A good daypack is essential whether you’re hiking, traveling, hunting, going to class, spending a day outdoors, or want a good bug out bag. The possible options out there are literally limitless, which is good for us, but can be a little daunting when you’re first beginning your search. We’ll discuss some features more in-depth later, but for right now let’s talk about what options you’ll want to consider when searching for a pack.
I own a lot of bags. If I’m being honest I have a bit of a gear addiction that probably needs an intervention as well as self-reflection, but that’s a problem for another day and at the very least I can turn my own lack of low impulse control into a productive gear guide so that you all can follow me on this journey of empty wallets and rampant MOLLE gear.
The first thing you should consider when searching for a daypack is what you plan to use it for. Tactical daypacks are available in spades, and there are some excellent choices out there (that we will be discussing in-depth). Of course, you might be more interested in a more subdued bag that doesn’t scream “military”. Perhaps you need something that is just as at home in the office as on a camping trip. All of these possibilities and more are available to you, and we’re going to walk you through selecting the best possible daypack.
First, we’re going to look at all the things you should consider in a pack before jumping into the thorough reviews of each pack. The first consideration should be what you actually plan on using the daypack for. Simply looking for a daypack will be a bit overwhelming because the sheer number of options available are so high. So, before we get into the weeds on factors like denier strength, modularity, and size we need to figure out how you plan on using it.
- Here Are the Best Daypacks in 2020
- 1. Osprey Porter 46 (Best Travel Daypack)
- 2. Osprey Daylite Plus (Attachable)
- 3. Osprey Talon 22 (Best Hiking Daypack)
- 4. Rush12 24L 5.11 (Best Tactical Daypack)
- 5. Tenzing 2220 (Best for Hunting)
- 6. CamelBak Fourteener 24
- 7. Mystery Ranch 2 Day Assault Pack
- 8. Vertx Gamut 2.0
- 9. Hazard 4 Second Front
- 10. Marine Corps Issued 3 Day FILBE Assault Pack
Daypacks are a pretty large category. There are tactical assault packs, hiking daypacks, travel bags, and school or work bags. Before you can decide on which bag is the one for you, you need to put some thought into what you’re going to be using it for. Most daypacks have some inherent versatility so they’re not just a single purpose piece of gear. However, as a bag become more specialized it tends to lose some of its versatility. For simplicity’s sake, we can (very broadly) generalize daypacks into a few categories: tactical, travel, and outdoors. There will obviously be some overlap between these different categories, but a pure tactical daypack will look very different from a carry-on compliant travel daypack. We’ll use the term “versatility” to refer to a bag’s ability to fulfill the requirements of multiple of these categories.
A bag that can be used both on a camping trip as well as at the office essentially does the job of two separate bags and may be worth the compromises of hybridization. Be careful of trying to hard to find something that does everything you need in a bag though. If you try to be strong at everything, you’re going to be weak everywhere. Decide what you want in a bag and don’t compromise just go get a better deal somewhere else. At the end of the day, you’re going to have to make your own value decision on what you want, but we’ll do our best to point you in the right direction.
Tactical vs. Non-tactical?
Odds are if you’re on this site you’re going to be looking for a tactical pack, but there’s still something to be said for flying under the radar and being as “invisible” as possible. Sometimes you don’ want to draw attention to yourself, and nothing highlights a servicemember more than a huge MOLLE’d out pack when they’re walking around the mall. Luckily you don’t have to sacrifice on features or capabilities if you decide to go with a civilian looking bag.
Brands like Vertx do an excellent job of blending high-quality military function with a low-key aesthetic that often is the best of both worlds in most scenarios. If you plan on doing any international travel, I highly recommend you bring along a civilian travel pack instead of one that appears military-themed. Most locals in other countries are incredibly friendly, but when traveling you want to maintain a low-profile (ultimately nothing is more tactical than being invisible).
The fabric the pack is made out of is incredibly important. You don’t want to have to replace your bag every year, so selecting a pack made out of durable and reliable material is a must. We could go into an extremely long science lecture explaining all the different factors affecting material strength, but I decided to save both of us the headache and give you the important basics necessary to understand prior to making an informed purchase.
You’ll most likely see terms such as denier, tenacity, and weave thrown around when referring to a material’s strength. These varying units can be frustrating when trying to compare the durability of two packs with different materials and different measurements, so here are the basic working definitions.
Denier: Often abbreviated with just a “D”, denier is a measurement of the thickness of a fabric. A higher denier does not always imply greater durability. For instance, a high denier cotton fabric will still tear sooner than a lower denier piece of rip-stop nylon, but you can use it as a basepoint when comparing two products made with the same material.
Stitching: The stitching of a pack is measured by the inch. A strong reliable pack will have at least 7 stitches per inch. Material will be weakest (not to mention the least water-resistant!) at the seams where they’re stitched together. Ensure your pack has strong and dense stitching or you’re going to be replacing it before long.
Tenacity: A fabric’s tenacity is its ability to resist further tearing after already being torn. This is mostly a factor of a fabric’s denier and weave. Hopefully you never actually get a tear in your bag. However, if you do you don’t want to be completely out of commission before you can get it repaired or replaced. A nice and tenacious material works like a spare tire, giving you those last dozen miles or so before you can stop for repairs.
Additionally, there are a few common materials that you will see frequently advertised.
Canvas: This is the old school tactical material your grandfather was probably using back in Vietnam. Canvas is made out of cotton with a wax coating for waterproofing. It’s a heavier fabric and not as reliable as more modern materials, but it certainly has a cool aesthetic to it. Go ahead and grab one if you’re going for that old-school-cool look, but its functionality will be limited. I would recommend looking into other materials unless you only plan on using the pack for the school/office.
