When it comes to backcountry camping, I’m often a base camp kind of guy. I like to hike in to a great campsite, set up for two nights or more, and then spend the intervening days day-hiking to nearby destinations. It’s a method I’ve embraced all the more now that I’ve started backpacking with my two young boys (ages 5 and 7)—Daddy Sherpa has been carrying some substantial loads of late.
For the day-hiking portion of the trip, it’s helpful to have a small ultralight daypack that spares you the need to carry your oversized backpack. And there are some very good, very lightweight options that fit the bill nicely. Here are three of my favorites.
I have an earlier incarnation of this pack, which has barely changed over the past few years. The price and volume are right ($29.50 and 22 liters/1,340 cubic inches), plus it includes two features that are hard to find in other ultralight options.
First, it has a separate storage pocket in the lid for stashing small items for easy access. Second, it features two side mesh pockets large enough to accommodate one-liter water bottles. It packs down small (you can fold it into its own zippered stuff pocket) or you can have it do double-duty as a stuff sack for your sleeping bag and clothes.
Its big drawback is weight. At 10 ounces, it’s the heaviest option listed here. That being said, the pack material is correspondingly more durable than more lighter weight options out there.
Weighing in at a scant 2.4 ounces, this featherweight pack is constructed from silconized nylon and features a simple, single-compartment zip-top design.
Its low-profile design offers 20 liters of volume and stuffs down to a nearly microscopic, keychain-friendly size.
Winner of a coveted 2017 Backpacker Magazine Gold Award, the pack consistently earns rave reviews for comfort and durability. The lack of any external pockets is a drawback, but it’s nearly impossible to go lighter than this. Available at a variety of outlets, including Amazon, for $32.95.
There are some significant advantages to this option. It’s larger than most, with a capacity of 1,800 cubic inches. It’s made in the Northeast, at a renovated textile mill in Biddeford, Maine. And it’s constructed from cuben fiber, which is durable, ultralight (the stuff pack weighs in at 4.4 ounces), and waterproof (a roll-top closure makes this option 100% impervious to moisture).
The big drawback? Like most things made from cuben fiber, it’s the price. The stuff pack will run you a cool $115. But if you’re looking to support Northeast-based gear companies and want a durable, totally waterproof option, it’s worth considering.