Daypack Vs Backpack. Which One To Choose?

Daypacks vs Backpacks

While hiking, in order to carry your water, snacks, and other items like sunscreen, a compass, and your phone, you will need a pack.

Do you simply grab any old backpack from your closet, or do you purchase a daypack specifically designed for hiking? Does it really matter if you hike with a backpack rather than a daypack? The answer is that it does matter if you don’t want to add extra weight to your pack. Let’s examine the ideal pack for each circumstance.

Daypack Vs Backpack. How Do they differ?

As you’ll quickly discover if you visit the packs and bags section of your local REI, size is the primary way that backpacks and daypacks differ. Backpacking packs are larger than daypacks. A daypack typically has a capacity of no more than 25L and anything more than that will likely be called a backpack.

I am aware that some daypacks from REI have a 38L capacity, but let’s be real, most day hikes don’t call for that much gear. Daypacks aren’t made for long hikes or carrying a lot of gear so that size is more appropriate for a backpack.

Daypacks are significantly lighter and are typically less expensive than backpacks. However, while features like padded straps, hip belts and chest straps are standard components of backpacks, these are rarely found on daypacks.

The way that you can pack the backpacks, specifically how you access the storage space, is another way that these two hiking packs differ from one another. While most backpacks made for long treks have side and bottom openings, daypacks are usually top-loading.

Related article: Expert Tips For Hiking With A Heavy Backpack


1. Daypacks


  • Perfect for day hikes, commuting to work daily, grabbing coffee on the way out, beach days and taking in city sights.
  • Generally less expensive than Backpacking Packs
  • The most lightweight option


  • There is little or no back support
  • Generally, they don’t have padded shoulder straps
Backpacking Packs

2. Backpacking Packs


  • Perfect for multi-day camping trips, globetrotting adventures, and any activity necessitating bulky gear.
  • More storage space and compartments
  • More back support
  • Often includes an inner framework (or skeleton) to disperse the load of the backpack


  • Generally heavier and bulkier than Daypacks
  • Generally the most expensive option

What is a Daypack?


A daypack, as its name suggests, is a compact, lightweight bag that is just big enough to hold your belongings for a day or a short trip. A different perspective on daypacks is that they are a scaled-down version of backpacks. So in theory, a daypack is just a compact backpack.

Daypack Specs:

  • Volume range between 20 and 40 liters
  • Typically have no inner skeleton or frame to provide support or rigidity
  • Shoulder straps can be made from a variety of materials, but are typically made from durable synthetic materials like leather, canvas, or nylon
  • Daypacks are typically made to be used by both men and women and are unisex.
  • Numerous daypacks are designed specifically for particular types of activities; examples include hiking, climbing, and travel daypacks.

What is a Backpack for Camping and Hiking?

Backpacking Pack

We all understand what a backpack is because the majority of us have used them our entire lives. In the article, when we refer to “backpacks,” we specifically mean “camping backpacks” or “hiking backpacks.” The size of the pack makes the biggest distinction between a daypack and a backpack. Backpacks are used when you need to carry more gear for longer hiking and camping trips because they are larger in size than daypacks.

Camping and Hiking Backpack Specs:

  • Range in volume from 40 to 80 liters.
  • Suitable for multi-day hikes or camping trips. Features an inner frame or skeleton that helps distribute the weight of the pack and increase comfort while hiking. (Hiking backpacks typically do a nice job of standing up on their own, which is a nice benefit of the inner frame.)
  • High levels of compartmentalization to keep your gear accessible and shoulder straps that can be adjusted for your comfort.
  • Have numerous adjustment points for a custom fit and improved comfort at the hip belt, shoulder straps, load lifters, and sternum straps.

Daypack vs Backpack: Which one to Choose?

A daypack shown on the left and a backpacking pack on the right

Are you still uncertain about which of these packs will best suit your trail or travel needs? It’s a good idea to know when a daypack or a backpack is appropriate before you begin your first outdoor adventure. For day hikes, daily commutes, coffee shop runs, beach days, and urban adventures, daypacks are excellent. It can serve as a camera bag or carry-on. While traveling, daypacks can even be packed into larger luggage or a backpack.

For multi-day camping excursions, round-the-world journeys, and other activities requiring heavy equipment, a larger backpack with frame support is a better choice.  In addition to offering enough space for all of your necessities, including a tent, sleeping bag, water, and food, the larger hiking backpack will also be more comfortable. Since internal frames, padded belt straps, and heavily padded shoulder straps are common features of hiking backpacks, they help to evenly and comfortably distribute the load.

Are you new to hiking and camping and just dipping your toes in? Investing in a top-notch hiking daypack is a great place to start and is unquestionably the most economical choice. 

How Do I Choose a Hiking Backpack?

To make sure you choose the best hiking backpack for your needs, there are three main factors to keep in mind when making your decision.

