There are a few things to consider before choosing the best packable backpack for your needs. First off, what are your needs? If comfort is top dog, get something that prioritizes back padding and comfortable straps, even if it’s a little heavier. If you want something that’ll take up almost no room, go with one of the ultralight options, but be prepared for minor discomfort, as those often sacrifice carry comfort to save weight. Finding specialty gear like a packable backpack is a balancing act between what you need and what you can tolerate, as not every bag will have every feature. That’s where we come in!

Why You Should Trust Us

Here at Pack Hacker, we’ve been rigorously testing travel gear since 2017. Though we started with travel backpacks, a packable daypack has been an essential piece of nearly every packing list we’ve ever made. They’re essential for people like us who are huge proponents of one bag travel. Whereas we love a big, beefy travel backpack that can handle all your travel gear comfortably, that bag won’t suit your daily adventures around town or on the trail. Because of this, we got our hands on dozens of packable backpacks, from big-name brands to cheap models that cost less than a meal and everything in between.

The Best Packable Backpack for Your Trip
We put all the bags in one bag!

We’ve learned what works, what doesn’t, what to look for in a packable backpack, and what to avoid. We’ve worked all that into our testing criteria to ensure this list can effectively help you find the best packable daypack for your next trip!

How We Tested It

The table below includes the results for all these tests, which we rated using the following criteria.

Test 1: Packability

The most important thing when choosing a packable daypack is how packable it really is. Many bags on the market claim to be packable but, in reality, just use thin materials. A packable bag will pack into one of its pockets or a stuff sack, which makes it unique. Though non-packable thin bags are handy, they don’t save as much space as a true packable backpack. In this test, we packed the bags into various daypacks and travel backpacks to see how they fit, in addition to going off the packed size of the bags.

Test 2: Frustration

Next, you’ve actually got to pack this thing up. Typically it’s harder to do when a bag has more features or if it packs down extra small to save space. In this test, we wanted to see how frustrating it was to pack away, even after we got the hang of using it. If it’s a large bag fitting into a small package, it will be challenging no matter how many attempts you have under your belt. This isn't a perfect science, and neither is our rating system, so we tried anyway!

Test 3: Floppiness

Due to the lightweight nature of the materials used to make packable bags, many of them are floppy as heck when used, especially if you pack them with heavier gear. Bag companies can combat this, but not all of them choose to. In this test, we loaded the bags with various amounts and weights of gear inside and determined how floppy the bag’s materials were in use.

Test 4: Extra Features

The ability to pack the bag into a small container is great, but you’re actually going to have to use this thing, so features matter. This isn’t the most important thing to most travelers, but it should play a part in your thinking! In this test, we looked for all those extra goodies that make a backpack special. Features can include but aren’t limited to extra pockets, a comfortable harness system, a sternum strap, water bottle pockets, and external attachment loops.

Test 5: Grams/Liter

This calculation is determined by dividing the bag’s weight in grams by its capacity in liters. This handy calculation shows how much weight you are getting for every liter and is a good measure of how lightweight the bag is. We're sorry if you want imperial measurements; the math just doesn’t work. Did your science teacher tell you you'd have to learn this eventually?

Bag Capacity(L) Grams/Liter Frustration Floppiness Packability Features
Tortuga Packable Backpack 19 16.41 7 5 6 7
Matador ReFraction Packable Backpack 16 14.00 4 5 7 7
FORCLAZ 100 Compact 10L Travel Backpack 10 4.54 3 9 9 2
Osprey Remnants Packable Daypack 17 13.42 5 5 7 6
Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Day Pack 20 3.40 5 9 9 2
NOMATIC Navigator Collapsible Pack 16L 16.5 23.92 2 4 5 7
Away The Packable Backpack 19 11.94 4 6 8 4
WaterField Packable Backpack 16 21.26 4 5 6 6
Mystery Ranch In and Out Packable Daypack 19 20.07 6 5 6 7
1=best, 10=worst 1=best, 10=worst 10=best, 1=worst 10=best, 1=worst
1. Tortuga Packable Backpack
Tortuga Packable Backpack Review

The Tortuga Packable Backpack is a more structured take on a packable bag compared to other options on this list; however, it’s still incredibly lightweight and packs down small enough for easy transportation. It utilizes quality hardware, including YKK zippers and Woojin buckles, and has a back panel, which isn’t the case for all the bags on this list. There’s padding and mesh to keep you comfortable and cool, as well as a sternum strap. The water bottle pockets are stretchy, handy for staying hydrated and stowing extra gear, like a packable rain jacket or a travel tripod.

