We've tested 16 of the very best 2017 hill and mountain walking daypacks to help you choose the best load-hauler for one-day outings in the hills.
We’ve tested no fewer than 16 of the best 2017 walking and climbing daypacks from the top brands with capacities between around 25-litres and 35-litres. We used all the packs in UK mountains for walking, scrambling and climbing and threw in a few overnighters with the larger packs as well.
As a rule, the lighter and smaller packing your kit overall, the smaller the capacity of the pack you need. The advantage of larger packs, is that you can often also carry lightweight overnight kit for weekend outings.
Walking Or Climbing Pack?
Modern walking daypacks tend to be built relatively light with ventilated back systems, while climbing packs are tougher, have cleaner lines and a simpler, but supportive, snow-shedding back-panel. In general, you can use a technical climbing pack for all-round mountain use, but often at the expense of comfort, but a walking pack usually won’t hack it for climbing use.
You can simply work your way down the page or click on the links here to jump straight to the pack review of your choice. We’ve also put together a verdict section with our top picks. Enjoy!
‘The Speed 30 is a solid, modern take on the traditional lidded alpine pack with the option to strip it down by an additional 400 grammes on days when you want to dance nimbly up the mountain in uncompromising fast and light mode…’
Outdoors Magic: Reasonably light, strippable, stable and supportive, classic features, selectively tough, traditional top-loading, floating lid lay-out, pockets, happy with heavier loads. Good build quality.
Outdoors Tragic: Weightier than some in full spec, dinky gear-loops on belt a little fiddly.
Outdoors Grabbit? The Speed 30 is very much a lightened-up classic alpine pack complete with supportive frame-sheet back system, floating lid with pocket, soluble snow closure, removable crampon straps and so on. It carries heavier loads better than some lighter packs thanks to the combination of foam pad and frame-sheet and feels stable and supportive, though not exactly luxurious. The sleek, tall profile works well too. Strip out the lid and backpad/sheet and you can cut the weight down to 830g without losing all your back padding. All of which makes it a versatile all-round technical mountain pack.
Lightweight mountaineering pack / fabrics Nylon 210d ripstop main, 420d abrasion / reinforced base / thermoformed back panel / top-loading with removable floating lid / drawcord skirt closure and tuck-away rope strap / Micro ice-tool PickPockets™ and removable 20 mm crampon straps / removable hipbelt with fixed webbing belt and removable framesheet that doubles as a bivi pad / hydration compatible.
Outdoors Grabbit? The Core 35’s something of a throwback to the day when alpine packs were tough and simple bags with a few straps added, but with some modern flourishes where it matters. It’s very light for its size, but the fabric and construction feel proper tough and with careful packing the sac is reasonably comfortable and stable too. Plus it has the core mountain features you really need with a sleek, non-snagging profile. We did find it less comfortable with heavier loads and we’d have liked a rope-retaining top-strap for cragging and approach use, but for durable fast and lightism, it ticks the boxes nicely.
Minimalist, lightweight mountain pack / 1680 D Ballistic nylon, PU coated, / Polyester back panel / top lid with pocket / carabiner-type strap fastener / removable back panel/mat / removable hip-belt / toggled hydration pocket / twin shock-cord ice-axe loops / daisy chain looped front webbing
‘The Abisko Friluft has all the reassuring bombproof solidity of Fjällräven’s traditional trekking and hiking packs but with the bonus of a new, ventilated back system.’
Outdoors Magic: Seriously solid feel, comfortable and supportive vented back system, pockets, massive zip-down panel access to main compartment, big front pocket.
Outdoors Tragic: A tad heavy, quite expensive.
Outdoors Grabbit? On paper Fjällräven’s packs look heavy and old fashioned, but they’ve always felt super solid and durable and carried really well in our experience. The new vented Friluft continues in the same vein. Not only is it cooler than the brand’s conventional packs, it’s really comfortable and supportive too. Add in lots of pocket choice and a radical, zip-down main compartment access panel and you end up with a deceptively capable, super solid pack that’ll handle day walks and light packing too. It’s not cheap and it’s not particularly light, but the quality and comfortable carry plus well thought-out features reflect that.