Duration of Trip

The length of your hike or trip should be taken into account first because it will influence the size of hiking backpack you require. In order to carry all the extra gear required for a longer trip, it goes without saying that your hiking backpack needs to be bigger. A daypack should be sufficient if your hike will only take a few hours, as was already mentioned. When comparing backpack sizes, a pack between 20 and 40 liters should provide all the room you need for a quick hike.

However, if your hike will last more than one day and include camping, you will need a full-size hiking backpack to transport all the necessary equipment for a multi-day hike. Depending on how much gear you need to bring, you should choose a hiking backpack with a capacity between 40 and 80 liters for a multi-day hike.

Body Size

An important reminder: sizing guidelines vary from manufacturer to manufacturer. A North Face pack’s sizing chart is different from an Osprey pack’s sizing chart. The sizing guide frequently differs among packs made by the same manufacturer, further complicating matters. A smaller Osprey Talon daypack, for instance, has a slightly different sizing chart than the larger Osprey Stratos daypack.

You can try on various packs in a store to find one that is comfortable. Ask a friend to help you determine your torso and hip sizes if you are unable to go to a store.

Finding your Torso Lenght

Finding your Torso Lenght

The most crucial factor is your torso length, not your height, because a pack that is too tall or too short won’t have proper weight distribution, resulting in discomfort and hot spots. You can determine your torso length by tilting your head forward and measuring the distance from your C7 vertebra which is the most prominent bone where your shoulders meet the base of your neck – straight down to the iliac crest (point of your back that is parallel to the top of your hip bones).

Hip size

Finding your Hip size

Choosing the proper hipbelt size is crucial because your hips, not your shoulders, should support about 80% of the weight of a backpack. A flexible tape measure should be wrapped around the top of your hips, not your waist, to determine your hip size. Hipbelt size typically differs from pant-waist size because this measurement is a little higher than your beltline.


Customizing the Fit

The ability of the hiking backpack to be customized is the final consideration when selecting a hiking backpack. Numerous adjustment points are typically found on higher-quality hiking packs to help ensure that the pack is adjusted for maximum comfort. Obviously, a hiking backpack should have as many adjustment points as possible. The hip belt, shoulder straps, load lifters, and sternum strap adjustments are the ones to look for when selecting a hiking backpack.


 Daypack Vs Backpack

Padded Hip Belt: An enjoyable hiking experience can be made or broken by a hip belt that fits properly. The weight of your backpack should be evenly distributed to prevent strain on your shoulders. Larger hip belts and more padding are typically found on bigger backpacks (50L and up). On the other hand, daypacks aren’t always equipped with a hip belt.

Padded Shoulder Straps: Similar to hip belts, the size of the backpack directly affects the padding’s type and thickness. While thinner straps offer greater flexibility, thicker padded ones offer comfort and support.

Chest Strap: The sternum strap, also known as the chest strap, fastens the shoulder straps. By keeping the shoulder straps in place, it adds an additional level of stability. Along with a hip belt, this is a must-have item for me. You’ll feel the benefits in your back, shoulders, and hips.

Padded Back Panel (with Internal Frame): The back panel should be padded and contoured for maximum comfort. To prevent any back pain, it should support the natural arch of your back. The best backpacks are also the most ergonomic, and they have an internal frame. This adds another level of support while assisting in keeping everything in place.

Load Lifting Straps: The shoulder straps are attached to the top of the back frame by these adjustment straps. You can adjust the distance between your body and the backpack using them. It is a crucial feature that keeps a bulky backpack from slipping off.


Hiking Backpack Rain Cover

A separate rain cover that goes over your pack and protects it from the elements is the best way to make sure it stays dry.

Also, try looking at bags with water-resistant coatings or roll-top closures (although these aren’t entirely reliable). Another alternative is to bundle your gear in waterproof stuff sacks internally. Strong gusts can easily tear a pack’s cover off in windy conditions, so lighter stuff sacks may be a better choice.


How Big is a 20L Backpack?

It can be challenging to understand how big a backpack really is when someone refers to it as a 20L or 20-liter bag, especially if you’re looking at backpacks online. The first thing to understand is that, in terms of backpacks, a 20L backpack is on the smaller side. To put this into perspective, the typical size range for backpacks is 20L up to 80L for large hiking backpacks.

Comparing an object’s size to those of other well-known objects is frequently the quickest and most accurate way to do so. A watermelon or a fully inflated balloon are two examples of objects that are comparable in size to a 20L backpack.

How Many Liters Should a Daypack Be or What Is a Good Size for a Daypack?

A daypack typically ranges in size from 20 to 40 liters, with 20 liters being the most common size. The best thing you can do when deciding on the size of your daypack is work backward. You must first decide how many items you want to bring with you before selecting a daypack that can hold them.

A 20L daypack ought to be adequate if all you plan to carry is a bottle of water, a snack, and your phone. However, if you are bringing more than just a few essentials, you might want to think about a daypack that is a bit bigger, perhaps around 40L.