Codura/Kodra: The Codura company got its start back in WWII making tires for the military and has since developed into one of the biggest names in the fabric industry. Codura material is highly durable and resistant to abrasion. You’ve most likely used products with Codura fabric before without even knowing about it. Kodra is another company that makes fabric essentially the same as Codura. They’re not 100% interchangeable, but for the purpose of this review, they function very similarly. Codura and Kodra fabrics will generally be lighter than ballistic nylon and have a slightly higher resistance to abrasion. Seeing that a daypack is made from Codura fabric is generally a good indication that the company takes pride in using high quality materials.
Ballistic Nylon: Ballistic nylon got its start as a fabric intended to protect military personnel from shrapnel, bullets, etc. back in WW2. Think of it as a bit of a precursor to Kevlar. Ballistic nylon wasn’t very effective at stopping bullets, but it turns out it can be used to make some pretty great bags. It’s going to be a bit heavier than Codura which translates to a higher tear resistance.
The ability to customize the compartments on your pack increases its use and value immensely. The Modular Lightweight Load-carrying Equipment system (MOLLE for short) is an incredible tool that allows you to attach additional carrying compartments onto your pack. PALS (Pouch Attachment Ladder System) is the actual webbing that runs along a pack or piece of gear. The two terms are often used interchangeably, so don’t be confused if you see MOLLE used in the place of PALS. MOLLE is the compatibility system and standard, while the PALS webbing is what the gear actually attaches to. PALS/MOLLE is used in the US Military extensively for increasing carrying capacity and improving organization. Proper MOLLE additions to a pack often almost double what you’re able to carry.
PALS webbing is stitched onto the exterior of your pack (and occasionally even inside) to allow you to weave the straps of additional carrying compartments onto your pack. You can attach anything from extra pockets, to a hydration bladder for a camelback, to a knife onto your bag with MOLLE. Any good tactical pack will have plenty of MOLLE attachment points.
Perhaps the best part of MOLLE is that it’s a universal standard, meaning you could buy a pack from one brand and attach pieces of MOLLE gear from other brands since they all use the same measurements for their webbing. It really is a genius system that I wouldn’t go without in a tactical pack.
Organization and Volume
You’re buying a pack to carry stuff after all, so it’s important to make sure that the pack is large enough to carry everything you need without being too much of a cumbersome mess. Proper gear organization will go a long way in being able to fit the maximum amount of gear into your pack while still having a good weight distribution. Consider whether you want options such as a dedicated laptop sleeve, exterior water bottle pouch, interior pockets, etc. Many packs are built with one large compartment with few other smaller compartments. This can be beneficial if you’re carrying larger items, but I prefer to pack as tightly as possible and often find that with single compartment packs my gear ends up shifting around a lot more than I’d like. This is entirely an individual preference, so you need to think about the sizes of the items you’re planning on carrying.
Here Are the Best Daypacks in 2020
1. Osprey Porter 46 (Best Travel Daypack)
Estimated Price: $150
My Review: The Osprey Porter excels at travel. Now I’d be a little worried taking it out into the mud, dirt, and grime of the great outdoors but it’s the perfect weekend warrior which thrives in an airport. You’re not going to be taking the Porter with you in the field for training events, but that’s not what it was made to do. The Porter was designed by Osprey to be the ultimate airport companion. I lived out of this pack for two months while traveling around the world and was never once let down. The Porter is designed to be the maximum allowable size as a carry-on which means you’ll be breezing through airports without the need to check any bags.
One thing I love about the Porter is that it really doesn’t seem like a big bag until you’ve got it completely full.
The first thing you notice about the Porter are the two StraghtJacket compression wings (Osprey’s proprietary term for panels that allow you to compress the bag). The thick “wings” are made of a dense padded material which give a good deal of protection to the interior of the pack. Two compression straps on the front allow you to adjust the total volume of the bag as much as you need. Variable compression straps allow you to adjust the thickness from about six inches to over a foot and a half. You can comfortably use the Porter for a day trip with just the basics to a two-month long trip and fully loaded. The adjustable straps mean you never feel like the bag is too big for its contents.
The Porter is made from a durable 420HD nylon material that, while not completely waterproof, will be more than enough to handle some rain and snow when necessary. Trust me, this bag got absolutely drenched in rain and kept everything inside completely dry. The Porter has large, durable YKK zippers that have yet to snag on me at all. It’s a minor touch, but zipper malfunctions can seriously ruin your day and I’m happy to put them in the rearview mirror.
The bag has three compartments. The largest compartment accounts for about 90% of its storage space and can unzip on three sides for complete access to the interior.
The secondary compartment has room for a laptop, charger cables, and other smaller accessories. There is a third front-facing pouch on the front that I found useful for storing small things I might need in a hurry.
The Porter is comfortable enough for a pack without an internal support structure. Suspension straps on the shoulder straps help lift the weight of the pack higher on your back while a modest waist belt also bears some of the weight. I won’t lie: I did a few 5+ mile walks through cities with this bag and it gets a bit uncomfortable. That’s mostly due to the inherent limitations of a daypack, so if you’re planning on walking considerable distances while traveling I would recommend going for a larger bag with a support frame.
One convenient feature of the Porter is the ability to stow both the shoulder and hip belt inside pockets of the bag to convert it into a duffel bag of sorts. A thick padded strap on the side of the bag lets you carry it comfortably by hand if you choose, but with thickly padded shoulder straps I never felt the need.
If you forced me to find something I don’t like about the pack it would be the lack of side water bottle pockets. This may sound a bit minor, but when it’s your only bag your options are carrying the water bottle, jamming it inside your bag, or trying to clip it to one of the exterior attachment points. None of those options are the end of the world, but at the same time, they aren’t ideal.
