I still remember my first backpack. It was made out of blue nylon. It had just one compartment, black adjustment straps, and a white patch on the front that my mom let me color over with black permanent marker to match the straps. In hindsight I guess it was a little too small for me, which is saying something considering I got it when I was three, but I didn’t care how it fit. I just cared what it meant.

My parents got it for me a few weeks before we took a big family trip from our home in Rhode Island out to Teton and Yellowstone National Parks. They told me I needed it because I was expected to carry my weight on our first-ever backpacking trip. They gave it to me before we left so I could practice packing it up and carrying it around. For those few weeks I carried around everything I could stuff in it – a shirt here, a flip flop there. It was probably the happiest I’d ever been and I was so excited to finally take it out in the woods. By the time we arrived in Wyoming I was a pro, ready to haul whatever supplies I was given and to keep up with my big brother and sister on the steep western trails.

Family Backpacking

Before we set out into the wilderness my Dad gave me the chocolate and marshmallows for s’mores (the graham crackers didn’t fit in my pack), and I couldn’t have been more proud of the bestowed responsibility. But just a mile and a half into our hike, my eagerness to impress my family was overpowered by my tiny legs and my toddler exhaustion. We stopped to take a break and I fell asleep on a rock. I woke up just as we arrived to camp, wedged between my Dad’s neck and his old external frame pack. He was holding me in place with his right hand. My little blue backpack hung from his left.

That trip was the birth of a passion that has pushed me to live my life in the outdoors – my free time, my professional endeavors, all aspects of it. Sometimes I wonder, though, if things would have turned out differently if I didn’t have those blissful weeks of anticipation thanks to my first backpack. So, I guess the moral of the story is; a good backpack can do more than just carry your stuff.

Check out our list of the best backpacks for day hiking, climbing, biking, and really anything else you can think to do outside. And okay, maybe these bags won’t change the course of your life, but whether you’re an experienced outdoorsperson, a casual hiker, or you spend most of your time in the city, these bags will make what you love to do easier, more comfortable and maybe even a touch more stylish.

Litus 22 Daypack by The North Face

This pack has a lightweight, streamlined design that will allow you to cover miles, and fast. Its 22 liter volume is the perfect amount of space for your lunch, a few extra layers and enough water to get you where you need to go. Its unobtrusive but sturdy waist and chest straps help hold this pack firm to your body whether you’re strolling through the woods, running up a canyon trail, or skiing powder. Also, this bag is just really cool looking.

Talon 22 Daypack by Osprey

This is the perfect summer daypack. The whole thing is made of breathable materials that help keep you cool on the trail or at the beach. It’s small enough to wear on a run or a climb, but the strategically designed pockets help you pack it full of summer fun. That means that wherever you’re going, you won’t have to worry about leaving behind your helmet, your laptop, or that six-pack of your favorite beer.

Stratos 36 Daypack by Osprey

This will probably be the most versatile hiking pack you’ll ever own. With a volume of 36 liters it’s bigger than most daypacks. If you hike with your family, or any group, and you’re the only one that carries a pack, then the Stratos is perfect. You can fit extra layers for everyone and lunch for a crowd, but thanks to the tensioned mesh backpanel and seamless hip belt construction, you’ll forget you’re carrying anything at all. This pack also makes the perfect carry-on bag for air travel. It’s small enough to fit under the seat in front of you, but big enough for a weekend’s worth of clothes, your laptop, and a paperback.

L.U.X.E Hydration Pack by CamelBak

This is the ultimate activity pack and it’s designed specifically for women. The shoulder straps and waist belt are shaped for comfort, but everything else about the pack screams utility. It comes with a 3 liter hydration bladder and mouthpiece, meaning you won’t have to stop to fill up water all day. And don’t worry about sudden changes in the weather while you’re out on the trail – the pack is equipped with a built-in rain cover. The pack is small, making it perfect for activities that involve quick movements, like running, biking, and skiing/snowboarding.

Tinder Backpack by Burton

This backpack is probably not suited for truly technical activities like rock climbing or trail running, but man is it stylish. The simple, low-tech design gives it a vintage look that feels at home in the city, at the beach, or at your local park. If you spend most of your time riding the subway or braving crowded sidewalks, the Tinder would make a great everyday bag for you and it reminds everyone that your life may be here in the city, but your heart is out there in the woods.

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