On single-day hikes, bulky daypacks and oversized trekking rucksacks just won’t cut the mustard – only the best small hiking backpack will do.
10 small hiking backpacks for UK walking
We’ve got a frankly ridiculous number of packs at Adventure Pending HQ that we’ve tested and stored , but it’s always the small hiking backpacks that we pick up when heading out for the day.
Small hiking rucksacks are our absolute favourite packs to use year-round, offering just enough space for all of the hillwalking essentials that we find ourselves packing. But it’s the freedom of mobility and the lack of dead weight piled high on the back that we find is the best advantage – that’s why they are our favourite mountain companions.
So, what are the best small hiking backpacks available to shed some of the extra bulk the next time you head out into the great British countryside? Check out our recommendations below, including the best from Osprey all the way to the top budget packs from Eurohike!
What to look for in a good small hiking backpack
Check out any online store and the number of small hiking backpacks can quickly become overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be!
There is a handful of criteria that we look for when separating the best from the rest in the world of the small walking backpacks and only the top contenders will do. After all, if you’re relying on one of these to stay waterproof in the hills, you do need to invest in some proper equipment!
The volume of any backpack is perhaps the most important factor and you won’t find anything larger than 20L is our list of small hiking backpacks.
We tend to think that the magic number for any small walking rucksack should sit around 10L to 15L if you’re really trying to keep the weight down. Be warned though, this isn’t an excuse to under pack and under prepare, it’s quite the opposite.
You want to check through your gear and think about how much space you realistically need. If you’re just getting starting out and getting familiar with hiking, sticking towards the 20L size may be the best for carrying all of the essentials and gear that you need.
Conversely, if you’re looking to shed the weight and up the water intake, a hydration pack might be the best option for you!
Harness and back panel
The harness and the back panel is the next big consideration when filtering out the selection to find the small walking backpacks.
The harness should be a lightweight design that offers some padding and is reinforced with an adjustable sternum strap and hip belt to keep the weight of the pack tight to the back. The straps should be comfortable and disperse the weight over the whole back – if they’re digging into the shoulders, it’s a recipe for a painful hike.
The back panel, the part that stays in contact with your back, should be highly ventilated to avoid moisture building up. There’s nothing worse than a sweaty back and the best packs do everything in their power to prevent this from happening. It’s not only good for comfort but great for keeping you at the right temperature when hiking in the UK!
There are countless innovative and clever features offered by different small hiking rucksacks and each pack tends to offer something that a competitor doesn’t.
As a general rule, the more features the better – that’s why we’re such big fans of the Osprey Talon and Tempest range – but not all hikers will need everything offered. Popular features include hydration sleeves, internal organisation options (key clips etc.), water bottle pockets, emergency whistles, walking pole storage and countless others.
If there’s something in the feature list that really catches your eye, it’s a good idea to look for a pack that supports that wish. For example, if you love your trekking poles, it’s wise to invest in a pack that has a dedicated storage solution.
The best small hiking backpacks by category
Short on time? Check out our overall top picks for the top walking backpacks by category in the handy bullet-pointed list below:
- Best overall small hiking backpack – Osprey Talon 11 (Amazon.co.uk) / Tempest 9 (Amazon.co.uk)
- Most stylish small walking rucksack – Osprey Daylite Plus 20L (Amazon.co.uk)
- Best budget small hiking backpack – Eurohike Cactus 15L (Blacks.co.uk)
- Smallest packable hiking backpack – Black Diamond Trail Blitz (Amazon.co.uk)
- Most colourful mini walking backpack – Deuter Unisex Speed Lite 12 Backpack (Amazon.co.uk)
- Simplest small hiking backpack – Osprey Daylite 13L (Amazon.co.uk)
- Best small hiking backpack for running – Montane Trailblazer 8L (Amazon.co.uk)
1. Osprey Daylite 13L
The Osprey Daylite 13L is of the most popular small hiking backpack options, sporting a sleek and simple design that has earned fans around the world.
The rucksack is one of Osprey’s best and is compatible with the Hydraulics reservoir and uses an adjustable sternum strap and hip belt for ultimate comfort. The Daylite does, however, not come with a rain cover as standard and if you are considering taking this out in the worst of the great British weather, it may be worth an investment.
There’s a huge amount of organisation for such a small (13L) pack and, with an AirScape harness, sweat is rarely an issue. The pack comes with a huge 9 different colours available for hikers to choose from (Dream Purple has to be a contender for the best) so there’s definitely a design for everyone!
