Gear

Pack It In: 18 of the Best Packable Backpacks

by Carissa Stanz

best packable backpacks
Photo: Gueric Nkunzimana

Packable backpacks are gaining prominence in the travel and outdoor markets for good reason: they’re damn near revolutionary.

In times past, figuring out how to bring a practical daypack on a backpacking trip without taking up gobs of precious space induced nightmares. And travel bugs needing a lightweight pack at their destination almost always had to count their daypacks as personal items at the airport  in addition to all the other luggage.

Packable daypacks revolutionize the game by offering most (if not all) of the features of a typical daypack, while packing down to the size of a Nalgene bottle or smaller.

At Territory Supply, we’re avid backpackers, and we love adding in “layover days” to our itineraries. Whether exploring the waterfalls of Havasupai or splashing through Aravaipa Canyon, we’ve tried all types of daypack solutions — from packing mini-Camelbaks to purchasing packs featuring built-in summit packs to packing cheap drawstring backpacks. Each experiment had its own major drawbacks with either packability, functionality, or comfort.

With packable daypacks, it’s a whole new game. Take a pack like the Matador FreeRain24 — it packs down to the size of fist, takes negligible size in a backpack, yet springs open to make a roomy daypack with much better functionality and comfort than anything we’d tried previously.

Many of the packs on the list (especially the lightest ones) leave out a lot of padding to achieve packability, but they’re still sure as hell more comfortable than lugging a drawstring backpack on an 8-mile summit bid. As for the heavier packs, comfort is hardly sacrificed, although they will take up more space when stashed in your suitcase or backpack.

Quick Budget Picks

There’s now quite a selection of packable packs on the market, and we’ve put together our choices for the best out there based on value, price, quality and overall functionality.

So while they didn’t quite make the cut, you might also consider budget-friendly options like the HikePro20L and the Topnaca Naturehike Utlralight Foldable Daypack. Both under $20, these “Amazon only” specials are decent for the price, and can get you through a trip or two until you can invest in a higher-quality option.

If you’re ready to invest in a sweet packable pack for your next adventure, read on for our favorites.

TOM BIHN Daylight Pack

tom bihn daylight pack
Photo: TOM BIHN

Packs are Seattle-based TOM BIHN’s specialty. Born out of a boy’s desire for solid outdoor gear, founder Tom grabbed his grandmother’s sewing machine and went to work. Forty years later, he’s turned his passion into a 47-person team pumping out some of the best packs in the Pacific Northwest.

For those in need of a solid go-to pack, the Daylight Pack is your answer. Metro meets trail with this cleanly designed pack. Incredibly packable, the 16.5L bag features a single exterior zipper pocket for easy access and a removable waist strap for extra support.

Meanwhile, the interior boasts two nifty overlapping elastic pockets perfect for stuffing in extra clothing, adding extra padding for when you’re scrambling up a trail. Or if you’re headed into the office you can choose to store your laptop safe and sound.

The Daylight Pack comes in two exterior fabric options: ultra-lite 400d Halycon and tough ripstop 420d nylon. As a bonus, there’s a lifetime guarantee. Minimalists, eat your heart out. — Buy here

Triple Aught Design Azimuth Pack

azimuth pack
Photo: Triple Aught Design

For Triple Aught Design the mission is clear: to help you complete yours by producing apparel and gear held to the highest standards. That’s why the San Francisco-based company uses the triple aught (1/1000th of an inch) measurement for manufacturing precision.

If you’re the type to let no obstacle stand in your way, you’ll appreciate their Azimuth Pack. Tactical in specs and sophisticated in design, you can gear up the right way for the field — wherever that may be.

Weighing in at 12.8-ounces, this 19L pack is ready to tackle any mission. It’s constructed from weather-resistant VX-21 ripstop and sports a badass aesthetic. Missions often require quick reactions and the Azimuth was born ready. It features a top loading zipper along with two zippers running along both front panels for fast access.

Stuff a water bottle in one of two external side pockets and clip your compass on the attachment loop while you’re at it. For longer treks, take full advantage of the hydration bladder attachment.

When you’re ready to stash the Azimuth back into another piece of luggage, it packs back into its own mesh pocket. Triple Aught products are made in the USA, just the way we like it. — Buy here

Matador Hydrolite Hydration Backpack

hydrolite matador
Photo: Matador

Adventure seekers, read on. In the heart of Boulder, Colorado lies a group of travelers and adventure junkies revolutionizing how we think about gear: Matador.

Matador turns your bulky goods into packable travel gear. One of every traveler’s needs is clean drinking water. The Matador Hydrolite is your answer. Rather than stuff a separate filtration and water system into your backpack, the Hydrolite does it all. It features a built-in Sawyer system along with a 2-liter Hydrapak® Elite reservoir and anti-crease hose.

