The Differences in the Top Osprey Daypacks — And How to Choose the Perfect Smaller Pack for Daily Use

by  Mose Hayward
LAST UPDATED ON  2023-07-13
PUBLISHED ON  2022-08-03

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, cycling, outdoor sports, shopping, carrying laptops and gear for work, and more.

Me with my current favorite, especially when on the road: The Osprey Farpoint Fairview Travel Daypack

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 absorbing every quality review out there (which we link to in this post).

Unfortunately, Osprey’s over-the-top creativity in naming, e.g., Daylite, Hikelite, Heritage, Apogee, Aphelia, Centauri, Arcane, and Transporter, don’t really help much in determining which daypack is for which whom. And the guidance that comes directly from Osprey is maze-like 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.”)

Fortunately, Osprey’s actual bags are much more carefully thought out than their writing—and are expertly built and durable. So we’re here to give you the real low-down. We’ve picked the top Osprey daypacks (the bestselling and our favorites) and put them side by-side with mini-reviews of each option and explanations of whom it might be for.

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.

FAQs on Osprey Daypacks

Here I am testing out an affordable, no-frills, travel-compatible-and-ready-for-anything daypack from the Daylite series, explained below

What is the best Osprey daypack?

This depends on what you’re using it for, silly, but our favorites are:

What is the best Osprey daypack for use while travelling with other Osprey packs?

The Daylite series packs explained below are compatible with and can be clipped onto the major lines of Osprey backpacking packs or have a luggage handle pass-through sleeve.

Which Osprey daypack is best for big laptops?

The Arcane Tote, Flap, and XL below have padded laptop sleeves advertised for a 16-inch laptop, and depending on your laptop’s specific dimensions may be able to handle one that is a bit larger. Likewise, the Transporter Roll Top below can carry a large, 16-inch laptop in a relatively compact and very weather-resistant package.

Are Osprey daypacks worth the (somewhat) higher price?

Osprey does not make the cheapest backpacks, but given the quality of their materials, design, and construction, the prices are excellent. They come with a lifetime warranty and Osprey has a reputation for making things right if the daypacks ever fail.

We consider Osprey daypacks a worthwhile long-term investment—having a quality day pack prevents us from having to buy another one a few years later, and also from damaging our gear. Most of the daypacks discussed here—particularly the Heritage series, are also quite versatile, so one daypack can fulfill multiple uses.

Do Osprey daypacks fit carry-on requirements?

The Osprey daypacks covered here are all well within nearly all international and USA carry-on standards, though of course airline size requirements will vary. The sleeker, 20-25L bags will often be acceptable for USA airlines’ “personal item” size standards and so can be carried alongside a fuller-sized carry-on.

These are general guidelines; it is always necessary to check particular airlines sizing standards when flying. We ourselves have never been stopped and asked to check the size of our Osprey daypacks when flying with them as carry-ons in a number of countries.

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

The top quick access pocket on Osprey daypacks generally looks something like this one (on the Farpoint Fairview Travel)
  • Osprey daypacks are extremely lightweight, with the standard daypacks ranging in our selection from just under a pound (half-kilo) to just over two pounds (one kilo). The packable, simple Ultralight Stuff packs are even lighter.
  • 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. (Too many pockets will add weight and also make it harder to figure out where you have stashed things when you’re on the go.)
  • Quality materials: Osprey daypacks generally use 210D nylon bodies and even tougher 400HD or 420HD nylon for their bottoms, they are tougher than the cheap PP or polyester used in cheap bags and lighter than the waxed cotton canvas that was once popular. In a move towards better sustainability, some of the newer packs (e.g., the Heritage and Arcane series) use Bluesign-approved recycled high tenacity nylon, or (as with the renewed Daylite series) Bluesign-approved 300D and 600D recycled polyester. The zippers and buckles are of very high quality and tend to 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.
The “breathable” mesh back panel is quite comfortable on the back of an Osprey daypack (the Osprey Farpoint Fairview)

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 designer, 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 attach directly onto Osprey’s other backpacking packs. For longer travel, another option is to buy a larger pack that comes with a detachable daypack (doubling as the head of the bag), like the Aether/Ariel series of backpacking packs.
  • The sportier bags are not suitable for carrying laptops (as detailed in the tables); the Daylite Travel Plus is OK for smaller laptops and the Nebula/Nova, Heritage Series, Arcane Series, and Transporter series are the best choices for medium to larger laptops and tech gear.
  • There are a variety of quick-access pockets on many of these bags which can be targets for pickpockets in crowded places. Such pockets are better for things of little value, not for your passport and money, which should be in the inside pockets. You can also wear the bags in front of your torso in crowded places and pick up a smart, modern money belt.

