best collapsible carry-on bags
WaterField Designs

The Best Packable Backpacks for 2024: These Day Packs Fold Up for Easy Travel

Now that many travelers are cutting costs by packing only a single carry-on bag, a new problem arises: What should you carry around for a day of touring, or what bag can you use in the hours between dropping off your luggage and checking in to your hotel?

The solution is to pack an extra bag that collapses into nearly nothing and can be whipped out and unfolded when it's time to explore.

Packable day packs solve travelers' temporary tote needs, but by design, they lack the heavy infrastructure of backcountry backpacks or purses. They also are made of relatively light fabric, so when you use one, you give up a degree of rugged protection—you have to be extra mindful of rips and blade-wielding pickpockets, for example. (But you always are anyway.)

Despite minor compromises in performance, a foldable carry bag can bring a vacation the storage flexibility it needs, whether that's for souvenirs, picnic supplies, dirty laundry, or even as a standby carry-on bag for flights.

All of the bags below may come in more colors than what's pictured here.

You may also like our roundup of excellent wheeled luggage that's truly small enough to fit under an airline seat.

foldable day packs: WaterField Designs Packable Backpack
WaterField Designs Packable Backpack

We start our list with one of the most durable designs. WaterField Designs Packable Backpack ($129) was designed with input from travelers to create a bag that doesn't "look like a suit you just slept in when you unpack it," like so many packable daypacks do. Looks like the firm succeeded: Professional looks, metal zippers, water- and sand-repellant fabric, and enough room to contain even a 14-inch laptop. And of course, it folds up into its own pouch (pictured in the image at the top of this feature). Available in blue, khaki, olive, and black. At 12 ounces, it's not heavy, but it's slightly more than others on this list, and the difference is down to quality materials that guarantee it won't look like a wrinkled suit. 11 inches x 6 inches x 15 inches SFBags.com

packable day packs: 4Monster Hiking Lightweight Travel Backpack
4Monster
4Monster Hiking Lightweight Travel Backpack

Another cheap-and-cheerful utilitarian choice, the 4Monster Hiking Lightweight Travel Backpack ($19) is made of water-resistant fabric and has a few zippered compartments: the main one, a front pocket, and two side mesh compartments. All told, you get three choices of storage space: 16L, 24L and 32L. It comes with its own drawstring pouch for tiny storage, but the whole thing still weighs 3.7–4.4 ounces when empty. 18.5 inches x 11.8 inches x 7 inches 4Monster.com

Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Ultralight Day Pack
Sea to Summit
Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Ultralight Day Pack

The nylon-made Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Ultralight Day Pack ($45) comes with ergonomically designed shoulder straps (after all, you'll probably be slinging it for hours of sightseeing) and it's outfitted with webbing loops so cyclers can attach a safety light to it. All of that—and 20L of space—squishes down to less than 3 ounces and into the size of a tennis ball. SeatoSummit.com

packable backpack product review: Patagonia Atom Sling 8L
Patagonia
Patagonia Atom Sling 8L

You might want something with a little more fashion flash, so for you, there's the Patagonia Atom Sling 8L ($93), which wraps around one shoulder at a time. Patagonia is a company known for quality products (and quality civic responsibility), which is a selling point unto itself, but the bag, which is made from recycled nylon, has some good points of its own, including an interior zippered pocket for small valuables, a range of vivid fabric colors, an 8L of space inside. Patagonia.com

packable backpack product review: Peak Gear Foldable Backpack
Peak Gear
Peak Gear Foldable Backpack

The Peak Gear Foldable Backpack ($37) offers nylon construction, two divided compartments with their own YKK zippers, and a padded mesh shoulder strap, and it tosses in a ReturnMe tag that gives the finder or a lost bag a way to locate you and return your item. The fabric is slightly thicker than it is with some other packables, but that makes it less susceptible to accidental nicks and slashes, and it still weighs just 8.8 ounces. 16 inches x 12 inches x 6 inches PeakGear.com

L.L.Bean Stowaway Ultralight Day Pack
L.L.Bean
L.L.Bean Stowaway Ultralight Day Pack

Beloved Maine outfitter of outdoorsy folk and yuppies alike, L.L. Bean has its own version of the compressible backpack. The Adults' L.L.Bean Stowaway Ultralight Day Pack ($45) will get you 13L of space in a bag that measures 18 x 8.5 x 7 inches and stuffs into its own built-in stow pack. Two benefits of this one translate into extra comfort: light padding on the back panel (so lumpy cargo won't dig into so much) and a sternum cross-strap that will hold the bag in place on your back as you hike. LLBean.com

packable backpack product review: G4Free Ultra Lightweight Packable Backpack Hiking Daypack
G4Free
G4Free Ultra Lightweight Packable Backpack Hiking Daypack

Keeping it simple and cheerful, the G4Free Ultra Lightweight Packable Backpack Hiking Daypack ($17) is pretty much all you really need: This lightweight and practical water-resistant backpack has a main cavity, a front zippered pocket, two mesh side pockets, and weighs just 5.6 ounces. You get 20L of capacity and you can buy it in a rainbow of bright color options. It's a lot stronger than it looks, but even if it wasn't, the price is so low you could easily buy a spare. 16.5 inches x 11.8 inches x 6.3 inches G4Free.com

 

Matador Freerain28 Waterproof Packable Backpack
Matador
Matador Freerain28 Waterproof Packable Backpack

The Matador Freerain28 Waterproof Packable Backpack ($125) has the most features of any bag on our list, making it our best choice for serious hikers and backcountry vacationers. It's waterproof (the only bag on this list that can claim that—enabled partly by its rolltop enclosure), comes with pocketed hip belts that transfer heavy loads to your waist, has loops so you can attach extra gear that won't fit inside, and its giant 28L capacity mashes down to 4 x 4 x 5.5 inches for storage. Matadorup.com

Note: All of the above items were independently selected by the Frommer's editorial team and no product's inclusion was based on partnerships or business relationships.

You may also like our roundup of excellent wheeled luggage that's truly small enough to fit under an airline seat.

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