The Big Test: Summer Daypacks Reviewed (2019)

A 20-30 litre rucksack is the ideal size for all your warmer weather hillwalking essentials, and is even worth considering for year-round fast and light mountain trips. Here’s our round-up of the best options available right now. 

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The Top Three


Alpkit Ledge £62

Tester: Graham Thompson

Low priced and lightweight, so why pay extra or carry more if this pack provides everything a hillwalker needs?

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  • Capacity 30 litres

  • Men’s One size

  • Women’s n/a

  • Weight 827g 

IT’S GOOD

Like all Alpkit products, this rucksack challenges value-for-money norms by offering top quality design at a very competitive price. 

The Ledge is designed with the mountain walker and scrambler in mind, so it is a slim and lightweight yet functional design. It is built around the traditional needs of a mountaineer, with a simple single compartment with top-entry via a single buckle lid that can be extended for more capacity, while the lid gets an internal and external zipped pocket. Side compression straps and stretch side pockets are provided too. 

The back system is lightly stiffened, with raised padded zones to provide comfort and airflow. The hipbelt gets wide fins for more comfort and support as well as mesh zipped pockets. 

The Ledge has all the key features needed, and most walkers or scramblers heading into the hills will find it hard to justify paying more. 

HOWEVER

There are plenty of features this pack doesn’t have that others do, so while it does work really well others have additional benefits. It also comes in just the one size, with no women’s option and no back length adjustment. 

While the back system is good, others are either stiffer in the back or offer more airflow, and either of these factors will probably be worth having for regular hillgoers if you are prepared to pay or carry more. 

Other packs also get a front pocket that is either zipped or a stretch mesh design, and these can be useful for easy on-the-go access to items such as a lightweight waterproof jacket or hat. 

There are zipped pockets on both hipbelt fins but they are annoyingly small compared to others, so they are just not quite as useful. 

VERDICT

Superb value for money, with everything most mountain walkers will want – but it does lack some useful features available on more expensive daypacks.

  • Features 3/5

  • Fit options 3/5

  • Weight 5/5

  • When in use 4/5

  • Value for money 5/5

  • OVERALL SCORE 80%

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Deuter Trail 28 SL / Trail 30 £100

Tester: Ange Harker

Is this stable, close-fitting pack with good ventilation the ideal choice for those tackling rockier terrain? 

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  • Capacity 28/30 litres

  • Women’s One size (Trail 28 SL)

  • Men’s One size (Trail 30)

  • Weight 1130g (inc 67g raincover)

IT’S GOOD

Designed with those who may be heading over rockier terrain in mind, such as the scrambler and more adventurous mountain walker, this pack features a close-fitting, clean style that is clutter-free and yet still offers added ventilation over conventional packs. 

The Air Comfort back system sits close to the back for extra stability but has a wide air chimney up the centre between the padding. I found this provided plenty of ventilation and stopped me from getting too sweaty. 

The main body is clean cut, without too many bits hanging around waiting to snag. There’s a simple single buckle lid, which I loved for its ease of use, and the lid has internal and external pockets. The long side-zipped pocket on the main body is great for a one-litre water bottle, and there’s a zipped hipbelt pocket too. 

The front of the pack also opens up with a zip, so you can access the lower section of the main compartment easily. 

HOWEVER

The pack lacks some nice-to-have features. You don’t get a front stretchy pocket or a big front zipped pocket, which others do have, and this is a shame as those are both useful for stashing waterproofs between showers. 

Strangely there is just one pocket on the hipbelt and yet there is no reason why a pocket could not have been placed on both sections of the hipbelt, to make small items readily available on the go. 

This pack does come in a men’s and women’s version, but there is no additional back length adjustment. Also it is not the lightest or cheapest option, so if these are your priorities then others may be better. 

Finally, the women’s pack has a removable flower attached – is this really necessary when the men’s doesn’t have a removable power tool hanging from it?  

VERDICT

Great pack if you want more stability from a closer-fitting design as well as ventilation for mountain walking and scrambling. 

  • Features 4/5

  • Fit options 4/5

  • Weight 4/5

  • When in use 4/5

  • Value for money 4/5

  • OVERALL SCORE 80%


Osprey Stratos 26 / Sirrus 26 £100

Tester: Tim Butcher

Extra comfortable with more airflow, have we found the ultimate hillwalkers daysack?

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  • Capacity 26 litres

  • Men’s Adjustable back length (Stratos 26)

  • Women’s Adjustable back length (Sirrus 26)

  • Weight 1361g (inc 94g raincover)

IT’S GOOD

With all the features of a larger rucksack built into a day-walk-friendly 26-litre capacity, this pack is instantly appealing. 

It comes with a back system more akin to a big capacity pack, so it has airflow, adjustable length and above all is incredibly comfortable, thanks to a mesh trampoline design that holds the pack away from the body. The back system also has the right level of rigidity, so I did not suffer from lumpy items poking into my back. 

