The Differences in the Top Eleven Osprey Daypacks — And How to Choose the Perfect Daytime Backpack

Osprey's daypack options are endless; here's how to choose the exact right daypack for your adventures

I’m obsessed with lightweight travel and have been using Osprey packs and daypacks for years. I also think they’re very much worth recommending for school, hiking, outdoor sports, shopping, carrying gear for work, and more.

My personal favorite as a minimalist traveller: The Osprey Daylite Travel daypack. It’s got a full set of features in a slim, light, durable pack.

I’m now here with my tiny team of researchers and adventurers to help you decide which of the wide range of Osprey daypacks is right for which use — this based on our experience of them and reading/watching every quality review out there (which we link to in this post).

Unfortunately, the names Nebula, Nova, Talia, Daylite, Hikelite, Talon, Tempest, and Tropos don’t much help in determining which pack is meant for what. And the descriptions that come directly from Osprey are jargony and repetitive without actually providing much concrete insight. (Hey kids, here’s an example of truly awful product copywriting: “Its lightweight [sic], simplicity, durability, comfortable carry and price has proven to be wildly popular, and today their popularity is undeniable.”)

So we’re here to give you the real low-down. We’ve picked the top Osprey daypacks (bestselling and ones we’d use) and put them side by-side in a chart, then we’ve got mini-reviews of each one.

Osprey’s own descriptions are frankly a mess, but we do love their actual daypacks

What we don’t cover in this article are bags for extended travel. If you’re going on a trip, consider instead either the Osprey wheeled carry-on backpacks or the full-sized wheeled backpacks — both come with their own excellent detachable daypacks. And if you’re going on multi-day jaunts, check out our review of the full range of larger Osprey trekking and hiking backpacks.

Update history of this article

Originally published March 11, 2019. Updated with more links, photos, and info on September 10, 2020.

Quick Comparison Table: Osprey Daypacks Side-by-Side

Note: Use that cute little + sign ( ) to expand the info on each one.

Overall Pros and Cons of Osprey Daypacks

I have no qualms in recommending Osprey as I’ve been using the brand’s packs myself for years as I travel the globe writing for this site.

Osprey daypacks vary between themselves depending on intended use, but they do share some overall features, quality build, and the singular Osprey aesthetic.

Pros of Osprey Daypacks

  • Osprey daypacks are extremely lightweight, ranging in our selection from just under a pound (half-kilo) to just over two pounds (one kilo).
  • The pocket situation generally offers a good balance for each type of bag depending on activity — and since there are so many different options you’re sure to have a bag that offers the right level of organization and device protection without any confusing pocket overkill.
  • Quality materials: Osprey daypacks generally use 210D nylon bodies and even tougher 400HD or 420HD nylon for their bottoms, they are tougher than the PP or polyester used in cheap bags and lighter than the waxed cotton canvas that was once popular. The zippers and buckles also hold up well over the years. Backpackers like me buy an Osprey for life and expect it to last. We’re generally pleased with the results.
  • All daypacks are backed by Osprey’s excellent lifetime warranty and reputation for follow-up with customers if something does go wrong.
  • These daypacks are comfortable to carry; they offer good ventilation on the back panel and shoulder-friendly padded harnesses/shoulder straps.

Cons of the Osprey Daypacks

There are a few general downsides, though they generally haven’t held us back from recommending and using these bags.

  • Not the cheapest backpacks out there: While Osprey is also not most expensive daypack builder, and we don’t consider the brand to be overpriced in most cases, you can definitely find good-enough generic backpacks out there without all that Osprey charm and perhaps overkill in terms of rough-and-tumble durability. Here’s a list of the top-rated cheapos from Amazon.
  • Only the Daylite bags can clip directly onto Osprey’s other backpacking packs. None of them zip onto Osprey packs to become a single unit; if you’d like to be able to do that, try instead the Osprey Meridian 75L with its daypack.
  • The sportier bags are not suitable for carrying laptops (as detailed in the table above); the Tropos/Talia or Nebula/Nova are the best choices for laptops and tech gear.
  • There are a variety of quick-access pockets on many of these bags that are easy for villains to get into as well. Either wear the bags in front of your torso in crowded places or place your valuables in inner pockets (like the inside tablet pocket on some models) or pick up a smart, modern money belt.

Women’s vs. Men’s Osprey Daypacks: The Differences

Osprey’s packs in some cases are gender-specific, in others they are unisex. Specifically women’s Osprey backpacking packs are designed with slightly changed angles in the padding around the hips, to allow women to use their often rounder hips to better support more weight there. Women’s packs are also generally a bit shorter and narrower than the men’s or unisex counterparts.

