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Osprey Daylite Daypack Review

Oct 22, 2023Oct 22, 2023

The Osprey Daylite was the best daypack overall in our broader tested roundup of the best daypacks. Ahead, learn more about this reliable hiking backpack and why we loved it so much.

The best daypack for you depends largely on what kind of hikes you go on. And while some serious hikers will be happiest with a larger daypack that can carry them into double-digit miles, most hikers with a larger daypack are often tempted to fill it with unnecessary items, says Wesley Trimble, communications and creative director for the American Hiking Society who has himself hiked more than 10,000 miles.

Over the years, as both an outdoor gear editor and an avid hiker in every climate of the U.S., I’ve tested a lot of daypacks, and I always come back to the same one. I’ve been hiking with different generations of the Osprey Daylite for more than five years and not only has the construction and hardware withstood the test of time, but going head-to-head with the 16 other models I tested for our best daypacks review, the Osprey Daylite held true as the best daypack for the majority of hikes and for the majority of hikers looking to buy their first pack.

The Osprey Daylite offers a near-perfect balance of features and comfort at a reasonable price.

This versatile daypack may not be the full package, but because it embraces plenty of pockets, durable materials, and an ergonomic fit, it's as close as they come. My rigorous testing process over a period of months proved that it's the best choice for most day hikers that need a do-it-all hauler. Read on to find out what makes the Osprey Daylite the best daypack overall.


Capacity: 13 liters | Weight: 1.1 pounds | Sizes: One size | Number of external pockets: 3 | Hydration reservoir compatible: Yes | Warranty: Lifetime

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The Osprey Daylite is the Goldilocks of daypacks: Its 13-liter capacity is the perfect size to fit all the essentials—that is, the 10 essentials every hiker should carry, including a warm layer, a rain layer, a full 2-liter water reservoir and ample snacks for an 8-mile hike or longer.

Trimble recommends a slightly bigger pack (more in the 20 to 30-liter range) to carry more layers, food or extra gear for the kids. But for most people on most day hikes, 13 liters is plenty of space for everything you need and want on a day hike, while still being small enough for just a water bottle on an easy one- or two-miler.

The Daylite's chest and hip straps dial in the fit for all-day comfort.

The comfort and structure of a daypack are crucial for keeping your muscles and joints happy on a hike, says sports chiropractor Matt Tanneberg, DC, CSCS, owner of Body Check Chiropractic & Sports Rehabilitation in Scottsdale, Arizona.

The Osprey Daylite has a lightly padded back panel that gives it a bit of structure to hold its form against your back. That padding is well-ventilated, allowing air to flow through, so it doesn't trap heat even on hot hikes in the sun. The shoulder straps are lightly padded, which helped to comfortably shift part of the load off my back without causing hot spots or pressure points. The daypack also has a chest strap that you can adjust for more ergonomic placement across your chest, as well as an extendable hip belt. On the trail, I found all of these features together worked to distribute the load of the pack evenly, avoiding any unnecessary strain.

This daypack has one zippered main compartment that opens more than halfway down, making the bag really easy to pack and very easy to open and grab something on trail. This bag is pretty low on frills, but the small details it does have I found to be lovely, like the harness grab handle at the top of the straps, which made it easy to sling the pack on and off when I needed to grab something without setting the bag down.

There's also an internal sleeve and hanging clip to hold a 2-liter hydration reservoir or a 13-inch laptop.

In addition to its main compartment, the Daylite has a rather large zippered pouch on the outside with small organizational internal pockets that are great for stashing a warm hat and things I didn't want squished, like snacks and lunch. The two mesh pockets on the side of the pack sit high, so they securely hold their contents. On the trail, I found these made it easy to grab a water bottle or stash some doggie waste bags.

Compression straps on both sides of the pack are great for cinching the bag tight, but I used them more often to secure a handy layer or a hat.

Durable materials help the Daylite shed dirt, moisture, and debris.

The Osprey Daylite may be simple in its design, yet the fabric and craftsmanship are anything but. This bag is made from super durable recycled polyester that I found holds up exceptionally well after years of being scraped against rocks and trees; set on wet, saturated ground; and coming into contact with pointy hiking poles.

I also love that, in addition to the fully recycled fabric, the polymer coating used to make the bag waterproof is PFC-free, so it's better for the environment.

The stitching is incredibly secure and high-quality, and the buckles, clips, zips and other hardware have survived many a hike in the elements. I’ve put my Daylite through the wringer over the years and still haven't needed to leverage any replacements, but I do love that Osprey stands behind its gear with a lifetime warranty. But the cherry on top: This bag has every single feature on our must-have list for a quality daypack—and still comes in at just $65, leaving you plenty of cash to upgrade to a bigger daypack if and when you level up your adventures.