I really liked the ease of access to the main compartment, thanks to a conventional lid. The lid also has two good pockets and the body has a useful large front-zipped pocket, while the two hipbelt pockets are a good size. 

In use I found this pack ideal, as it was comfortable, stable and carried well when it was both almost empty or when overfilled with gear. Above all this is one of those rare 20-30 litre daypacks that works really well with my 6ft 5in body.

HOWEVER

This is heavier than other daypacks, so if you are looking to shave every gram from your load other packs are better. I do love the twin-buckle lid, but a single buckle lid is even quicker to use. Although this is a minor point, when it is bad weather being able to snap together just one buckle rather than two does make a difference. 

If you really love a lid pocket, then some other packs did have slightly larger pockets here. The front zipped pocket is great, but in summer a stretch front mesh pocket is the alternative, so you may prefer packs with that. 

Probably the main reason to choose another pack is if you just prefer zip-around openings or want to spend less money. Of course, many of these issues are really down to personal preferences.

VERDICT

A well-ventilated back system, with the comfort and features normally found on larger capacity designs, makes this rucksack ideal for most hillwalkers.

  • Features 5/5

  • Fit options 5/5

  • Weight 3/5

  • When in use 5/5

  • Value for money 4/5

  • OVERALL SCORE 88%

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The Runners Up


Montane Trailblazer 30 £85                                                     

Tester: Graham Thompson

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  • Capacity 30 litres

  • Men’s Adjustable

  • Women’s n/a

  • Weight 830g 

Designed for rapid mountain travel, this pack is lightweight with a great price and all the key features most hillwalkers will need. 

The main compartment has a buckle-down lid and there are two pockets in the lid, with the outside one being mesh. There is also a large stretch mesh pocket on the front, as well as stretch zipped side mesh pockets that extend from the side of the pack into the hipbelt area for access on the move. Two more zipped pockets are placed on the shoulder straps and these are good for GPS receivers for example. 

The back system can be adjusted for length by raising the shoulder straps on Velcro fastenings and it benefits from some padding and stiffness, but it is not as well padded or stiff and does not enjoy the airflow of other designs. 

Pros

Price, weight, lots of pockets, back length adjustable.

Cons

No women’s specific option with this pack, outside lid pocket is mesh so not water-resistant, back system offers less comfort than some.

Buy it if

You want a lightweight pack for mountain walking, with lots of mesh pockets on the outside for easier access to items on the go.

  • OVERALL SCORE: 76%


Gregory Maya 22 / Miwok 24 £85                       

Tester: Ange Harker

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  • Capacity 22/24 litres

  • Women’s Adjustable back length (Maya 22)

  • Men’s Adjustable back length (Miwok 24)

  • Weight 815g 

This popular lightweight pack has been updated with a new version of the Biosync back system. The shoulder straps and hip fins include stretch and the back panel is soft and flexible, resulting in the pack hugging your back closely while allowing good freedom of movement. 

Back length can be adjusted by raising the shoulder strap harness and there is mesh over the padding of the back panel to increase airflow. 

The main compartment has a zipped opening, but I did find the buckle lid designs easier to use. 

There is a good stretch front pocket for stowing a waterproof and two good-sized hipbelt pockets. I missed having a big lid-style pocket though. 

Whether this rucksack is right for you depends on if you like lids or zip-around openings. 

Pros

Price, weight, back-hugging stretch design, back length adjustable.

Cons

Back system isn’t as stiff as some or as well-ventilated, pockets not as good as others, zipped opening not so easy to pack and unpack as a lid design.

Buy it if

You like a zipped-style opening with a pack that really hugs your back and is lightweight and reasonably priced.

  • OVERALL SCORE: 76%


Lowe Alpine Aeon 27/Aeon 25ND £90             

Tester: Tim Butcher

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  • Capacity 27/25 litres

  • Men’s Adjustable back length (Aeon 27)

  • Women’s Adjustable back length (Aeon 25ND)

  • Weight 816g

This lightweight pack benefits from an adjustable back length system, which was even capable of fitting my 6ft 5in frame, unlike many smaller capacity packs that just don’t work for me. The back system also has a little more stiffening than some, but still sagged when loaded with small but heavy items like my water bottle, so wasn’t really stiff enough for me. Also while it has some airflow there was not enough to prevent a sweatier back than some others. 

The main compartment has a zipped opening that works fine but I do prefer more traditional buckle-lid designs. 

There is a good stretch front pocket, plus two hipbelt pockets and a smaller front zipped pocket, but I did miss a good pair of large lid pockets.

Pros

Weight, back length adjustable and caters for tall people, weight.

Cons

Back system is not the stiffest or most well ventilated, some packs have better pockets, zipped opening was not as good for me as a traditional buckle lid.

Buy it if

You want a very good lightweight pack with a zipped entry to the main compartment.

  • OVERALL SCORE: 76%


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