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Pick The Best Daypack:
Tips For Women Hikers

Looking for the best daypack?

Follow up question:

Do your eyes glaze over when you look at the hundreds of options for a hiking daypack?

Yeah, me, too.

So to put the best daypack into your hands, let's make this a straightforward process.

Female hiker with green backpack and trekking poles looking at frozen alpine lakeThen it's up to you to put it on your back and get out there!


Hiking For Her has been using REI gear for day hiking since 1977.

  • That's alotta trail miles (or kilometers).

Also, Hiking For Her is proud to be an REI affiliate.

This means you pay nothing extra when you purchase the best daypacks through the links on this website, and Hiking For Her receives a modest percentage of the cost.

Hiking For Her has literally worn out many daypacks, so these recommendations for the best packs are built around what really works and lasts on the trail over many seasons.

Let's get to it.

So where do I start?

Every hiker has a different set of "must haves" for the best daypack.

Here's a list to get you started:

  • Size
  • Fit
  • Customization
  • Price
  • Features

Which one of these is your top priority?

Your second?

Keep prioritizing to create a shopping list to work from.

And since you're here, let's imagine that we're shopping together.

  • We'll work our way through your priority list.
  • And you'll leave with solid recommendations for the best daypacks in each category.

The best daypack
is the right size for you

Size can mean fit, which is covered next.

But for hikers, size really means volume -  like a Big Gulp compared to a sippy cup.

  • Except it's reported in liters, even for Americans.

This leads into an important question:

How much stuff do you want to carry on your hike?

Beginner hikers

If you're just starting out as a hiker, and plan to stick to short well maintained trails, you need a minimalist backpack:

  • low volume for snacks & water
  • weather resistant materials in case you get caught in a shower
  • a few compartments and pockets to hold sunscreen, keys, gloves, and whatnot
  • a versatile small pack you can also use to stow travel or work items for off trail usage

Best daypack for you: Patagonia's Nine Trail 18L pack.

Ten essentials plus

Once you begin to tackle longer trails with varying terrain, you'll start carrying safety and comfort items.

That means a slightly larger volume is necessary.

To hold the ten essentials (recommended for any hike exceeding a few miles) and not much more, you need something like the Patagonia pack mentioned above, but in the larger 26L version.

Are you of the
Be Prepared mindset


Every serious hiker should be.

You're going to need extra room in your backpack for these:

You might also be a photographer, geologist, botanist - someone who wants to bring along specialized equipment on a day hike.

Your ideal volume range will be around 30 liters, no more than 50L tops. Keep reading for some recommendations.

Now let's transition into how to pick a backpack with the proper fit.

Best daypack
fit considerations

The glory of being a female hiker is that it truly doesn't matter what size and shape you are.

Eternal female hiking truths:

  • Feet are feet.
  • The components of backpacks are universal.

Except, not quite.

Females have unique chest dimensions, which can vary quite a bit over the years.

Ditto for waist and hip dimensions.

(See Adjustable Packs discussion below for more details.)

So while all worthy women's backpacks have contoured shoulder straps, a shoulder harness, a variety of compartments, and hip belts, you have to do some detective work to find the combo that suits your female body's unique dimensions best.

Best daypack for petite hikers

You need a pack with a shorter torso length.

Best daypack for tall hikers

You have the reverse problem from petite hikers, and there are only certain packs which will fit your longer torso.

So be sure to zoom in on the correct backpacks before you go shopping, to avoid wasting time or being disappointed with fit.

For step by step instruction for finding your torso length (and other fit recommendations), use these REI tips.

Adjustable daypacks

Every day pack has straps and buckles for creating a customized fit.

But sometimes, those are not enough when your weight and dimensions fluctuate due to pregnancy or a fitness regime.

You need to find the packs which give you a wider range of options for dialling in that perfect fit before you hit the trail.

  • Or tweaking your fit during a multi day hike as your load's volume and weight can change dramatically.

Take a look at these packs

This Osprey Skimmer comes in two sizes, with a woman's contoured fit.

  • XS/S dimensions: 15 - 18" torso, 26 - 47" hips
  • S/M dimensions: 17 - 20" torso, 27 - 49" hips

And it doesn't hurt to mention its 2.5L hydration reservoir, in case that's important to you.

