Looking for the best women's daypack you can buy in 2019? We researched over 80 daypacks and then bought 13 models, from smaller bags to larger ones that can hold a day's plus worth of gear. We wore them for months, covering dozens of miles in each. Then we compared their comfort and adjustability and carefully examined all of the various features available to give our recommendations on which "bells and whistles" are useful and which will get in the way. We got to know these daypacks inside and out, and we'll go through our favorites in our full review below.
The Best Women's Daypacks of 2019
|Price||$149.95 at Backcountry|
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|$129.95 at Amazon|
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|$76.97 at Backcountry|
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|$109.95 at Amazon||$110.00 at REI|
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|Pros||Comfortable, lots of good features, water reservoir included||Comfortable, well-ventilated, adjustable torso length, included rain cover||Large capacity, lots of padding, frame suspension helps take the weight off your back and shoulders.||Compact, adjustable, comfortable for a light bag.||Lightweight, lots of features, helmet attachment|
|Cons||On the heavy side, expensive||Heavy, ill-fitting hipbelt||Heavy, expensive, unnecessarily big for short day hikes.||No rain cover, hip belt pockets are made of mesh.||Fit runs small, hard to adjust, doesn't carry much|
|Bottom Line||A versatile daypack that can hold a lot of gear.||This pack is loaded with features, and if it fits, you'll love it!||The biggest and most comfortable daypack in our test group. Great for heavy loads and big days out.||A light and simple daypack that is perfect for quick jaunts on the trail.||A great pack for smaller ladies for commuting or light day hikes.|
|Rating Categories||Sequoia 22||Osprey Sirrus 24||Gregory Jade 28L||Aeon ND20||Osprey Tempest 20|
|Specs||Sequoia 22||Osprey Sirrus 24||Gregory Jade 28L||Aeon ND20||Osprey Tempest 20|
|Back Construction||Ventilated back panel with molded pods||Ventilated tensioned mesh||Crossflow suspension||Air Contour backing with Flexion harness||AirScape backpanel - accordion spread mesh-covered foam ridges|
Best Pack Overall
CamelBak Sequoia 22
While the Sequoia is one of the more expensive models in our test group, that price does include a hydration reservoir, so you are getting a lot for your dollar. This was also one of the heavier bags, and you might find it a little too bulky for quick hikes. There's no rain cover included either (you can buy one separately) so keep that in mind if you live in a wet climate. If any of the above complaints seem like deal breakers to you, we have other options below to fit all of those needs. Otherwise, if you're looking for a comfortable bag for long days on the trail that performs the well across the board, get the CamelBak Sequoia 22.
Read review: CamelBak Sequoia 22
Best Bang for the Buck
REI Co-op Trail 25 - Women's
With all of the "fancy" new packs out there (that come with a fancy price tag), the REI Co-op Trail 25 is like a blast from the not too distant past. This bag has a simple design, with well-padded shoulder straps but only a webbing hip belt. While other companies are investing in the latest and greatest technology in their packs — and charging you for it — REI is keeping it simple and very affordable at the same time. This pack is half the price of some other bags out there! It has some great features for the price point, including a stowable rain cover, trekking pole attachments, and several options for attaching extra gear and using it overnight.
While the large 25L volume is nice, without a load-bearing hip belt you probably don't want to fill it up too much. (Editor's Note — a webbing hip belt like this one will prevent the pack from shifting around on you but won't transfer much of the weight onto your hips.) More expensive models are using some innovative back panel designs that help improve airflow, but the Trail 25 sits against your back, and you'll find yourself getting sweatier in this one. If hip belts aren't your thing, you don't hike in hot weather, or you can't see yourself spending a ton of money on a daypack when you'd rather spend it getting to your next adventure, the REI Co-op Trail 25 is a solid bet.
Read review: REI Co-op Trail 25 - Women's
Top Pick for Long Hikes
Gregory Jade 28L
If you like taking a lot of stuff with you on your hikes and find yourself strapping too many things to the outside of your bag, perhaps it's time to consider something with a larger capacity! The Gregory Jade 28 has 28-30 liters of internal volume, giving you plenty of room to bring that extra sweater or snack just in case. It can carry the weight comfortably as well thanks to the frame and suspension which helps keep your back cool while distributing the load across your back. The lumbar area is nicely padded, the hip belt is long enough to cover your hip bones and cushion them, and it's available in two sizes to help you get the right fit.
