The world of small hiking backpacks is growing each year and it is time (we think!) we should wade through the top options on the market. After putting 40 well-picked packs through a gauntlet of tests, a final list has emerged. Below are 6 best small backpacks for hiking that you can rely on:
Here are the best small backpacks for hiking you can buy in 2020:
- Best Overall: Osprey Packs Daylite Daypack
- Budget-Friendly: HIKPRO 20L
- Ultralight Option: Osprey Ultralight Stuff Pack
- Best For An Overnight Hike: Mountaintop 40L
- Most Comfortable: The North Face Borealis
- Best For Rainy Day Hikes: Diamond Candy 40L Backpack
Best Overall: Osprey Packs Daylite Daypack
- Can keep lots of small things securely in a single spot
- The big inner sleeve can accommodate either a 14” laptop, tablet or reservoir
- Have separate reservoir capability that can hold 3 liters of water
- Can attach to different compatible Osprey bigger travel bags for extra convenience
- The mesh side pockets for water bottles are not good enough
Start out with a humble beginning.
This Osprey backpack is in the brand’s Daylite Series aiming to provide simple, lightweight, and small accessory to hikers’ life. But don’t let its modest look fool you; it packs a bunch.
The organizational front pocket and the multi-function internal sleeve are two shining examples.
Inside the normal seemingly front storage space, you’ll find a mesh organizer and a key clip that can keep lots of small things securely in a single spot. Meanwhile, the inner sleeve is big enough to be used for different purposes – accommodating a 14” laptop, a tablet, or a reservoir.
Or if you want to have a separate reservoir, there is one on the outside, too that can fit 3 liters of water.
While aiming to supreme functionality, Osprey has added a mesh-covered die-cut foam back panel to ensure their avid hikers feel cool and comfortable. It’s also built to attach to different compatible Osprey bigger travel bags for extra convenience during the trip.
|Osprey Packs Daylite Daypack Specifications|
19 x 11 x 1 inches
Multi-function interior sleeve
External hydration reservoir pocket
Mesh-covered die-cut foam back panel
Front panel shove-it pocket
The Osprey Daylite Backpack is specifically designed with incredible versatility to work as an add-on pod pack for traveling, making it the best choice for any trip.
Budget-Friendly: HIKPRO 20L
- The nylon material is specifically made to be more durable, tear resistant, and longer-lasting
- Can hold up well in the rain within 40 to 60 minutes without wetting its contents
- The bag has no shape so its zippers usually go halfway down and if it’s not stuffed well, the side mesh pockets are prone to lose your water bottles
HIKPRO is one of the best addresses for small hiking backpacks at the most cost-effective price point.
At the price point of under $16, this is worth a try.
It’s a lightweight 20-liter bag built with 5 functional storage spaces and 2 S-type breathable mesh shoulder straps. The most outstanding feature is its nylon material that is built with more textile threads per unit area for tear resistance.
The fabric is also water-resistant that according to HIKPRO, it can be in the rain for 40 to 60 minutes with everything inside all dry and safe.
|HIKPRO 20L Specifications|
12 x 5.5 x 18 inches
High-Quality Water & Tear Resistant Nylon
Double fabric at the bottom
S-type Comfortable Wide Breathable Mesh shoulder straps
A Five-Year Warranty
Overall, the HIKPRO 20L prevails over other similar counterparts because of its unbeatably low price point without compromising quality and functionality.
Ultralight Option: Osprey Ultralight Stuff Pack
- Weigh only a mere 3 ounces – super-lightweight
- Can pack down to the size of a pack of cards to take no space in your backpack for traveling
- Have an air mesh harness for extra comfort
- Not puncture resistant
The next Osprey backpack is for people who want great comfort without the need of extra features.
The materials have been chosen to be ultra-lightweight and durable enough for day hiking. We would not say it is puncture resistant, which means it cannot abuse like briars and thorns.
That said, the bag is great as an ultra-lightweight stow-able pack. And it is also water-resistant, which helps the bag handle well in light rain under 1 hour.
With the ability to pack down to the size of a pack of cards, we consider this is better suited for a summit bag which you can tuck in the bottom of your backpack.
|Osprey Ultralight Stuff Pack Specifications|
17 x 9 x 7 inches
Packs down into its own carrying case
Lightweight nylon fabric
Stretch mesh side pocket
The Osprey Ultralight is the most ultralight add-on bag in that it weighs almost nothing, yet still enable to hold an 18-liter load with ease. If that’s what you’re finding, pick it!
Best For An Overnight Hike: Mountaintop 40L
- Provide 40 liters’ capacity with good organizing to keep more
- Have multiple add-ons to hold hiking gears securely and conveniently
- The hydration-system compatibility is well-balanced to put less stress on your shoulders and back
- Strap adjusters are a bit slippery
Not many hiking backpacks like Mountaintop that can provide 40 litters’ capacity with lots of add-ons without compromising the dimensions.
The 21.7” x 13.8” bag (which seems no other than a 25-litter pack) in reality can keep your 7-day packing well-organized and even more.
On the outside, you’ll find lots of add-on features, such as hip-belt pockets, compression straps, a front pocket, and trekking pole attachment to help you keep some more hiking gears.
The best thing is, there is hydration-system compatibility and it’s designed with well-balanced distribution to both sides so that your shoulders will be under less pressure. The shoulder straps, in addition, are more thickly padded with adjustment to fit your body snugly.
|Mountaintop 40L Specifications|
21.7 x 13.8 x 9.8 inches
Multiple straps & belts
Fit 7-days of clothing;
Designed with great compactness and endurance, the Mountaintop 40L is a perfect choice for backpacking in many-day trips or overnight hikes.
