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Daypack (lightweight Packable -vs- small sturdier daypack)

We are planning a 2-week trip to the U.k. We've never been to Europe/UK, and are new to the travel experience. We are looking into Trafalgar, Collette, Rick Steve, Insight (and others). We watch Rick's shows, and have read much of his tips, and columns. We plan to take one carry-on suitcase.

In addition, we would like to have some type of "daypack" for the many outings during the day. (binoculars or camera, extra clothes, water, whatever). We can't decide between a very lightweight, inexpensive "packable" daypack - vs- a tad bit bigger and more sturdy small daypack.

A examples of "packable" daypack:
Venture Pal lightweight packable

A few examples of a bit larger and firmer daypack:
Osprey Packs Daylite Daypack
Kelty Redtail 27 Hiking Backpack

Pros and Cons, etc.
With packable, I am a bit concerned that the pick pocket thiefs could easily tear into it, and walk away with all in it.
With packable, if i carry something somewhat heavy (camera, binoculars), i have heard that it can toss and turn due to lack of support.
with firmer daypack, will it be too heavy, or will i wish that i could fold it up and put in in my suitcase.
What about the pockets on the far back (of either model), if the zipper is too accessible can a thief unzip it and take the contents.

What are your thoughts? What brands do you have? and what are your regrets? what has worked and what has not worked?


Posted by
23464 posts

It is a cheap, light weight Eddie Bauer bag that folds into itself about the size of a big fist. It is handy. We don't put a lot of weight or stuff in it so don't need that big a bag. Doesn't have much shape but it function well for how we use it. Can be worn on the back but mostly use it as a single strap bag. We have never had any problems with using the bag.

Posted by
327 posts

There are quite a few entries on this forum about day bags. Do a search in the forum for ‘day bags”. You will find lots of opinions and ideas. Each person has to find what works for them. And most of us have bought something different after our first purchase and trip. There are so many options. Good that you are already looking at lightweight. The bag can get heavy when out and about all day.

My first thought is that you will want a day bag (or personal item) on the plane, so you probably will not be packing it in your luggage. Even with carryon luggage, you will want some items accessible while in your airline seat.

Then there is the difference between backpacks and cross body bags. Usually people have a strong preference for one or the other. Personally I find a back pack inconvenient since you have to take it off to reach into it.

I want the bag to have outside side pocket for easy access to water bottle.

Zippers can be secured by adding slip (key) rings into the zipper pull and securing to the other zipper pull or bag strap with a carbineer. Money and passports should be in a money belt or neck wallet. I’m more concerned about pick pockets and not slashing theft. I also secure my phone, camera and day money in the day bag with lanyard coils. (Private message me if you want a description.)

Gather all the items you will want with you on a typical day on your trip. That will help you decide what size day bag you will need and think about how you will access or secure those items within the bag.

Posted by
8234 posts

Just go Wal-Mart and see what small backpacks they have. No reason to spend a fortune when there are so many great inexpensive backpacks available. Mine has every feature I need.
Spend your time buying the best lightweight 21 1/2 inch swivelwheel carryon bag you can find. We switched over to TravelPro brand have on Amazon. T.J. Maxx and Tuesday Morning also carry great brand suitcases cheap.

Posted by
15668 posts

It's great that you are planning to travel lightweight. Be aware, however, that if you take any of the tours except for Rick Steve, bellman service in your hotels will be included. You can decline and carry your own bags--just let your tour director know--or use the service if your coach can't park in front of your hotel and dont feel like lugging the bag.

If you are planning to carry on your "Carry On" suitcase, then make sure you know the limits of your airlines personal item. You don't want to show up at the airport and be told your "backpack" is too big and one of the two bags has to be checked.

Posted by
305 posts

I'm a cross-body person. When in Italy people with backpack's had to check them in many museums, however I could always keep my pac safe cross-body. Two side pockets for water/umbrella and large enough inside to carry sweater if needed. I did find if I loaded it up, sweater, water, camera, umbrella, nook, phone and incidentals it did start to get heavy.

Posted by
2768 posts

This daypack should also be your underseat bag (personal item) on the plane, so you are unlikely to want to put it in your suitcase. If you already have something you were thinking of using as a personal item, I'd either just use the daypack instead or go with the packable one.

I don't use backpacks for my daypack unless I am doing hiking. In towns and cities I use a messenger bag - crossbody. Backpacks are a pain as far as having to stop and get stuff out (With a crossbody you can get stuff while walking or in a quick stop, no taking the bag off). I take a lot of photos and am serious about it, so having to stop and get my camera is a no go. Also you have to check backpacks but not crossbody bags at many museums. Finally a bag you can keep in front of you is safer from thieves. But a lot of people prefer backpacks.