Are Osprey Daypacks Water Resistant or Waterproof?

To be marketed as “waterproof”, backpacks would have to be shown to be submersible underwater and still keep their contents dry; no normal daypacks are built for scuba diving and Osprey’s are no exception.

All Osprey Daypacks are made of highly durable materials, as noted above, and will provide a good degree of water resistance. Also, Osprey carefully constructs its reinforced seams and uses quality zippers with protective flaps over them that are key for protection from water in a downpour.

Osprey daypacks are much more likely to withstand a heavy rain than cheaper, lower quality polyester or PP bags, even when those materials have a water-resistant coating. Such coatings tend to wear off and in any case water gets in mainly through looser seams and crummier zippers on such bags. And older canvas bags, while well-built, will soak up water, especially after any coating has worn off.

Some of Osprey’s newer bags made with recycled materials are treated with PFC-free DWR, which means “durable water repellency” treatments that do not use PFCs, the environmentally disastrous perfluorochemicals.

To share my personal experience, I’m not the sort of person to carry an umbrella; my Osprey Daylite has been caught in the rain with me a number of times and my papers and computer have come out dry and in good shape. I, on the other hand, came out a sopping wet idiot.

So for most people, the standard water resistance these Osprey Daypacks offer is likely enough. But if you’re going to frequently be in long periods in heavy rain—urban bikers in the American Northwest, for example—you’ll likely want to also get a rain cover or a daypack from the Transporter series, either of which will more completely protect your gear.

The Osprey Hikelite discussed below has a built-in rain cover. Otherwise, you can buy a rain cover separately; Osprey offers the following options:

If in doubt, choose a size larger, especially if you carry gear in outside pockets.

Here are other raincover options if the Osprey raincovers are out of stock at the moment.

Finally, for those who want a daypack that packs down quite small and is suitable for travel to very rainy environments, the best option would be the Ultralight Dry Stuff pack discussed below.

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

The fully packed older version Daylite Travel (quite similar to the Daylite Plus) 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

Osprey’s are in a few cases gender-specific, though most are unisex. Broadly speaking, dedicated women’s Osprey 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 generally designed for carrying a lot of weight on the hips. The sportier packs with thin hip straps are meant merely to secure the pack if you’re running, scrambling, or biking over bumpy terrain.

In any case, the main thing to note with gendered 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 our tables listing each daypack’s details 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.

Guys, if you’re concerned, there’s nothing particularly “girly-looking” about Osprey’s “women’s” daypacks. If you have a shorter torso or want a slightly smaller pack, they may be a great choice.

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 Osprey 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 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 our descriptions.

The Best Osprey Daypacks for Travelling: The Daylite Series—Plus the Farpoint/Fairview Travel Daypack

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The Osprey Daylite and Osprey Daylite Plus 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/Fairview series, 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 is better if will be carrying a laptop; the interior sleeve is padded (the sleeve for the regular Daylite is not). It can generally carry any 15″ laptop.

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

The Osprey Daylite Tote Pack is the version of the Daylite series to get if you also like to carry your bag over one shoulder—but it’s much better, if more expensive, than a traditional tote bag, with a full range of the Daylite series features. There are convenient organizational pockets including easy access outside pockets for stuffing things in on the go (also a good place to hide the straps you’re not using) and water bottle pockets.

Inside the Daylite Tote, there is a padded laptop sleeve for 15″ laptops and in a nod to the way people are more likely to carry and set down a tote bag, the sleeve hangs a bit higher off of the bottom of the bag so that you’re less likely to damage a laptop if you plop the bag too quickly onto the ground.

A jack of all trades, the Daylite Tote is also set up for travel with a sleeve that allows it to slip over the handle of a roller suitcase and remain stable. This is not the daypack to get for backpacking in the woods; it does not clip onto the larger Osprey packs and it does not have a hip belt.