What I like: The Porter is a great travel bag that will hold everything you need while saving you from needing to check a bag. Paired with some good quality compression bags you’ll be able to fit over a week of clothes and supplies. The straight jacket compression wings let you cinch this bag down to a pretty small profile or stuff it to the brim.
What I Don’t Like: The lack of an external water bottle holder can make carrying water a bit awkward. The bag is designed to be able to stow the shoulder and hip straps to be used as a duffle bag, but the duffle bag strap is an additional purchase.
Bottom Line: The Porter is the perfect bag for minimalist travelers. If you came to this article looking for a tactical daypack, I would recommend something else, but in my opinion, this is the best carry-on compatible bag you can purchase for travel.
2. Osprey Daylite Plus (Attachable)
Estimated Price: $70
My Review: The Osprey Daylite Plus is a great daypack that’s smaller than the Osprey Porter. Like the Osprey Porter, the Daylite Plus was designed with public travel in mind. If you’re looking for something a bit more rugged and athletic I would recommend reading the next review on the Talon 22.
The Daylite is constructed from the same high quality nylon material that Osprey uses with most of their gear, and features durable YKK zippers as well. You’ll get about 20-liters of storage out of the Daylite which is more than enough for a weekend of travel if you’re packing well.
The Daylite manages to be a well-designed bag that looks great while still maintaining a high degree of function. A stretch pocket on the front of the bag can be adjusted to hold anything from a bicycle helmet to a tarp or jacket. Exterior side pockets allow you to carry a water bottle or hiking poles, a feature sorely missed in its bigger brother the Porter.
Speaking of the Porter, the Daylite is designed to attach on to most of Ospreys larger bags in their lineup. By using two exterior buckles and the waist strap on the Daylite, you can mount the bag onto attachment points on the Porter or even larger backpacks. It’s certainly a nice touch for someone who already owns a larger Osprey bag and is looking for something smaller as a daypack.
Osprey definitely knows how to design a bag for ease of use. After decades of designing backs for long outdoors adventures, they’ve certainly got comfort down to a science. The Daylite features curved and padded shoulder straps that conform to the shape of your body and help distribute the load of the bag evenly across your back and shoulder. A sternum strap also assists in weight management while also featuring a safety whistle as a nice additional touch. A modest hip belt can also be used or tucked away if you decide you don’t need it. You won’t be loading a ton of weight into the Daylite, so you might find you really don’t need the extra support.
The Daylite has two small exterior pockets for quick access. One is located on the front of the stretch panel and has a vertical zipper similar to the Porter. The second quick-access pocket is located at the top of the pack and is ideal for stuffing sunglasses or a phone into a safe place. The primary compartment of the bag has a few additional pockets while not being too crowded. A laptop sleeve lets you secure an average 15-inch laptop without too much difficulty. A hydration pouch in the bag allows you to fit a water bladder inside if you choose. I don’t see a lot of travel daypacks in this size with that feature, so it’s definitely a bonus.
If you like the Daylite plus but want to go for an even smaller daypack, I would recommend looking into the base Daylite here. It will be essentially the same pack, but it has a storage capacity of 13-liters as opposed to 20. It doesn’t have the same external stretch pocket as well, but that may or may not be an issue to you.
What I Like: The Daylite is a great smaller daypack that’s perfect for a day out in the city or some light hiking. It’s backed by Osprey’s incredible warranty and is made from nothing but the best materials.
What I Don’t Like: Other people may find a use for it, but I haven’t really found a great way to utilize the stretch pocket on the front. I don’t really bike much, so I won’t be fitting a helmet in there. The stretch pocket may be able to fit a lot, but you run the risk of losing gear since the top is open and items could fall out.
Bottom Line: The Daylite is a good standalone bag, but really shines when it is used in conjunction with one of Osprey’s larger bags. It can conveniently be attached to other bags when you’re on the move, but then disconnected when you want something smaller for a quick trip. This makes it perfect for travel as you can leave the big bags in your hotel or hostel and hit the city with a smaller pack.
3. Osprey Talon 22 (Best Hiking Daypack)
Estimated Price: $110
My Review: If you’re wondering why you’re seeing so many Osprey bags on this list, it’s because Osprey seriously makes high quality gear that won’t (completely) destroy your checking account. The Talon 22 is the bigger, more athletic brother to the Daylite. The base talon is available in multiple storage sizes ranging from 11-liters to 44-liters. We’re reviewing the 22-liter model because I feel it gives the best blend of size, portability, and function for a daypack. The larger 44-liter model is essentially a small backpack and at that point you should start looking into bags with internal frames.
The Talon 22 is a lean hybrid between a travel bag and an outdoors bag. Osprey made this bag for the light and fast minimalist adventures, and it continues to be ranked among the best daypacks in its category after being on the market for years.
Osprey designed the Talon very ergonomically which lets the pack rest comfortably on your body while being suspended by shoulder straps and a hip belt. While it doesn’t use a rigid internal frame, the Talon uses stiff but breathable foam on its back to support weight while still promoting ventilation to keep you cool. A large and generous waist strap wraps around you to provide comfortable support and help take the weight off your shoulders.
At 23-Liters of internal volume, the Talon edges out the Daylite on sheer storage capacity, but also makes intelligent use of its external attachment points for even more gear carrying capability. A helmet lock lets you pull a plastic ring through the ventilation port in your helmet to secure it to the outside of your pack. It’s a clever little addition that shows Osprey really put thought into how the Talon would work into our daily lives. The Talon features other additional external features to carry trekking poles or other longer pieces of gear if necessary. An external water sleeve lets you insert a hydration bladder, or you can elect to just use the side water bottle holders as well.
