You need a lightweight packable daypack, there’s no question. This one small item will make all of your trips SO much easier. But there are many on the market, and they all advertise similar features. How to choose between all of these packs? Here is our guide to choosing the best packable backpack for travel.
What is a packable backpack and why do I need one?
Most travel days, I carry my purse. It’s convenient, over-the-shoulder, and has lots of handy pockets for everything that I need. BUT. On some days, a purse isn’t going to cut it, even one that’s pretty optimized for travel.
Sometimes, you need your hands free, and you don’t want a bag flapping around by your side. When trekking in the Amazon, for example. When riding a camel. You never know when you might set off on a day trip that involves a casual hike, and for those days, you’ll want your little foldable backpack handy. Think of it as your mini hiking backpack!
But it’s really important that your daypack should never weigh you down. If it’s heavy or bulky, you’ll need to think carefully about when to bring it and when to leave it behind. If, on the other hand, it’s sufficiently light and packable, you’ll be able to easily bring it on any trip, just in case you end up needing it. The best packable daypacks will barely take up any space, so even a backpacker can carry one without trouble.
What to expect from a packable daypack
The best packable backpacks should be:
- Sturdy enough to hold basics, like a water bottle, sunscreen, phone, umbrella, wallet, etc.
- Have one or two closed pockets, plus maybe outside mesh water bottle pockets for convenient access
What you WON’T get from even the best packable daypack
- Lots of storage compartments or pockets
- The capacity to hold a lot of heavy or bulky gear
- Highly padded shoulder straps, sternum straps, or support systems to make the backpack lighter to carry – you shouldn’t be carrying a lot of heavy gear in your packable daypack to begin with
The best BUDGET packable backpack
If you’re looking to save money on a packable daypack, look no further than the Hikpro 20L backpack. Currently available on Amazon for only $15.99, this is the best deal out there on a lightweight packable backpack.
The Hikpro 20L is super basic, but it has everything you need. It weighs less than half a pound (7.5 ounces) and rolls up to about the size of a soda can. Alternatively, you can just lay it flat in your suitcase or backpack and it takes up practically no space at all.
The Hikpro 20L has a large zippered main compartment, a small zippered front compartment, and two mesh side pockets for water bottles or umbrellas.
Although it’s light, the Hikpro 20L is sturdy and durable. Ethan has had his for years, using it to tote water bottles, sunscreen, light electronics, and so on, with no signs of damage or strain. This packable backpack is also (very slightly) water resistant, and Ethan finds the mesh shoulder straps comfortable to wear to carry light loads.
Our review of the Hikpro 20L: Sturdy, lightweight, compact, and CHEAP, this is the best packable backpack for travelers on a budget! Available for $15.99 from Amazon.
The best WATERPROOF packable backpack
If you’re looking to spend a little more, or if you might be caught in the rain (e.g., if you’re traveling anywhere tropical during the rainy season), you’ll want to get the Matador Freerain24 backpack. This is a 100% waterproof ultralight daypack.
100% waterproof is a bold claim, and I’ll admit to being skeptical at first. But it works! One time, I wore it diving off a boat in Brazil (full disclosure, Matador does not recommend full immersion like this, but my camera, phone, and wallet all stayed bone-dry that day!) Another time, I wore it under a waterfall in Taroko Gorge National Park in Taiwan. All of the contents: still completely dry!
This Matador packable backpack is even lighter than the Hikpro 20L, weighing in at just 5.5 ounces (about a third of a pound). It, too, collapses to about the volume of a soda can. It folds in on itself to create a mini self-contained package, as seen below.
This backpack has one large, waterproof compartment. To keep the contents waterproof, it has a roll-top design, which is probably the most annoying feature of the backpack; it’s just not as convenient as a zipper. There is also a (non-waterproof) zippered compartment in the front, and two outside mesh pockets which are very easy to access.
The Matador Freerain24 is surprisingly sturdy for its light weight. The only time I’ve ever worried that it was strained was when I decided to use it as a full overnight bag, complete with toiletries and a change of clothes, and then tried to add a 2L water-bottle. Don’t do that, but as long as you use it as it’s designed to be used, as a daypack, you’ll be totally fine. The ripstop nylon is pretty tough. I’ve had it now for well over a year, and it’s held up beautifully through rain and shine!
Our review of the Matador Freerain24: Even lighter than the Hikpro20L, this backpack is also 100% waterproof, which offers peace of mind for traveling in any weather. At around $65, it’s a little pricey, but well worth it if you worry about valuables or electronics getting wet. For this reason, we think it’s the best lightweight daypack out there. Check it out!
Do you travel with a packable backpack or daypack? Tell us about it in the comments!
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