At 19 liters, this pack does solid on the grams per liter scale. It’s not the easiest to pack up, but we didn’t find it more challenging than others we’ve tested. It’s not very floppy, either, so your gear won’t bounce around too much in transit. It has more features than we’re used to seeing from packable bags, like the back panel with padding and mesh, comfortable shoulder straps, and water bottle pockets, making it feel more like a regular backpack. It’s par for the course regarding packability, but with all those features, we think this one is a winner!

Why We Like It
  • The materials are structured enough that it sags less than most packable backpacks
  • It utilizes YKK zippers and Woojin buckles, which have proven durable
What You Should Know
  • The water bottle pockets are tricky to use when the main compartment is full
  • When not fully packed, the top compartment can be awkward to utilize
See Full Review & Buying Options
2. Matador ReFraction Packable Backpack
Matador ReFraction Packable Backpack Review

The Matador ReFraction Packable Backpack is average in most categories; however, extra features make this one worthy of taking on your next trip. It has a solid gram-per-liter rating with its 16 liters of capacity, is relatively easy to pack up when you aren’t using it, and isn’t very floppy in use thanks to the slightly thicker, durable materials. It doesn’t have a structured back panel, so you’ll have to pack your gear creatively to ensure it stays comfortable to wear. There are multiple pockets for stowing gear, so you can keep things segmented to stay organized.

The pack utilizes YKK zippers and buckles, which is one of the best brands in the gear business. Though the back panel doesn’t include padding and aeration, the shoulder straps have both, enhancing comfort and breathability. It has a luggage pass-through, too, so you can use the bag with your rolling luggage if you buy too many souvenirs on your trip. Plus, the water bottle pockets ensure you can stay hydrated or stow extra gear. Though it isn’t the most packable, lightest weight, or easiest to pack on this list, its other features make the Matador ReFraction Packable Backpack feel more like a daypack you’d use at home and less like a grocery bag with shoulder straps.

Why We Like It
  • The luggage pass-through is handy for trips through the airport with rolling luggage
  • The materials are lightweight, sleek-looking, and durable
What You Should Know
  • There’s no padding or aeration on the back panel
  • There are limited colorways available, though they match Matador’s monochromatic style
See Full Review & Buying Options
3. FORCLAZ Foldable Backpack 10L
Forclaz 100 Compact 10L Travel Backpack Review

The FORCLAZ 100 Compact 10L Travel Backpack doesn’t have a lot going on, and that’s why we like it. It’s one of the floppiest bags we’ve ever used and has almost no standard backpack features that set it apart from any of the packs on this list. So, why are we recommending it?

First, it’s cheap. Depending on where you buy it, the FORCLAZ 100 Compact 10L Travel Backpack will run you anywhere between seven and 13 dollars, which is a fraction of most of the packs on this list. Plus, the materials are more durable than expected for the price, so they’ll last longer than most sub-$20 bags. Second, it’s incredibly lightweight. At 10 liters, it has one of the highest grams per liter rating on this list, and it’s one of the easiest to pack up, too, so you won’t be frustrated when trying to save space on the way home from your trip.

Price and packability are significant; however, it’s important to note that they come at a cost. There’s no padding, aeration, name-brand hardware, or other comfort features that many of the other packs on this list have. You’re saving weight and money, but it comes at a cost. Can you afford it?

