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A good day bag is essential when traveling. As full-time travelers, our daypack bags are one of the most important items we carry; we never explore a city or go on a hike without them. As we prepared for our initial Around the World Trip in 2014, we were tasked with finding the Best Day Pack for Travel.
We were overwhelmed by the numerous choices of travel daypacks – there are so many styles and sizes to choose from! However, before we could determine the best daypack for travel, we had to seriously consider how we would use it.
Why Use a Day Travel Pack?
Before we talk about why you would use a small daypack for travel, we should answer the question, What is a Day Bag?
A travel daypack is a small bag that is carried while sightseeing, hiking or adventuring on day trips. For many travelers – ourselves included – a travel day bag also doubles as carry on luggage for both buses and long haul flights.
A day travel bag is responsible for containing all of the things you would typically want (or need) while out exploring or sitting in a seat while traveling.
We use a small travel daypack anytime we leave our accommodations. In it, we carry necessities – like a wallet, DSLR camera, phone, keys, a small notebook, pen and a water bottle. Additionally, there are specific pockets in my bag where I stow hand sanitizer, hand lotion, sunscreen and lip moisturizer. In another compartment, I store toilet paper, tissues and feminine products. Odds and ends – like a bottle opener, safety pins, band-aids and extra hair ties – reside in my day pack as well.
Read our tips for 14 Everyday Items for Traveling!
Depending on where I am – and where I am going – there is also room in my travel day pack for a foldable bag (if I’m going to a market), a guidebook (if I’m in a new destination), a scarf or light hoodie (if it might get chilly) and my laptop (if I need to go somewhere to work).
Basically, day bags for travel are a catch-all, carry-all for travelers – yet, they are small and compact. The best travel day bag will provide organization so that tourists can sightsee at ease knowing everything they need is within easy reach.
Features Of The Best Travel Day Packs
While almost any bag could work as a daypack travel bag, the best travel daypacks are designed with a few specific elements. These features hold true whether you are looking for the best daypack for travel in Europe or if you are seeking the best day trip backpack for hikes.
Compartmentalized Travel Day Bags
A key feature for the best travel day pack is that it has internal compartments (and sometimes, external ones, too!). Yet, the best travel bag will have at least one large main compartment for stowing bigger items.
Using a day pack for travel that only has one or two compartments is not sufficient; there should be several zippered or separated sections inside the bag. You don’t want to have to dig your dirty hands through your entire bag to locate your hand sanitizer – it should be kept in a compartment that is easy to get to.
Furthermore, segmented compartments help to keep items from spilling out of your bag. For instance, when you want to quickly grab your camera out of your day pack, you don’t want to inadvertently pull other items out of your bag, like your wallet, with it. Compartments keep everything in place and make it a cinch to find whatever you are looking for.
Having external water bottle pockets and an internal padded laptop sleeve are two common day bag travel pack features that you might want to consider.
Protection from Pickpockets
Another trait of a good day pack travel bag is an anti-theft design. Unfortunately, some of the most popular cities in the world (like Barcelona, Rome and Ho Chi Minh City) are crawling with pickpocketing thieves that target tourists. Therefore, the best travel daypack for Europe and Southeast Asia (or anywhere around the globe where pickpockets are a problem) is one that is specifically designed to deter thieves from accessing your personal possessions.
Top anti-theft elements include RFID blocking panels and slash-resistant straps, which are useful in cities where theft runs rampant. That said, zipped bags (or zippered compartments) should be used in any city as a way to ensure pickpockets don’t get their sticky fingers on your belongings and valuables.
Keep in mind that money, credit cards, wallets and cell phones should never be kept in an open area or outside, unzipped pockets (which are better used for water bottles and guidebooks); not only can they be snagged by opportunistic thieves, but they could simply fall out of your bag.
Durable and Water-Resistant Daypack
The best daypacks for travel are made with quality materials and craftsmanship. Ideally, your day pack travel bag will be constructed with durable fabrics (like ripstop nylon) designed to withstand inclement weather conditions. Additionally, the material should be stain-resistant – and it also helps if it is washable.
Water – in the form of rain, sea or even splashing by the pool – is also something to be concerned with; it can ruin expensive electronic devices, like phones and cameras (which can put a big damper on your trip!). However, a water resistant or waterproof travel daypack can keep that from happening.
Beyond all of the technical aspects of a well-designed day pack, one thing to seriously consider before purchasing a travel bag is comfort. Not only does the bag itself need to be comfortable to wear physically (padded shoulder straps are a must!), but it should be a pack that you are also at ease with regarding accessibility and style.
For example, a travel day backpack (rather than a sling bag) may not be the best bag for sightseeing if you are someone who constantly reaches for contents inside your bag. And, while a fanny pack for travel is suitable for some tourists, if it is simply not your style then you should choose a different type of bag.
Types of Day Bags
Before choosing the best day bag for travel, think about what type of day pack best fits your style, comfort and needs. There are 3 distinct styles of day packs to consider: Backpack, Cross Body Bag and Fanny Pack.
