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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

@BlueRidge Thanks for reaching out!

You are correct as this is exactly the kind of 'crowd sourcing' we hope this community provides for our members! It is my hope that a few members of our community ( @Philreedshikes@Rob6@hikermor@OldGuyot I'm looking at you!) weigh in with info as they have tremendous experience they can bring to their responses.

Personally, I currently own a 35 liter pack and a 40 liter pack. The reason I own two that are so similar in volume is because my 35 liter pack is my 'technical' pack for long day trips or to up to two night summer backpacking trips. The 40 liter pack is my daypack for hiking with my family, which includes a four year old and seven year old, and thus requires carrying a lot more 'stuff' with us than a typical day hike. The reason I went with the 'family' pack is because it has a zipper feature that allows us to fashion a way to carry our son when his little legs get tired. It has helped us extend our hikes as a family significantly further. As you can see in the photo, he clearly enjoys himself!


Enjoying the ride!Enjoying the ride!


All of that is to say that we carry a much larger pack for day hikes because it serves a very specific, albeit heavy, purpose. But it meets our needs exactly how we want it to.

My 35 liter packs serves as my daypack/overnight/weekend pack. One piece of advice I took to heart early in my hiking/backpacking days was that your backpack should be chosen to fit your gear, not the other way around. What I mean by that is if you choose to go with a smaller, light, or ultralight pack, but stuff it full of heavy gear and equipment, you'll be hurting early on on the trail. So, before choosing my 35 liter pack, I made sure that I had my kit dialed in and knew pretty much exactly how much space it would take up in a backpack. At that point it was just a matter of getting fit for backpacks that were in my volume range (30-40 liters) and picking the one that best fit my body. I also was looking for a backpack with a floating lid in case I needed to extend the volume for some reason (such as carrying a climbing rope for a day at the crag).

In the end, I purchased an REI Co-op Traverse 35 Pack and I have been extremely happy with it! I will also say that this model comes in a 70 liter version as well, so the line of packs was designed to be used for overnight backpacking. Some packs in that range can be designed with only day hiking in mind so they don't have suspension built for long distances, over multiple days, under load.

I hope this helps, I'm looking forward to reading more input from our community!


At REI, we believe time outside is fundamental to a life well lived.

Wow.  I've been called out as having tremendous experience!  I guess that comes with age.  😁

Anyhoo, I'm not sure that I can provide anything more than what's been said already by @REI-JohnJ , @hikermor and @Philreedshikes .  I mostly do day hikes, and try to go out nearly every weekend.  I'm also the designated "outfitter" of our small hiking group, so I carry the first aid kit and other group supplies, along with my personal stuff,like rain gear, insulating layer, or whatever else seems warranted for that particular hike (traction aids, extra food and/or water, gloves, etc)  Everyone else carries their own food and water, etc.  My "go-to" pack for most of these day hikes is my Osprey Stratos 26 National Parks Edition, which was an REI exclusive.  I also have a Traverse 35 which I got at a Garage Sale and use for those weekend long camping trips.  Like the others have said, you really don;t want to over-pack (unless the specific trip conditions warrant it).

I don't worry about ultralight, but prefer the overall durability and the ventilation afforded by the suspended mesh back panels these 2 packs have.  It's worth the extra weight to me.  Another nice thing is that with the compression straps, these can be pulled in to secure your gear, with the added benefit of not looking overly big.

Hope that helps!

Get out there and enjoy!

Superusers do not speak on behalf of REI and may have received
one or more gifts or other benefits from the co-op.

@BlueRidge  Hello to another fellow blue ridge hiker!  I'm in VA and we are blessed to have SO much of the blue ridge as a playground, but alas, so much of it is tree tunnels. But I digress...

Like shoes and tents and stoves, buying a pack is subject to endless opinions and debate!

So I'll just say...try not to overthink it.  Like @REI-JohnJ says, try to fit your equipment to the size pack you're going to choose.  Also, folks say that if your pack is too large for your needs, you'll just keep filling it up with stuff until it is full. (they also say 'we pack our fears)

Every backpacker/hiker I know owns about 4 or 5 of everything, including packs.

But you're looking for a backpack, which fits your gear, which you can also use as a day pack?  Is that right?  Expected 2 nights of camping?

But it's not that easy: summer camping in the sunshine🌻🏕 = not a lot of 'stay warm or stay dry' stuff.

Shoulder season 🌧= a slightly larger sleeping bag, some stuff to keep warm, maybe some rain stuff.

My pro tip:  many folks pack too many clothes for any trip.  You only really need what you're wearing to hike in, and ONLY ONE change for when you get to camp in a driving rain and need to change into some dry clothes to prevent hypothermia.  The next day, you put back on the wet clothes and either hike them dry or at least hike them to warmth.  Keeping your dry set - DRY.

So, only 1 set of clothes in your pack, plus a waterproof jacket, not so much for staying dry (impossible backpacking), but to prevent over cooling.

