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Nothing fosters unflinching loyalty to a single piece of gear quite like the discovery of the right travel day pack. Much of that hard-won adulation comes from rigorous use and re-use. Hours spent on planes and trains, through airports and bus stations, on remote hiking trails and congested avenues. The perfect pack doesn’t try to be all things to all people. It caters to your needs, whether that includes hauling a huge laptop, carrying a cache of cameras and lenses, or just adding a bit of extra storage in an ultra-light body that you can stash inside another bag. The perfect pack stands up to the rigors of the road as well as the fouler moods of Mother Nature. It can handle a summit hike but looks fashion-forward enough to blend in the most haute ‘hoods in Paris.
In evaluating the right pack for you, consider what you carry. Some travelers can get by on an 18-liter minimalist pack, while others prefer bigger bags that can double as your main carry-on. Laptop and tablet sleeves add protection, dedicated camera sections layer on the padding, and extra features like hydration sleeves or compression straps make extra-curricular activities like hiking and biking much easier. Some packs also layer in a bevy of security features, from stealth pockets that prevent thieves from lifting the electronic data embedded in your credit cards and passports to puncture-resistant zippers and slash-resistant fabrics.
This list focuses specifically on backpacks, a traveler's most versatile companion. With that caveat, here are the best day packs for travel on the market right now.
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Traveling is all about efficiency and security, and the Frequent Flyer delivers both in spades. The padded laptop sleeve isolates your computer in a separate zippered compartment, making it easy to take out at TSA security, while a fleece-lined top pocket makes an ideal home for your cell phone, sunglasses, and other quick-grab fragile items. The main zippered storage area includes a key clip, a good-sized zippered document pocket, and three mesh slot pockets for other essentials, adding to up an ample 20 liters of storage space.
A padded back panel and straps along with an adjustable sternum strap help distribute heavy loads, and international travelers will appreciate the "security pocket," a zippered sleeve integrated into the back panel that comes with radio-frequency identity (RFID) protection, meaning tech-savvy thieves won’t be able to lift your personal data from the electromagnetic tags embedded in your passport and credit cards. It also comes with compression straps and an exterior sleeve on one side for a water bottle.
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Made of lightweight, repurposed ripstop nylon, the Luzon isn’t designed to haul heavy loads or traverse long distances. But for urban forays or as a backup pack, it can’t be beat — especially at this price. It comes in a rainbow of color options, with ultralight mesh shoulder straps and a big front pocket secured by a top drawstring, along with an internal hydration sleeve for your water bladder. The front zippered pocket works well for easy-access items like your boarding pass or guide book, and since it’s unconstructed, you can stash it easily in your main suitcase when you don’t need a day pack.
In all, the Luzon gives you 18 liters of storage and comes with a 61-year guarantee. The llama logo — a Cotopaxi signature — adds a playful touch to your daily travel routine.
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The ideal pack for fast-and-light day hikes, the Miwok is compact and minimal but fully functional for a long day on the trail. A total of 18 liters of storage should be enough for stashing your layers as the day warms up, alongside water and trail snacks, but its close fit means it won’t feel bulky when scrambling or trying to set a personal record on those uphill miles.
BioSync suspension, inspired by the configuration of human tendons, lets you cruise along with unconstructed motion, and dual external side pockets make it easy to grab a water bottle if you don’t want to use the built-in hydration sleeve. You also get twin quick-access pockets on the hip belt, side compression straps, and a clutch sunglass loop on the shoulder strap.
The zippered main compartment includes two small mesh pockets along with an expandable stretch pocket that's ideal for your hard shell rain jacket or climbing helmet, with a tuck-away bungee to assure everything’s riding tight. Want more (or less) storage space? The Miwok comes in a variety of sizes, from a featherweight six liters all the way up to 24.
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The carry-on-friendly Venturesafe is the pinnacle of pack security. Pac-Safe layers on the safety features, including interlocking zippers and a stainless steel cable that's designed to let you lock the bag to the luggage railing on public transport or around a chair leg. There is eXomesh Slashguard stainless steel wire mesh embedded into the fabric, puncture-resistant zippers, and secure locking mechanisms at every opening to prevent pickpocket theft.