Because it is so big, it's also on the heavy side, and some might argue that a bigger pack lets you bring more things that you might not necessarily need. We do agree that the less you can carry on any hike, from a 2-mile stroll to a 200-mile thru-hike, the happier you will be. But if your hiking plans include a lot of gear, say for crossing a snowfield, or because you have a few tikes with you and need to bring their food and water as well, a slightly larger bag that is designed to help you carry the load will keep you even happier. This bag is available in an even larger 33 and 38L size as well, just in case!
Read Review: Gregory Jade 28
Top Pick for Short Hikes
Lowe Alpine Aeon ND20
The Lowe Alpine Aeon ND20 is one of our favorite smaller capacity bags. Sometimes the smaller bags skimp on comfort or use super-light materials that aren't very durable. The Aeon strikes the right balance for a smaller bag in our estimation. It still has a hip belt, and the coating on the nylon helps it resist abrasions, but it's not too heavy. Best of all is the adjustable back panel, which lets you fit the bag exactly to your dimensions (assuming that they are within approximately 15-19 inches).
One of the main downsides of purchasing a smaller bag is that it won't serve you well once you do need to add things to it. But, if most of your hikes are only a few miles long and you hate the feel of a half empty, bigger bag flopping around on your back, then you might as well invest in something smaller. The Aeon is a sleek and comfortable option that still has almost all of the things that we want on the trail and nothing that we don't.
Read review: Lowe Alpine Aeon ND20
Top Pick for a Summit Pack
Mammut Lithia Speed 15
There are times when you want lots of padding and a comfortable ride, and others when you need something small for a fast mission into the mountains. If you're looking for a pack for the latter, the Mammut Lithia Speed 15 is the bag for you. It weighs a paltry 19 ounces, making it a full pound lighter than our Editors' Choice winner. While that alone doesn't seem like much, when you start shaving the pounds and ounces off of your gear, the differences add up. The Lithia doesn't have a frame, and you can fold it into a bigger pack if you are base camping out of somewhere but want a light summit pack for day hikes.
Mammut put this pack on a diet by skimping on the padding and using only 70D material; survive a tumble through some desert scrub oak it might not. It's also on the small side — it didn't fit our main tester, and we had to pass it on to a shorter friend for testing. But, it still packs some useful features into its small and light package, including double compression straps for locking down your load when you're flying down the trail.
Read review: Mammut Lithia Speed 15
Top Pick for Around Town
Osprey Tempest 20
For those who like to use a daypack for commuting around town or general daily use, check out the Osprey Tempest 20. This lightweight bag is big enough to fit a standard laptop and some books or binders, without being too bulky or heavy. It has good padding on the hip belt and shoulder straps, and the mesh back helps with airflow and circulation. Best of all, it has a bike helmet attachment which works! The "Lidlock" tab and bungee cord help keep your helmet securely against the bag, with no flopping around.
The Tempest is less adjustable than other models, and the sizing runs on the small side. We tested the "larger" size, and it's still too small for our 5'6" tester. Petite ladies, this one is for you! If you're commuting on a bike and want an easy way to carry your helmet once you lock it up, the Osprey Tempest is an excellent choice that'll work well on the trails also.
Read review: Osprey Tempest 20
Why You Should Trust Us
Our expert tester Can McKenzie Ring is no stranger to the day excursion, and the type of gear needed for such an outing. These days, you can find her in the sandstone landscape around Las Vegas with her two boys. She's also a five-year veteran of Yosemite Search and Rescue and an accomplished, 20 year climber with El Cap big wall routes on her resume.
By and large, testing of these packs was covered by field trials over the course of an entire summer. Most of the five key metrics we used to judge them (Comfort, Features, Weight, Adjustability, and Durability) were evaluated in locations such as the Tetons, Nevada's Spring Mountains, Yellowstone, the Bighorns, and Adirondacks. Exceptions include weight (which simply required a scale from our lab) and part of the adjustability score (we awarded more points to those packs that are offered in more than one size).
Related: How We Tested Daypacks For Women
Analysis and Test Results
We tested these daypacks over several months using our side-by-side comparison process. We used them while hiking over many miles, both for short and long hikes and for a variety of activities, from paddle boarding to commuting. After testing, we rated each daypack on a variety of criteria, from comfort and adjustability to their features and durability. In the rest of this article, we'll go through our test metrics and highlight which models performed well in each. We'll also discuss what to look for when purchasing a daypack on a budget.