The Osprey Daylite Expandable Travel Pack 26+6 is the most suitable of the Daylite series as a travel complement to a suitcase, as it has a pass-through sleeve for a roller suitcase handle and it opens up fully with a wrap-around zipper for easy access to absolutely everything you’re carrying.

In its zipped up state you may be able to use it as a carry on on many airlines, though rules of course will vary. It also expands out an additional six liters, and conveniently this expansion space on the inside has a mesh divider, making it great for storing dirty clothes.

The Osprey Farpoint Fairview Travel Daypack, front view

There is also a very similar clip-on travel daypack option that carries a larger, 16″ laptop in its padded sleeve: the Farpoint / Fairview Travel Daypack. Its total volume sits in between the Daylite and Daylite Plus at 15L.

The daypack is branded with two names because it is compatible with both the Farpoint series for men and Fairview series for women; the very adjustable daypack is fine for any gender and body dimensions. These two series have both Osprey trekking backpacks and wheeled backpacks; you’ll definitely want to choose this daypack as a compliment if you own or plan to purchase packs from this Osprey series. It can clip onto the front straps of the Farpoint and Fairview bags (which is more balanced, comfortable, and better for keeping an eye on valuables) and also be attached into the back of the bags (if you want to keep the packs as one unit).

The two clips for attaching the Farpoint Fairview Travel Daypack slide into the shoulder straps like this when not in use, just like on Osprey Daylite daypacks (and these clips are compatible with the same trekking packs)
The main compartment (there’s a scarf at the bottom) and the laptop sleeve, which also has a tucked away zippered pocket for passports, tickets, money, etc.

The Farpoint / Fairview Travel Daypack is a bit narrower than the Daylite packs as it is really mainly designed as an accessory, and the main compartment is lockable. It is otherwise quite similar. The laptop sleeve is padded and can double as a hydration pouch, though you should never use it for both at the same time, obviously. As with other newer Osprey daypack models, the material is recycled 450D polyester with PFAS-free DWR, or water-repellent finish. There is an internal pocket on the laptop sleeve that is perfect for protecting valuable passports, money, and other such items, external mesh pockets for water bottles, and an external top pocket for quick access items.

I’d recommend the Farpoint / Fairview for those with a larger 16-inch laptop or who are using the Farpoint / Fairview series for travel (it comes with a few of those trekking packs). The clips are the same as the clips for the older Daylite packs, so, while Osprey doesn’t announce this, the Osprey Farpoint Fairview Travel Daypack is also compatible with (that is, can be clipped onto the front of) packs from the Osprey Aether/Ariel, Porter, Sojourn, and Volt/Viva series.

The Farpoint Fairview Travel Daypack is generally a great travel companion on its own or with other luggage—I now use it on a daily basis and have given a full review here.

The Most Lightweight, Packable, Scrunch-Down-Able Osprey Daypacks

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These are Osprey’s answer for travellers who want a daypack for odds and ends while out walking a city or parks, and then want to stuff the pack down and have it take up as little space and weight as possible in their main luggage. While I prefer the organizational features of the Daylite options above, packable packs are a good answer for those travelling light with packs or small suitcases that are not compatible to be clipped on, or for those who otherwise want to be able to fold down and pack their daypacks.

The smallest, lightest daypack option is the Osprey Ultralight Stuff Pack, weighing just under 4 ounces / 100 grams. The chief feature is that it can be stuffed and scrunched down into its own built-in packing cube about the size of the palm of your hand. Otherwise, folded out for use there are not a lot of frills: just a simple water bottle pocket and a top pocket with a built-in key clip.

The shoulder straps are thinner than those of other Osprey daypacks; this is not designed to support serious weight, but the straps are still soft and quite comfortable.

The waterproof packable version is the Osprey Ultralight Dry Stuff Pack, which comes in at about twice the weight and doesn’t fold down quite as small, but is still quite light and packable. A sternum strap with a built-in safety whistle is added, so this is suitable for carrying just a bit more stuff for longer periods.

The Best Osprey Daypacks for Adventure Sports, Mountain Biking, and Hiking: The Sportlite Series

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Osprey’s new take on smaller backpacks for day hikes and outdoor sports are its Sportlite daypacks. 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.