Hill and mountain walking daypack with vented back system / ventilated back system with suspended mesh panel and aluminium frame / G-1000 Eco main fabric with Polyamide base / front, side stash and belt pockets / zip-down main compartment access panel / floating lid with inside and outside pockets / single pole/axe loop / accessory straps on base for sleeping mat or similar
‘Excellent, refined, ventilated walking daypack with an effective back system, myriad pockets and comprehensive features. The Zulu 30 is up there with the very best in its class’
Outdoors Magic: Comfortable, stable, cool, brilliantly specced, plenty of pockets, sleek looks, tough, big zip-openings access to main compartment. Sun-glasses holder…
Outdoors Tragic: Nothing much unless you’re into more minimalist packs.
Outdoors Grabbit? As top-spec ventilated packs go, the Zulu 30’s hard to fault. The excellent back system gives just the right mix of ventilation and excellent support with a small gap to minimise leverage. There are pockets everywhere, good access, general design and build quality are both decent and while it won’t completely eliminate sweaty back syndrome, it definitely does make an appreciable difference in our experience. Fabrics are tough, though we suspect the stretch mesh pockets won’t last as long as the rest of the pack – that’s common to most packs of this type though. A really impressive all-round walking, hiking and trekking pack.
Ventilated hill and mountain walking daypack / Hybrid top-loading / zippered main compartment opening / front and side stash pockets / ‘lid’ pocket / twin axe/pole holders / hydration sleeve / two hip-belt pockets / ventilated Crossflow back system / available in medium and long back lengths / sun-glasses holder
‘Haglöfs’ minimalist albino statement pack is actually a lot more practical and functional than it looks, though still an uncompromisingly specialist bit of kit aimed squarely at ‘fast and light’ climbing machines’
Outdoors Magic: Properly light, surprisingly comfortable and stable with medium loads, tough fabrics, rope-strap, no harness conflicts.
Outdoors Tragic: Just one, tiny, secure pocket, hydration system compatibility an afterthought, it’s very white.
Outdoors Grabbit? Put the terrifying whiteness to one side and the Roc Helios 25 is an interesting and surprisingly practical bit of minimalist climbing design. It’s light and tough, works great with a harness and even has a rope-carrying strap up top. Back panel opening means you can get easy access without completely removing – and dropping – the pack and creative use of shock cording ups the carrying capacity. On the down side, it has just one tiny zipped pocket, no guide loops exit for a hydration tube even though there’s a sleeve and demands careful kit choice from the user. It’s singleminded and extreme if you’re wired the same way. Did we mention it’s very white?
Minimalist mountaineering and rock climbing pack / VX 07 Dimension Polyant X-Pac and HT Cordura (210D) fabrics / Interact suspension system / zipped rear panel access / shock-corded accessory carrying system / ice-axe loops / side-pocket with key-holder / hydration reservoir sleeve / rope carrying loop up top / sternum strap with integral whistle.
‘Effective ventilation, all-round comfortable, confident performance and Lowe Alpine’s legendary build quality make this an ideal all-round hiking pack particularly in warmer conditions’
Outdoors Magic: Cool, comfortable back system, serious build quality, no-nonsense design, pockets, pole-holders and more.
Outdoors Tragic: Nothing much.
Outdoors Grabbit? When it comes to all-round hiking and walking competence, the AirZone 30 is hard to beat. Big air gaps and open areas give decent ventilation and adaptive fit straps and belt both work well to give a stable, comfortable carry. No problems with build quality and theHike 30 is one of the few packs we’ve used with zipped side pockets in addition to the currently modish stash ones. Huge belt pockets are fantastic for stowing anything from snacks and phones to compact cameras. No gimmicks or overly clever touches, just a solid, no-nonsense, entirely trustworthy performer.
