Best Packable Backpack for Lightweight Photography Travels
If you’re searching for the best packable backpack here in 2021, you’ve come to the right place. Whether you’re a photographer or not, I think you’ll find this guide useful.
Lightweight collapsible backpacks (aka packable daypacks) are growing in popularity, as more and more people discover just how useful and affordable they can be.
After reviewing over a hundred regular camera backpacks (which are often rather bulky), it’s been a refreshing exercise to review packable backpacks so small and light that they can be stuffed into a jacket pocket, ready for instant deployment.
Also, by limiting the size and carrying capacity of your bag, you’re also forcing yourself to really think about what’s essential for your day’s outing – minimalism at its best!
Let’s take a look at the top 4 packable backpacks of 2021.
Table of Contents
Best Packable Backpacks in 2021
|WANDRD VEER||View Price →|
|Matador DL16||View Price →|
|Eagle Creek Packable Daypack||View Price →|
|Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Daypack||View Price →|
1. WANDRD Veer | Best Packable Daypack – Our #1 Pick
Dimensions: 46 x 28 x 23 cm (18 x 11 x 9 in)
Weight: 363 g (12.8 oz)
After reading the recent WANDRD Veer review by one of our Shotkit authors, I knew I had to try one of these packable backpacks out for myself.
WANDRD has quickly become a brand synonymous for innovative product design and stylish aesthetics. With several hugely popular Kickstarter-born creations under their belt already (see the WANDRD Prvke review and WANDRD Hexad Access review), they were due for another hit with this latest packable daypack release.
In the world of packable backpacks, it’s rather hard to be truly innovative – after all, these are essentially basic bags made of feather-light material, made more as a kind of ’emergency bag’ rather than anything to be used every day.
However, with the Veer, WANDRD has somehow managed to create something that I’ve never seen before – namely, inflatable protection.
Everything starts off nicely packed up in a pouch, not much larger than a paperback book. There’s also a clip on the edge, allowing you to attach it to a larger bag, or perhaps your waist belt.
By unpacking it, you’re essentially turning the pouch inside out, with the outside of the pouch becoming the inside of one of the 3 main pockets on the bag.
Once the WANDRD Veer packable daypack has been deployed, you have the option of inflating the back panel to provide some padding between your back and whatever contents you choose to carry.
Here’s another area of ingenious innovation – the tube to blow up the panel, which features a twistable knob, into which you blow, then twist to tighten, preventing the air from escaping.
If you plan to carry a camera, lens, or another fragile item, you should definitely invest in the optional inflatable camera cube – inflating this allows you to store a DSLR with lens attached, with as much, if not more security and padded protection than most dedicated camera bags (see guide).
Aside from the innovative features, what I like the most about the WANDRD Veer packable daypack is the attention to detail. Here’s a list of things that you won’t find on any of the other best packable backpacks on this list:
- 2x waterproofed zippers
- 1x anti-theft zipper
- Numerous attachment loops on front and on shoulder straps
- Water-bottle holder (could potentially fit a small travel tripod)
- Mesh shoulder straps (for increased airflow)
- Adjustable sternum straps (both for height and length)
On top of all this, the WANDRD Veer actually looks amazing too! I’m actually tempted to use this as my everyday-carry (EDC) bag as it’s so unique-looking and cool.
Available in blue, rust or black, at an affordable price that’s accessible for any photographer or traveller (check colours here), it’s tempting to buy one of each version to keep stashed in larger items of luggage.
As you can see in the photos, the bag looks great on the back of my wife (who’s 5ft 8″ for reference), and is surprisingly spacious – we were able to fit one full size DSLR with 70-200mm lens attached, two more prime lenses and a couple of other personal items.
The waterproof zippers (one of which has a built in theft deterrent clip) are a nice touch, and the loops which run along both sides of the front and shoulder straps are useful for attaching accessories, although the bag will collapse on itself unless fully loaded, depending on where you attach the item and how heavy it is.
The separate water-bottle holder is also especially useful when carrying cold water in a hot country since any condensation formed on the bottle’s exterior won’t affect the contents of the bag. You can easily fit a 1 litre bottle, and cinch it at the top for added security.
Overall, the WANDRD Veer is our favourite packable daypack of 2021, and a product that impresses everyone I show.
The combination of numerous innovative features and an affordable price tag make it a great gift for a photographer or for yourself.
2. Matador DayLight 16
Dimensions: 46 x 30.5 x 23 cm (18 x 12 x 9 in.)
Weight: 126 g (4.5 oz)
If the Veer’s out of your price range or if you’re looking for something smaller and lighter, the Matador Daylite 16 is one of the best daypack options in this category. It weighs just 4 ounces (compared to the Veer’s 12.8) and packs down into a unit so small it literally fits in the palm of your hand.
At 16L, the Matador Daylite has almost the same carrying capacity as the Veer (18L) when expanded. There’s a main compartment, 1 exterior zippered compartment, 2 small mesh side pockets, and 1 interior drawstring pocket for holding keys and other small necessities.
One thing I really like is how the small exterior zippered pocket runs all the way down to the base of the pack, making it big enough to hold a full-sized water bottle. For me, the side mesh pockets work better for snacks and maybe a mini tripod like the Ultrapod 2 or the Joby Gorillapod.
In addition to my camera equipment, the Matador DL 16 easily held a couple extra layers, my packed lunch, two water bottles and a few odds and ends (extra batteries, etc.).
Still, with all this capacity the Matador Daylite 16 is really just a standard collapsible backpack. It’s lighter and smaller than the Veer, but doesn’t come with inflatable back support or a camera cube – your camera gear will be floating around unprotected unless you have some type of insert with it.