- Minimal internal organisation
- Size: One
- Volume: 13L
- Dimensions: (H) 43cm, (W) 26cm, (D) 20cm
2. Lowe Alpine Edge 18L Daypack
One of the top budget options for hikers looking to save their pennies can take a look at the Lowe Alpine Edge.
An 18L daypack is a great size for year-round wear although it may be best to use a waterproofing spray when heading out in the wet weather. The harness and back panel offers a high level of adjustability and an airflow system aims to minimise moisture buildup on the back of the wearer.
The organisation of the Edge daypack is fantastic for such an inexpensive pack, sporting twin side water bottle pockets, a front pocket and an internal laptop/hydration sleeve. There’s a humble 4 different colours to choose from (Lagoon Blue being our favourite) although buyers will find different prices for each colour.
- Vented back panel and harness
- Padded laptop sleeve inbuilt
- Walking pole compatible
- Budget-friendly small hiking rucksack
- Size: One
- Volume: 18L
- Dimensions: (H) 45 x (W) 28 x (D) 23 cm
3. Osprey Daylite Plus 20L
The Daylite Plus, not to be confused with the original Daylite, gives hikers an extra 7L of space to play with when gearing up for a walk through the UK.
The pack shares many of the same features as the smaller Daylite with the AirScape back panel and top quality harness stealing the show. It’s the extra space and organisation options that really sets the pair apart with the Daylite Plus 20L offering that little more for those that want an extra warm layer on their hikes.
As with its younger sibling, the Daylite Plus is fully compatible with the Hydraulics reservoir, allowing hikers to throw in up to 3L of water in a bladder. Finally, a stretchy pocket on the front of the pack is a great addition, allowing for gear to be stored outside of the main pockets.
- Water bottle pockets lack stability
- Size: One
- Volume: 20L
- Dimensions: (H) 46cm, (W) 24cm, (D) 22cm
4. Deuter Unisex Speed Lite 12 Backpack
German brand Deuter is famed for making some of the best outdoor gear on the market and the Unisex Speed Lite 12 is no exception.
The 12L pack is one of the favourite lightweight examples available for UK hikers to pick up when shopping online. This is helped enormously by the fantastic looks of the pack, available in 4 different colours, but it’s not all for show.
The Speed Lite utilises a V-cut which, in its simplest terms, optimises the position of the load and offers great mobility when wearing the pack. Add a hydration system, a fantastic vented back panel and a sturdy harness and that is a recipe for a seriously impressive walking pack.
5. Osprey Talon 11 / Tempest 9
The Osprey Talon 11 is, for the majority of UK hikers, the very best small hiking backpack that money can buy.
Also available in the women’s size and known as the Tempest 9, the Talon 11 is the hiking pack of dreams and is packed to the brim full of great, genuinely useful features. Hikers will love the trekking pole and ice axe organisation options as well as a hydration bladder sleeve and bike helmet attachment point.
The harness and back panel are among the best we’ve ever seen with the Osprey AirScape technology used to prevent those dreaded sweaty backs. At just 11L / 9L, the pack may be small but the huge organisation makes it incredibly mighty.
- Highest rated hiking rucksack available
- AirScape back panel and lightweight harness
- Zippered hip belt pockets
- Organisation options: bike helmet, trekking pole, ice axe etc.
- Higher pricepoint
- Size: S/M, L/XL / WXS/S, WM/L
- Volume: (Men’s) 11L / (Women’s) 9L
- Dimensions: (H) 46cm, (W) 25cm, (D) 20cm / 51L / 26W / 19D
6. Black Diamond Trail Blitz 12L
The Black Diamond Trail Blitz is the next small hiking pack on our list with a 12L capacity that makes it the perfect companion for single-day hikes.
The Trail Blitz is one of the smallest hiking backpacks in terms of its storable size. Not only can the pack be attached to larger backpacks, great for travelling with multiple pieces of luggage, but can be packed away into one of its own pockets like some kind of wicked contortionist. It’s seriously impressive.
There are some clever organisation options in the pack too with an integrated, lightweight Z-pole compartment as well as a dedicated headlamp pocket and a secure storage box that is perfect for valuables. As well as performing well, the Trail Blitz looks great too with a total of four different colours to choose from (red being our top pick).