Constructed from waterproof 30D Cordura fabric, the empty 8L pack comes with a Hypalon roll-top, AirSupport back panel, and an expandable exterior stash pocket. You can also bypass the filter when there’s clean drinking water available. Looks like these guys thought of everything. — Buy here

Matador Daylight16

daylite 16 matador
Photo: Matador

While we love the Hydrolite, we understand its higher price point may be a turnoff. For a cheaper packable option, consider one of our other favorites from Matador: the Daylight16.

Also made with waterproof 30D Cordura, this weatherproof 16-liter pack is perfect for stashing whatever it is you need to get you through the day. At a mere 4.6 ounces, it’s certainly one of the lightest daypacks on the market.

What it lacks in weight it makes up for in construction. Plenty of storage both inside and out, it has an exterior waterproof zippered pocket along with two convenient side mesh pockets to store your water or gear for easy access.

Another feature we appreciate: the whole thing is puncture-resistant and comes with its own nifty packable stash pocket. All that and the price is on point. — Buy here

Tortuga Setout Packable Daypack

tortuga backpack
Photo: Tortuga

Great ideas are often born out of experience and that’s precisely how Tortuga began. On a backpacking journey across Eastern Europe, founders Fred Perrotta and Jeremy Cohen quickly discovered just how poorly luggage was designed for travel. So they decided to do something about it, and Tortuga was their answer.

If you find yourself in the same boat, you’ll want to take a look at their Setout Daypack. This pack has a sleek minimalist look designed for safely stowing away your daily essentials so you can sightsee all day long.

With a 19-liter carrying capacity, it’s got plenty of space, while the 8.5-ounce pack weight won’t weigh you down. We particularly appreciate the padded mesh straps and breathable back, considering this pack will be on your back throughout the day.

Whether you’re in Spain running with the bulls or bushwhacking through the forest, you need not worry — this bad boy is constructed of thick, durable 30D ripstop nylon. For extra support, buckle-up the removable sternum strap. Just in case— Buy here

L.L. Bean Stowaway Day Pack

ll bean packable backpack
Photo: L.L. Bean

L.L. Bean holds quite the reputation, and rightfully so. They’ve been encouraging families to get outside since 1912.

What most folks don’t know is their dedication to environmental responsibility. From constructing LEED buildings to using catalog paper in compliance with the Program for Endorsement of Forest Certification, they’re working to do their part.

If you’re the type to gear towards a trusted name brand, consider their Stowaway pack for your daily adventures. The lightest pack L.L. Bean makes, it weighs 14 ounces and can hold a whopping 22-liters. That’s enough space for your gear and the little tyke combined.

This is one of the heavier packs on the list, which also means it features more padding and structure. As such, it rides and fits pretty close to a regular daypack. Travel or trail, you’ll enjoy the backpacker-esque design along with all the fun features such as the adjustable sternum and waist strap. And of course, copious pockets.

Made from ripstop nylon and designed for comfort, you’ll want to outfit the entire family with one of these.  Buy here

REI Co-op Flash 18 Pack

 

REI Co-op Flash 18 Pack
Photo: REI

 

Do you happily get lost everytime you walk into REI? You’ve come to the right place.

A leading retailer in the outdoor industry, REI has their own line of killer goods you’ve probably drooled over a time or two. Well, here’s another one to add to the list. Introducing their Flash 18 Pack.

Essentially a stuff sack with shoulder straps, this is a versatile piece of gear you’ll want to add to your collection. While most things get lost in the black hole that is the stuff sack, the frameless Flash 18 comes equipped with a couple of pockets as well as a key loop inside.

While you’ve probably noticed nearly everything on this list has some sort of exterior pocket, Flash 18 went with the daisy chain loops for quickly clipping on gear. For those who absolutely have to have a bonus exterior pocket, there’s a side zipper pocket to satisfy your needs.

Made from ripstop nylon, this 10-ounce pack can hold up to 18 liters and features a space for a hydration pack. Can your stuff sack do all that?  Buy here

Eagle Creek Packable Daypack

eagle creek daypack
Photo: Eagle Creek

With forty years under their belt, Eagle Creek knows a thing or two about traveling gear. Comprised of global trotters, they’re all about delivering a quality product and giving back to the community while they do it.

That’s why they support non-profits like Outdoor Outreach, Pacific Crest Trail Association, and Casa de Amparo.

If you’re lucky enough to be an employee, you’ll get five days off to volunteer with a non-profit of your choice through their Creeker Volunteer Trip Program. That mixed with their eco-minded manufacturing practices speaks volumes.

If you would like to support their efforts, then take a look at their affordable Eagle Creek Daypack. Don’t be fooled by its simple design, this daypack is one for the collection.

