rolltop closure to keep water out. Even when we put it under the shower, it came out totally dry inside.
This is an excellent option if you want a backpack for outdoor sports like hiking and kayaking.
It’s similar to the Freefly16 (see above) but is fully waterproof, more spacious, and has a few extra features like load lifters on the shoulder straps and a thin (removable) hip belt.
It has two water bottle pockets, a large front pocket with a vertical zip, and a very spacious main compartment. There are also gear loops and shockcord captures to add hiking poles and other tools.
To close the bag, you zip the top, roll it three times and clip it to the side of the backpack. It’s less convenient than just a zip but means it is fully waterproof.
The Freerain22 is more comfortable to carry than most packable backpacks with a sternum strap and hip belt.
We didn’t find the thin hip belt made a huge difference to comfort over the Freefly16, but it could be useful if you’ll be wearing it for running to keep it in place.
The Freerain22 is the most compact and packable of the fully featured bags. It packs inside a separate mesh sack into a fairly compact ball (see photo in the Freefly16 section above).
Like the Freefly16, it’s on the higher price range ($99.99) but is made from very durable materials and comes with a 3-year warranty.
Here’s what one reviewer says:
“I’ve raved about Matador bags online (I own 2). I’ve had people doubt the performance, because I guess seam-sealing is not a simple process. But let me tell you, I take my Freerain on canoe trips and have dunked the whole bag into the water. The contents are always bone dry. The bag is super light, durable, and well thought out. I’m a big fan that wants to buy Matador far into the future, so I want everyone thinking about a purchase to know this gear is SERIOUS!”
The Matador Freerain22 is the best packable backpack if waterproofing is important to you.
Need more space? The Freerain also comes in a larger 28 litre version.
Weight: 255g (9oz)
Colours: 4 colours available
If you are looking for a small hiking backpack, the REI Co-op Flash 18 Pack could be right for you.
It’s not hugely heavier than the budget daypacks above, but it has many more features.
It’s more comfortable to carry due to the thin hip belt and sternum strap (both detachable) and lightly padded back panel and shoulder straps.
The Flash 18 is ideal if you hike with a hydration bladder as there’s a hose exit port and internal sleeve for a reservoir.
There is also an exterior zipped pocket and daisy chain with ice-axe loop.
The biggest downsides are the drawcord opening (I prefer a zip) and that it doesn’t pack into a pocket. This foldable backpack does fold down fairly small to fit inside your luggage, though.
Friends of ours travelled with the REI Flash Pack for years and highly recommend it.
Weight: 499g (1 lb 2oz)
Colours: Black only
If you will use your daypack every day, especially to carry a laptop, then the Tortuga Outbreaker Daypack could be the best backpack for you.
It’s much heavier than the daypacks above and doesn’t pack away into a pocket, but it does lie flat to fit in your luggage.
It’s designed to fit inside the excellent Outbreaker Travel Backpack which Simon used to travel with as his main luggage.
At $99, it’s one of the more expensive daypacks on this list.
You do get a lot for the extra weight and money. I think it’s the best looking of the packable daypacks we’ve reviewed with a simple and sleek black design that’s perfect for urban travel.
The Tortuga Daypack is very high quality as it’s made from waterproof sailcloth, uses quality YKK zippers, has padded shoulder straps made from sweat-wicking Ariaprene foam, and features a sternum strap.
There’s a 15-inch laptop sleeve, 9.7-inch tablet sleeve, a front zipped pocket and key clip, and two side water bottle pockets.
If you’ll be carrying electronics regularly and using the bag more than packing it away, the Tortuga waterproof daypack is the best foldable daypack.
Weight: 595g (1lb 5oz)
Colours: Black only
The Matador Beast18 Ultralight Technical Backpack is the most fully-featured packable daypack on this list.
It’s designed for outdoor activities like hiking and climbing. Unlike the other daypacks, it has a flexible frame suspension system that moves with your body and provides plenty of support.
It’s certainly the most comfortable packable daypack for hiking that we tried.
It has a decent amount of breathable back and shoulder strap padding, an adjustable sternum strap, and a wide, lightly padded hip belt (removable if not needed).
There’s plenty of storage too. The main compartment is a decent size and includes a hydration sleeve, which can accommodate most 1–3 litre water bladders, and a hose exit port.
The main compartment also features a small zipped pocket with a key loop—ideal for valuable items.
The front compartment is smaller but still spacious (it extends to the bottom of the pack)—I store my Kindle and granola bars here. There’s a zipped pocket within it for smaller items.
The two stretchy water bottle pockets on the outside of the pack are a good size (they easily fit our 1-litre bottle), and there are several daisy chains and loops on the front for attaching accessories.
On a three-hour hike, I had space for my Sony A7III camera with large lens, fleece, lunch, snacks, and 2-litre water bladder. It was almost as comfortable as my much bulkier hiking backpack, even with a fairly heavy load.
It has also worked well for bike rides.
The Matador Beast18 is a waterproof packable backpack made from durable Robic nylon with a UTS coating. It stood up well to our walk in the rain.
The downside of all these features is that it’s much heavier and bulkier than the other packable daypacks.
Impressively, it does pack down into a separate compression sack, though. You twist the pack in the middle, fold it in half, and pack it in the mesh bag.
I find it awkward to do, and even when packed down, it’s still double the size of the mid-size packable bags. It’s best if you will only be packing it away occasionally.
It’s also much more expensive than the other backpacks. I do think the Beast18 is worth the price, though, if you are looking for a quality, waterproof daypack for outdoor activities that’s comfortable and packable.
Need more space? The Matador Beast also comes in a 28-litre version (and it’s only 3oz/85g heavier).
Which Packable Daypack is Best for You?
If you want the lightest possible backpack that packs into a tiny pouch and don’t care what it looks like, go for the Sea to Summit.
Or we think the Osprey daypack is the best ultralight backpack as it’s only slightly bigger but has pockets and looks better.
If you need something more fully featured for frequent use, consider the REI Co-op Flash 18 Pack, which has a thin hip belt and space for a hydration reservoir or the Tortuga Outbreaker Daypack, which has padded straps and a laptop sleeve.
The waterproof Matador Freerain22 is best for water sports as well as hiking.
The most comfortable packable daypack for hiking is the Matador Beast18. It has plenty of features but doesn’t pack down as small as the others.
For us, the Matador Freefly16 is the perfect compromise between weight and comfort for everyday use. It’s light, durable, comfortable, and weather resistant.
Which packable daypack do you use?
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