Unlike conventional packs, the Venturesafe opens sideways like a suitcase, offering easy access to the bag’s voluminous 45 liters of storage. It includes space for a 15-inch laptop, attachment points for wallets and keys, internal compression, and a zippered pocket on the lip. The two padded shoulder straps rest on an ergonomic internal frame for enhanced balance and support, which is reinforced with the packs adjustable sternum and hip straps. All straps can be stowed when not in use. For some, this larger pack may be overkill for daily adventures. But if you want a day pack that can hold a lot and keep your contents safe, the Venturesafe delivers on both fronts.Continue to 5 of 8 below.
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If you want a day pack that can handle hiking, biking, pavement-stomping, museum-hopping, and everything else, the Daylight Plus has you covered. Once an offshoot accessory to Osprey’s line of award-winning backpacks, this bag has since evolved into one of the industry’s day pack leaders. It still integrates seamlessly with a handful of packs in their line via integrated buckles (good news if you're already an Osprey owner), but it also holds up on its own.
The interior sleeve of the Daylight Plus can carry either a hydration bladder or a tablet, with side mesh pockets for water bottles or other quick-grab items. The clever kangaroo pouch on the outside is mounted on adjustable straps to accommodate layers or a helmet, with an additional zippered stash pocket on the outside. The main compartment keeps thing simple, with 20 liters of storage and a separate zippered pocket on the front. The shoulder pads are lightly padded to help reduce load, but the sternum and waist strap lean are more lightweight, offering support without excess bulk.
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The trick to keeping expensive camera equipment safe from prying hands? Don’t carry a pack that screams “I’m housing expensive camera equipment.” Take Dakine’s Synch Pack, which takes a much-appreciated stealth approach for a camera-specific backpack.
Constructed from burly 600D polyester, the Synch Pack looks like any other day pack from the outside. It has a handful of quick-access side snap pockets and a few zippered external pockets, one which is secured with a snap to thwart pickpockets. But inside, things transform. The lower zippered section reveals several adjustable padded sleeves that you can customize to fit your collection of cameras and lenses, wrapping them in some much-needed padding. The flap on one of the side pockets flips to accommodate a tripod or steady-cam mount, secured by a buckle, with a deployable pocket to handle longer tripods. The other side pocket fits a water bottle. The top compartment includes a dedicated tablet sleeve along with space for your noise-canceling headphones, phone, wallet, cell, and other essentials.
At only 15 liters, it won’t store everything — especially if you typically travel with a few extra layers or a rain jacket. If you want more space, upgrade to the 33-liter Dakine Sequence.
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Inspired by military assault rucksacks, Mystery Ranch’s Urban Assault utilizes a unique three-zip closure that makes opening the pack as easy as one..two…three. It's constructed from bomber 500D Cordura fabric and burly YKK zippers, which will fend off rain, sleet, and snow, and comes mounted on a fixed harness with padded shoulder straps for even carry.
At 2.8 pounds, this pack tips the scales on the heavy side, but you also get two internal zippered accessory pockets, laptop and tablet sleeves nestled close to the back panel for optimal carry, and another zippered pocket on the lid with a key clip. All told, the Urban Assault delivers 21 liters of storage, solid for any rugged day use and pretty typical compared to the other packs on this list. But if you’re constantly going in and out of your pack, this bag's design wins out.
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Patagonia’s new Arbor line of backpacks perfectly illustrates the company’s commitment to environmentally-sound product creation. It’s made from 100% recycled materials sourced from 8.5 plastic bottles per bag and is solution-dyed, meaning the colors have been melded to the core of the fabric. This technique saves half a gallon of water per bag and produces 96% less CO2 than traditional dyeing.
Available in three sizes, the 25-liter model is the largest, and likely the best bet for gear-laden travelers, and includes padded shoulder straps shaped to match the contours of your back. Inside you get a massive main compartment, along with a raised and padded laptop sleeve for computers up to 15 inches. There is also a zippered stash pocket beneath the main flap and another outside pocket. Twin buckles hold everything down, and top and bottom grab handles make it easy to haul and lash the pack down. The 600-denier poly is Bluesign-approved and has been treated with both a polyurethane coating and a durable water-repellent finish to keep the elements at bay.