Why We Like It
  • It’s one of the cheapest packable backpacks on this list
  • Though it’s budget-friendly, it’s held up incredibly well
What You Should Know
  • There are no extra features, like pockets or padding
  • The materials sag a lot, so it can look lumpy unless you pack it a certain way
See Full Review & Buying Options
4. Osprey Remnants Packable Daypack

Across the board, the Osprey Remnants Packable Daypack performs well in almost every category. It isn’t #1 at anything; however, it isn’t below average anywhere, either. Plus, it's an Osprey, so it’ll match any other gear you already own from the brand, which will be worth it for some travelers.

In all of our tests (frustration, floppiness, packability, and grams per liter), the Remnants Packable Daypack scored in the middle of the road for packs chosen to be on this list. Whereas that might not sound perfect on paper, it’s rare that a bag does well in all of the categories. Most of these packs are lightweight and small but cheap or hard to pack, or vice versa. The Osprey Remnants Packable Daypack is easy to use and looks more like a standard daypack than many of the packs on this list, making it a worthy travel bag. Plus, with two compartments and two water bottle pockets, you can stay organized and hydrated. What’s better than that?

Why We Like It
  • It is well-suited to match any other Osprey gear that you already own
  • The bag scores in the middle of the road in every test, proving how well this pack does all around
What You Should Know
  • Though not challenging, packing the bag away takes some getting used to, thanks to the structured materials
  • If you fully pack the top pocket without doing the same to the main compartment, it can sag more than usual
See Full Review & Buying Options
5. Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Day Pack
Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Day Pack

The Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Day Pack qualifies as a pack that is off the charts for some of our tests but hardly even registers on others. It’s incredibly lightweight, smashing our grams per liter test to bits, and is one of the smallest packed bags, ensuring you save space in your travel backpack when it’s time to head out. However, it isn’t the easiest to pack up, and it’s one of the floppiest bags on this list. Additionally, it has almost no features that enhance its use or comfort while wearing it, which is a negative, too.

However, the selling point is that the Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Day Pack is incredibly lightweight and small when not in use. That might suit people who only want to bring a packable backpack for emergencies or to haul extra gear home. Just make sure you’re okay with the fact that it isn’t comfortable to wear over long periods and doesn’t have additional features to make daily carry more organized.

Why We Like It
  • It’s one of the lightest packable daypacks available
  • When packed up, it fits into the palm of your hand
What You Should Know
  • It’s challenging to pack up, even once you’ve gotten used to it
  • The bag lacks extra features to enhance comfort, like padding and mesh
See Full Review & Buying Options
6. NOMATIC Navigator Collapsible Pack 16L
NOMATIC Navigator Collapsible Pack 16L Review

The NOMATIC Navigator Collapsible Pack 16L is one of the more unique packable daypacks on this list; however, how you pack and the kind of activities you partake in when you arrive will determine whether or not its unique design will work for you. It has the most defined back panel on this list, which adds comfort. The back panel folds in the middle, which is what the bag packs into, and there’s a zipper running around the outside. This makes it one of the largest when packed down, too, which isn’t great if you’re trying to save space in your bag. If you have room in your pack for a large flatbread sandwich-sized piece of gear, this won’t be an issue.

The design makes it incredibly easy to pack up, but again, it isn’t very small compared to other packable daypacks on this list. The structured back panel makes the bag less floppy, offering a more solid feel while wearing it. The shoulder straps don’t have padding but are constructed from mesh, which helps with breathability. Inside, there’s a water bladder pocket that doubles as a laptop compartment, which is handy for trips on the trail or to the coffee shop. This pack has more features than most on this list; however, they come at the cost of packability and ranking on our grams per liter scale.

Why We Like It
  • The back panel is more structured than almost all packable daypacks on the market
  • The materials and design prevent sagging, which makes the pack look better in use
What You Should Know
  • It isn’t the smallest when packed up, though it is very flat
  • The back panel can feel awkward until you get used to the design (it doesn’t go all the way to the top of the bag)
See Full Review & Buying Options
7. Away Packable Backpack
Away Packable Backpack Outdoor

The Away The Packable Backpack is one of the smaller packed bags on this list, which we dig. Plus, it does moderately well on our grams per liter scale and isn’t terribly hard to pack away. It’s somewhat floppy, but by no means on a Dumbo’s ears level of floppiness, so we can’t complain too much.