Hill and mountain walking daypack with vented back system / AirZone tensioned mesh / Adaptive Fit harness / padded hip-belt with pockets / compression straps / zipped side pockets / side and front stash pockets / sternum strap with whistle / hydration compatible / TPU walking pole holders / ice-axe loop / key-clip / rain cover in base.
‘A classy, sleek, technical mountain and alpine pack that carries in a taut, sturdy way and features most of what you need in a well-thought out package. Good all-round technical choice’
Outdoors Magic: Light but sturdy, clean lines, stable, taut, comfortable carry. Useful top-pocket, twin gear loops, neat Headlocker axe points, grippy, snow-hostile moulded back-panel. Decent value and great build quality.
Outdoors Tragic: Fast access to main compartment limited, dangling waist-belt tails if you’re slim, using top-tensioner straps as rope carrier is uncomfortable.
Outdoors Grabbit? Light, stable, sleek and supportive with careful choice of fabrics adding selective toughness, the Alpine Ascent 32 is a dependable mountain all-rounder for anything from general mountain outings through to lightweight alpine days, summer or winter. It carries really well and close with the non-slip back panel helping to keep things planted. That said, access to the main compartment is limited compared to panel-opening packs, the waist-belt tails dangle annoyingly and while you can use the top tensioners to stow a rope, we found it uncomfortable. Those quibbles aside though, it’s an excellent, lightweight technical mountain pack.
Lightweight mountaineering pack / thermo-moulded back system with grip zones / 330D Cross/TriShield Dura/HydroShield zoned fabrics / compression straps / gear loops on hip-belt / top tensioner rope carrier option / zipped top-pocket / zipped top access to main compartment / twin ice axe loops with Headlocker attachments / twin wand bucket pockets / hydration system compatible/ daisy chains on front
Outdoors Tragic: Rain cover pocket difficult to open.
Outdoors Grabbit? Mammut’s fast and light alpine ethos extends to its hiking packs as well with the Creon Tour 28 mixing sub-1000g weight for a ventilated pack with pleasingly sleek lines and enough pockets and plushness to keep you happy without over-egging things. The matte-finished fabric feels tough and looks amazing and overall build quality is excellent. If you want a ventilated back system pack that’s both light, cool and comfortable but not festooned with millions of ingenious features you’re not sure you actually need, the Creon Tour fits the bill nicely and comes at a decent price too. Recommended.
Hiking backpack with ventilated back system / Contact Stream suspension system / integrated metal frame / lid with pocket / twin mesh stash side-pockets / hydration system compatible / integrated detachable rain cover / forward-pull hip belt adjustment / front zipped pocket / 100D Nylon Flat Ripstop main fabric / 420D Nylon reinforced base
Outdoors Tragic: Slightly heavy, comfortable but basic back system, not very ‘serious’… sternum strap fiddly. Pricey.
Outdoors Grabbit? We defy you not to look at Fraser and smile. Brilliant retro alpine styling meets tough, new era ‘Bionic Canvas’ in a super cool-looking package embellished with loads of neat and practical touches. Because although it’s a little weighty by modern standards and the traditional back system is, well, traditional, this is a surprisingly practical, sturdy all-round walking pack that also works brilliantly as a cool everyday town carrier. Lap-top or hydration system, compass or tube pass, map or Kindle? It’s your call.
Retro-styled urban and outdoor daypack / Bionic Canvas fabric / secure top-lid with drawcord closure / storage pockets for maps, bottle etc / hydration – lap-top sleeve / two compression straps / External zip pocket with internal key ring / two zip-pockets on hip-belt / removable hi-belt / 25L version also available.
‘A basic, lightweight but effective mountain pack with some super neat features that’ll strip down to 640g and pack away into its own lid-pocket’
Outdoors Magic: Balance of light and tough, Buddy pocket, main opening and sternum strap fasteners neat, hip and side pockets, basic but effective back system, narrow profile, minimal seam design.
Outdoors Tragic: Basic back system needs careful packing and struggles with heavier hardware loads, pockets could snag on rock.