All Sportlite packs are designed to be incredibly comfortable for an entire day of outdoor wearing, even when limber, athletic movement is required. The shoulder straps (and sternum strap on the Sportlite 20, 25, and 30) and the hip belts keep the Sportlite packs secured in place. The compression straps help keep the load supported by bringing it closer to your body. Meanwhile, there is a central channel in the back panel that supposedly allows some air flow, or at least won’t trap much heat and sweat.

The smallest is the Osprey Sportlite 15, with that number meaning a 15L volume. Since both it and the slightly larger Osprey Sportlite 20 are for smaller loads, they don’t have a full-on padded hip belt intended to carry the weight, but rather a thinner, removable hip strap that merely stabilizes the pack at the waist level—especially useful during dynamic movement. The Sportlite 15 is truly minimalist and lacks even the front stash pocket that is so convenient on the larger Sportlites for having a quick place to stuff a scarf, hat, sweater, or small jacket; it’s also a good place to keep anything wet or smelly.

The larger Osprey Sportlite 25 and Osprey Sportlite 30 have fully padded hip belts that tighten at each side for stability and distribution of the weight to the hips. The hip belts have zippered pockets for quick access to small essentials. The Sportlite 30 has a lid with its own pocket as seen on Osprey and other brands’ larger backpacking packs and loads from the top. (I prefer the panel loading of the three smaller Sportlites as it is easier to access everything in the bag without unpacking.)

All of the Sportlite packs are entirely equipped for serious hikers, with long and deep side pockets that serve for water bottles or other gear (some previous Osprey daypacks have water bottle pockets that were not deep enough to secure taller water bottles). There are loops for trekking poles, which are then secured at the top of the packs by the compression straps and can be quickly released.

If you bike, hike, or run near such a dangerous and awful thing as automobiles, you’ll appreciate the attachment point on all Sportlite packs for a blinker light for visibility.

The Osprey Talon / Tempest vs. the New Sportlite Series

The main differences between the Osprey Sportlite series of daypacks and the previous, classic Talon and Tempest series (also for adventure hiking, and covered in the next section) are:

  • The Sportlite daypacks add some features that the Talon and Tempest lack, like a blinker light attachment point, improved Airscape breathable padding on the back, more flexible hip straps, deeper and more useful side mesh gear / water bottle pockets, and an additional top exterior quick-release compression strap. The organizational pockets are slightly different and depend on pack size.
  • The older Talon/Tempest series are sometimes available for a bit cheaper (we link to the best prices we can find in the Talon/Tempest table in the next section). You can also check the Osprey sale page where there are sometimes deals on older packs.
  • The Talon/Tempest daypacks come in a wider range of size options than the Sportlite series, including gendered options. This means that if you have a particularly longer/shorter or wider/narrower torso you may be able to find a more exact fit for your frame. However, with smaller daypacks like these, such exact sizing is not really necessary, so we’re not surprised that Osprey has done away with the women/men distinctions and some of the volume options in the new Sportlite packs. The Sportlite shoulder harness and hip straps are quite adjustable for a range of body types.

In spite of these differences, the Sportlite and the Talon/Tempest series have quite a lot in common; they have excellent organizational pockets, quality 100D recycled nylon material, and very comfortable carrying straps and padding for long days in the wilderness.

Osprey’s Classic Adventure/Hiking Daypack Series: The Osprey Talon (Men) and Tempest (Women) Series

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Osprey’s previous version of sports-and-longer-hiking-themed daypacks are its Talon (for men) and Tempest (for women) series. While they are mainly supplanted by the Sportlite options just above; they are still excellent hiking daypacks and are still generally available.

All of these daypacks are quite lightweight and come in a large range of sizes. On the smaller end, 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. There are larger versions available as well, though those are no longer really just daypacks.

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).

Those who use trekking poles enjoy the quick access of having them under their 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.

The Best Small Packs for Long Days Out Hiking in Very Wet Weather: The Osprey Hikelite Series

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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, go for a more laptop-friendly hiker option like the Heritage series just below or else the more weatherproof and laptop-ready Transporter series daypacks.

Great All-Purpose Smaller Trekking-Style Packs with Urban Features: The Osprey Heritage Series (Simplex 20, Scarab 30, and Nanofly Versions)

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