Most Comfortable: The North Face Borealis
- Side pockets are deep and flexible to keep bottle waters securely
- Built with ultra-comfortable shoulder straps and back ventilation system to keep you less fatigue or pain during the hike
- Provide a headphone port to let you enjoy some music when hiking
- A little heavy
- No padding in the hip straps
- Just handle 15 minutes in the rain
Moving on to The North Face 40L.
Here you have all the benefits of a comfortable hiking backpack!
While giving injection-molded shoulder straps with a soft, spongy foam padding for comfort like other brands would do, it highlights an air-mesh back panel with PE sheet and spine channel. So, it fits your back ergonomically.
The Borealis isn’t the largest bag available, however, it is well-love for the spacious main compartment with organization. Many reviewers praise it can hold securely different-sized laptops.
They also like the two useful exterior water bottle holders and the headphone port as well.
|The North Face Borealis Specifications|
8.5 x 19.8 x 13.5 inches
FlexVent injection-molded shoulder straps with additional PE foam
Padded air-mesh back panel with a spine channel and PE sheet
Large main compartment with organization
A hydration port and a sleeve
For a lightweight, compact, and ultra-comfortable hiking backpack during dry seasons, you won’t go wrong with the The North Face Borealis.
Best For Rainy Day Hikes: Diamond Candy 40L Backpack
- Keep the contents of the backpack dry and safe in the rains
- The hydration port is accessible for thirst-quenching
- There is a whistle built into the buckle to use in emergency situations
- The bottom straps which supposedly hold a sleeping bag are a bit short
- Some pockets don’t have 2-way zippers
- There are a few useless adjustment straps and tie-downs
Last stop here!
Yet it’s the only hiking bag in this list received the highest scores in our fleet in terms of waterproof ability.
As made of premium nylon material, it can resist slight rains under 1 hour while you are hiking and if that’s a downpour, the included waterproof rain cover will come into place.
Regardless, the bag is designed with full of functions. From the softly padded back, the stress-relieve shoulder straps to the hydration system compatibility with ease access for convenient thirst-quenching.
With 40 liters of capacity and heavy-duty construction, you can rest assured to pack what you need for a day hike. Diamond Candy has also built a whistle into its chest strap so that you can use it in emergency cases.
|Diamond Candy 40L Backpack Specifications|
12.6 x 7.9 x 19.7 inches
Water-resistant material + a rain cover
Whistle and many compression straps
A 12-month satisfaction guarantee
Constructed from high-quality water-resistant material and plus, a waterproof cover included, the Diamond Candy 40L makes it the best companion for any passionate hikers on rainy days.
How To Choose The Best Small Backpacks For Hiking?
Purpose Of Use & Backpack’s Volume
This term refers to how much space there is inside the backpack, measured in liters (or L). To find the right capacity for you, there are three important things to consider:
- Your hiking type: It decides which hiking gears and how many you will carry
- What else you intend to carry
- Your purpose of use on this backpack
Purpose of use
Capacity of the backpack
15 – 25
Overnight hike (1 – 2 nights)
25 – 45
Weekend hike (2 – 3 nights)
40 – 55
Extended hike (over 3 nights)
Packed Weight & Suspension
Choosing the right suspension is also important because it influences your comfort when carrying the weight. There are 7 different kinds of backpack’s suspension:
- Shoulder straps
- Back panel
- Hip belts
- Framesheet: This suspension is often invisible because it’s located behind the back panel.
- Frame components: It is the internal frame, usually made of aluminum or metal for rigidity and load transferring onto your hips
- Sternum straps: They connect both shoulder straps to keep them from fall off your shoulders while holding the pack steadily
- Load-lifter straps: They keep the pack well-balanced over your hips while allow leaning the bag away from or toward your upper body
The heavier the load, the more substantial suspension you need.
For example, if you’re carrying under 25 pounds, the bag just needs a slightly padded hip belt, frame components, and frame sheet. But from 25 to 40 pounds of packed weight, these suspensions must be leveraged reasonably.
And for over 40 pounds, the bag must feature a thickly hip belt and substantial frame (rods or stays).
Which Brands Make The Best Small Backpacks For Hiking?
The North Face
- Founded in 1966, The North Face is an OG in providing outdoor gears for explorers and athletes. Up to now, this is no doubt the first choice of worldwide hikers, climbers, mountaineers, endurance runners, snowboarders, extreme skiers, and explorers.
- The No.2 in this list is Osprey – the brand that has had over 45 years’ expertise in the backpack-creating industry.
- From time to time, what they’re striving to develop and improve is not only the products but also customer services, making it a highly reliable address for worldwide customers.
- Coming after is HIKPRO. With 20+ years of experience, it aims to offer only the best backpacks with satisfaction in both the function and the look. This is a good address for hikers who want to hike in style.
Are hiking backpacks waterproof?
There are three factors to known whether a backpack is waterproof or not:
- Materials: Are they waterproof?
- Seaming: As long as the construction is fully welded seamless, it is waterproof
- Zippers: Non-waterproofed zippers will leak water inside the bag
What should I pack a day backpack for hiking?
When packing a day pack for hiking, weight distribution is key. Accordingly, heavier items should be packed in the bottom half of the bag; the closer they sit to the back of your backpack, the better.
Next, are the lighter items and finally, top it with the lightest ones.
What do beginner hikers need?
Three things that any beginner hikers must do on their very first trip are:
- Find an experienced partner
- Pick the suitable route to hike: This depends on how much time you have, the season and weather, the distance, and your fitness level
- Choose the right hiking gears: Ask your partner or do some online search and list out what to wear and carry for this trip. Remember, only bring the essentials!
Fortunately to your back, there have been more and more small yet functional hiking bags over the past 20 years. We hope these assessments, analyses, and other informative pieces of info helped you find out the best small backpacks for hiking that suits yours.
Thanks for reading!