How To Choose A Ladies Daypack (And Packing Lists!)

Laura Lopuch

You’ve accomplished the challenge of packing for your trip in only a carry on. Congratulations! You’ve arrived at your destination and are ready to embark on adventures galore.

Only hitch is you only brought a carry on and your purse. Your purse isn’t big enough to carry what you need on your daily adventures, since you were space-saving in your carry on, and it isn’t exactly comfortable for long pleasurable jaunts of getting lost and exploring.

Enter the daypack: your savior in space-saving and bag-loving.

What’s a Daypack?

Never heard of one before? Don’t worry, I hadn’t either until recently.

Daypack (definition): a smaller backpack used to carry maps, cameras, water or other extremely useful items (such as, umbrella, jacket, snacks) on your day excursions. A daypack can typically fold into itself to travel as a small pouch, so you can slip it into a carry on.

In this guide, I’ll show you how to choose a daypack when you’re only using a carry on, what women should look for in a daypack and why it can be a better choice than a purse, as well as some sample daypack packing lists for different day trips.

Choosing a Daypack

There are three main items to look for in a daypack when you’re packing in tight confines:

1) Packability

How small does this bag pack into itself? You don’t want to nestle a backpack inside of your carry on. That results in too much wasted space, not to mention a total hassle in accessing your clothes.

Beware: a smaller pouch isn’t always better. What you’re sacrificing in that situation is comfort. The smaller pouch means the bag makers did away with padding on the bag’s back for your spine.

What you need to find is the balance between comfort in wearing the daypack (found in back padding, comfortable straps) and the bag’s ability to shrink into a small pouch.

2) Lightweight

This circles back to the balance between your comfort and the size of the daypack when compressed. Heavier material will be more durable, but it’ll also take up more room when you pack it.

3) Available Space

Determine how much space in your carry on that your daypack can take up. It’s silly to bring a daypack but forgo your second pair of pants just to find the space for it. Many daypacks are squishy when they’re packed down, so it gives you some flexibility in where you can cram it, unlike a hard-backed object. For example, Tortuga Daypack packs into a pouch the size of a small paperback book.

Considerations for a Ladies Daypack

1. An adjustable chest strap

A chest strap is super handy when you’re running for the last train, hiking up a dormant volcano, or worried about bag thieves. But it’s not handy if it’s uncomfortable across your chest.

Ladies, you know what I mean. If that strap can be adjusted to a good spot for you, it can make a world of difference.

2. Contoured shoulder straps

Women, in general, have narrower shoulders. Because of the way our bodies are built we need extra contouring and comfort in our straps. It helps the daypack ride better and reduces friction across the shoulders.

3. Shorter bag length

Women are typically more petite than our male counterparts. Tall bags are cumbersome and hard to manage. Not to mention, they can become too unwieldy if the bag extends below the waist. If they’re too tall, they bang into our legs as we walk.

Important: Like any bag you’re planning to load up and wear for 4+ hours on a trip, try on the daypacks you’re considering before purchasing. Or, make sure the company has a great return policy.

Daypack vs. Purse

1. Equal weight distribution

Do you ever have those days when your purse feels so heavy you fear it’ll throw your shoulder out of joint and your back out of whack?

A daypack can fix that. Since it’s worn on your back, there is equal weight distribution across your body. One side is not stressed over the other. You can stand taller and go longer without weight pulling one side of you down.

2. Theft-proof

Picking a daypack with locking zippers increases security and reduces the likelihood of theft. Even without locking zippers a daypack is more theft deterrent than a standard purse.

Why? The daypack has two straps instead of one.

What happens if a bag thief slices one strap on your daypack? No big deal — you still have the second strap keeping your bag close to you. However, it’s a totally different scenario if a thief tries to steal your purse. One strap, one slice, and your purse is gone.

3. Durability

Frankly, most purses aren’t designed to stand up to the stress of the road. In rainstorms in many cities, I’ve stuffed my bag under my coat so its fabric wouldn’t get damaged. The fabric of many daypacks are treated with a water-resistant coating. If the one you have is not, you can easily buy a waterproofing spray and beef up its protection.

When choosing your daypack, look for one made of nylon or nylon ripstop. These fabrics are tough and made to withstand a beating.

Also, check the denier of the fabric. The denier measures how tightly woven the fabric is. The higher the denier, the stronger the fabric. Common, lightweight, nylon is 400-600 denier.

4. Organization

How many times have you fished for your keys in a dark bottomless pit of a purse? How many times have you tucked a water bottle into a purse, only to later find it rolling around in the bottom? Organizing a purse, no matter how many inner pockets it has, is akin to corralling drunk monkeys. It never works well and you go crazy. A daypack, like the Tortuga Daypack, is organized internally like a backpack with sections and slots to keep things tidy.

Sample Packing Lists

There are plenty of ways to use a daypack while traveling. Here are some sample packing lists for you.

Sightseeing in a city, or day trip

  1. 2 bottled waters
  2. Umbrella
  3. Camera/smartphone (I use my smartphone for pictures)
  4. Snacks
  5. Light sweater or jacket
  6. Moleskine or journal
  7. Book or Kindle for journey
  8. Mini first aid kit
  9. The Honest Company wipes
  10. Sunscreen


  1. Bottled water
  2. Camera/smartphone
  3. Snake bite kit
  4. Sunscreen
  5. Mini first aid kit
  6. Map
  7. Compass
  8. Bug spray (buy it there)

Beach day

  1. Bottled water
  2. Good book to read
  3. Change of clothing
  4. Sunscreen
  5. Snacks
  6. Towel


A daypack can be folded into itself and tucked into a carry on. At your destination you can pull it out, give it a shake, and use it on your daily adventures to carry your water, camera, maps, and souvenirs.

For a ladies, daypack might be a better choice than a purse thanks to its theft-proof two straps, durable fabric, and comfortable fit. Check to find a daypack that has padded back, adjustable chest strap and contoured shoulder straps to get the best fit for you.

Image: Sylwia Bartyzel (Flickr)