In general you don't need that much with you during the day, unless you are doing a full-day hike or something. Water bottle, camera, a sweater or jacket, guidebook and personal items like medicine. Phone, if you don't keep it in your pocket. So really any bag will work. Try on a few (with weight inside) at REI or Target or a luggage store. My husband used my sons Jansport school backpack before he switched to a messenger bag. This kind of basic bag is not super sturdy but not really light and packable and it did the job just fine.

The outer pockets are susceptible to theft so I would not keep anything of value in there.

Make a list of what features you like and keep it around 15 - 20 liters. For example, I like padded straps, internal organizer panel, water bottle pocket, padded back which has air "venting" and sturdier fabric for base and a rain flap over zipper. (My favorite which is hard to get now is Merrell rouge.). RS Appenzell is large enough to carry stuff for 2-3 people and is a comfortable pack. I know people have different opinions about torso length on this forum. I really like a pack where the base rests in my lumber area.

Posted by
2531 posts

The solution for my wife and I? She uses a small, very lightweight, packable Eddie Bauer day pack and I use a sturdy, comfortable and much larger Patagonia day pack.

Posted by
375 posts

We travel pretty light on our day outings. Sometimes we just have one bag between the two of us. My husband, when he takes it, used the RS backpack. I take this great purse (in black). It's not too big or too small. It will hold a water bottle AND my Nikon (as well as sunglasses, tissue, pen, etc.) I carry it on all my trips, even here in the US. While this bag isn't made anymore by ebags, Baggalini has similar models. ebags piazza day bag I bought this 20" Samsonite suitcase last year. It's light and small. I used it for our 5 week trip last year. It's not the greatest quality, but I think it will last a couple more Europe trips.

Posted by
158 posts

I'd get a bag with decent shoulder / backpack straps.

I have a Tom Bihn Daylight Backpack and Packing Cube Backpack. They seemed great at first because the style is very packable. But the shoulder straps are just plain webbing (no padding) and they hurt my shoulders after only one day of carrying it. You want to get something you can continue to carry for the whole trip. It didn't seem to bother my partner though, so it may not matter to you.

Posted by
1243 posts

Hello. More and more, I try to travel with the same accoutrements that I live my life with at home. I am a daily train commuter, so that usually involves my pocketbook, and maybe a small tote of some type. My pocketbook is a crossbody Baggallini. For years, I was devoted to a largish LeSportsac tote as my carry on. It finally wore out causing me to buy more than one item to replace it - some of which I have since gifted on to others.

For my recent December trip to Germany and Austria which was mostly urban-oriented, I used the Baggallini as my pocketbook. It is compact and yet holds water and camera (v. small) or phone, plus map, tiny notebook, and other essentials. Credit cards, passport, etc., are generally under my clothes when travelling and in urban areas. For this trip, I used the Civita Day Pack from RS as my plane carry on. I am now a fan. It holds more than the LeSportsac and can be carried a variety of ways instead of slipping off my shoulder as the old bag did. It held my large down coat on return. It is lightweight! It squishes when needed.

Mostly, I did not bring the Civita with me on a daily basis, just the Baggallini - plus, and this is key for me - a very compressible lightweight bag that folds into a few sq. inches and can be tucked into the Baggallini when not in use. You see these all over, often nylon, though even a plastic bag would do (and having a plastic bag when travelling I have found to be a handy thing). My own v. compressible bags the last two trips have been very thin linen bags that Free People hands out as shopping bags when you buy something there. These bags have elicited admiration in London and Munich. I can twist them up and tie them to my hand or hang them over my shoulder. They hold an incredible amount of weight and stuff. Pickpockets? If they took the umbrella or book or candybar from my thin little bags, I would get over it. I would NOT use these bags for a heavy camera or binoculars.

If I were heading off to the countryside or on a day trip, I would take the Civita. I was on an RS tour, and took the Civita with me on the bus. I was overall pleased with my choices this time. Good travelling!

Posted by
55 posts

I find that my Tom Bihn Daylight Backpack perfectly splits the difference between packable and sturdy. I have the one in their Halcyon (dyneema) fabric. I fold it in half, and it packs flat on the bottom of my main bag, so it takes up virtually no space in transit. I also have a packing cube from Tom Bihn that converts to a messenger-style bag. Having the flexibility to use either or both daily while traveling is really important to me.

Bonus: on the way home, I can fill it with souvenirs! (I'm a one-bagger on vacation, so the backpack becomes my personal item on the way home.)