Weighing 5 ounces (among the lightest on the list) and sporting 13 liters of space, this is one of the smaller packs on the list, yet still extremely practical. It’s a perfect solution for the space-conscious traveler that just needs a small pack for daytrips after ditching the suitcase.

It has an easy pack-in pocket so you can swing it around and pull out a map without needing to rummage through everything. We also appreciate the main compartment comes equipped with two-way zippers. It’s fascinating how even the tiniest detail makes all the difference.  Buy here

Eddie Bauer Stowaway Packable 20L Pack

eddie bauer packable pack
Photo: Eddie Bauer

Founded in 1920, Eddie Bauer has long been outfitting the modern day outdoor enthusiast with stylish trends. If you’re the type to spend the day hitting the trails, their Stowaway Pack is a prime option.

Offering 20 liters of space, you have plenty of room to stash food, water, clothing, and whatever else you need to stay out until the sun goes down. It’s made from 200-denier ripstop polyester and boasts a StormRepel DWR finish to quickly shed moisture, making it a nice match for a trail trek in inclement weather.

Considering its light weight, the Stowaway sports an insane amount of storage options. It has four front loops for easy access and all the pockets you could want in just the right places. And since color is the spice of life, it’s available in eight cool colorways to suit your fancy.

Although it’s one of the cheaper options on the list, the Eddie Bauer is built to last and might just be the best value here.  Buy here

Matador Beast28 Pack

matador beast28 pack
Photo: Gueric Nkunzimana

True to its name, this pack is a beast. Another fine find by the Matador crew, this is considered to be one of the most capable packable packs around.

The Beast28 is constructed from a durable water-resistant 500D PU-coated ripstop nylon. It has gear loops and daisy chains galore as well as a waist and sternum strap for extra support. For the true outdoor enthusiast who wants to turn the day hike into an overnighter (if you go light and pack right), the Beast has a whopping 28-liter capacity.

Made for the outdoor adventure junkie, the Matador folks did us a solid by including space for a water bladder. While it’s a bit heavier than similar sized packs, it’s well worth the weight.

Packable enough to store in a suitcase or backpacking pack, yet large enough to pull off an overnighter on it’s own, this is perhaps the most robust and versatile packable pack out there.  Buy here or read our Matador Beast28 review

Osprey Ultralight Stuff Pack

osprey ultralight
Photo: Osprey

Osprey founder Mike Pfotenhauer is the brand’s biggest critic. Since the company began in 1974, every product design must receive his stamp of approval before going into production. So you know when you buy Osprey, quality is guaranteed.

The Ultralight Stuff Pack is no exception. It highlights ripstop nylon, dual zipper access, three exterior pockets, and a mesh side pocket.

All that sounds good and dandy, but the real reason we dig this pack is its capacity and weight. It holds up to 18 liters and only weighs 3 ounces, making it the second lightest daypack on this list.

Choose an eye-popping color or stick with the shadow grey. Heck, for the price you can buy two. As a bonus, it’s got the old Osprey All Mighty Guarantee. For those looking for a fast and light travel companion, this one is hard to beat.  Buy here

L.L. Bean Lightweight Packable Backpack

ll bean packable pack
Photo: L.L. Bean

Gearing up for a family outing? When you’re trying to outfit the entire family that big ‘M’ word always creeps it’s way back into your purchasing decisions. Thankfully, L.L. Bean is looking out with their Lightweight Packable Backpack.

Light and affordable is the name of the game for this L.L. Bean pack. Ditching all the pricey upgrades, it keeps things even keel with a simple design while delivering precisely what you need — a packable pack.

The flip-top buckle closure main compartment has plenty of space to stash water, snacks, and extra clothing. Meanwhile, the daisy chain loops and side zipper pocket keep smaller items from getting lost.

The Lightweight pack keeps things simple so you can focus on building precious family memories for years to come.  Buy here

Mystery Ranch In and Out

mystery ranch in and out
Photo: Mystery Ranch

When the military seeks you out to create an ultra-specific pack, you know you’re doin’ something right. From the mountains of Montana, Mystery Ranch supports a good cause where they see fit — whether it be the military or mountains.

While their ethos and ethics are enough to deem them worthy of support, we can’t ignore their products are top-notch. For all those looking to summit, the In and Out is your pack.

It holds up to 19-liters of gear to get you to the top while packing down to the size of a water bottle when you’re resting at home. Speaking of water, it has a 2L hydration reservoir pocket to last you for the day.

Some other useful features we appreciate are the double compression straps, tool loops, and contoured shoulder straps.

Durable, packable, and breathable, you’ll see us at the top with the In and Out.  Buy here

Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Day Pack

sea to summit packable
Photo: Sea to Summit

If you’re going to take the name Sea to Summit, then you better have the experience to back it up. This Australia company does. Founder Roland Tyson was the man responsible for gearing up the first man to ever climb Mount Everest from sea to summit, Tim Macartney-Snape.