This does not make as much of a difference with Osprey daypacks, as they are not designed for carrying weight on the hips. The hip straps that they do have are meant merely to secure the pack if you’re running, scrambling, or biking over bumpy terrain.

Thus, the main thing to worry about with these daypacks is size. If you’re a man with a shorter torso, you may prefer a women’s daypack in some cases, and likewise, if you’re a woman with a longer torso you might prefer the daypacks marketed to men. In cases where these packs are not one-size-fits-all, we’ve listed the torso length ranges (see next section) so that you can get the exact right size.

You’ll also notice in the table we made above that the women’s packs are sometimes designed to carry just a few liters less than the men’s counterparts — something to consider if you want to scale down or up just a bit from a particular pack.

And finally, Osprey hasn’t quite caught on to post-gendered-color-consciousness and offers slightly different color options in some cases for women and for men.

The features and pockets on men’s vs. women’s Osprey daypacks are the same.

How to Measure Your Torso for Choosing Osprey Daypack Sizes

Torso sizes are not super-important with daypacks; the main considerations are features, capacity, and intended use. But a couple of these daypacks are offered in different sizes, so here’s a guide to help you get the exact right one, should you choose a daypack with two size options.

  1. Locate the level of your hip bones.
  2. Identify your C7 vertebra (it’s the bone that sticks out at the base of your neck when you bend your head down to your chest).
  3. Measure the distance between the two.
Osprey’s guide for pack sizing. Source.

That’s your back measurement for Osprey daypack purposes! The measurements for differently sized daypacks are included where there are such options in both the table above and in the descriptions down below.

The Best Osprey Daypacks for Travelling: The Daylite, Daylite Plus, and Daylite Travel

The Osprey Daylite, Daylite Plus, and Daylite Travel are the daypacks to choose for accompanying you while travelling, particularly if you are also carrying large Osprey hiking packs.

These are the Osprey daypacks that are compatible with their kin, meaning they can easily clip into the following: the Osprey Aether/Ariel series, Farpoint 80, Porter series, Sojourn series, and finally the Volt/Viva series.

The Daylite and Daylite Plus daypacks emphasize lightness and have some basic organizational pockets but certainly don’t go overboard. They’re great for carrying sunscreen, a book, a phone, and something to keep you warm for when the sun starts to go down. Keys go on a neat little key clip in the front pocket, and there are side mesh pockets for a water bottle or coffee thermos. Other reviewers also generally admire their organizational design and build, and that they have been able to hold up over the years.

The Daylite Plus or Daylite Travel are better if will be carrying a laptop; their interior sleeve is padded (the sleeve for the regular Daylite is not). It can generally carry any 15″ laptop.

The Daylite Travel is the Osprey daypack that I personally use and most love. It has more organizational pockets than the other Daylites. It can be thin like they are, or it can expand to give you more space as an overnight bag with a wraparound zipper that allows it to accordion out for an added 6 liters.

They’ll easily work as a carry-on on any airline. If you’re stumped over which to get, check out the differences between the Daylite, Daylite Plus, and Daylite Travel.

The Daylite daypacks are adjustable/one-size-fits-all and quite comfortable.

The fully packed Daylite Travel with a change of clothes, a laptop, my favorite detachable second screen, a Kindle for my language learning projects, a water bottle, universal plug adapter, and travel speaker

The Top Daypacks for Adventure Sports, Mountain Biking, and Hiking: The Osprey Talon (Men) and Tempest (Women) series

Osprey’s take on the backpacks for outdoor sports are its Talon (for men) and Tempest (for women) series. They excel in stability for those who are carrying a small to medium amount of gear while hiking, running, biking, climbing, or otherwise bouncing about a bit. They do this through a smooth harness and back panel and snug wrap-around harness, which features small pockets for items you need to keep readily at hand without dismounting your pack.

All of these daypacks are quite lightweight for their various sizes. The men’s daypacks are the Talon 11-liter and Talon 22-liter versions, and the women’s options are the Tempest 9-liter and Tempest 20-liter packs.

The Osprey Talon’s mesh that is in direct contact with your back allows air to flow between it and the curved, rigid structure that holds your gear away from your back. This is also divinely comfortable. The same feature is found on women’s Tempest daypacks.