Related: Buying Advice for Daypacks For Women
We often have to make tradeoffs when purchasing a daypack. If you want something lightweight, it probably won't be as comfortable as a heavier model that has more padding, and you'll lose some durability points as well with lighter pack materials. If you don't want to spend a lot of money, you might have to trade off some extra features or design elements that the more expensive models include, but you can still get a great pack. We always try to test a range of price points here at OutdoorGearLab to be able to recommend products across the price spectrum, and this category is no different. The chart below shows you the price of each model vs. its overall performance in our tests. The least expensive option that we tested, the REI Co-op Trail 25, still performed well overall. Another value option to consider is The North Face Aleia 22, which is reasonably priced for the performance, as is the Osprey Hikelite 18.
When it comes to hiking, comfort is a key consideration for all of the gear that you wear from your head to your toes, and what's on your back is one of the most important pieces. An ill-fitting or minimally padded pack will make your outing less enjoyable, and we don't think hiking should be about suffering (unless you want it to be!). As such, the comfort rating accounted for 30% of each pack's overall score. Here's how we rated the different models for comfort:
We evaluated this category based on several things: how well the padding actually "padded" our hips and shoulders, how well the hip belts helped carry the weight, how well the design helped keep us cool while hiking, and if any annoying design features impacted our comfort level. The standout in this category is the Gregory Jade 28. It has all of the features that we needed to stay comfortable on the trail, including an open mesh back, a well-padded lumbar area, a supportive hip belt, and contoured shoulder straps. We went on long hikes loaded down with 15-plus pounds of gear, and it offered the best support of any of the models in this review.
The other standouts in this category were our Editors' Choice winner, the CamelBak Sequoia 22, and the Osprey Sirrus 24. These two packs have a lot in common, including well-padded hip belts and shoulder straps, innovative back panel designs to aid in ventilation, and some internal framing to help keep the contents of the pack off of our backs.
As you can see from the photo below, our high scorers for comfort are not your average pack from years past. These packs have a lot of design and technology put into them, and the results were great. The mesh on the Osprey Sirrus 24 and Deuter Futura 22 (left) never rubbed against us in an uncomfortable way (we did have a shirt on at all times), and it's impressive how much cooler our backs stayed even while hiking in the desert southwest in summer. The raised pads on the CamelBak Sequoia 22 (middle) also achieved the same result while still offering some padding in key places. Some packs, like the Lowe Alpine Aeon ND20, Gregory Maya 22 and Patagonia Nine Trails 26 (right), came close to this design, with mesh covering the padding, but the bulk of the pack still rests against our backs. This is not nearly as comfortable because it reduces airflow, and we can also feel the contents pushing into our backs.
Another design feature that affected our comfort on the trail is the hip belt. Most of the packs in this review have a load-bearing hip belt, but we still found a varying degree of comfort between some of them. The CamelBak Sequoia and Gregory Jade 28 have hip belts that cover our hip bones with a lot amount of padding. The Deuter ACT Trail 22 uses a wide swatch of unpadded mesh as its hip belt, which didn't feel very comfortable after a long day on the trail, and the Mammut Lithia Speed's hip belt has buckles that sit directly over the front of our hip bones, which is not comfortable either. The Deuter Futura 22, Osprey Hikelite 18, and REI Co-op Trail 25 have webbing-only hip belts. They'll help keep the bag from shifting around on your back, but don't transfer any of the load off of your shoulders. We felt less comfortable in all of those models when carrying a heavier load in them as a result.
A final thing to consider for comfort is the cut of the shoulder straps. Women's specific models tend to have less space between the straps and more of an S-curve to them to accommodate a women's physique. If your shoulders are broader than the "average" woman's, you might find that the shoulder straps dig into your neck no matter how you adjust your pack. In that case, it's over to the men's section for you. Sometimes manufacturers go too far in tailoring to a woman's physique, and in Patagonia's case they overshot the mark with their new Nine Trails 26 model. The shoulder straps are cut so closely together that they dug into all of our testers' necks, making this the least comfortable option in this review. The photo below shows the Deuter Futura 22's well-spaced straps (left) compared to the too-close ones on the Patagonia Nine Trails 26 (right).
We consider the features that a pack has another key purchase consideration because no matter how comfortable a pack is if it can't do the things you need it to on the trail, it's not going to serve you very well. Some manufacturers seem to be throwing every possible feature they can conceive of on a pack, so we also evaluated how necessary or well-thought-out each feature is. For example, the REI Co-op Trail 25 has a daisy chain that runs down either side of the back, but how useful is that? If you use that webbing to attach a bunch of gear, you'll be a walking Christmas tree, which is neither sleek nor efficient. Here's how we scored the different models for their features.