A backpack is one of the most popular options for a small daypack. Top reasons to use a day backpack is that the weight is evenly distributed over both shoulders. Because of this, it is possible to carry more items with ease (like a pair of comfortable travel shoes to switch into after a long day walking or hiking). A backpack is not only balanced, but it stays out of the way when sightseeing and hiking.
However, there are a few drawbacks to even the best day backpacks for travel. As already mentioned, accessing the contents of a backpack can be cumbersome to the wearer. Anytime you need something – your camera, Chapstick, a map, a sip of water – you have to take the backpack off to reach it.
In addition to that, carrying day backpacks on your back leaves you vulnerable to pickpockets, especially in crowded attractions or on public transportation.
Pro Tip: If you opt to carry a small day backpack, you can always wear it backwards – on your front – in overcrowded places where you think pickpockets might be lurking.
Cross Body Daypack for Travel
Cross body bags – or sling daypacks – are one-strap bags, like messenger bags and women’s travel day bag purses, that are worn across the body from one shoulder to the opposite hip. Travelers who use a cross body travel day pack do so for a couple of really good reasons.
First, there is less threat of pickpockets, because your hand naturally falls on the bag, making it easy to grasp onto in crowded places. Second, items are literally at your fingertips; there is no need take it off to access the contents like you would need to with a day backpack for traveling.
On the other hand, there are a few disadvantages regarding sling day bags that might not make them the best day bag for sightseeing. The weight of the bag lands squarely on one shoulder. While this might not be bothersome for some travel activities, it can cause neck and shoulder pain if you spend long days wearing it while sightseeing. This is especially true if you carry a lot of heavy items (like a DSLR camera, large water bottles or heavy guidebooks).
Pro Tip: A crossbody day pack is ideal for travelers who carry travel backpacks (rather than suitcases); the sling pack can be worn across the body, under the backpack on travel days.
Fanny Pack Day Bag for Travel
A Fanny Pack is a waist pack for travel that is fastened around your hips outside of your clothing. A waist pack travel bag is a mini day pack, which can be absolutely freeing, but also limiting.
The pros of using a fanny pack travel bag is that it is attached to you – ideally to the front of you – which is well out of range of thieves. Because it is worn at the waist, it eliminates carrying weight on your shoulders (although it is now somewhat fashionable to wear it across your shoulder as a chest bag, especially in some parts of Europe). And, although small, even the best fanny packs for travel have organized, zippered compartments.
That said, the downside of only carrying a fanny pack travel waist pouch is that space is limited. There should be plenty of room for essentials, but DSLR cameras and most ‘just in case’ items will likely not fit. However, some fanny packs do include a convenient water bottle compartment.
It should be noted that, if traveling to the UK, NZ or Australia, it is best to refer to your Fanny Pack as a Bum Bag…as the word fanny has a completely different meaning there!
Pro Tip: A daypack backpack and fanny pack can be worn at the same time – and may make the most sense for travelers. Items in the hip pack are within easy reach and larger items can be carried in a small backpack.
Concealed Day Packs for Travel
A concealed sightseeing bag is meant to be used in conjunction with one of the best daypacks for traveling.
A flat fanny pack for travel – also called a Money Belt – is an item that is ideal for securing items beneath your clothing. Extra cash, an extra credit card and possibly even your passport are all items the can be carried in the multi-zippered bag. In our opinion, money belts are the best travel bags to wear to ensure your money and important travel docs stay secure.
Likewise, a bra stash – a small pocket for cash and credit cards that is attached to a bra and worn under a shirt – is the best small bag for travel for women.
In addition to our day packs, we wear money belts (or a bra stash) in cities notoriously known for pickpockets.
Pro Tip: Keep in mind that while money belts and bra stashes are some of the best day packs for travel, they are only useful to deter pickpockets if you, in fact, keep them concealed under your clothing.
The Best Day Pack for Travel
As a full-time traveler, I actually travel with all three styles of day packs: Backpack, Messenger Bag and Fanny Pack. That said, most travelers will only need to choose one small day bag for a one- or two-week long trip.
Choosing the best day pack for traveling is an important consideration for any trip. Because small travel daypacks come in so many different styles, we are featuring our personal favorites – as well as those highly rated by fellow travelers.
For each travel day bag on our list, we include a description of the day pack benefits, as well as a link so that you can shop, check price, read a full review and buy the perfect day bag for your trip!
Best Day Pack Travel: Backpack Style
When it comes to the best backpacks for day travel, they can be sporty, casual or ultra-lightweight. One thing these small daypacks for travel have in common, however, is that they are all functional.
Osprey Daylite Plus Travel Backpack Daypack
The reliable travel luggage brand, Osprey, makes an entire line of day backpack travel bags. The Osprey Daylite Plus, however, is a small lightweight backpack that ranks supreme over other travel backpack daypacks. With a spacious 20L volume, multiple interior and exterior compartments (including a water bottle pocket), padded mesh shoulder straps and a ventilated back, it is clear why many travelers claim that it is the best backpack for day travel. Buy it here!
