We tested 10 of the best daypacks for your next sightseeing trip or mountain meander. If you want to know more about buying the right daypack, check out our daypack buyers’ guide.
1. Best ‘Bells and Whistles’ Pack
Deuter Trans Alpine 26-litre daypack
R1 299, Cape Union Mart
The best thing about this pack is the easy-access bottom pocket – you won’t have to unpack your entire bag to find the snacks. It features all the necessaries like compression straps, a properly reinforced back, waist belt and sternum strap, plus plenty of storage pockets. It’s also compatible with hydration packs and comes with a rain cover. It feels secure on your back and exceptionally comfortable – be sure to specify gender when buying as straps and back length vary.
Buy it: R1 299 from Cape Union Mart
RUNNER UP: Osprey Talon 33-litre daypack
R1 500, Duesouth and Drifters
The only top-loader bag featured here, this popular daypack ticks all the right boxes (back airflow channel, supportive straps, water bottle pockets and hydration-pack compatibility) but it just wasn’t as soft or comfortable as the Deuter with a heavy load. However, the space and packing design is top notch – the removable mesh top and drawstring closing mechanism caters for a range of excursions depending on the amount of gear you need. The breathable, padded waist belt (with pockets) and adjustable shoulder straps complete the package.
2. Best Compact Pack
Columbia Treadlite 10-litre backpack
R999, Columbia Sportswear
With a steel frame and mesh airflow system, this pack is also water bladder compatible and rain resistant, and has a vented mesh waist strap (removable) and a chest strap with rescue whistle. The petite, lime-coloured bag packs a punch when it comes to cool features: the front compression pocket can be expanded for dirty trail boots, the upper adjustable shoulder straps (made from a high-tech foam with ventilation mapping) can be shortened according to a person’s height and it stores away flatter than our magazine.
Buy it: R999 from Columbia Sportswear
RUNNER UP: Lifeventure 18-litre Packable Daysack
Although it doesn’t boast many high-tech features, it is the perfect sightseeing companion with compression straps and side pockets for a water bottle, and it packs away into its own pocket. However, there’s no back support and sharp objects will poke you.
Buy it: unfortunately this pack isn’t currently listed on their website, but this similar North Ridge 20-litre pack will do the trick. R249 from Trappers.
3. Best Steel-Framed Pack
K-Way Tsitsikamma 30-litre Daypack
R899, Cape Union Mart
Designed like bigger hiking bags, this pack features a steel-framed back for maximum airflow on hot summer walks. Soft, breathable straps are adjustable to fit people of different heights and it’s hydration-bladder compatible. It’s also incredibly comfortable with useful features like zippered pockets on the waist straps, outer bungee storage space and roomy water bottle pockets rather than unnecessary gimmicks.
Buy it: R699 from Cape Union Mart
RUNNER UP: First Ascent Cadence 20-litre Daypack
R850, Outdoor Warehouse
Lightweight and just as at home on the trails as in a mountain-bike race. Water-bladder compatible with a rain cover and soft, padded shoulder and waist straps. The nifty helmet storage net is a clever feature and can be used in the absence of bungee straps to store other excess items.
Buy it: R850 from Outdoor Warehouse
4. Best Urban Pack
Thule EnRoute Escort 29-litre Daypack
R1 699, Diplomat Luggage
With its slick feel and suited-to-city-life features like the crush-proof sunglasses storage pocket and padded laptop compartment, this Thule daypack is a regular on the Gautrain commute. The design is beautiful, the built-in bottle opener is a great party trick, a padded carry handle means the roomy bag doesn’t cut into your hand when fully loaded (none of the other bags here have it) and it’s split into three compartments to separate gadgets from other goods. It has a chest strap, as well as padded shoulder and unpadded waist straps, and an airflow channel down the back ensures ultimate comfort.
Buy it: R1 699 from Diplomat Luggage
RUNNER UP: K-Way Yala Laptop Bag
R299, Cape Union Mart
This basic bag features a padded laptop pouch in the main compartment and a top panel organiser pocket for keys and cards. The kicker? It can be converted into a single-strap messenger pack.
Buy it: R299 from Cape Union Mart
5. Great Value Pack
The North Face Borealis 30-litre Daypack
Endorsed by the American Chiropractic Association, this structured pack has excellent ventilation features plus all the hallmarks of a good bag such as bungee expansion storage, vented compression straps and a winged, stowable waist belt. It’s water-bladder compatible and the meshed back is padded with various channels encouraging even more airflow. It also has a generous organiser pouch for pens, cards and keys plus a padded laptop pouch with a hard back so you won’t feel it poking you. Great value for money.
Buy it: R899 from Trappers
RUNNER UP: Cape Storm Bali 26-litre Daypack
R549, Cape Storm
An affordable bag with all the basic features, a padded, breathable back and thick comfortable straps. Simple but sufficient – if you’re just looking for a straightforward travel pack, this is it.
Buy it: R549 from Cape Storm
This article first appeared in the October 2014 issue of Getaway magazine.
All prices were correct at time of publication, but are subject to change at each manufacturer’s discretion.