As you can see, we liked the features of our Editors' Choice winner CamelBak Sequoia 22, the Osprey Sirrus 24 and the Gregory Jade 28 the best. There were many reasons why we rated these packs so high, and we'll begin with the hip belt pocket. This handy feature has only been available on packs in the last few years, and we want to hug whoever first thought of the idea, particularly in the age of the smartphone. There's nothing more annoying than getting repeated texts or phone calls on the trail and having to take your pack off and dig through it each time. Sure, you could ignore them, and in many places, you won't even have cell service, but let's be real — if our phone dings, most of us are going to check it.
We loved this feature for other knick knacks too, like lip balm or a set of keys, but it's mainly for our smartphone (which is also our camera), and if a hip belt pocket is too small to fit a phone it's a big miss. We could squeeze our phone into all of the hip belt pockets in this review, though some were a tighter fit than others. Also, some of the hip belt pockets are made with solid nylon and others with mesh. The mesh seems like a poor choice since we mostly use it for our phones. Note that the Deuter Futura and ACT Trail, REI Co-Op Trail, and Osprey Hikelite 18 models did not have this feature, should this be a deal breaker for you.
Another feature that we appreciate is a rain cover that stashes in a pocket in the bag somewhere. Several models in this review have one, including the Osprey Sirrus and Hikelite, REI Co-op Trail 25, Gregory jade 28, and Deuter Trail ACT and Futura 22. Do you need this feature? That depends on where you live and where you like to hike. Rainstorms can happen even in the desert, and a rain cover will keep your extra layers, snacks, or big DSLR camera drier than a pack without one. They do add a few ounces to the overall weight of the bag, and while you might be tempted to take it out on clear days with no chance of rain, remember to put it back in!
Some packs also have specific holders for your trekking poles. Whether or not you like to hike with them is up to you, but if you do, having a way to stash them securely when you don't need them is a nice feature. The Osprey models have a "Stow-on-the-Go" attachment system that works well for times when you want to put the poles away quickly for a short period, say to scramble up a rock. You thread your poles up through the loop on the bottom of the pack and then under the loop on the shoulder strap. No taking off your pack required. However, your poles are now under your armpit and banging around your side. This is tolerable for five minutes tops.
The REI Co-op Trail 25 has tabs for securing the bottom of the poles and straps for the tops. Other packs, like the Mammut Lithia Speed, didn't have specific holders but did have two compression straps on either side, which works equally well. A single set of straps is usually not sufficient. Most of the packs we tested also have one ice axe holder, which seems like a standard addition to a daypack even though only a fraction of hikers even use one. If you need to hold two ice axes though, look for something with two loops like the Gregory Jade 28 or Lowe Alpine Aeon ND20.All of the models that we tested were hydration bladder compatible in various ways, but only one, the CamelBak Sequoia 22, actually came with a reservoir. Whether you prefer to drink from a bottle or a hose is a question of personal preference, though hydration aficionados avow that you'll stay better hydrated if you can take small sips of water more frequently from a hose without having to stop and drink from a bottle. It is handy for sports that require the use of your hands, like paddle boarding, biking, and even hiking with trekking poles. If you plan on using a bladder, check out the framing (or lack of) in the pack and where the bladder sits. For example, on the Gregory Maya 22 and Lowe Alpine Aeon ND20, the reservoir fits into a slot right next to your back, but there is no framing there, and as a result, a full 2 or 3L bladder will push into your back until you drink all of it.
Finally, some models have great features specific to one application. Our Top Pick for Around Town, the Osprey Tempest 20, has a great way of securing a bike helmet. You might not need that on a day hike, but if you need a pack for commuting to school or work, the "Lidlock" attachment is a great feature. You thread the plastic holder through your helmet, rotate it to lay flat on top, and the bungee holds it in place with no flopping around. The outside pocket on the Gregory Maya 22 could also fit a bike helmet.
We like to consider the weight of all of our outdoor gear purchases. Whether it's our shoes, trekking poles, or packs, shaving ounces off our clothing and gear can quickly add up to large weight savings, which makes each mile that much easier to cover. Below you'll see the actual weight of each pack that we tested, with about a 1.5-pound difference between the heaviest and lightest daypacks in our review.
