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Home :: Travel Accessories for Women :: Travel Daypacks  (This page contains affiliate links)

Travel Daypacks for Women: How Really Useful Are They ?
Small backpacks leave your hands free and (usually) discourage thieves

Do you ever ask yourself whether travel daypacks are worth the hassle? They take up space... and who needs one anyway?

Actually... you just might.

Without one, you might be fumbling with a map while holding your cellphone in one hand and your guidebook in the other, trying not to drop anything and staring suspiciously at everyone to make sure no one takes advantage of your confusion.

I personally like having my hands free to take pictures, look for my money, nibble on a croissant. Or to fight something or someone off if I ever needed to: an unfriendly dog, a thief, or (in my younger days) someone trying to pinch my behind.

So yes, daypacks are extremely useful, and like it or not, you'll have to carry something, right?

Think spare shoes or sandals. Medicine and creams. Tampons. Hairbrush. Sunscreen. You get the picture.

I always use a daypack when I'm hiking or have bulky items or jackets to stash during the day.But I also use them when I'm going shopping or strolling through the city.

(My one alternative to daypacks is a large-ish travel handbag with great security features - I've fallen in love with my Pacsafe Citysafe 200 Gii: I recently ordered a second one, same bag, different color.)

But back to daypacks. If you already know you MUST have one, here are some I recommend. If you're still not sold on carrying something on your back all day, head below to the section called "Benefits of using a travel daypack".

Need some recommendations for the best travel daypack?

I shudder at the number of travel daypacks I have sitting on my shelves. Some I've loved, some less so, some I haven't even tested yet.

I've also talked to friends about their own favorites so I include them here as well. Just remember, everything will be a compromise between security, comfort, style, size and weight.

First is the Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Dry Daypack known for being incredibly light (3.2oz/90g), small and waterproof. It doesn't have any frills or padding but if it's weight you're worried about, this is it. 
Buy on Amazon

A small-sized option (1.8lb/815g) is the tough but tiny Maxpedition Rollypoly which folds into a little pack you can fit into a large pocket but expands into something large enough for most day uses.
Buy on Amazon or eBags

The new nylon Outlander Daypack is light and small and you can fold it right into a compact little pouch. Great to carry your water, books, maps, sweater or scarf... This is the one for me! Buy on Amazon

If security is your main concern the Pacsafe Metrosafe 350 Gii may be the best daypack for travel (I've been a longtime fan of the entire range). A little larger than I'd like for the day, but once you put it on you can forget about it because no one will be able to sneak in. 
Buy on Amazon

If you must have a hip bag, Pacsafe's Venturesafe 100 is a good choice, especially when it comes to safety.
Buy on Amazon 

And finally, for those professional photographers out there who need everything at your fingertips, here's the queen of bags (according to photographer Anne Sterck's personal opinion): the Think Tank Photo Street Walker Hard Drive. It's not the lightest thing but if you're lugging around your SSLR, a laptop, lenses and a tripod, you'll need some hefty help.
Buy on Amazon

And don't forget to use a measuring tape so you can actually picture the size - a photograph can be deceiving.

Benefits of using a travel daypack

Still not convinced? Let me try.

A daypack is essential if you plan to do a lot of walking. Not even the lightest and best women's backpack will cut it if you have to lug a heavy one around all day. Your back will hurt, and you'll constantly be aware of the elephant you seem to be carrying.

Not only does it leave your hands free, but the right daypack, properly fastened, will keep your stuff relatively safe from theft (see box below for what happened the one time I didn't take my own advice).

If someone tries to get that daypack off your back (or your front, if you prefer to carry it there), you will notice.

So what should you look for in the ideal daypack? It should be...

  • light as a feather (or at least light enough to carry around all day without tiring you or hurting your back)
  • big enough to carry everything you need with a bit spare but small enough to fit in your luggage as you travel
  • secure from theft with locks and fasteners
  • waterproof and dustproof is nice to have, especially if you're carrying anything electronic and don't want your stuff to be ruined by a tropical shower or dust or sandstorm (otherwise you'll need a poncho or cover for your daypack)
  • quick-dry in case it does get wet
  • color-safe, with no cheap dyes - for the same reason
  • attractive, and depending on your taste, stylish, pretty, fashionable, technical, tactical - but not so expensive-looking that you become an automatic target in the street (and you can always stick a patch over the designer label)
  • appropriate: subdued rather than garish, because you don't want to call attention to it
  • in a color that stays clean - black gets dusty, light colors can get dirty so stick to colors like khaki or dark beiges
  • comfortable to wear, especially in hot climates, with nothing that chafes
  • visible at night, with reflective stripes - you can always sew some on yourself 
  • padded inside if you're carrying anything delicate
  • well-made to stand up to a tough life because you'll use it every day - check the zippers and how the straps are attached to the pack because this is where things often fall apart
  • easy to access and easy to organize, with pockets everywhere you need them
  • practical with extra external straps or hooks for spare sandals, a wet towel or a big souvenir (or at least have a place to hang a carabiner)
  • large enough to carry a water bottle

Still not convinced? There are some alternatives to travel daypacks. (I already mentioned travel handbags and my own favorite Pacsafe Citysafe 200 Gii.)

You can use a combination hip bag with a photographer's vest, or a fanny pack (fine if you're slim but if you're a little more 'comfortable' in circumference as I am, this is not how you want to carry your stuff!)

One of my favorite travel accessories is a large travel backpack with a daypack attached. For years I used a Gregory front-loading backpack (it's so old I can't even find the model) with a detachable daypack, which was a godsend: extra packing space during travel, and just unzip to use it as a travel daypack. (And remember: no valuables!)

HERE'S WHAT YOU SHOULD NOT PUT INTO YOUR DAYPACK: important papers or credit cards. They should be stashed safely in your travel money belt or leg or neck wallet. Let me tell you why.

I was walking in Beijing when I was passed by a group of chatty young foreign men. Didn't give them a second thought until I got to the pastry shop and tried to pull out some money from my pack: it sat open, still on my back, with no money, no passport, no anything. I'm not sure what I was thinking. I rarely carry valuables in my day pack, and when I do I make sure my pack is slash-proof and well-fastened. I ignored my own rules, something I'll never do again. I never felt a thing!

One last question: back or front?

North Americans often carry their daypacks on their chest, while most Europeans do not. This is really a personal matter. Wearing one on the chest might deter thieves - I certainly would have noticed that gang in Beijing - but unless you're very flat-chested, it can be quite uncomfortable. (And let's face it, it's not particularly attractive.)

It is also a sign that you are carrying something of value.

And please, please don't put it on the back of your chair when you're sitting somewhere public! Wrap the straps around your chair leg or your own leg. What a waste of all those efforts to get the right pack only to have it snatched while you're dreamily sipping your espresso...

travel daypacks