The downside is cost: $80, which could be a "yikes" moment for some people. I use mine all the time even when not traveling, so it was worth it to me. YMMV

Posted by
630 posts

The downside is cost: $80, which could be a "yikes" moment for some
people. I use mine all the time even when not traveling, so it was
worth it to me. YMMV

K-Anderson, what does YMMV mean?

Posted by
648 posts

When I need to pack light, I take the Civita Day Pack.
Pros: lightweight, room for water bottle (important to me), and packable in suitcase if I have 2 other carry-ons.
Cons: no substance to it so "stuff" is all on the bottom. Last trip, I cut an old vinyl placemat to insert into the backpack to give it form. Not perfect, but helped some. Also, I sewed on chest straps to take weight off my shoulders. That helped a lot.

Posted by
27409 posts

I just use a Baggallini cross-body bag for most of my time in Europe. As others have said, a backpack can be a pain for regular use since you have to remove it in order to get to anything you're carrying. Wouldn't work for me.

For those who opt for the convenience of a cross-body bag and expect they'll be switching glasses frequently (or often putting on/removing sunglasses: Try very hard to find a bag with an external pocket for your glasses. I was pickpocketed in Bulgaria as I was walking down a nearly-deserted street with my purse unzipped as I switched glasses; the wallet was all too accessible at that point, and I was particularly vulnerable since I can't see anything at all without my glasses. Since then, I've dedicated an outside pocket on my Baggallini to whichever glasses I'm not wearing. This makes it harder on thieves.

Posted by
156 posts

I’ve used both the Eddie Bauer and High Sierra packable daypacks, and both are fine IF you don’t want to carry a lot of weight. They’re both lightweight, which is great if you’re not carrying much, but they’re completely unstructured, (hence the “packable” part), and thus bottom heavy when packed. They’re also thin, and very easy for a thief to rip open.

I prefer a small to mid sized backpack or daypack, especially as a personal item when flying. They will fit under a seat and some have trolley straps to fit over your rolling bag. They also fit the bill as lightweight daypacks when walking around your destination. I own the RS Ravenna daypack and the Veloce shoulder bag/backpack, and both are durable but small enough to carry your “essentials” on a plane or around town. EBags has a pretty good selection of small and mid sized packs as well. (Caveat: Always check the dimensions on every bag on that site. EBags has an annoying habit of mislabeling bags as “small”, “medium”, etc., in searches.)

Good luck!

Posted by
73 posts

For a lightweight, packable day pack, I like the REI flash 18. It comes in both solid colors and fancy prints.
I usually remove and leave home the thin foam backing to make it even more packable. No one behind you will be able to get into the bottom of the pack unless they slash it.
If you're looking for something not packable but extremely durable with excellent zippers, look at the Red Oxx K-12 Kat Pack.
You can use a packing cube. I like ebags medium ( ) to pack extra clothes just in case there is no overhead space for your larger bag. Always have a plan B or even C in case you are forced to check your carryon. I ALWAYS take some spare clothes in my underseat personal item.

Posted by
1194 posts

The answer varies based on what you carry.
If your load is heavy you’ll want a pack with a better suspension. If you can stay light then a less sturdy bag works.

My day bag contents are: sunglasses, collapsible water bottle, phone, wallet (with a days worth of money) sweater, and a packable rain coat. This easily fits into my cross body purse. My money belt contains my passport, large cash, and most credit cards. It is on my body.

One advantage of cross body bags is that they are usually accepted in museums. A day pack usually needs to be checked.

You do NOT need a more sturdy bag to prevent being poked in the back. Poking occurs when you pack your bag incorrectly. Pack it right and it isn’t a problem.

The key to a comfy pack is to put your spare sweater and jacket in the area next to your back. This keeps a soft barrier between your back and pokey objects. Put the pokey things toward the outside of the pack. You will also get protection from pokey objects while you are wearing your sweater or jacket as again, there is a layer of cloth between you and the pokey object.

The key to a comfy pack is wider straps. A very soft bag can still be comfy if it has wider straps.

Remember that you don’t need all the stuff suggested in hiking blogs. You are not hiking, but touring a city area. There is no need for a monster first aid kit, spare socks, matches, 10 essentials, etc. The store 2 blocks away has most of what you need.

Posted by
1194 posts

I’d also like to echo what others have said about a small external zip pocket. This is great for sunglasses, metro tickets, lip balm, and other quick access items. That way you don’t have to open the main compartment of your bag.

Posted by
2531 posts

Just a footnote about my day backpack. It is padded so no worries about being poked in the back and large enough to swallow a tablet, jacket, sweater, snacks and the like. It comes with two water bottle pockets, which at times, is very useful. The straps are nicely padded and curved slightly to fit very well, and the sternum strap is helpful when riding bicycles.