Hike Happy

8 Perfect Daypacks For Any Family Hike

Playing pack mule on the family hike? These bags will let you carry the necessities in comfort.

by Doug Schnitzspahn
A collage of a panorama site, an orange circle, and two perfect daypacks for any family hike

Become a dad and you realize one truth in a hurry—a daypack is mandatory. Kids require a lot of gear and they don’t want to be the ones who carry it. (Anyway, you can’t trust them to bring all they might need; they’ll eschew a rain jacket on a cloudy day every time.) As a dad out on the trail, you have to operate as if you were a good guide. A guide lets clients enjoy their time but can provide anything they may need — from layers to snacks to bird identification to emergency first aid — in a hurry.

"Whether going out for one or 10 nights, you need all the same stuff,” says Eric Henderson, a dad of three who runs Meteorite PR in Colorado and is a certified AMGA guide who worked Jackson Hole, Wyoming, for six years. “You need the same equipment in your packs for one hour or two days to garnish a successful outdoor adventure. The same holds true for planning a day on the trail with the kids. Always bring a rain jacket, a pad to sit on, extra food (Skittles to help make it back to the car), water, a collection of songs… and remember it's always longer than you think.”

So, the best daypacks need to be capable of hauling all of your stuff and your kids' stuff but not weigh you down too much. They must also be comfortable, whether that means more padding in the shoulder straps or additional sweat-reducing air channels in the back panel. Organization is key, too — it doesn’t matter how much your pack can carry if it a pain to access what you need when you need it.

Beyond that, any other needs depend on what you’ll be doing. Hydration reservoirs are great for cardio-heavy treks or hikes in hot weather, durability is a factor if you go out often or hit up high-abrasion hikes like canyoneering, and ultralight day packs are ideal for longer hikes where any extra weight can wear you out.

To offer some inspiration, here are our parent-tested picks for best day packs for whatever adventure you undertake. Each of the following packs are comfortable, has a range of pockets for easy organization, and, most importantly, has enough space to haul whatever you and your family need for a great day on the trail. Just don’t forget the skittles.

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