Aside from the obvious capacity differences, the main difference between the larger (Talon 22 and Tempest 20) and smaller (Talon 11 and Tempest 9) daypacks is the front panel. There is a non-zippered “stash pocket” on the larger packs and instead of that a bungee cord on the front of the smaller ones. In both cases these are great for quickly stuffing wet gear, a bit of trash that you intend to pack out, or other items that you’d want to keep separate from your main compartment.

The backpanel’s rigid suspension system (“airspace”) manages to keep the packs stable and yet backpackers find it offers excellent breathability.

The harness packets and back stash pockets are made of a stretchy but quite tough mesh material that doesn’t fall apart like the mesh used on cheaper packs (which can often be the first point of weakness).

If you use trekking poles, you’ll enjoy the quick access of having them under your arms, attached to the shoulder harness. You can also attach them to the back of the pack.

As we noted above, the genders of daypacks don’t make a huge difference, but with the Talon and Tempest packs you will have size options so it’s worth measuring your torso as we mentioned. When in doubt, go for your torso length and/or prefered-capacity pack, not your gender.

  • Talon daypacks (“men”) small-medium size: torso length of 16-19 in. / 40.5-48 cm.
  • Talon daypacks (“men”) medium-large size: torso length of 19-23 in. / 48-58.5 cm.
  • Tempest daypacks (“women”) extra-small to small size: torso length of 13-16 in. / 33 – 40.5 cm.
  • Tempest daypacks (“women”) small-medium size: torso length of 16-20 in. / 40.5-51 cm.

So: tall women and short men will likely be more comfortable if they ignore the gendered marketing.

We have also seen good prices on these at Moosejaw.

Our Pick for Long Days Out Hiking in Very Wet Weather: The Osprey Hikelite 18 and Hikelite 26

Are you going for daylong hikes in the gorgeous, rainy Northwest of the USA, for example? The Osprey Hiklite 18 or Hikelite 26 would then be the top choice for you. (Their main difference is that they hold 18 or 26 liters of your stuff, respectively.)

The Osprey Hikelite 18’s pull-out raincover; this feature is found only on it and on the Hikelite 26 daypack.

These are the Osprey daypacks with an integrated (but removable) raincover that slides out of the bottom sleeve and can be used to completely cover the pack, making it quite convenient to cover up when a downpour starts.

The other basic hiking and trekking elements are also there. You can stash trekking poles in the attachments on either side of the pack and secure them with the upper compression straps. There’s a hydration sleeve that holds up to a 3L reservoir. And the scratch-resistant top pocket holds sunglasses or a phone without damaging them, and making them easy to access when needed.

The Osprey Hikelite 18’s comfortable shoulder harness, backpanel, and securing hip straps.

The Osprey airspeed system provides a bit of a “trampoline” effect so that only a springy mesh rests against your back and air passes through in the curved space between this mesh and the pack itself, keeping you cool. It doesn’t mean you’ll never sweat, but it does help keep air flowing, and keeps heat from building up on your pack, and any sweat from soaking the pack. The shoulder harness also lets air through and is quite comfortable, as with most Osprey packs.

There are hip straps but they are not padded and not designed to carry weight, just to secure the pack to you if necessary, as the other Osprey daypacks. They are removable (and probably not useful for most people unless you’re running, biking, or otherwise bouncing). Reviewers have found the pack to stay comfortable and not chafe after day-long hikes.

The 26L version also has a stash pocket on the outside, making it a convenient place to carry partially wet rain gear for example, should the sun come out.

And while it has an inner pouch that could fit a 15-inch laptop, the Hikelite 26 is still not very suitable for carrying electronics as this sleeve is not padded. If you’re rough with your bag or regularly using it for a laptop, get the Daylite Plus above or Tropos or Talia just below.

The Best Osprey Urban/Laptop Backpacks: Tropos (Men) and Talia (Women)

The Osprey Tropos and Talia bags are meant more for “urban” use and are extremely suited for carrying large laptops and even a second portable screen.

Two main features distinguish the Tropos and Talia from other such bags. The first is the “kickstand” feature, which is a bit poorly named since it’s nothing like a bike kickstand aside from keeping the whole unit vertical. What Osprey means is that there’s an interior hard frame on the front and back of the back, and whether or not the pack is full of stuff this frame will always keep it standing up straight, rather than collapse over on its side as most bags would. Not exactly indispensable, but cool enough.

The laptop sleeve in these bags is roomy and entirely separate from the main compartment — the laptop sleeve is located just against your back and is both padded and has a hard shell on the back panel to keep it safe. The sleeve is also “hanging” so that your laptop is never jostled against the ground directly if you should drop your bag with a thump. There’s another little sleeve in the laptop compartment for cables and such.

