Best Backpacking Day Pack – How to Choose

Pali 20L Day Pack
Jake sporting the Diamond Head Pali 20L day pack.

Carrying a day pack for side trips while backpacking is another area where for a long time I fought even the slightest bit of extra weight. We would empty out our backpacks and carry one of those for any day hiking adventures when base camping in the backcountry. But, having a small day pack is so nice to have for those day hikes. After long days of backpacking, hiking with something that doesn’t cover your entire back is very refreshing. Having the best backpacking day pack isn’t necessary on every journey. But on any trail we intend to have a base camp and then hike out from there, our day pack is going with us.

Classification and Rating

Best Backpacking Gear
It is hard to imagine that this is what we have the potential of packing into our backpacks.

We classify the best backpacking day pack in this article as an optional piece of gear but also give it a rating. Our A-F rating is to help newcomers to backpacking know where to best spend their budget. Check out our best backpacking gear post to see how we rank and rate all backpacking gear in one place.

The Best Backpacking Day Pack

Hiking and Backpacking Day Packs
These are our 24L Pursuit & 22L Rim Runner Camelbak hiking packs being compared to the compressed size of our Pali 20L backpacking day pack. We love our hiking packs but the Pali is perfect for backpacking.
  • Classification: Optional Gear
  • C-Rating: Spend some money on a quality product if you can but if not you can save money now and plan on upgrading later.

We own two day packs that we use for hikes from our truck, but they are too heavy and bulky to pack inside of a backpack. When we started really considering a day pack for the sole use of going on a day hike when backpacking, the only requirements we had were that it had to be lightweight and it had to pack down small. We also didn’t want to break the bank on something that we would only use a few times a year. Again, we were only looking for a backpacking day pack that would be used when base camping, and most of our backpacking journeys are thru-hikes.

Diamond Head Pali 20L Day Pack

We ended up choosing the Diamond Head Pali 20L day pack. Weighing 2.3oz it is an extremely lightweight but tough bag. It is hard to imagine a day pack that packs down smaller and is still useable. We can fit our lunch, some snacks, a water bottle or a water reservoir and our down jackets into this 20L bag. We have even weighed this pack down with heavy camera gear and packed it full to the brim, stretching the seems and limits of what this bag was designed to do. The build quality and stitching are top-notch. The bag is waterproof so when we are backpacking it now doubles as a rain cover for my camera bag.

Pali 20L Cons

Camera Bag Rain Cover
I have found that the Pali 20L day pack doubles really well as a rain cover for my camera bag when backpacking.

The only negative of the Diamond Head Pali 20L day pack is that the straps can be a bit uncomfortable. This is really only noticeable when we have overloaded the bag with gear. The only solution would be to add padding, which would ruin the primary objectives of the pack. The other con is that it packs down so small that it is often hard to find it in our large backpacks. We have to remember exactly where we packed it as to not lose track of it.

Choosing the Best

Best Backpacking Day Pack
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The Best Backpacking day pack needs a quality waterproof build. It needs to be lightweight with a good amount of possible storage and it needs to pack down extremely small. The Diamond Head Pali 20L ticks off all those boxes at an affordable price making it the best backpacking day pack.

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