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The Best Small Hiking Bag for a Day Hike

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Most hikers and campers have a well-loved backpack they strategically stuff full of survival supplies for a multi-day trek, but sometimes, you don't need 60 liters worth of supplies. If you're in the mood for a 10-mile or less hike — or even a full-day loop — a small hiking bag full of snacks, water, and layers is still a must-have, but it doesn't have to be nearly as large. The best small hiking bag should be practical and comfortable, and should fit the essentials easily and securely. It's important to note that a specialized hiking bag, however small, is well worth purchasing and using over a regular backpack or tote you have for things like travel or everyday errands. The bag itself is more durable, and also tends to be made of weather-proof, puncture-resistant, and tear-resistant fabrics that are made for outdoor use and more rugged elements. While the stakes aren't quite as high as a pack that you'll be living out of for days at a time, you should still prioritize getting a quality product that won't tear on a branch or leak because of an errant rainstorm. You'll also want to consider your own personal hiking style, and grab a small hiking bag that fits all of the things you may use over the course of a few hours. If you're hiking in the later seasons, you might need a larger one for base layers, or if you take equipment like cameras or binoculars, you might want to get one with a thicker, more protective outer shell. 

We rounded up our favorite daypacks in terms of price and performance, so you can easily snag one that you'll love. We chose 30-Liter bags as the highest volume bag on the list, as it should cover any kind of day trip. From highly-rated brand-name favorites to some under-the-radar bargains, there's a small hiking bag out there for all types of hikers. Find them below:

1. The Best 30-Liter Hiking Bag


Osprey Skarab 30 Hydration Pack - REI, $150.00

This small hiking bag from Osprey checks all the boxes for a day trip backpack. It's compact enough that it won't weigh you down, yet spacious enough to fit everything you might need. In fact, at 30 liters, it might be a bit more than you need for a casual stroll in the woods, but it's comfortable and lightweight — and like we suggested above, you can use it to store a light sweatshirt for layering, or things like a small lunch or cameras. The main compartment has multiple access points, and there's also a 2.5-liter hydration compartment so you won't have to keep reaching for your water bottle. It also has a slash-proof outer pocket for your phone or wallet and trekking pole holders at the sides. This pack is one of the most popular options on REI, and according to one happy reviewer, it has "become an indispensable hiking companion." We do want to note that it's not waterproof, but you can purchase a waterproof cover from Osprey that will easily fit over the bag and comes in at under $40. Find it here.

2. The Best Option Under 30 Liters


REI Co-op Trail 25 Pack - REI, $79.95

The REI Trail 25 is a slightly smaller daypack option, but it still holds a volume of 25 liters. The fabric is made from entirely recycled materials, and the internal frame allows for comfort and stability while you trek. The padded straps are comfy and breathable, and there are plenty of outer pockets for small items to go with the generously-sized interior. Overall, this is one of the best combinations of price, performance, and dependability in a daypack. We also like that it has trekking pole holders, as well as an included rain cover that you can store inside of the bag. What makes it more affordable than the Osprey is that it does not have a hydration pack, but it does fit a reservoir should you choose to go that route. 

3. The Best Small Hiking Bag Under 20 Liters


Cotopaxi Batac Del Dia Pack - REI, $65.00

A brightly colored and reasonably priced choice, this Cotopaxi daypack is perfect for anyone who loves to stand out on the trail — and because its made with leftover materials, each one is designed individually, so none of them end up looking the same. With 16 liters of capacity, it's compact and practical, and has four additional pockets besides the spacious main compartment. Plus, it's flanked on the sides by two mesh water bottle pockets. The durable nylon shell will resist light rain, and the lightweight straps will sit comfortably on your shoulders for the whole hike. One reviewer writes: "It's not huge but I can fit a sweatshirt or coat, a hydro flask, notebooks, and things like keys, chapstick, lotion, antibacterial, etc."

4. The Best Budget Option


4 Monster Hiking Daypack - Amazon, $18.99+

An absolute steal for a pack, this one comes in three different sizes ranging from 16 to 32 liters — and each one is super affordable. You also have nine different colors and patterns to choose from, and at just four ounces, it's among the lightest hiking bags you can find. Perfect if you have concerns about wet weather, the tear-resistant nylon is also highly water-resistant. We especially recommend this pack if you're headed out on a hiking trip that requires a plane ride, thanks to one Amazon review that reads: "(It) packs down so small and is super lightweight."

5. The Best Waist Pack


Waterfly Hiking Waist Bag - Amazon, $24.79

If you're prone to short hikes around your area, trail runs, or outings with your dog, this hands-free waist pack is a great option for a small hiking bag. Made of water-resistant nylon, it has adjustable straps to go around your waist or be worn as a crossbody bag, and it's composed of a main compartment and a water bottle holder with an adjustable cord that keeps it secure. The main compartment has two separate zipper pockets: a front pocket that fits your phone, wallet, and keys, plus a back pocket for small necessities (think: bandages, hand sanitizer, sunscreen, tissues, and waste bags for your pup).

READ MORE: The Best Hiking Gifts (That Are All Under $100)