The internal pockets of the Talon are roomy enough to carry just about everything you would need on a hiking trip or night outdoors. I would limit the use of the Talon to trips outdoors. While it’s a great all-around pack, the non-removable hip straps make it a bit awkward for day to day use.
What I Like: The Talon is well suited for the outdoor hobbyist who wants something for their day excursions. It’s perfect for hiking daytrips, biking, and even travel if you plan on doing a lot of walking.
What I Don’t Like: I would have preferred a removable waist strap on the Talon. It might not have been possible given the construction of the belt, but it turns me off of the Talon for use as a daily bag. This may not be an issue to you, especially if you only plan on using it for outdoor trips.
Bottom Line: Purchase the Talon if you’re looking for a durable outdoors pack with a great warranty. Osprey has one of the best warranties available. You can use the bag for a decade, send it in when it breaks, and they’ll still repair it for you.
4. Rush12 24L 5.11 (Best Tactical Daypack)
Estimated Price: $100
My Review: I would honestly be amazed if you hadn’t seen 5.11 before. At this point they probably manufacture a tactical version of just about everything you could imagine, and backpacks are no exception. You won’t go wrong purchasing a 5.11 pack, and they are often found at a lower price than some of the other, pricier alternatives.
The 5.11 Rush12 is an elegantly simple tactical assault pack you could comfortably use for school and work as well as outdoors. With 24 liters of storage, the pack is roughly average in carrying capacity for assault packs and has 16 individual compartments for gear organization and storage. The Rush12 is built with 1050D nylon which means that its durable and has 15x the strength of steel! The material is more than enough for a rugged lifestyle and is plenty capable of dealing with the rain. If you expect unusually heavy rain on your trip, though, I would recommend covering up with a tarp though.
The main compartment is roomy enough for a laptop, books, and other assorted work supplies. You could also easily fit in food, water, and other supplies if you’re looking for a survival pack. There is no dedicated laptop sleeve in the Rush12, and to be fair, that’s not what the pack was designed for, but if you’re planning on using it to carry your laptop, I would recommend purchasing a laptop sleeve to protect it. The interior walls of the main compartment are lined with additional pockets and dividers which allows you to further organize your pack. Being able to store items in specific compartments instead of just throwing them all together in one large pocket is a must-have feature for me.
24 liters of storage may not initially sound like a lot, but with tight packing and creative use of external MOLLE compatible gear, you can get a surprising amount of use out of the Rush12. We were able to get along just fine on a three-day camping trip with just the Rush12 carrying our food, clothes, shelter, and sleeping bag. Some good MOLLE attachments make it pretty simple to carry more gear like a tent or sleeping system on the exterior if you choose.
A tactical daypack needs to be able to give you what you need quickly and in a hurry. You never know when you’re going to need to potentially retrieve some first aid supplies (or other critical items) and you don’t want to spend precious seconds rummaging through your pack. Mesh pockets and a large elastic drawstring pocket inside the main compartment keeps your gear organized. The side pockets are roomy enough to store a water bottle or rolled up poncho. The Rush12 has many customization and storage options, so if you can’t fit something inside its probably your fault.
The secondary, smaller compartment on the front of the pack measures 12 by 9 inches and provides enough room for writing gear, cables, or other assorted items. A fleece-lined pocket at the top of the pack allows you to keep your glasses safe a scratch-free while still being easily accessible. The hydration pouch on the pack allows you to bring along a water bladder as well without having to place it in the main compartment with everything else. Ambidextrous hose ports at the top of the pack let you route the water tube over either shoulder and through elastic bands on the shoulder strap for accessibility.
MOLLE webbing runs around just about every exposed portion of the exterior of the pack, allowing for just about an unlimited amount of customization and modularity. You can get this pack in just about every tactical color: black, grey, Multicam, and sandstone. The pack we reviewed was black and has a great tactical look without being too obvious.
The Rush12 has wide shoulder straps for comfort and weight distribution with an additional sternum strap to keep the weight from shifting as you walk. I was disappointed by the lack of an included hip strap in the Rush12, but it does have buckles to attach one should you choose to. A good hip strap is essential if you’re carrying any amount of weight a considerable distance but isn’t a requirement by any means if you’re using the pack more casually. If you really want to, 5.11 sells hip belts, but you should have no trouble finding one from any surplus store or gear provider.
What I like: The Rush12 is a durable and well-sized back for day excursions or as an emergency kit. The pack is made of durable and reliable materials, including YKK zippers (a well known and respected brand). Plentiful MOLLE webbing means you’ll be able to customize the pack however you want, and drastically increase its versatility. At $100, this pack is an excellent budget choice that won’t hurt the wallet too much.
What I don’t like: The lack of a hip strap is kind of a downer but you could always purchase one as an add-on if you think you’ll need the extra stability, especially for long hikes with this thing packed to the brim with gear.
Bottom Line: The 5.11 Rush12 is the ubiquitous and instantly recognizable tactical pack that everyone loves. I would recommend this pack to someone looking for a well-made basic tactical pack that can go through hell getting the job done and come out no worse for the wear. The Rush12 is well specialized for outdoor and tactical use, but (besides the lack of laptop sleeve) works perfectly well in the school or office.
5. Tenzing 2220 (Best for Hunting)
Estimated Price: $190
My Review: Any hunters interested in a new pack should give the Tenzing 2220 a thoughtful consideration. The 2220 was designed from the ground up for hunters and outdoorsmen in mind. The hunting camo, firearm carrying boot, and quiet zippers make this daypack an excellent choice for outdoor use.