The exterior looks unique and is well-designed; however, we’ve noticed that most of the layout is for looks. There aren’t external pockets for stowing quick-access gear, the straps that connect to the lid are droopy when the bag isn’t fully packed, the cinch cord on the main compartment is challenging to use, and the materials have no structure, so the bag sags a lot. All that said, this pack is comfortable, even without a proper back panel. The shoulder straps are wide to spread out the bag's weight, and it isn’t hard to compress. The stuff sack is separate, which we don’t love, as it’s easier to lose, but the importance of that will depend on your personality!

Why We Like It
  • It’s one of the smallest bags on this list when packed up
  • The exterior looks like an old-fashioned knapsack, which is fun
What You Should Know
  • There are few features on this pack, though it looks like it might have a lot
  • The main compartment’s elastic closure isn’t the easiest to use or work with
See Full Review & Buying Options
8. WaterField Designs Packable Backpack
WaterField Designs Packable Backpack Side Outdoor

The WaterField Packable Backpack is one of the more unique-looking packable bags on this list, and we mean unique in a good way, not in the way that your classmates intended when you were voted “most unique” in mock elections senior year (seriously, what did they mean by that?) The materials are much more structured than we’re used to seeing, making the pack look more like a standard bag than the others on this list. However, they still aren’t strong enough to hold their shape, so the bag looks a little floppy in use. It has a few compartments to keep you organized and includes two side pockets, which are handy for a small water bottle or a snack.

Because of the thicker materials, this bag doesn’t do well on the grams per liter test. However, it looks superior to many of the packs that outperform it, which is worth noting. Additionally, you can fit up to a 16-inch laptop inside—a rare feat on this list. Pairing unique materials with functionality, many travelers will be willing to trade for this pack's heavier and larger pack to look less like a tourist and be able to take their laptop with them.

Why We Like It
  • One of the sleekest packable daypacks that we’ve come across
  • You can stow up to a 16-inch laptop inside, which isn’t common
What You Should Know
  • The water bottle pockets don’t work for larger bottles
  • Not the smallest bag when packed away
See Full Review & Buying Options
9. Mystery Ranch In and Out Packable Daypack
Mystery Ranch In and Out Packable Daypack

Typically, the phrases “packable daypack” and “has a lot going on” aren’t uttered in the same sentence in succession. That said, the Mystery Ranch In and Out Packable Daypack has a lot going on. Mystery Ranch mostly makes outdoor packs, and there are a ton of features here that cater to that. There are various attachment loops on the exterior, a comfortable harness system with padding and mesh on the shoulder straps (though it doesn’t have a proper back panel), and a stretchy water bottle pocket to stay hydrated.

Those features come at a cost, as this is one of the heaviest packs on this list, with a poor gram-per-liter rating to boot. However, those features are handy to have while traveling, and it isn’t very floppy and is average-sized when packed away, so we feel that this pack does well enough in most categories to be considered a great option. While it’s more frustrating to pack than most bags, that may only be due to the amount of straps and external features. We’ve found that it gets easier the more you do it, so don’t be deterred your first few times. This is the one for you if you want a pack with a large main compartment and many external components!

Why We Like It
  • It has external attachment loops and a capable harness system to work well while hiking
  • The quick grab pocket on top is handy for snacks, tech, and everyday essentials
What You Should Know
  • It’s challenging to pack up, especially at first when you aren’t used to it
  • When packed away, it isn’t the smallest or lightest
See Full Review & Buying Options

Additionally, we considered the Aer Go Pack 2 because its features make it feel more like a standard backpack; however, it doesn’t actually pack into itself, so its inclusion felt sacrilegious. The Exped Splash 15 is another budget-friendly option we thought about including; however, the shoulder straps are incredibly uncomfortable on long trips, so we didn’t feel it fit the bill. Last but certainly not least is the REI Co-op Flash 18 Pack, which includes numerous hiking features that are handy for the trail but isn’t truly packable, so it wasn’t a perfect fit for this list.

June 26, 2024

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