Outdoors Grabbit? A logical extension to Montane’s streamlined pack range, the Featherlite 30 has a simple back system with removable foam pad that sits close and stable, but requires thoughtful packing and can be overwhelmed with heavier loads. Stay light though and you’ll appreciate the light but tough fabric, minimal design and some cunning, well thought-through features and fasteners. Strip out the back pad and it’ll pack into its own lids and become a handy, lightweight summit pack for big mountain use. We’re a little wary of the side and belt pockets snagging on rock, but they’re ace for general mountain use and purists could always cut them off…
Lightweight mountain day and summit pack / 100 Denier triple rip-stop RAPTOR Featherlite™ fabric with Robic filaments / Montane ‘Comfort Air Back System’, / removable foam pad / hydration compatible / side stretch mesh stash pockets / twi belt pockets / lid Buddy and security pockets / quick release, single-handed sternum strap fastening / top single compression straps /s towable dual walking pole attachment point at base of pack / integrated top pole attachment on compression strap / perforated foam shoulder straps.
‘The combination of MHW’s excellent waterproof technology and a roll-top closure makes this one of the few functionally waterproof mountain packs out there albeit with a few minor compromises. Go throw yourself in a river – your kit will still be dry even it you’re not.’
Outdoors Magic: Functionally waterproof thanks to OutDry, light, multiple external stash pockets, basic but supportive back system, still takes a hydration system.
Outdoors Tragic: Slow access to main compartment, no secure zipped lid-type pocket, belt pockets very small, reservoir ca be tricky to insert if the pack is full.
Outdoors Grabbit? The Scrambler 35’s trump card is that it’s nigh on 100% waterproof with a dry-bag style closure and OutDry membrane. That does mean it’s more faff than usual to access the main compartment and means the hydration sleeve lives between the back sheet and the pack body where it can cause barrelling. There’s no lid, so no lid pocket either, so your only zipped secure pockets are the small belt ones. There are three handy mesh stash-pockets though. And despite the basic shape and back system, the pack’s reasonably comfortable with light to medium loads and carries fine. Asks the question: how much do you need your pack to be waterproof? MHW has other OutDry options too if you want something different.
Functionally waterproof, lightweight, all-round mountain pack / 400D HD Nylon with OutDry membrane / Hardwave suspension back panel / front and side stash pockets / zippered waist belt pockets / sternum strap with whistle / dry-bag type roll-top closure / hydration sleeve
‘With a weight of just 330g you’d expect the Nigor Moyo to be a touch fragile, but the use of Dyneema fabric ups the durability ante. You’ll need to commit to all-round lightweight kit for it to work though.’
Outdoors Magic: Very, very light. Tough fabrics. Less spartan than it looks wth stash pockets and stowage cords. Packs small for summit use.
Outdoors Tragic: No padding means careful packing needed. Doesn’t deal well with ‘full weight’ kit.
Outdoors Grabbit? The Moyo’s key claim to fame is that it’s impressively light, but still decently tough thanks to the use of Dyneema fabric normally specced on high-end climbing packs. And while there’s no lid or back system, you do get three handy stash pockets, a hydration sleeve and handy shock-corded stowage come compression. All nicely done too. The minimal design calls for lightweight loads and careful packing using foam to add some support. Not for everyone, but if you want light and minimal without fragility, there’s not much else to compare.
Ultra-lightweight daypack / Dyneema fabric / space mesh shoulder straps / three stretch mesh stash pockets / zip-open top access / shock-cord stowage / hydration sleeve / detachable waist-belt
Full Review Below
Osprey Mutant 28 Pack – £100 / 1000g
‘The Mutant 28 is a brilliantly-designed technical climbing pack, that’s also comfortable enough for more general mountain use. Touches like the neat helmet carrier are just genius.’
Outdoors Magic: Light, supportive, comfortable back system with ventilation, easy main bag access, rope and helmet carriers, neat ice-tool carriers, top pocket, general build quality, handy gear loops, ace compression system, general Osprey-ness.
Outdoors Tragic: Mesh back potentially not as long-term tough as some others.