At 2400 cubic inches (about 40L) the 2220 has more than enough space for your average outing and could even be stretched to be used for longer multi-day trips outdoors thanks to its compression straps and good compartment organization. A built-in bow or gun-carrying system allows you to keep your weapon safe and secure while the nylon boot covers the base of the weapon to keep it safe from brush. An included rainfly lets you quickly waterproof your pack when necessary.
At only four pounds, the 2220 is fairly light for its capacity while maintaining a good degree of durability. There are eleven specialized compartments throughout the pack which streamlines your gear organization and storage. The pack even uses color-coded zippers to make storage even simpler.
You won’t find any PALS webbing on the pack for MOLLE gear, but there are some attachment points on the base of the pack that can still be adapted to carry some more gear. It would be perfect for attaching a sleeping system or even a tent if you decide to use the 2220 for an overnight trip.
Though the pack is made from some pretty durable material, I wasn’t able to find out exactly what it is. Tenzing only advertises that they use Robic rip-stop nylon at high-stress areas but doesn’t go into the specifics of what kind of nylon they used for the rest of the pack. I’m not concerned about the pack ripping on me anytime soon, but it’s always nice knowing what you’re getting.
The support frame on the Tenzing 2220 is impressive. It utilizes a rigid aluminum frame to keep weight down while still giving you the support necessary to carry it for long period of time. Comfortable padded shoulder straps with multiple adjustment points and a sternum strap work in conjunction with a well-padded hip strap to keep the weight evenly distributed across your back and hips. The padding on the hip strap is generous and ample enough to ensure the straps don’t dig uncomfortably into your side. Cushioned and ventilated pads on the back of the pack keep you comfortable while you’re carrying it without being too large to add much bulk or weight.
I also really appreciate the zippered pockets on the side of the hip straps that make quick access to gear a breeze. The zippered pockets on the top ensure you don’t accidentally lose anything while moving through rough terrain or vegetation. They are also detachable so you can go without the added weight if you choose to.
There are four compartments accessible from the exterior of the pack (not including the two hip strap pockets) that are intelligently designed for optimal space use. Zippered side pockets that run the length of the pack are excellent for storing maps or other smaller accessories while still being relatively easily accessible. The main compartment is accessible either through the top flap or by the front-facing pocket. A hydration pocket lets you insert your own water bladder and hose as well.
The interior space is well proportioned and organized you shouldn’t have any trouble fitting enough equipment and supplies for a few days inside, and the rigid frame makes it significantly easier to carry. Sub compartments inside the main pocket are a nice plus but don’t sacrifice too much of the overall interior storage capacity.
At 2400 cubic inches or roughly 40L, the Tenzing is one of the larger daypacks we’re reviewing. You’re only going to want to use it for specific outdoor purposes which is where it shines. It fits into a nice niche between smaller packs and the larger outright backpacks of 70+ liters. It’s the perfect size for an overnight trip to bring more than just the bare essentials. Assuming you’re using it for hunting, it will have the room and pockets necessary for carrying your gun and ammo as well.
What I Like: The 2220 is a well-constructed large daypack with a solid and lightweight frame. Quiet zippered pockets and a bow /gun carrying boot makes it an ideal daypack for a hunter. Large and plentiful pockets mean you won’t have to leave gear at home that you otherwise would have preferred to bring.
What I Don’t Like: It’s hard to find anything to gripe about on this daypack. It does a great job of doing what it was designed to do. If I were hard pressed, I might complain about the lack of PALS webbing or a more durable material, but that would be nitpicking beyond what’s reasonable.
Bottom Line: The Tenzing 2220 will be an excellent purchase if you’re looking for a good hunting pack. I would even recommend it if you don’t plan on hunting and just want a daypack for use outdoors. The aluminum frame means your ability to carry gear comfortably will be greatly increased over other packs in this category because you generally have to start looking at larger backpacks before you find an internal frame like this.
6. CamelBak Fourteener 24
Estimated Price: $150
My Review: The Fourteener, made by CamelBak, is a well designed blend between a daypack and a typical hydration pack. If anyone knows how to make a camelback, well, it’s going to be CamelBak. They’ve been so successful over the years that hydration bladders are pretty much universally called CamelBaks.
The Fourteener boasts 21-liters of storage capacity as well as 3-liters of water. At three pounds, the fourteener is definitely heavier than a lot of its competition. Something you’ll need to consider before you jump into any purchases.
The extra weight isn’t wasted though. The fourteener has multiple spacious pockets as well as a respectable support system. The non-removable hip straps are well padded for comfort and the back panel is cushioned with horizontal channels for ventilation. The padding on the back of this daypack is more considerable than most other bags in its category. Depending on how you feel about trading weight for comfort, you may or may not dislike the Fourteener.
Multiple quick-stash pockets make gear organization and storage pretty simple. An exterior sunglasses case keeps your glasses safe while other external pockets are perfect for smaller items you may need quickly. There’s only one external water bottle holder, but I don’t see how you can complain too much about that when the pack was designed by the company that pretty much made water bottles obsolete.
What I Like: The Fourteener is a well-padded pack designed for use on short hiking trips. The included water bladder is a nice plus and the pack sits comfortably on your back with excellent ventilation.
What I Don’t Like: This pack is definitely designed with just one purpose in mind. It’s not a very versatile pack, but when it excels so much as a hiking bag I can’t really criticize it that much. It does its job well but, like the USMC FILBE pack on this list, it really shouldn’t be used for other purposes.
Bottom Line: This is a great daypack for some hiking out a trip outdoors. For longer hiking trips I would recommend a bag with a bit more space for sustainment, but as a single-day adventure pack, the Fourteener is at the top of its class.