- Integrated Z-pole (trekking pole) compartments
- Dedicated headlamp and security box storage
- Can be attached to larger backpacks
- Ability to be packed away into a small pocket
- Minimal airflow in back panel
- Size: One
- Volume: 12L
- Dimensions: (H) 36cm, (W) 12cm, (D) 24cm
7. Salomon Trailblazer 20L
Trail runners and outdoor enthusiasts alike will be familiar and often complimentary about the Salomon Trailblazer, available both in the larger 20L and smaller 10L sizing.
Despite its simplicity, the pack is full of great features including an internal sleeve (used for both laptops and hydration reservoirs) and a lightweight hip belt complete with a handy pair of pockets. This is paired and secured with a sturdy harness and adjustable sternum strap that keeps the pack exactly where it should be.
There are six different colours available to choose from, we’d personally go with the “Green Gables” and the larger 20L size if we were choosing ourselves. The Salomon Trailblazer is a fantastic all-rounder that doesn’t break the bank.
- Minimal back panel ventilation
- Size: One
- Volume: 20L
- Dimensions: (H) 51cm, (W) 21cm, (D) 16 cm
8. Mammut Lithium Speed 15L
Mammut is one of my absolute favourite brands (I searched high and low to pick up the perfect boots!) so when I laid eyes on their small hiking pack, I knew I had to include it in the list.
The Lithium Speed 15L has to be one of the best-looking packs on the list, using that signature red accent that Mammut is famous for. But it’s not all about the looks and with a fantastic hip belt and sternum strap matching a capable harness and heavily ventilated back panel, the Lithium Speed is a fantastic companion for any serious hiker.
The hardware on the pack is super impressive – take a look at that hip belt, that’s some seriously durable construction that we love to see. It’s this hardware and the organisation of the pack, complete with a hydration sleeve, trekking pole storage and multiple pockets that makes packing a breeze.
- Hydration sleeve compatible
- Trekking pole carrying support
- Great ventilation in harness and back panel
- Sturdy hip belt and sternum strap
- Size: One
- Volume: 15L
9. Montane Trailblazer 8L
The Montane Trailblazer is next up on our list of the best small hiking backpacks. New for Spring/Summer 2022, this pack offers 8L of space to minimalist hikers, trail runners and mountaineers.
One of the most interesting features of the pack is the twin pockets that can be accessed on the harness, making it a great place to store water bottles, energy gels or light snacks when on the move. It’s this active lifestyle that the Trailblazer caters for and it’s quickly identifiable in the double sternum straps and hip belt that is used to keep everything cemented to the spine.
It’s strictly business in the main compartment of the pack with hikers finding a single pocket to load everything up for an adventure. There is, however, a front and underarm pole carry system – making light work of carting around walking poles. It’s a fantastic pack for those fast movers among us.
- Twin pockets on a covalent harness
- Air mesh back panel for increased ventilation
- Central pocket for quick internal access
- Front and underarm pole carry systems
- Hydration bladder purchased separately
- Size: One
- Volume: 18L
10. Eurohike Cactus 15L
It’s almost hard to believe just how inexpensive the Eurohike Cactus is and that’s what makes it our best budget small hiking backpack.
At a fraction of the price of the alternatives in our list, the Eurohike Cactus is perfect for the beginner that’s looking to give hiking a try with a lightweight, tactical pack that they can trust. The quality may not be to the same standard as the Osprey, Deuter and Mammut packs on the list – but getting started with the hobby shouldn’t require enormous investment.
Amazingly, a 2L hydration pack is actually included in the purchase price with a bite valve helping hydrate hikers without having to remove the pack. An adjustable waist and sternum strap is used to secure the pack firmly to the wearer and a ventilated back panel keeps everything nice and dry.
- Budget-friendly small hiking backpack
- 2L hydration pack with bite valve included
- Adjustable waist and sternum straps
- Back and shoulder ventilation
- Lower quality than other small walking rucksacks
- Size: One
- Volume: 15L
- Packed dimensions: 49cm (L) x 24cm (W) x 10cm (D)
FAQ: Top small hiking backpacks
There you have it – our top picks for the best small walking rucksacks available for UK adventures! If you have any additional questions, check out our FAQ below and (hopefully) we’ll be able to answer those queries!
We’re fans of every small hiking backpack on our list, but if we had to choose one – it would always be the Osprey Talon 11 (for men) and the Osprey Tempest 9 (for women).
With a huge number of features and the top quality that we’ve come to expect from the Osprey brand, the Talon and Tempest range stand tall above the rest.
If you have any other questions or want a little personal advice as to which small pack to pick, don’t be a stranger – reach out to us via email or our social accounts and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can!