If there's one thing that we learned in this review, it's that it's hard to have it all in a daypack. Want a lot of padding with a frame that supports the weight you're carrying? Then you're going to end up with a heavier bag like the Gregory Jade 28. Want something lightweight that won't weigh you down? Then you might have to sacrifice on durability a little, as paper-thin nylon is not as durable in the long-term compared to a thicker (and therefore heavier) material. The lightest pack in our review, the Mammut Lithia Speed 15, weighs only 19 ounces and is an excellent choice for minimalist hikers who like to move fast. But it is also one of the least comfortable packs that we tested, and the 70D nylon is on the thin side and might not withstand heavy use over time.
The North Face Aleia 22 weighs only six ounces more than the Mammut, but thanks to more padding in the back and more coverage in the hip belt, it has a higher score for comfort. We did have durability concerns about this pack too though, as the material is on the thin side. On the other end of the spectrum is the Osprey Sirrus. This pack weighs 41 ounces or almost 1.5 pounds more than the Mammut. The Sirrus is heavier because of the framing for the back, extra padding, and thicker material, which is less likely to wear through. If the heavier packs were even heavier, we might have a hard time still recommending them, but when combining all of the factors we assessed these packs by, the better comfort and durability "outweighed" the weight consideration in the end.
Daypacks are notorious for not having as much adjustability as a full 60L backpacking pack. Many manufacturers only offer them in one size, and there's often limited options for further adjustment, like load-lifting straps on the shoulders or hip belt tensioners. We took into consideration whether the different models had any of the above, how many sizes they came in (and what the actual range of those sizes are), and if they had any further adjustability.
We were impressed with the models that had adjustable back panels. One of the most important things to getting a good fit is having the back panel line up with your torso length so that the shoulder straps and hip belt can be in the right place. If it's not, the hip belt won't work well, and you'll carry more of the load on your shoulders. Most of the packs in this review came in one size only, and the length of the torso ranged from 16-18 inches, so if you fall out of that range, you could be out of luck. The Osprey Sirrus 24 and Lowe Alpine Aeon ND20 are the only models in our test group that have an adjustable back, giving a range between 15 and 19 inches.
Some models did come in two sizes to try and cover a greater range of torso sizes, including the The North Face Aleia 22, Gregory Jade 28, Patagonia Nine Trails 26, and the Osprey Tempest 20. We tested all of those in the larger size (our chief tester is 5'6," and her torso length is 19 inches), and while the first three fit her back length well, the Tempest is still too small — it seems to be sized more for a petite 12-year-old than a grown woman. The hip belt on the Tempest barely came around to our hip bones, and it didn't provide much support as a result. The North Face Aleia and Gregory Jade 28 have much better hip belt coverage.
We did appreciate that some packs have load-lifting straps on the shoulders, but they are often ineffective. Once you've adjusted your hip belt and shoulder straps, the load-lifters are supposed to help lift the weight off your lower back and distribute it evenly across your back. For these straps to work, the body of the pack has to extend above the shoulder straps, which isn't usually the case with a daypack, since the body of the bag is so small.
Here's how we rated the different models in this review for durability. Note that we couldn't get a year's worth of use on each test pack to assess their durability. Instead, we looked for signs of wear after the three months of use that they did get, combed through online user reviews to look for durability concerns or patterns, and evaluated them based on our extensive experience with outdoor gear.
We were most impressed with the durability of the Osprey Sirrus 24. The body of the bag is made with a 210D nylon, while the bottom is an even thicker 420D pack cloth. Bottoms are a high-wear spot, and having an extra-thick material there, like the Sequoia 22, or a double layer of material is a nice feature. We worried about the long-term durability of the 70D Mammut Lithia Speed, and also the 100D The North Face Aleia 22. The Aleia showed the most wear on the bottom after similar use, and we also almost lost the ice axe holder loop as it's only a thin bungee cord that's secured with a knot.
No pack will last forever, and some terrains are less forgiving than others. If you're hiking on well-maintained trails in "gentle" forest ecosystems, this might be less of a concern for you. If you're scrambling up craggy peaks or squeezing through sandy slot canyons, thicker material will offer more abrasion resistance, and you should consider this when making a purchase decision.
Finding the perfect daypack can feel like an overwhelming challenge. With so many models, even from the same manufacturer (Osprey alone makes eight different daypacks in multiple volume choices), it can be challenging to find the perfect one for you. We hope our extensive testing and ratings helped you in that quest.
— Cam McKenzie Ring