7. Mystery Ranch 2 Day Assault Pack
Estimated Price: $200
My Review: The Mystery Ranch 2-day assault pack is another great addition to our lineup of great packs. Constructed from 500D Cordura, the Mystery Ranch has the durability it needs to handle whatever you throw at it. The pack utilizes YKK zippers as well, ensuring zipper malfunctions remain nothing more than a memory of previous equipment.
The most noticeable feature of the Mystery Ranch pack is its tri-zipper design that opens the pack along the top as was as down the length of the body. You can get some serious access to the interior compartments with this design, which should make loading even the largest and most awkward pieces of gear a breeze. I wish I had something like this when I was trying to cram my helmet into my assault pack. That is something that does not like small openings. Two straps on the front of the pack can buckle and tighten which allows you to keep your pack tight and reduces shifting within the bag.
The exterior of the pack is equipped with the standard MOLLE webbing along the front and part of the sides. A strip of Velcro is located on the top flap of the pack for any patches you may want to attach. The 2-day edition of the assault pack (the one we’re reviewing) has an internal capacity of 27 liters and features a floating laptop sleeve to protect your computer. The pack also has two water bottle sleeves located on the sides.
A zippered compartment on the top flap of the pack allows for access to a smaller compartment. The compartment is also conveniently accessible from the inside of the pack via a zipper. This small touch increases the overall usability of the pack and shows that Mystery Ranch put effort into designing a pack that’s meant to be used.
The shoulder straps are adjustable and have a sternum strap for better weight distribution. I appreciate the fact that the Mystery Ranch shoulder straps are adjustable from a strap near the shoulder as well as the typical adjustment strap below the armpit. That strap at the top that sits on your shoulders allows you to pull the weight of the pack higher up on your back and can make a huge difference in comfort. Mystery Ranch gets bonus points for including a removable hip strap which features a simple buckle for installation or removal. Ventilated padding on the back of the pack provides comfort as well as air movement to help manage body heat when you’re moving. You’ll be able to purchase the pack in black, forest green, and coyote tan.
The spacious interior, made even more accessible thanks to the Y-shaped zipper design, features multiple interior compartments for organization and gear storage. A hydration pouch located inside keeps your water bladder separate from the rest of your gear and the hose can be run through an access port near the top of the pack.
Interior dump pouches and two mesh zippered pockets line the inside walls of the main compartment. I’m a bit of an organization freak when it comes to packing a bag, so I would have preferred to have a few more storage options inside the main compartment, but that’s a personal preference and a very small one at that. A full-length plastic frame inside the pack provides a support structure and helps ensure the weight of the pack lies evenly across your back. The plastic frame is removable as well if you decide that you don’t like it or need the pack to fold up into a smaller size.
What I Like: The most standout feature of the Mystery Ranch daypack is the Y-shaped zipper design. It really lets you open the pack up as much as you want so you can fit more stuff. The extensive MOLLE webbing on the exterior and two roomy side pockets for water bottles make this pack great not just for its carrying capacity, but also as a versatile everyday carry bag.
What I don’t like: I would have liked to see more interior sub-compartments for organization, and I don’t love that the laptop sleeve is right against the back of the pack.
Bottom Line: The Mystery Ranch is a great pack for someone looking for a daypack with a more tactical aesthetic and a lot of carrying capacity. It’s a great bug out bag or possible EDC bag, but it may struggle to keep up in a business environment.
8. Vertx Gamut 2.0
Estimated Price: $160
My Review: The Vertx Gamut 2.0 delivers a tactical and durable pack in a discreet and unassuming style that I can’t help but like. The Gamut is available in common backpack colors that make it completely at home in a school or office environment without drawing attention to yourself. You won’t find this pack in coyote tan, but it is available in black or other casual color combinations.
Vertx got its start as a company in 2009 following a request from a top federal agency (they don’t say who, but I’m willing to bet it was one with three letters in its name) for a low profile, tactical pair of pants. Turns out they made pretty good pants and decided to see what else they could do well. They took the initial design philosophy and have expanded on it to include bags and packs. Everything you can purchase from Vertx will be discreet and unlikely to draw any additional attention to yourself.
Sometimes discretion is the better part of conflict, and there are countless situations where you’ll be better served by a pack that doesn’t scream “MILITARY!” or concealed carry.
That isn’t to say that the Gamut suffers for its civilian looks. Once past the deceptive exterior, you’ll find a good deal of MOLLE webbing, CCW attachments, durable material, and plentiful organization compartments.
A “stealth” panel of MOLLE webbing exists behind a false panel on the front of the pack that can be tucked away if you desire. MOLLE webbing is really the main indication of a tactical pack, so it can be beneficial to have the option to cover it up if you so choose. Keep in mind that the exterior flap is only so large, so you won’t be able to fit a lot of bulky items onto the webbing and still be able to zip the cover over it. A single 1×1 inch Velcro patch on the top of the pack is just about the only “tactical” looking feature immediately visible on the exterior.
Other exterior compartments include two water bottle holders as well as side pockets. The water bottle sleeves are attached to the side pocket compartment meaning that if you fully load up the pockets to the point that they’re building outwards, you might not have enough space in the sleeve to fit a water bottle. It’s a minor gripe, but something you should keep in mind. The side pockets are intelligently designed and have room for a phone or notebooks. They also include sleeves for pens and pencils.
The shoulder straps are well made, and the back is cushioned with some foam to let the pack sit more comfortably on your back. The Gamut does have a small hip strap that can be easily tucked away if you choose. While it’s comfortable to wear, I wouldn’t recommend taking the Gamut very far with any considerable weight. It’s just not made to be an overland pack the way some other daypacks are. It’s an easy thing to forgive though when you remember the bag is designed to blend in with your coworkers and peers rather than be used as an assault pack.
