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Best Backpack for Day Trips/Overnights: Open To All Input

I hope that some REI experts/employees might reply to this post as well as members.

I’m interested in a new pack and want to get some different perspectives. 

There are plenty of articles on the REI blog and other media but this “Conversations” platform is a valuable resource. Learning from other peoples’ mistakes and experiences is much easier and less expensive than trial and error. Thank you all in advance for your insight and assistance.

The goal is to find a backpack for long day hikes that has the capacity to pack for overnight trips. Things like a blanket, bivouac tarp, first aid supplies, food etc... need to fit. Pushing the envelope, I would like to be able to make a weekend hike with minimal gear (hammock and tarp with minimal accessories) in good weather conditions. 

The capacity range, from what I’ve read, appears to be about 38-50 liters. A lot of day hikers are unprepared for emergencies, but I don’t want to show up looking ridiculous like I’m heading out for one of the triple crown trails. Obviously, the best option would be to own 3-4 different packs, but I’m really trying to create a bag that is basically an overnight pack (light packing) that could be pushed for 2 nights, and doesn’t look ridiculous compared to the “book bags” many people carry when hiking. 

If you all could post your recommendations, with reasons for your bias, I would truly appreciate the input. It’s mostly about what liter capacity would be best, but if you want to recommend a specific pack that could be helpful too. Again, thank you all for your input.


15 Replies

Oh and it seems worth mentioning that,  like a number of others here, I bought a 2019 Traverse 35 for my self and women's version for a family member.  Apart from the color choices. I don't think it has changed for 2020.

Personally I think it is a bit overbuilt for most people's day hikes but it it very well rated...see Gear Lab's independent review... if you want to carry a fair amount of gear.  I'm a little dubious about using it for overnights unless you gear is compact but I haven't tried packing it for that so I may be surprised.  Other's report doing so,  so it may be the pack you are looking for...worth taking a look in any case...just make sure to buy the right size.

I don't have enough experience with it yet to recommend it personally since so far I haven't gone on any day hikes where it was called for but I did lend it out for a 12 mile hike in the Sierras.  They were carrying a light load and they really liked using it.


To follow up on the REI Traverse 35 L. Note that the smaller sized Traverse 35 packs have slightly less capacity. 

I just stuffed mine with a bunch of gear...a slightly modified and abbreviated list of what I took for a week long Sierra section hike as best I can remember, minus the supplies and a few extra bulky items. This is not a recommended gear list but just a reasonably comprehensive example for purposes of a packing test.  This list would not work for any Sierra Trip because I omitted the Bear Can which this pack would be hard pressed to carry.

Main Bag...from bottom to top

  • Kelty Cosmic 20 sleeping bag in compression sack
  • Thermarest Xlite regular
  • Inflatable pillow
  • OR Transcendent hooded puffy
  • Sleepwear and Spare clothing Stuffsack...Merino Half zip, long underwear, briefs, wool boot socks
  • BA TigerWall UL2 Tent (poles, stakes and footprint in separate bags...poles are vertical down one corner)
  • Warm clothing Stuffsack...beanie and insulated gloves
  • Soto Amicus cookset stove combo

Back Pocket...

  • Rain Jacket and Pants
  • Trowel+Bidet etc.


  • Sawyer Squeeze Filter and CNOC Vectro
  • First Aid Kit
  • Repair Kit
  • Headlamp
  • Buff
  • etc.

Hip belt pockets...

  • Bug net
  • Trekking pole tips
  • Lip grease
  • Small tube of sunscreen


  • Xero sandals (for camp/river crossings) These could go in the Back Pouch but I strapped them in the "lifter")

That lot weighs 18.2# and is a fairly impressive list for a "daypack".

Just need to add supplies...say ~4-5# for an overnight assuming 2L max of water carried, ~2# of food per day and a likely new iso butane fuel canister.

  • Water...Forget about using a hydration bladder. 2* 1L water bottles can go each side in the bottle pouches. Personally I'd like a 0.5 liter one on a shoulder strap but I would have to add a pouch.
  • Food...There is some room left for food in the main bag but to get more than a day in there would require some creativity. Probably can be done with some jiggering. There is also the pouch behind the front pocket which I didn't use and that can probably hold 2 or 3 Mountain House packets or similar.
  • Fuel...The Amicus cookset or JetBoil Flash can nest a fuel canister

A quick test without supplies indicates that the pack can to carry that base weight ok. I don't think adding ~4# of supplies would change that but I haven't tried it. However, it is stuffed to the point where I notice it so I probably wouldn't use it this way for a long hike.  I suspect stuffing it will cause it to run out of comfort after a few miles. Apart from that, the biggest issue I see that there is no accessible place to keep a smartphone so a fanny pack or shoulder strap pouch needs to be added.

So...with some caveats, I think it is doable for a 3 season overnight. A less bulky sleeping bag and a trekking pole solo tent would provide a bit more flexibility and stuff could be pruned depending on location, facilities and expected conditions...That would probably provide room for 2-3 days of food for a summer/good weather trip.



Oh and I should add,  my gear is reasonably compact and fairly light weight intended for backpacking.  Full price, some of it is relatively expensive (eg TW UL2 Tent, Xlite pad, Xeros) and some of it is "good value" (Kelty Cosmic 20 down sleeping bag).  None of it is exactly "cheap".  Much of it I got on sale over time.


An one minor correct.  My sleeping bag is a Kelty Light Year 20 not a Cosmic 20. It is now discontinued and is 650 fill power rather than 600 so it might compress just a bit better.  Even so it was a bit of a squeeze to get it in the bottom of this bag.


Great post and excellent suggestions. I am always looking for similar posts before I start a thread. I love the suggestions here. I need to do a little more research, as I don’t quite understand the liters vs lbs thing yet. I know both are volumes or weights. I am still learning and don’t have anything to compare it to.  Will dive into that later as I start trying to plan a long hike. Currently, we are sticking to local state parks and carrying a 2-liter water reservoir with pockets for a small first aid kit and small snack, like granola bars. When we went caving and took a tour of the Grand Canyon, it worked out well. I always say you gotta start somewhere.


@Cdawley4 - We're so glad to hear this post provided some information you were looking for!

When a pack's liters are mentioned, it is talking about the pack's capacity. For example, the Osprey Exos 58 can hold 58 liters of gear within it. The number associated with a pack's name is generally the liter amount, as that tends to be a big differentiating factor when choosing packs.

The pounds mentioned are how heavy the pack itself is, which is important if you are looking to have a lighter set up for longer or more rigorous days out on the trail. 

It's great to hear your current setup is working for you; and on some incredible ventures nonetheless! Let us know if you have any additional questions as you start prepping for some longer hikes and we'd be happy to help.

At REI, we believe a life outdoors is a life well lived.