Plus your sweater/layered upper set, maybe a down shirt/light down jacket, hoodie, light gloves (shoulder season)

I've been using the osprey exos 58 (2.6lbs) for about 5 yrs, 2 different models (but not the current).  I love it, especially since I put my ego aside and had REI fit me for my correct size, UNBELIEVABLE what a difference it made, like I shed 5 lbs from my back.

The thing about this pack (probably most packs), you can cinch it tight and voila, it becomes sort of a day pack.

Ok, but here's the real thing...if you don't like it, TAKE IT BACK AND SWAP IT OUT, just do it within 1 year.  What a deal!

exos also fits a bear canister John Muir Trailexos also fits a bear canister John Muir Trailexos in iceland summer 2019exos in iceland summer 20192 exos in bridger wilderness summer 20192 exos in bridger wilderness summer 2019Boulder Mail Trail, Grand Escalante, UtahBoulder Mail Trail, Grand Escalante, Utahexos maroon bells wilderness coloradoexos maroon bells wilderness coloradoexosexosexos grand canyon spring 2019exos grand canyon spring 2019

REI Member Since 1979

First of all, let m say, @Philreedshikes speak with heap plenty straight tongue (as does @REI-JohnJ for that matter).  i think you have the size range down correctly, and a lot will depend on the season , terrain, and objective of your trip.

Iam currently very fond of my newest pack, a Traverse 37, which I have been using as a day pack, but which will easily work for an overnighter in decent weather.  I can probably squeeze in enough stuff for an additional night, but that would be about the limit..  You might want to consider something with a bit more space, but you can achieve a two night trip quite handily staying within the 50 liter limit,again depending upon your gear necessary for the specific trip.  I like a commodious day pack, because these days I am usually out prospecting for fossils (specifically the bones of the Channel Islands pygmy mammoth) and a successful foray means I will be returning with a bigger load than that  which started the day.

Do follow the advice to gather your gear and measure its volume and weight. Give careful thought to the utility of each item.  Is it necessary?  Are there alternatives which are more versatile and perhaps lighter?  In any event, obtain a pack with slightly more volume

Don't worry about appearing to be overloaded.  What you need for your circumstances is what you need.  If you are with a group, mutual savings can result from thoughtful planning to avoid unnecessary duplication.

Best wishes for your quest.  There are lots of very fine packs out there and there is at least one, probably several, which will fit your needs.  Good luck at just stopping with one or two.  Welcome to Packaholics Anonymous....



Superusers do not speak on behalf of REI and may have received
one or more gifts or other benefits from the co-op.

What they said... but personally I recommend getting a different pack for day hiking than for overnighting.

The heaviest thing you carry day hiking is water and you usually carry all you will need for the day so a hydration pack makes a lot of sense.  Just make sure to dry out the bladder each time you use it.  You don't need to carry that much gear day hiking so a much smaller lighter pack can be used.  You don't necessarily have to have a pack at all.  The main reason is that it conveniently groups all you things together so you can get out the door.  If you known you will hike long, far and often then get fitted for something.  Otherwise it is probably not that critical and you can just get something inexpensive and get hiking.  Later buy something better if you find you need it.

An overnight pack has to be sized to carry the bulk and weight of the gear you are going to use.  There is not much difference between what you take for 1 night vs 2 or 3.  Longer trips require more food and supplies but not necessarily more gear.   Food for a couple of days is not the bulkiest thing you will carry although it can add significant weight.  For such a pack I strongly recommend you first pay attention to the weight and bulk of the gear you will carry and then get fitted for a pack that can carry the weight and bulk of that gear.  If your budget means that you intend to use some existing car camping gear you have, take note that it tends to be heavier and bulkier.  For the first modern pack I bought I had to exchange a 55L for a 70L for that reason.  The pack I bought comfortably carries 50# or more and was quite expensive.  I still have it and have used it for overnights and week long section hikes.

Triple Crowners carry relatively little gear btw.  The goal is to travel light and fast which you can do on well established trails where you can re-supply frequently.  They often get away with small packs because of that so that style of hiking is not always the best example if your intent is shorter trips to hang out at the lake where you may want to take more gear.

@BlueRidge Looks like you're getting some good info from the community! I wanted to let you know that I edited the title of your post slightly to see if it drives some more engagement. Thanks for asking such a good question!


At REI, we believe time outside is fundamental to a life well lived.

Thank you so very much for your assistance. I can’t figure out how to post a thank you “down the chain”. It appears that the “reply” button only responds to each person and doesn’t show on the platform. 

I want to tell everyone thank you for the input.

Its great to see that y’all (as the “responsible/experienced” adult) can hike with less than 40 liters.

I would like to be able to post my final decision but can’t figure out how to do that.

Thank you again 




Never mind.......

THANK YOU all for the suggestions and help.

Happy trails to you 


You can "like" any post by clicking the thumb. You can also select a particular post as the "solution" or you can do what you did and just reply to the thread.

REI currently only let you edit your posts for a few hours after you first post it which is annoying.