With creds like that, you know their gear is top-of-the-line. This is why we recommend their Ultra-Sil Day Pack.

From the outside, this 20-liter pack may not look like much, but don’t be fooled. The simple design keeps it unbelievably light. We’re talking 2.4-ounces light.

If you’re thinking the ultra-light weight compromises its durability, think again. It’s made from a reliable siliconized Cordura which has a prized tear strength-to-weight ratio. For extra reinforcement, all stress points have bar tack stitching.

The Ultra-Sil is the gauntlet if you’re looking for the lightest packable pack on the market. Sea or summit, this tough pack is ready to tackle the journey ahead.  Buy here

Tortuga Outbreaker Daypack

tortuga outbreaker
Photo: Tortuga

Sightseeing and trail jaunts are all good and fun, but you have to make the Benjamins somehow. For those trips when travel involves some hardcore screen time, you’ll be thankful you have the Outbreaker.

Keeping the working traveler in mind, the Outbreaker is specifically designed for laptop friendly travel. Combining laptop bag and backpack into one, this is the only carry on you’ll need.

Rain or shine, this pack has your back. It’s made from X-Pac waterproof sailcloth so there’s no need to worry about damaging your precious goods.

Unlike a traditional laptop bag, it features an incredibly carrying capacity of 21-liters which is plenty to keep you out in the field all day. All things considered, this is an amazing pack even before considering its packability.

This bag isn’t cheap, but for the quality and convenience, it’s worth it.  Buy here

Cotopaxi Luzon 18L Daypack

cotopaxi bag
Photo: Cotopaxi

One glance of this pack and you know it’s Cotopaxi. A unique style of their own, their gear stands out in a crowd, and not just because it looks cool.

Cotopaxi was named after a National Park in Ecuador where founder Davis Smith spent his time exploring as a kid. Inspired by adventure and determined to make a difference, he created Cotopaxi.

Now a Certified B Corp, they’re making kickass gear and fighting the good fight by donating 2-percent of their revenue towards fighting poverty.

For the day adventurer looking to get in on the action, you’ll be interested in taking a gander at their Luzon 18L Daypack.

It’s made from repurposed ripstop nylon, features mesh straps for comfort, and includes a hydration sleeve. Lightweight, durable, and full of personality, this pack is designed for the thrill seeker who defies conventionality and pushes boundaries in constant pursuit of the ultimate journey.  Buy here

Matador Freerain24 Backpack

matador freerain24 pack
Photo: Gueric Nkunzimana

Matador’s Freerain24 is a unique offering, combining packability with waterproofing and an ultra-lightweight design. The weight to capacity storage of this pack is beyond impressive.

The Freerain clocks in at 6.6-ounces with a load capacity of 24-liters, making it one of the roomiest bags on the list. If you’re thinking that makes it a clunker, you’ll be happy to hear it packs down to 5x3x2.5-inches.

The shell is made out of waterproof 30D Cordura and features a siliconized waterproof coating. So when those ominous rain clouds roll in simply reach into the roll-top main compartment to toss on your rain jacket and you’ll be ready.

Keeping things minimal in design, the structure of this pack is what makes it stand out from the rest. Albeit on the pricier side, when you’re exploring the backcountry or stomping around city street puddles, it’s worth every penny.  Buy here or read our Matador Freerain24 review

Arc’teryx Index 15 Backpack

index 15 pack
Photo: Arc’teryx

To understand the unprecedented performance of Arc’teryx, you must first understand the brand. Based out of North Vancouver, Canada, their products are designed and tested in the harsh environment for which they’re made, the Coast Mountains.

Virtually in their backyard, the vast Coast Mountains are the inspiration behind product design. From coast to glacier, the challenging climate of this unpopulated wilderness presents the ideal conditions for product testing. We’d say this meant every product to pass their test is tough and reliable, but that wouldn’t even begin to do them justice.

If quality is what you seek then the Index 15 is your answer. You don’t have to be a peak bagger to appreciate this pack.

Sleek and slim, it keeps things light while providing ample room for gear and your daily allotment of food. There’s space for a hydration bladder or laptop when trading in hiking boots for loafers.

It’s also comes equipped with a quick grab handle, eight external gear loops, adjustable shoulder straps, a key clip in the front pocket, and is constructed from N100mr-HT nylon 6.6 mini-ripstop.

And unlike most Arc’teryx products, this pack is surprisingly budget-friendly for what you get.  Buy here

Looking for packs with more structure? Check out our favorite hiking backpacks under $100, the best waxed canvas backpacks, or reviews of Topo Designs’ Klettersack and Daypack.

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