The large interior compartment is spacious enough to be used as a weekend bag if necessary, but you’ll be a bit limited on what you can bring. Internal mesh compartments inside the main compartment help out with further gear organization and storage while being relatively unobtrusive when not in use.
Another compartment on the backside of the pack can be unzipped as an easily accessible CCW compartment with attachment points for Vertx’s proprietary Tactigami system which is essentially a well-thought fixture for a holster inside the pack. You can even install bulletproof ballistic panels inside the pack if you choose, further increasing its use in an emergency scenario.
What I like: The Gamut is a good-looking bag that eschews the typical tactical aesthetic for a more lean, low-profile look that will be at home in the workplace or school. Stealth MOLLE webbing, a CCW pocket, and lining for ballistic panels mean the Gamut can pack quite the punch in an unassuming profile. YKK zippers are used throughout the pack, meaning your likelihood of a zipper jam is reduced.
What I Don’t like: I would have liked to see a higher strength material used in the Gamut. I understand that you have to sacrifice some features when going for a low-profile approach, but the bonded nylon material won’t hold up to the same degree as more durable packs made from Cordura. You won’t be using this pack in harsh environments, but I still prefer my gear to be “everything-proof”.
Bottom Line: Shoppers looking for a more typical tactical pack should look elsewhere, but for those interested in being discreet, I would recommend the Gamut 2.0 without hesitation. The price is a bit higher than average, but you’re getting a lot of value for what you’re paying.
9. Hazard 4 Second Front
Estimated Price: $110
My Review: I love to write about new and innovative products that still maintain a high-quality standard, and the Hazard 4 Second Front has been a blast to review. Hazard 4 put a lot of effort into designing the Second Front for the user. Small details like locking buckles, ergonomically located pull tabs, and a drop-down gear organizer all make you feel like you’re using a backpack that was made just for you.
Each compartment you open in the Second Front introduces you to new ingenious organization methods that make storing and finding what you’re looking for an absolute breeze. Dropdown compartments, zippered sub-compartments, and hardpoint all work together intelligently.
The Second Front is unique in that it is designed to be used either on your back or your chest. By removing one arm from the shoulder strap you can swing the pack onto your chest like any other backpack. The Second Front takes it a step farther with its front exterior pocket being configured to unzip and drop-down sideways, which allows you to have the pocket oriented correctly when swung across your chest. This clever trick lets you access most of your bag’s contents without ever taking it off. Tabs on either side of the drop-down compartment keep the top flap from dropping all the way and creates a small work surface perpendicular to your chest.
The Second Front’s ability to be used from your chest isn’t just a gimmick. It’s an incredibly useful feature that has significant real-life benefits. The pros of the Second Front don’t just stop at the sideways compartment. The entire pack is designed with durability and ease of use in mind.
Hardpoints and MOLLE webbing covers the exterior of the pack, making gear customization and organization simple. The exterior of the front pocket has a large surface for Velcro patches as well as laser-cut MOLLE attachment points as opposed to the traditional webbing found elsewhere on the pack. Attachment points littered around the pack allow you to use Hazard 4’s proprietary HardPoint attachment system. The HardPoints are essentially attachable loops and hooks that can be affixed to both the exterior and interior of the pack. You can use these for anything from running a hydration tub along your pack to holding equipment stationary inside the main compartment. I can’t imagine HardPoints being able to do anything that MOLLE webbing can’t, but their potential on the inside of the pack for further gear organization is intriguing.
The Second Front also has excellent characteristic more typical to daypacks in general. Hazard 4 uses Cordura as the exterior material of the Second Front which keeps the pack relatively water-resistant as well as highly durable. An additional water repellent coating is applied to the pack which functions to further protect your equipment from damage. A large interior compartment features multiple zippered sub-compartments which don’t significantly detract from overall storage volume should you decide not to use them. The zipper for the main compartment runs along three sides of the pack, giving you the ability to pen the pack all the way up like a suitcase for loading and unloading equipment.
Thankfully Hazard 4 updated the Second Front recently with a removeable hip strap. I love a good hip strap on my pack, but nothing is more annoying than having one when you don’t need it. Buckles on the side allow you to take it off when not in use.
A hydration pocket located in the back of the pack allows for a water bladder to be kept separate from other items. The hydration pocket has a trap door at the top for a hose which can be run over your shoulder.
What I like: The Second Front is a killer, versatile daypack made with the highest quality materials. The inner linings of the pack are made with soft material to protect your equipment. The rotatable function allows you to swing the pack in front of you for quick access to the admin compartment. I love the lockable buckles on the pack which ensure you don’t accidentally unbuckle your shoulder strap when putting the pack on.
What I Don’t like: The rotating feature of the bag is only designed to rotate to one side, meaning left-handed users will find the pack awkward and a bit cumbersome when accessed from their chest. The laptop sleeve, though lined with felt, is on the outermost compartment of the bag closest to your back. I’m sure a laptop would be safe in there, but I prefer my electronics to have a bit more material between them and the outside of the pack.
Bottom Line: The Second Front is a well-constructed pack with an interesting rotating feature that might not be practical or useful for everyone. The Second Front doesn’t sit on its novel laurels and still manages to be an excellent pack regardless of if you plan on using its chest configuration. Durable materials and a good build quality means that this is a pack your children could be using long after you.
10. Marine Corps Issued 3 Day FILBE Assault Pack
Estimated Price: $100
My Review: I’m sorry, I just had to. There was no way I could write an article about the best daypacks available without mentioning the standard-issue USMC 3 day assault pack. There’s just something about using the same equipment as the world’s most effective fighting force that warms the heart and awakens the grunt spirit inside of us.