The Osprey Daylite is going to be the perfect bag for the majority of people going on a day hike. At 13 liters, it can hold all the essentials without a lot of extra room for you to overpack into.

But if you’re looking for a larger daypack for longer day hikes (upwards of 8 miles, or on technical terrain), our top pick for the best value daypack, the men's Gregory Citro 24 H20 or women's Gregory Juno 24 H20, may suit you better. At 24 liters, you can fit the essentials alongside nice-to-haves, like extra layers, more water and food or accessories that can be nice for longer hikes, like trekking poles.

I’m an outdoor gear writer living in the Rocky Mountains outside Aspen, Colorado—so I know a thing or two about putting adventure gear to the test and seeing how it stands up. I’ve long been an avid hiker, whether I was living in a city and trying to escape to the mountains on the weekends, or when I van-lifed around the country and hiked in every corner of the U.S. I am deeply familiar with the range of terrain, climates and hike difficulties across the country—and that people who love to hike typically want one bag they can use wherever their adventures take them.

Over the last five years as a gear tester, I’ve tested dozens upon dozens of different hiking daypacks. For this article, I set my sights on 17 leading options that work well for 1- to 15-mile day hikes. And to bolster my personal expertise, I also interviewed several experts, including sports chiropractor Matt Tanneberg and Wesley Trimble of the American Hiking Society.

In order to ascertain the top-performing daypacks out of a pool of 17 contenders, I conducted a battery of tests on each bag. To accurately evaluate their performance, I utilized the following set of criteria:

During the evaluation process, I placed particular emphasis on the level of comfort provided by each daypack when fully loaded and how that comfort changed while hiking inclines, declines and flat terrain. This entailed not only assessing initial comfort levels but also determining how the bags performed in terms of comfort after extended periods of wear, typically lasting an hour or two. Additionally, I enlisted the help of four other testers, each with varying genders, heights and body shapes, to wear the daypacks and provide feedback on their comfort levels for different body types. To ensure the load was evenly distributed and overuse injuries were minimized, I adhered to expert-recommended guidelines on proper daypack fit.

I assessed ease of use by monitoring how easy it was to pack each daypack, paying special attention to those with drawstring tops. Additionally, I gauged each bag's capacity to hold the necessary supplies and gear typically required for a day-long hike. Once these initial evaluations were complete, I shifted my focus to testing the bag's accessibility during the hike itself. Specifically, I wanted to see how easy it was to retrieve items from the bag, even when it was slung over a single shoulder (as it's not always practical to remove it entirely) and when the item in question was located at the bottom of the bag.

Hikers are more likely to stay on top of fluids when those same fluids are readily accessible, Trimble notes. Access to water may seem like a simple feature, but if you have to jump through various hoops to stay hydrated (such as taking off your backpack just to get a sip of water), there's a good chance you’ll do it less. The best daypacks should have an external pocket to stash a water bottle for easy access, as well as an internal sleeve and feed hole for a hydration reservoir and hose.

Pocket placement can make all the difference on a daypack, and it's a surprisingly important factor when it comes to minimizing frustrations. I considered whether the mesh and zippered pockets were helpful, taking into account their size and positioning on the pack.

A good daypack should last you for seasons to come. With this in mind, I went to town on the outer materials and all the hardware (e.g., zippers, drawstrings, buckles), tossing the bags in the dirt and scraping them on rocks to simulate normal wear and tear, ensuring they could withstand constant abuse and the elements.

When you're tackling a long hike, a daypack's ability to allow airflow to your back can make all the difference. To assess this variable, I evaluated the ventilation design of each daypack, taking note of how well it allowed air to circulate and how cool it kept my back during challenging hikes in the sun.

At the very least, your daypack should be water-resistant—but it's even better if it's fully waterproof. To put this variable to the test, I stuffed each daypack with a cotton sheet, sealed it up tight and held it under the shower head to see how well it fended off water.

When selecting the winners, I also took into account the weight of each pack. After all, the heavier the pack is when it's empty, the heavier it's going to feel once it's loaded up with all your gear. And let's not forget about aesthetics! In today's world, style matters, even when it comes to outdoor gear. That's why I also considered the look and feel of each backpack, because let's face it—appearance can often play a role in our purchasing decisions.

The weight of a daypack depends on its size, intended use and the items you carry. Generally, a good target weight for a daypack is around 10% of your body weight. If you weigh 150 pounds, your daypack should ideally weigh no more than 15 pounds, but remember this is just a rule of thumb—you may find you prefer a lighter or heavier pack.

I also recommend you consider the weight distribution within the pack itself. Heavier items should be placed closer to your back and toward the bottom of the pack, while lighter items can go near the top and front. This helps to distribute the weight evenly and reduce strain on your back and shoulders.

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