Not interested in using a water bladder?

Then this Osprey Tempest is a small backpack which offers the same sizing options as the Skimmer.

Looking for L/XL sizing in a small (18L) day pack?

Versatile torso & hip dimensions

If you're fitting a growing girl, or want to share your pack with someone else who is taller or shorter, an adjustable torso backpack is the way to go.

The Osprey Mira AG 26L pack has a 17 - 20 inch torso range.

  • In addition,  it offers a waist/hip range of 26 - 53 inches.

The perfect

No doubt about it, hikers are great shoppers.

We don't want to pay too much, but we also know that underbuying a pivotal piece of gear like a daypack can come back to bite haunt us.

For this reason, we'll skip cheap, flimsy daypacks and go to the ones that deserve your attention.

This Refugio 25L day pack has a small price point, around $90 U.S.

The fact that it's a Patagonia pack is a good sign - they've been making quality gear for a long time now.

Another good sign: water repellent finish on the nylon fabric.

A few extras with this modestly priced pack:

  • removable sternum strap for when your load is super light
  • shoulder straps tapered to the female form
  • lots of compartment and pocket combinations for your water, ten essentials, or daily commute items

Note: This pack won't support a lot of weight on your back, due to its lack of a hip belt, but it's enough to get you started on day hikes.

Mid price range daypacks

REI's Trail 40L pack comes in at just a bit over $100 U.S., and delivers some nice features for that price.

Heads up: If you're looking for a hydration reservoir compatible pack, this won't suit you.

However, if you'd like a rain cover, size options, and a low weight yet higher volume day pack, take a look!

Top end price range daypacks

Many of the day packs from Deuter and Osprey mentioned above are at the higher end of the price spectrum: $125+ U.S.

So what do you get for that extra cash?

  • Quite a lot, actually.

Keep reading for the comfort features you're paying for - and enjoying - on the trail.

The best daypack:
additional comfort features

You'll need to prioritize what's most important for your comfort on the trail.

Higher end daypacks differ in the:

  • amount of padding
  • access points
  • ventilation
  • number and type of pockets
  • options for attaching gear
  • inclusion of rain cover
  • hydration options

But which features make the best daypack?

Get picky

As you can see from the list, the type of day hiking you do matters quite a lot when picking out a pack.

If you hike in high summer with practically zero chance of rain, why pay for a rain cover?

If you hike in cloudy, cool conditions, ventilation might not be a huge deal to you.

No need to carry an ice axe or poles? Then a myriad of attachment points on your pack are useless to you.

Clearly, you're going to need a shopping strategy.

Recommended strategy

It's easy to compare and prioritize daypacks on the REI website.

Just select what's most important to you before you start looking at packs, and before you know it, you'll arrive at the best daypack for you.

True story from a seasoned hiker: You'll save yourself a lot of frustration by being strategic.

Now try this

To find the best daypack on the planet for you:

Make a list of the features you absolutely must have (go back through the list above and take notes).

Go to REI's easy to navigate website and drill down to the volume of pack you want.

Select the features that really matter to you: torso length, volume, etcetera.

Utilize their "compare packs" feature to narrow your search even further.

Before you know it, you'll have several reasonable choices.

Hiking For Her's
very best daypack

Female hiker sitting in the dirt with backpack beside herSitting in the dirt with my very best trail friend

Here's the daypack I reach for hike after hike:

I love how it checks pretty much all of the comfort boxes above, and how it stands up to rock abrasion, trail mud, and indelicate tosses into the back of the jeep at day's end.

The hip belt hugs me like none other, and I find it easy to get into and back out quickly, even in the rain.

Note: Fits torsos 15 - 19 inches, which works for me because I'm 5'3". Might not work for you if your torso is longer, so be sure to check out the adjustable packs noted above.

But really...

The best daypack
is the one you reach for
again and again

Heed this humble advice:

If a pack doesn't fit, don't wear it.

You're going for the BEST daypack, right?

  • More tips and tricks for finding it are here.

Shopping at REI Co-op makes your quest easier: great customer service and generous return policies.

And fair warning:

Day hikes just won't be enough after a few seasons.

  • Be proactive.
  • Prepare for your ideal backpacking pack quest now. (coming soon)

Home page > Best Hiking Gear >

Your Best Daypack

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