The Best Travel Daypack for City Adventures

Laura Lopuch

“I’ve got my carry on bag,” you ask, “So why pack a second, smaller bag like a daypack? Doesn’t that just take up room in my carry on?”

Fair argument.

But riddle me this: When you’re heading out on your daily adventures — which you shall, because why travel only to stay cooped up in a hotel room or Airbnb — how will you carry the items you need for that day?

In your pockets?

In your jacket?

Granted, you could. It would be cumbersome.

And you’d be limited by the size of your pockets. Or lack thereof, if you’re a woman and your pants have toddler-sized pockets in your designer jeans. Also, you’d probably have to carry your water bottle everywhere because it wouldn’t fit in a pocket.

There’s a better solution.

Why You Need a Travel Daypack for City Adventures

Wouldn’t it be easier if you packed a smaller backpack to shake open and fill with your wallet, phone, water bottle, light jacket, and (maybe) umbrella?

A backpack that would serve as a daily traveling companion to anticipate your needs better than Butler Jeeves.

That’s exactly what a travel daypack does.

When you adventure in metropolitan and urban areas, a travel daypack is a necessity. It allows you to roam free and unencumbered with all your daily needs in one comfortable bag. So you don’t have to stop in your hotel 3-5 times a day just to “grab a light jacket,” or “drop off my umbrella,” or “darn it, I forgot my sunglasses, let’s go back.”

Everything you need for the day is in your travel daypack.

Now we’re talking.

What to Look For in a Travel Daypack

When you’re looking for the best travel daypack, you need one that hits these five points:

  1. Laptop sleeve
  2. Padded back & straps
  3. Weather-resistant fabric
  4. Packable for one-bag travel
  5. Tough for any adventure

Here’s why.

Laptop Sleeve

The wifi in your Airbnb apartment has been kicking on and off all morning. You’re this close to banging your head off the walls, just to ease your building frustration.

All you want to do is work on your projects, get ‘em done, and go explore.

You collect headphones, water bottle, snack, and laptop, tossing them into your daypack. Well, the laptop slides into its separate padded laptop sleeve. ‘Cause it’s special like that — and darned expensive.

If that equipment broke, you’d be up the creek without a paddle and freaking out. It’s how you stay connected with the world.

More importantly, it’s how you make your money to keep you traveling.

Slinging your travel daypack on your back, and locking the apartment door, you head out for a cafe reported to have strong, reliable wifi.

A change of scenery, with wifi that works, is just what the doctor ordered.

You breathe in the sweet scent of European cigarettes, morning espresso, and bus exhaust mixing in the morning air.

It feels so good to be on the move. If you didn’t have a travel daypack with a laptop sleeve, you’d be tucking your precious laptop to your chest, nervously clucking like a mother hen anytime a cycling commuter passed too close to you.

Instead, you hold your head high, swing your arms, and feel open to a morning of hard, productive work.

Padded Back & Straps

You’ll be wearing this daypack for long hours. It will be holding an eclectic mix of items — like a water bottle, camera, umbrella, snacks, sunglasses, momentos — both heavy and light.

Meaning you want a travel daypack that is comfortable enough to wear for long hours. One that has a padded back, so your things don’t jab into your spine with every step.

Pick a travel daypack with wide, padded shoulder straps to comfortably haul your daily gear. The wide straps redistribute the weight across a larger surface area.

So, your totally-full 32 ounce water bottle feels like one half the size.

Weather-Resistant Fabric

Rain pelted my jacket. Streamed down the edges of my hood pulled tight against my face.

I shrugged against the cool breeze, held a hand up to shield my eyes against the driving rain, and squinted at the colorful graffiti-like artwork on the Berlin Wall.

It was May, but you’d never guess it from Germany’s weather.

I wasn’t bothered. My travel daypack was made from weather-resistant fabric: nearly waterproof fabric that kept my belongings — like my expensive camera — safe and dry.

That’s the fabric you want for your travel daypack, too.

Look for one made from weather-resistant fabric like rip-stop nylon, DWR-treated fabric, or sailcloth like the Outbreaker daypack. Only then can you adventure without ducking into nearby shelters every time a raindrop falls to earth.

Packable for One-Bag Travel

You need a travel daypack that slips easily into your main bag, so you’re not juggling multiple bags on flights. When you reach your destination, pull your travel daypack out, give it a good shake, and fill ‘er up for your city adventures.

So, with that goal in mind, look for a travel daypack that folds flat and packs down into a small size.

You want to lay it inside your carry on, zip that shut, and not have your travel daypack take up valuable real estate inside your carry on backpack.

Only then is your travel streamlined without extra, unneeded bags weighing you down while you sprint for a good seat on tonight’s budget airline.

Tough for Any Adventure

A good travel daypack needs to hold up on your toughest days.

The last thing you want, hiking through the urban jungle, is for a zipper to break or a seam to rip, spilling your valuables onto a dirty city sidewalk.

Look for a travel daypack built for durability in its design. It should have strong seams, durable fabric, and tough zippers.

Test the seams by tugging on them at the weak corners and where different materials join together. Open and close the zippers. Pull on the fabric, feel the bag’s strength and weakness. Go ahead, get a little rough with it.  

Now, faster. Like when you’re hunting for an umbrella to duck under from a sudden heavy rainstorm.

How did that travel daypack stand up to your beating? If it looks worse for wear, take a pass and find another one.

Outbreaker Daypack

A comfortable daypack that packs flat in your carry on. The Outbreaker daypack is just the right size for a day’s worth of stuff.

Built with an Ariaprene padded back panel and cushioned straps to comfortably haul your gear, this daypack also boasts waterproof sailcloth construction and coated YKK zippers to protect your stuff in the rain.

The Outbreaker daypack is tough, but lightweight and built to take whatever your daily adventures throw at you, then, pack away into almost nothing in your carry on bag.

Setout Daypack

If you don’t have a computer to carry but you need a bag for the essentials once you hit the ground, the Setout packable daypack is perfect.

With the Setout Packable Daypack, you can carry everything you need for a day of sightseeing. The padded, mesh shoulder straps and back panel will breathe and feel comfortable, even on a hot day. For one bag travel, it packs into its own front pocket and is easily stowable in your travel backpack.

This bag also fits nicely under the seat in front of you on an airplane, making it an ideal personal item for your in flight items.


When you’re looking for the best travel daypack for city adventures, you need one that ticks all the boxes:

  • Dedicated laptop sleeve to keep you workin’ and makin’ money
  • Padded back & straps (need I say more?)
  • Weather-resistant fabric in springtime rains ‘round the world
  • Packable for carry on only, streamlined travel
  • Tough for any day so it won’t fall to pieces on you in the middle of an adventure

Want more like this?

Get weekly gear reviews, travel hacks, and packing tips sent straight to your inbox. As an added bonus, we’ll send you a carry on packing list right away.