Outdoors Grabbit? The smaller of Osprey’s two Mutants makes an excellent all-round technical mountain pack, winter or summer. It’s super refined with an ingenious helmet carrier, differential zig-zag compression, neat attachments for leashless or other axes and more. Top zip opening gives great access and there’s a top pocket too. The back system uses non-snow gathering reversed mesh over a ridged foam base and is actually comfortable. Decently light, but tough too and capable of carrying climbing hardware without crippling you. Genius.
Lightweight mountaineering and climb pack / main fabric 210D Nylon Dobby / Dual ToolLock™ for ice axe attachment / Integrated ski/climbing helmet storage / Removable HDPE framesheet with T6061 aluminium stay / Abrasion resistant PU texture to front panel / Glove friendly buckles / internal hydration sleeve / sewn-in reverse wrap stowable hip-belt with gear loops / side ski carry / under lid zipped mesh pocket with key-clip.
‘All the usual Osprey excellence in build and features with a taut ventilated back system makes this an excellent all-day hiking pack that’s even up for light packing if you choose’
Outdoors Magic: Build quality, pockets, easy access to main compartment, taut ventilated back system, proper belt pockets, ace trekking pole stowage, adjustable back length, super supportive.
Outdoors Tragic: We found the prominent seams on the suspended mesh panel dug in slightly, so try for fit before buying. Mesh pocket long-term durability question mark.
Outdoors Grabbit? The latest Stratos combines the back and hip-belt mesh fabrics for a super supportive wrap-around fit. Taut, cool, suspended trampoline mesh copes well with medium to heavy loads and there are billions of pockets plus easy access to the main compartment via a whopping zip. The back is adjustable for length too. It’s an excellent pack, but the one issue we had was with the taut seam of the back panel pressing slightly against our back. For that reason, we’d suggest trying before buying. If it fits you, it’s a great pack.
Ventilated hiking and walking daypack / zip-accessed main compartment / zipped front-pocket / stretch mesh side-pockets / twin belt-pockets / top zip-pocket / hydration compatible / AirSpeed™ trampoline suspended mesh back system / adjustable torso length plus two sizes / Stow-on-the-Go™ trekking pole attachment / sternum strap with emergency whistle / single ice axe loop.
‘The Ascensionist toes a careful line between sleek, light but tough minimalism, and having just enough function and versatility to suit lightweight climbers and mountaineers who are prepared to keep loads light’
Outdoors Magic: Light, but tough fabrics, reinforced foam base, versatile ‘lid’ system, choice of axe attachments, strippable foam pad, sleek profile, sideways lid opening.
Outdoors Tragic: No hydration sleeve if that worries you. Minimal support for heavier loads. Can ‘barrel’ if overloaded.
Outdoors Grabbit? The Ascensionist 30 is properly light at just 710g, but Patagonia has tweaked it for 2017 with tougher fabrics and a foam-reinforced base which adds durability and structure. It’s a minimalist but versatile pack with a neat ‘lid’ system that can be tweaked to carry a rope. Waist belt is simple and light and there are both trad ice-axe loops and modern head-hole bar gizmos to suit your tools of choice. Structural daisy chains allow for ad lib additional shock cord storage. Not ideal for kitchen sinkers, but if you move light and don’t mind a little walk-in discomfort – it can barrel if you overpack – it has everything you need in a sleek-profiled, climbing-friendly package. There’s also a more load-friendly 40L version for those who want more support and load capacity.
Lightweight mountaineering pack / nylon/polyester Cordura® ripstop fabric 86% nylon/14% polyester with a polyurethane coating / asymmetrical spindrift collar with single-cord lid closure / fabric back with removable dense foam pad / single internal and external zipped pockets / fours stitched daisy chain rows / minimal waist belt / hydration tube outlet / asymmetric profile for elbow clearance / foam reinforced base
Full Review Below
Salomon X ALP 30 – £120 / 930 grammes
‘Fast and light is the Salomon way and the X ALP works best with light to light-medium loads. Central back zip gives amazing access to the main compartment, but displaces the hydration sleeve and makes the back system a little bendy and unsupportive.’
