Whether it’s for the daily commute, a weekend away or for travelling light, the daypack is one of life’s little essentials for getting your gadgets from A to B.
Capacity is crucial. Here we’ve included models from 20-35 litres which should give everyone a few options. Most brands make similar models in various sizes, so if you find one that seems ideal, but is the wrong size, don’t despair because the size you‘re after does probably exists.
Equally as important is your shape and size. As examples of what’s available we’ve included a daypack designed for women as well as one for blokes with unusually long backs. Choose wisely; your ever increasing stash of gadgets require pockets, so we’ve tested these daypacks with what we reckon is in your collection – ebook reader, netbook or tablet, headphones, smartphone and two or three chargers. Oh, and some clothes.
GoLite Peak (£90)
Folk have been complaining about their own inability to pack light for yonks, but only one brand has truly cottoned onto the central problem. Boasting the lightest luggage around, the GoLite Peak backpack uses MIPAN Regen fabric that’s made from recycled nylon.
Its small footprint does mean that there’s little in the way of back support (so the going can get sweaty in hot temperatures) while its stunningly small 745g weight is partly achieved by a simple drawstring top in place of a more protective foldover lid, though a further 140g can be shaved by removing the hipbelt and all contents secured by Compacktor straps.
Best avoided for carrying electronics, the Peak is perfect for short trips and treks – and its 36 litre capacity is unbeatable at this weight.
Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Day Pack (£18.50)
It’s designed to carry a fleece or waterproofs up a mountain, but we use this fold-out daypack as carry-on luggage. Able to hold about 20 litres, the Summit Ultra-Sil has the usual shoulder straps and small pouch and is pretty tough thanks to its double-stitched siliconised Cordura fabric which won't split under the strain of even the chunkiest of gaming laptops.
It’s neither stylish nor rugged, though this super-thin sack with shoulder straps folds to nothing in its own stuff bag; perfect for carrying those oversized bottles of duty free gin or yet more gadgets from Dixons in Heathrow departures lounge. Been there, done that.
Those of you with a different kind of itchy feet could happily take this 20-litre bag to that scuzzy gym you joined in January.
TechAir Air Protection netbook satchel 2110V3 (£20)
For those of us favouring a netbook over a tablet (you can’t beat a keyboard) for the commute, meetings or work-travel, TechAir’s 880g shoulder bag is a contender. Made with tough material and closed with a buckle, this satchel’s centre section is double-padded and with a Velcro-fastened strap for keeping a 10.2-inch computer snug – though don’t mistake this for a laptop bag. It’s not. It could easily take a Wii or a tablet.
In a nice twist of fate, its netbook shape and size makes compartments either side perfect for carrying A4 documents while zipped and gadget pockets (stuffed with sections for pens, phones, cameras, etc.) are great extras. Our only issue is that a netbook charger doesn’t easily fit in.
Berghaus Terabyte 25 laptop bag (£40)
Built for bigger laptops but essentially a rucksack version of the TechAir, this brand new Berghaus bag has commuting cyclists firmly in its sights. More specifically, clumsy/set-upon peddlers who often take a tumble; the bag’s compartments are lined with d30, an orange foamy fabric mesh made of soft, flexible molecules that instantly lock on impact and absorb shock.
Meanwhile shoulder straps (complete with pocket) are strong and flexible, with a gap between back pads, while a full length front section hosts seven compartments, including a zipped section, key ring loop, and gaps for cameras, credit cards and a mesh pocket. The MP3 system isn’t too exciting - just a small gap for passing through headphones (as found on many of the daypacks featured here) - but the 770g Terabyte 25 remains a gadget hoarder’s heaven.
Lowe Alpine Edge 22XL (£34)
Chaps of a certain stature often have problems with daypacks. Most are too short to be comfortable, which has the double impact of the bag not feeling balanced, and the inkling that you could probably carry another five-or-so litres without any problems. Fortunately, the Lowe Alpine Edge 22XL has an extra-long 54cm design which helps, and adds a couple of litres to the size of the inner compartment.
It’s easily big enough to stow a small laptop with height to spare, with an organiser pocket ideal for toothbrush and toiletries - or more likely as a gadget stash. Even better is a small pocket accessed from the top, complete with key clip, though the front panel’s side-fastened pocket is too small to be of much use.
Created with walkers and trekkers in mind, it makes a great daypack for oversized cyclists and commuters.