Set it down, and the Osprey Talia remains bolt upright due to its internal frames. Should you blop it down a bit too hard, your laptop is protected as its sleeve actually “hangs” inside the bag.

The main compartment is quite roomy; it holds 34 L for the Tropos and 30 L for the Talia. There are also side mesh pockets for water or coffee and a front panel pocket with very complete organizational options for cards, pens, and more, including also the key ring holder seen on Osprey’s other daypacks.

Reviewers have found the pack to hold up well over time, and while it is larger than the other daypacks on this page, it remains relatively lightweight for its size. It’s not quite as great as being able to roll your laptop bag, but it’s the closest you’ll get without wheels.

Note that if you don’t need all that space you can reduce the size with the compression straps and get the feeling of carrying a svelter daypack that you can then expand again whenever you need to.

While this is an “urban” daypack it’s quite adapted for active use, including biking. The back panel is suspended to allow for breathability and there are attachment points on the back that are suitable for a helmet and for a bike light.

In 2019 the Tropos was updated to be just slightly wider and less deep, presumably to fit even larger laptops and second screens; this added 2 L to the overall volume. We of course link to the current model and its correct current dimensions, but you may still see the older model from some other sellers.

The Slightly Larger Overnight Laptop Backpacks: Nebula (Men) and Nova (Women)

The Osprey Nebula and Nova are good-enough laptop daypacks that are just as durably built as the Tropos and Talia above, but lack some of their excellent features.

There is nice padding on the Nova’s  and Nebula’s back panel that is raised a bit for some breathability, but these lack the excellent curved back and mesh combo that raises the Tropos or Talia completely off your back to allow airflow. The Nova and Nebula also lack the interior hanging laptop sleeve and kickstand features.

All that said, the Nebula and Nova are absolutely suited to urban use and protecting your laptop and other gear, with a stiff back panel and padding. They are 34 and 33 liters respectively.

One of their main selling points is that the laptop compartment opens completely flat to allow for airport screening without removing your laptop. In theory at least, for the TSA in the United States; most airport screenings in most countries will still make you take your laptop out, and this is still likely enough in the USA too. One reviewer also complains that the zippers can get a bit stuck when the bag is opened completely in this way.

The main compartment is separate from the laptop compartment, and has mini sleeves inside it for separating cables and for documents.

On top of the pack are a slash pocket for sunglasses or a phone, and on the front is an organizational panel with plenty of pockets for business cards, cables, and the like, plus a fob for your keychain.

The Osprey Nebula’s ample interior organizational pockets.

There are attachment points at the front of the daypack for a bike light and helmet, and a quick access open pocket that’s great for carrying wet gear until you get a chance to dry it out, or a sandwich.

As with all of the other daypacks on this page, the Nebula and Nova have held up over time quite well for customers and others who have reviewed them. In spite of their light weight they can hold quite a bit of gear, and have the largest capacity of the daypacks discussed here.

Roundup: Which Osprey Daypack Is Best for You?

All Osprey daypacks are made of excellent lightweight but durable materials and have held up for years in our hands and those of other reviewers and customers.

For the best prices, be sure to check their different color options at the Amazon products we link to, as some colors are often deeply discounted there. We’ve also on some occasions noticed good prices at Moosejaw, though there can be less of a selection.

If you want a daypack for travel, and particularly a daypack that will clip on to other Osprey packs, go for the unisex Osprey Daylite or the Daylite Plus; the later is suitable for carrying a laptop as its sleeve is padded.

The best daypacks for bouncing around (literally) in the great outdoors are the Talon 11 or Talon 22 for men, and the Tempest 9 and Tempest 20 for women. They have the best harness and waist belts for securely attaching the daypacks for sporty outdoor use.

While all Osprey daypacks offer some rain resistance, if you need an outdoorsy pack with an integrated rain cover for seriously wet climes (you poor thing!), the unisex Osprey Hiklite 18 or Hikelite 26 are your guys. They also have all the necessary storage features for trekking like attachments for trekking poles and a hydration pouch.

Our favorite daypacks for laptops are the Osprey Tropos for men and Talia for women. They have a solid frame that both protects your electronics and keeps the pack standing up straight, along with great ventilation on the back panel and very useful organizational pockets.

We’re less enthusiastic about the alternative laptop bags, the Osprey Nebula for men and Nova for women, but they do offer the same Osprey quality construction at a much better price. The back panel ventilation isn’t as good but they have nice padding and the carry most volume of any of the daypacks here, without weighing as much as most daypacks of their size.