Outdoors Magic: Interesting ideas including central zip in back system, good access to main compartment, light, tough fabric, Extrem Box at base, perimeter alloy frame.
Outdoors Tragic: Hydration compatibility an afterthought, back system requires careful packing, no rope holder.
Outdoors Grabbit? Fast, light and minimal is the classic French alpine ethos and it shows. While similar packs have reinforced back systems to cope with heavier climbing loads, the X ALP’s radical solution uses a soft centre with access zip and a perimeter frame. You get great access to the main body of the pack, but the pay-off is the need to pack carefully and a certain lack of support with heavier loads. We do like the reinforced ‘Extrem Box’ at the base for crampon or wet kit storage though and lid and belt-pockets are welcome. Best if you go light.
Lightweight mountaineering pack / Butterfly frame back system / 100D triple ripstop Nylon with PU coating / compression straps / hydration compatible / internal zipped pocket / Harness Lite shoulder straps / 3D mesh / U-zipped top opening / zipped belt pocket / two ice axe loops / Extrem Box / removable diagonal ski carrier / E-Lock sternum-strap / top external zipped pocket / Ergo Belt
And is invariably the way these days, virtually all the packs we tested performed well and quite often the choice between them comes down to deciding what suits your needs best. We had everything from the super minimalist Nigor Moyo – basically a very tough bag with a couple of straps added – through to fully featured, weekend-capable larger packs like the new Fjällräven Friluft 35. Both good packs, but both very different.
But while there are no definitive answers, here are a few of our top picks to give you a starting point.
Best Ventilated Walking Pack
Vented back packs have really come of age. There’s no longer a problem with load carrying thanks to narrower air gaps and supportive straps and belts. Our favourite by a short nose if you like your packs fully featured was the Gregory Zulu 30 (below) a really neat pack with a high spec, some great features, and a really good carry.
We also liked the Osprey Stratos 34 which does the brand’s usual super quality, super reliable gig and, if you want the benefits of a vented back, but without added weight and complexity, the excellent Mammut Creon Tour 28 which surprised us with its blend of ‘just enough’ features without sacrificing usability. Nice.
Best Technical Mountain Pack
We fell a little bit in love with Osprey’s great little Mutant 28 climbing pack. It’s unique here in having a comfortable and vented back system that still doesn’t attract snow build-up combined with light but solid build, and excellent, comfortable carry and some cracking features including a unique and useful helmet carrier. It’s just a really good mountain pack that’ll do general duty in addition to specialist climbing chores if you need it to.
Several of the other climbing packs we used scored highly too. The Patagonia Ascensionist 30 is light, but cunningly designed and does a great job if you want to keep things simple, but not too simple and Lowe Alpine’s Alpine Ascent 32 – yes, two ‘alpines’ – would probably have won the test were it not for the Mutant. Still a cracking pack though.
Best Lightweight Pack
Lightweight stuff is invariably about trading off weight again all-round comfort and usability. We have a sneaking liking for the super minimal Nigor Moyo 28 but it requires you to conform to all-round lightening of everything.
Arguably better for more people though, is Montane’s new Featherlite 30, a neat mix of lightness and function with the option to shed a little more weight if you want to cut the grammes further. It’s neatly made and designed without taking things ‘too far’.
Finally, an honourable mention for the Exped Core 35 as a modern take on the minimalist climbing pack for the terminally nostalgic alpinist. It’s simple and tough, just like you.
Best Quirky Daypack
Last but not least, we couldn’t not mention the brilliant Millican Frazer the Rucksack 32L – it’s a really nicely thought through mix of classic retro looks and modern life-friendly features that work just as well in town as they do on the hill. It’s a surprisingly able bit of kit with real style. We like it a lot, though we do sometimes get the spelling wrong.
In similar vein, though it’s not included here, Lowe Alpine’s new Klettersack 30 does similar retro-styled gig and appears in the Spring 2017 Outdoor 100 selection of the best gear out there.
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