Berghaus Freeflow 20 (£55)
Our favourite daypack on test is the Berghaus Freeflow 20 model. Unlike its cousin, the Terabyte 25 above, this smaller sibling takes more from the British brand’s heritage of designing gear for mountain climbers. It’s actually quite heavy at just over a kilo when empty, but there’s a good reason for that; its Freeflow system is one of the few worthy of its name.
Strong, well-made straps feature EVABreathe matrix foam and are really comfy, while the entire back system is separated from the main daypack by a good few inches - perfect for humidity. It gives the main storage area a curved shape that can be tricky to pack, but there’s too much else to love about the Freeflow 20; its built-in waterproof pocket is superb as a wash kit-killer, while there’s no annoying waistband. We tested the men’s version but a women’s model also exists. If you’re after something similar, but even smaller – perhaps for cycling – try the Berghaus Limpet 10+ instead.
Osprey Sirrus 24 Women’s (£70)
One for the ladies, this. Holding 24 litres and designed specifically for women, Osprey’s Sirrus 24 is designed for a day hike but is just a great all-round daypack. It’s similar to the Berghaus Freeflow 20 in that it uses a similar back system, though the main area is less curved in shape. It also adds a secret compartment on its undercarriage that hides a waterproof cover that could be useful for cyclists, or anyone heading out to countries under a monsoon (as well as lending general peace of mind to anyone planning to transport a camera, camcorder or Kindle).
With an empty weight of 1.05kg this will be overkill for most commuters, though if you’re after something sturdy, comfortable and capable of taking some weight, this toploader is hard to beat on the street.
Gregory Z25 (£80)
Similar to the Osprey is this a serious option from Gregory. Holding 24 litres (we tested the ‘medium back‘ version; small and large models manage 22 and 26 litres respectively), this tough daysack is meant for the mountain.
Once again, its back system - in this case called CrossFlo DTS suspension - means it starts at over a kilo before you’ve packed anything, but it does make carrying large loads so much easier. Compression straps on the sides help, as does a hefty hipbelt that not only lends stability and spreads the weight, but also builds-in a couple of nice zip pockets (designed for a whistle and a compass, but just as handy for headphones and a packet of Polos.) Best of all is a loose pocket on the front that can be tightened; perfect for stashing a pair of trainers or flip-flops.
Deuter Futura 32 (£85)
Get to the 32-litre size and we’re talking either serious walkers on multi-day treks, or backpackers looking to slim down to something more sensible on a round-the-world trip. If you can’t live out of a bag this size, you’re doing something wrong, though not everyone will like this backpack’s weighty support system.
More serious - and heavier - than those found on the smaller daypacks on test here, the Futura’s off-the-back Aircomfort system helps create an empty weight of 1.4kg. What it doesn’t do is make the inside compartment noticeably curved or narrow.
Narrower than most and with a wet clothes pocket inside and a rain cover hidden in an outside compartment, there’s few tougher than the Futura 32 if you’re headed outdoors - and the traditional design makes it easy to migrate to if you're tired of bulk backpacking.
Lowe Alpine AirZone Centro 35+10 (£65)
Perfect for camping and hiking where a lot of gear - even a small tent - needs to be carried, this great value daysack is one of the best in its class. The Low Alpine AirZone Centro 35+10 name comes from a generous gap between the main compartment and a strong mesh panel, though the sturdy hipbelt and adjustable shoulder straps are just as useful.
In terms of design there’s little that rivals it; we love the inside’s waterproof pocket, almost unique side-access zip to the main compartment, and a stunning four mesh pockets. It’s also expandable, with the loop-over hood supplied with extenders; the main compartment can be filled to bursting before the hood is secured over the top. Perfect for souvenir hunters, though we’re not sure a spur-of-the-moment Moroccan carpet could be shoved into this stunning daypack.
North Face Base Camp Hot Shot (£65)
Reduced to £45.48 on Surfdome, this 30-litre daypack is for those who detest the conservative look of most daypacks. Available in green, orange and blue, and part of The North Face’s Base Camp range, it’s no accident that its main compartment’s padded sleeve can easily take a 15-inch laptop.
At 1.1kg empty, this toploader is relatively heavy considering there’s just foam ‘Airmesh’ padding and a ‘BackSaver’ bottom panel, though 30-litres is a rare size and will suit those after a garish gadget pack.