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Day pack for hiking AND city sightseeing?

Does anyone have recommendations for a good backpack (day pack) that meets the following requirements?

  • Personal item size (17" tall x 10" wide x 9" deep; 20 liter capacity max.)... this will be in addition to my carry on.

  • Equally at home on rugged day hikes and sightseeing in cities (museums, cathedrals, historic sites in London, York, Edinburgh, Dublin, etc.)

  • Water bottle pockets and/or sleeve for water bladder

  • Hip belt for taking some of the weight off of shoulders

I'm not terribly concerned with "fashion" (if it's raining the day we tour a city, I'll happily wear my waterproof hiking boots regardless of how it looks!) but I would like something subtle and casual enough that it wouldn't look too out of place in a museum or cathedral. At the same time, I don't want a bag that's too "cute" and looks ridiculous out on the trails.
I've been looking at a few, like this Fjallraven and this Osprey

Anyone else travel like this, with seriously rugged hiking one day, beautiful old city streets the next? What kind of day pack do you use?

Thanks!!

Posted by
1179 posts

Patagonia Lightweight Travel Tote Pack. If you wait for sales you can get it for under $60.

I have used it as my main bag when I do personal item only travel. I use it for day trips. I use it for groceries and farmers markets (usually twice a week). I’ve hauled it up mountains. I even used it as part of a hiking rescue. I’ve had mine for years and it shows very little wear.

The pack folds up into its own pocket. The straps are 100% stowable and the bag turns into a tote. The shoulder straps are attached by quick release buckles. They store in a pocket at the back of the bag. The waist belt and lower strap store away in a sleeve at the bottoms of the bag.

In addition to the two water bottle pockets there is an internal pocket and a large external front pocket. There is an open pocket on the back that accepts the shoulder straps but could also take a bladder.

I usually put my platypus water bottle in one of the side pockets and use the water bottle clip on the compression strap. This secured the water bottle.

The claim is 22 liters capacity. It’s actually 16 liters.

I modified my bag slightly. I added an elastic to the top to make it drawstring. I also added security clips to the zippers. PM me if you want to know how.

BTW I also have the Tempest and use it when I need a larger bag. You can’t go wrong with either, though the Patagonia is packable. The bags are designed for radically different uses. Tempest is a true hiking day pack. The Patagonia tote is something you can slip into a museum as your “purse” when it is in tote mode.

The colors change on a yearly basis. Mine is dark grey, light grey, with red accents.

YouTube review

Cindy H's suggestion is good. I bought a Patagonia bag based on her suggestion.
Also, check out eagle creek Wayfinder packs. These are great in both urban and nature areas. (Double Duty bag)
I have also used the RS Appenzell for both city and nature. But, it's a daypack for a family due to its size. I used one Appenzell for 3 people.
Storm flap over zippers is always a good feature.
An Ameribag in a fabric like nylon or microfiber can work as well. I have done this also.

Posted by
68 posts
  • For such a small pack, do you really need a true hipbelt or would a simple waist strap do?

  • I have 2 Osprey packs and like them, but Osprey has an infuriating habit of putting compression straps over the water bottle pockets.

  • Here is one I am considering: REI Flash Pack

Posted by
1179 posts

I have 2 Osprey packs and like them, but Osprey has an infuriating habit of putting compression straps over the water bottle pockets.

Most Osprey packs have the ability to reroute the straps under the pockets.

Look closely at the pocket seam near the hip belt. You’ll see a tiny button hole size opening. There is a second hole in the pocket near the compression strap buckle. Unthread the compression strap and run it through both holes, coming up at the buckle. Rethread the buckle.

Posted by
10 posts

I second Cindy H's recommendation. The Patagonia Lightweight Travel Tote has become my standard under-the-seat carry-on bag that then becomes my day bag for hikes, outings or 1-night stays during a Rick Steves tour. It's incredibly light, and you can wash it in the washing machine. I suggest getting it in one of the lighter colors so you can see items in the interior better.

Posted by
10053 posts

I use a similar Osprey daypack and love it. It is lighter than others I have carried (Northface) and suits me for my personal carry-on item, for hiking, and for city days when I need to have stuff with me like iPad, jacket, camera, and so on. Have used it on 3 long overseas trips and several shorter ones domestically so far and it is still good as new. I wash it in the bathtub after each trip and it looks good as new!

Posted by
1179 posts

It looks like the newer Tempest has a V shape compression strap. I suspect that there are 3 holes to route the strap under the pocket.

Posted by
1217 posts

Tom Bihn, while not inexpensive, has a number of backpack options from the 36 liter Brain Bag to some 12-15 liter options. I've got a Brain Bag and love it as an airline carry-on, a day pack for hiking, to carry all my clothes on a weekend trip... It's a little big for a city day pack for my tastes though (I use a TB Co-Pilot cross body bag for city days) and one of their smaller models like a Synapse might work better

https://www.tombihn.com/collections/backpacks

Posted by
233 posts

If you are already looking at Osprey packs, look up the Daylite (13L) and the Daylite Plus (20L).

Posted by
15 posts

Thanks for the suggestions! I like the idea of something convertible, like the Patagonia tote.

We have an Osprey Daylite that we share - though I think it fits my husband better than it does me. It's mostly fine on me, but the top carry handle is stiff and hits the back of my neck funny when the pack is adjusted high enough on my back. It is also sorely lacking in zippered inside compartments for securing things like a wallet or passport!

Posted by
159 posts

Cannot go wrong with Tom Bihn or Osprey. Just find the size and features you want. i have multiple products from each, including a 20 year old Osprey 50l backpack that has been to hell and back and looks brand new.

Also consider a Mountainsmith lumbar pack if you can do with less capacity.

Posted by
15 posts

I tried REI's Ruckpack 18 but the back panel was too wide for me. Maybe the flash would fit better. Thanks!

Posted by
11832 posts

I just keep going smaller and lighter. I used a Civita daypack for a while. Then decided a reusable shopping bag (from a French grocery store) took up less space in my bag and carried what I needed, from groceries to picnics to laundry. Last trip I bought a very lightweight daypack that packs inside itself (about the size and shape of a small wallet).

Posted by
154 posts

The Osprey Daylite (basic model) works for me in both scenarios. It's small and light enough to use as a daypack but also has space for a hydration bladder for hiking. The 2.5L bladders are a bit tight in the "assigned" space but if not filled to capacity will be fine. You can also place the bladder in the main compartment.

Another alternative would be the packable backpacks from Eddie Bauer and High Sierra, if you aren't loading up too much. The Eddie Bauers come in 20 and 30L sizes and fold up into their own pouches for packing.

Posted by
15 posts

Thanks for the suggestions! I like the idea of a packable bag, especially for grocery shopping and carrying picnics!

Posted by
136 posts

I use Magellan’s packable in its own pocket backpack. Very light, I believe it holds 10 liters, I’ve used it on every trip in the last 12 years, still looking good. It became a part of my travel gear. No hip belts though.
A slightly larger, 20 liter bag can be found at Eddie Bauer. It also packs in its pocket and holds 2 water bottles slots.