North Face Backpack Daypack for Travel
There are two different styles of North Face day bags – the North Face Borealis Mini Backpack and the North Face Jester Backpack – that are good for travel. The Borealis Mini is a small 10-liter bag that has Flex Vent technology and organizational pockets. However, it is on the small side – especially if you intend to use the backpacks for day trips or need to carry larger items. See the specs here.
The North Face Jester Day Bag was designed with school in mind – but it works well as a travel day bag, too. Top features that rank it as the best travel day backpack are the segmented interior compartments and padded sleeve for laptops. Plus, with 27 liters of space, it is excellent to use as a carry on and a bigger travel day pack. Buy it here!
Modoker Vintage Backpack
We like the look of vintage backpacks – but what we love about the Modoker Vintage Backpack day pack is that it is loaded with key features for travelers. Multiple zippered pockets, convenient USB charging port and cushioned straps make this pack the best urban daypack (and one of the best travel daypacks for Europe!). Buy it here!
G4Free Foldable Daypack
Highly rated as one of the best packable daypacks, the G4 Free 20L is a lightweight daypack that only weighs 6 ounces and easily folds to the size of a sandwich. Made of scratch- and water-resistant material, the daypack is designed with 2 zippered compartments and 2 open pockets, which is why we think it is the best foldable daypack for travelers. The bag can be packed in your luggage and used as a day trip backpack during your vacation or worn as a carry on for plane travel and then packed away on arrival to your destination. Buy it here!
Pro Tip: Need more organization in your day pack? The Grid It Organizer is a fabulous way to keep all of your small items arranged and easy to find within the large compartment of your travel bag!
Best Daypack Travel: Sling Style
Just like backpacks, cross body day packs come in a variety of styles to suit every traveler!
Timbuk2 Classic Messenger Bag
Although the Timbuk2 Classic Messenger Bag is designed with bike messengers in mind, I think it is the best day pack for travelers. I started using a Timbuk2 Messenger Bag as a day pack in the early 2000s – and it has been my travel day pack since we became full-time travelers in 2014.
Featuring numerous interior zippered pockets and compartments, there is a place for everything inside this messenger bag. The quality is top-notch (the bag I currently use is nearly 20 years old…and only recently starting to show signs of wear) and the airmesh strap makes it comfortable to wear, even on long travel days. Buy it now!
Travelon Essential Anti-Theft Bag
When it comes to anti-theft bags, Travelon is the trusted brand. Keeping your contents safe is at top of mind for their line of stylish daypacks. The Travelon Essential Crossbody Messenger Bag has two large zippered compartments (with locking zippers!) and internal compartments for storing smaller items – making it one of the best travel daypacks for women. Buy it here!
Gootium Canvas Cross Body Bag
The rugged Gootium Canvas Sling Bag is fantastic day bag for Europe and worldwide destinations. The casual travel bag has a large capacity main compartment that can fit a laptop or large camera – and there are several smaller zippered compartments and pockets, as well. It works well as a men’s day bag for travel, but can be used by women, too! Buy it here!
Best Travel Daypack: Fanny Pack
If you are looking for a small and ultra-lightweight daypack for travel, then a fanny pack may be the perfect style for you! I personally think hip packs are one of the best day bags for travel.
ENGYEN Fanny Pack
Similar to the fanny pack that I own, the ENGYEN hip pack is convertible and has multiple zippered pockets – which makes it the perfect travel bag! This fanny pack even has room for a water bottle, so it is excellent for all day sightseeing or taking on the trails.
JanSport Fifth Ave Fanny Pack
Classic, simple and functional, the JanSport Fifth Ave Waist Pack gets rave reviews as the best fanny pack for travel. With an adjustable waist strap and two easy-to-access zippered pockets, it is all that minimalist travelers will need. Buy it here!
SoJourner Stylish Fanny Pack
SoJourner fanny packs are not only fashionably fun, they are functional, too – which is why it ranks as the best waist pack for travel! Designed with the traveler in mind, the SoJourner bum bags have three high-quality zippered pockets and are made of water-resistant materials. Buy it here!
Tips for Finding the Best Bags for Travel
Finding the right bag for your trip is both important and personal. As full time nomads, we have spent ample time searching high and low for the best day travel bags – and have succeeded in finding day packs that fill our needs.
We have shared our top picks for the best small day pack for travel – but our choices are, perhaps, not exactly they style or function you are looking for in a travel bag.
If you are still on the search for the best day bag for travel in Europe or the best bags for sightseeing on USA Weekend Getaways, find more top choices on Amazon. We think it is the best place to buy travel daypacks for the wide variety of options.
More Travel Packing Tips
- Travel Hacks: Get all of our Best Travel Hacks For Packing to make sure you have everything you need for your trip!
- Join The Debate: Backpack Vs Suitcase? We break down the pros & cons and share which works best for what we pack!
- There Is No Debate: Packing Cubes are like little magical packing helpers that always contain everything on our packing list!
- Checklist: Need a Packing Checklist? Get your FREE Packing Checkist here!
We Want To Know: What do you think is the best day backpack for travel? Have you traveled with a cross body day pack? Do you wear a fanny pack for international travel? Leave your best advice and travel day pack reviews in the comments below!
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