The FILBE (pronounced Phil-Bee) is a simple but elegantly designed pack made with combat in mind. You can generally find them on Amazon starting around $75-80 for a used bag. You’ll be looking at $160-200 for a brand new bag, but the price is well worth it.
The FILBE 3 day assault pack features one primary compartment with a secondary front compartment. Used packs may or may not come with the additional MOLLE compatible admin pouch which can be attached to the pack to further increase your capacity.
The bag is made from a rugged, water-resistant nylon that holds up incredibly well to whatever you throw at it. In my, admittedly short, time in the Marine Corps I haven’t seen one ever break beyond the normal scuffs. They develop some wear and tear, but will keep going through rain, mud, and sun exposure.
The shoulder straps are well cushioned and ventilated. Unfortunately, the shoulder straps are only adjustable from the lower connector so you won’t be able to raise the pack much up your back. I never noticed any significant weight imbalance with the pack, but it wouldn’t hurt to have had more adjustable straps. Quick-release buckles on the shoulder straps allow you to quickly drop the pack if you need to. Small details like these buckles remind you that the pack was designed for combat efficiency first and foremost.
A sturdy handle at the top of the pack makes hand carrying pretty easy. Velcro straps cover the hydration hose ports when not in use. If anything on this pack is going to break or fail, it’s the Velcro stitching. I don’t know what it is, but it seems that the Velcro generally isn’t secured onto the pack well as some other options on the market. It’s a relatively easy fix if you have some basic skill with sewing, but still something I’d prefer to not have to deal with.
The back is well cushioned with a ventilation channel running down the length of the back to help keep you cool. You could technically use the long lateral pockets on the back of the pack for storage, but given that they would push uncomfortably onto your back I don’t know what you would want to fit inside.
Six adjustment straps on the sides and bottom of the pack allow you to compress or expand the pack as much as you want to compensate for how much it’s loaded up. All straps on the pack come with Velcro ribbons that let you roll up the excess material and secure it so they’re not flapping around.
The smaller front compartment has about three liters of storage with a smaller internal mesh compartment for organization. A Velcro strip on the front of the pocket will give you an attachment point for a small patch or name tag if you choose. The strip of Velcro isn’t as large as most tactical daypacks but I consider that a blessing given how often I see people sporting “tacticool” patches they have no reason to be showing off.
The main compartment is roomy and can fit a surprising amount of gear inside. There’s a reason this is called a 3-day assault pack. It may not be very much to use it this way, but the Marine Corps has designed this pack to be able to carry everything you need to support you for three days in the field. Granted you’ll need some water replenishment at some point, and you won’t exactly be happy, but you can fit plenty of food and combat equipment into the pack when necessary. If you’re not actually using this pack for combat, that extra space translates to additional room for water, food, and a change of clothes.
There is a hydration pouch inside the main compartment with a hose port near the top. A mesh compartment on the inside of the main compartment and a small sleeve are the only additional interior compartments inside the pack. You won’t really be able to use the interior sleeve as a laptop holder unfortunately, which is something you should take into consideration when you think about this pack.
The FILBE 3 day assault pack is an intentional and purpose-built pack for field sustainment. It is rugged and subdued with extensive PALS webbing which makes it an excellent piece of tactical gear. These characteristics translate well into the civilian world if your intended use is as a bug out bag or for camping trips, but I would not recommend this pack for someone who plans on also using it as a school or work bag.
What I Like: The FILBE pack earns immediate bonus points just for being the Marine standard issue packs. It’s got everything you want in a tactical daypack: large capacity, durability, quick access, and not much else. This is the definition of a lean, mean, fighting pack. You’re not going to get extras like laptop sleeves or side pouches (unless you add them on with the PALS webbing) and that is totally fine. This is a specific tool for a specific purpose, and other bells and whistles would just get in the way.
What I Don’t Like: It’s a very minor gripe, but the adjustment straps are often much longer than you would ever need. I’m an average-sized person and generally end up with well over a foot of extra strap after I adjust the pack to my frame. You could definitely cut the extra material, but it seems like an odd design choice. As previously mentioned, the Velcro often starts coming unattached from the pack.
Bottom Line: Looking for a tactical pack that will last longer than your grandkids? Buy the FILBE 3 day assault pack and never look back. It’s built from the ground up for Marines in combat, so good luck finding something it hasn’t already been designed to overcome. This thing is infantry proof, the highest standard in reliability. Looking for a versatile bag for camping as well as the office? Keep looking. There’s a reason this pack is one of the best combat packs available, and it’s not because it compromises for convenience features.
Wrapping it All Up
Hopefully, we’ve been able to educate you on the best daypack available for you. There are so many options out there, each tailored for specific purposes and individuals. We’ve covered daypacks intended to be used by military and law enforcement in tactical situations, bags suited for concealed carry, hunting, and travel.
All of the packs in this article are excellent bags that I would absolutely recommend to any reader. You really can’t go wrong. Each company listed in this article makes a lot of quality gear and equipment. I’m a stickler for 5.11. They’re just a classic company that makes a lot of quality gear. I plan on keeping my eye on Hazard 4 in the future because I’m excited to see how they’re bringing a fresh and interesting perspective to the industry. Osprey makes good quality civilian gear and has a great reputation for its lifetime warranty and customer service.
Do you have other recommendations or questions about anything on this list? Send us a message! We’re always here to answer questions, provide recommendations, or just chat about all the great gear out there.
Lieutenant Wells is a lifelong outdoorsman who has spent time camping and backpacking around the world. He is also a rock climbing hobbyist and is planning a summit of Mount Hood for his next trip with his fiancée. He is passionate about aviation outside of the Marine Corps and first became licensed as a private pilot in 2015.