Still, it’s roomy enough for a Tenba BYOB or an Apecase Cubeze. I even tried the Veer’s inflatable camera cube with it and it worked just fine.
Style-wise the Matador is a smart-looking packable daypack, so no complaints there. There are 4 different colours to choose from (charcoal, indigo, leaf pattern, or pop pattern) and the sleek design fits in just about anywhere.
Similar to the Veer, the Matador has mesh shoulder straps for breathability and the fabric is waterproof. The zippers are only water-resistant, though, so I wouldn’t recommend dropping the pack into a pond or anything like that.
At less than $80, the Matador DL16 is a bit less expensive than the Veer (around $90 without the camera cube), especially if you already an insert.
It doesn’t have inflatable back support or on-body side access, but it’s a fantastic ultra-light pack if you need something that packs down smaller than the Veer and/or you really need something super lightweight. Definitely one of the best packable daypacks of the year at this price point.
3. Eagle Creek Packable Daypack – Best Budget Packable Backpack
Dimensions: 28 x 45 x 12 cm (11 x 17.5 x 4.75 in)
Weight: 142 g (5 oz)
If you’re looking for a budget packable backpack, the Eagle Creek Packable Daypack is one of the better options on the market. At just under $32, it’s less than half the price of the Veer and the Matador DL16.
It’s smaller as well, folding down to a pouch the size of an envelope, making it the best day pack if you’re really tight on packing space.
With a carrying capacity of 13L, the Eagle Creek isn’t quite as roomy as the other packable daypacks on this list. That might be a deal breaker for some. For example, a camera cube/insert won’t fit easily inside.
Still, if you just want to bring your camera and not much else, there’s enough room for the essentials needed on a bout around town.
The Eagle Creek Packable Daypack features a lockable main compartment, a small front pocket, one narrow mesh pocket, and a clip for attaching it to your luggage. When you’re done with it, it stuffs back into its exterior pocket.
Unsurprising at this price point, the Eagle Creek Daypack is quite a minimalist pack – there’s no inside pocket, waterbottle holder, laptop compartment, sternum strap, padded shoulder straps, nor padding on the back. The padding on the shoulder straps is minimal too. There’s also no place to put a water bottle.
While the fabric is durable and ripstop nylon, it’s not water resistant. The materials, though, are quite high-quality, and the pack comes with Eagle Creek’s standard lifetime warranty.
Also, the Eagle Creek Daypack is unusually fashionable – especially for city use. It would fit in well with any urban scene, despite being an ultralight packable travel backpack, unintended to be ‘fashionable’.
If you’re on a budget and don’t have much more than just a camera and lens to carry around, the Eagle Creek Lightweight Packable Backpack is a great choice. Just be sure to add in some padding.
4. Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Daypack
Dimensions: 28 x 20 x 48 cm (19.3 x 10.6 x 5.9 in)
Weight: 68 g (2.4 oz)
The lightest backpack in this list and possibly on the market, the Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil daypack is ultra-minimalist. It’s basically just a single compartment.
That being said, this pack holds a full 20L while packing down to the size of a teacup and weighing in at 2.4 ounces!
With just one main compartment, there aren’t a lot of organization options. Well, okay, there’s a interior pocket but it’s so small you won’t be able to fit much more than keys and maybe some cash in there.
In fact, the Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil pretty much sacrifices everything to go for the ultralight crown.
Similar in price to the Eagle Creek Packable daypack, the Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil daypack retails for around $32.
At the same time, its only real feature is that it’s insanely light and small and entirely waterproof. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a pack that’s lighter or more packable.
At 20L, you can fit a surprising amount of gear into the Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Daypack – a good-sized camera insert, extra layers, food, water bottles, and more.
The downside though, is that there’s only a single access point and no exterior pockets whatsoever. All your gear will be packed in together and you’ll have to rummage to find anything.
The siliconized CORDURA fabric of the Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil is both thin and incredibly strong. It has Bartack reinforced stitching on all stress points, so it’s not likely to come apart any time soon.
It’s also distinctively crinkly. If you travel in places where you share sleeping quarters, this probably isn’t the pack for you.
Another thing I don’t like about the fabric is that it’s so light and flimsy it doesn’t hold its shape. If you don’t pack it to the brim it collapses in on itself and looks rather unattractive. I also don’t like that it only comes in bright colors. It’s also the least comfortable of the packable backpacks on this list.
Still, if weight and size are an absolute priority, you won’t be able to do better than this lightweight travel daypack.
So if you’re a peak bagger, an ultra-light traveler, or just don’t have much room in your pack, the Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil just might be the pack for you. On the other hand, if you can handle a few more ounces I’d go with one of the other bags in this list.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a packable backpack?
A packable backpack is one made from ultra-lightweight fabric that you can compress down to a small size when not in use. Packable backpacks sometimes come with their own pouch that they pack into. Because of their compact size, you can travel with a packable backpack in your luggage and only unfold it when needed, making them a great daypack for travel.
What is a daypack vs backpack?
A daypack is basically a backpack that’s designed for travellers on day trips as opposed to longer hikes. As a result, daypacks are smaller and lighter and fit fewer items than their larger counterparts.
What is the lightest backpack?
The Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil daypack is the lightest on our list of best packable backpacks – and, at 68 g (2.4 oz), it’s surely one of the lightest on the market as well. Though impressively light, the Ultra-Sil can carry a full 20L in its minimalist frame.
What is the best waterproof backpack?
If you’re after a weather-proof packable backpack, you can’t go past the WANDRD Veer. It’s made from weather-resistant materials and has weather-resistant zippers as well.
While there are several other packable backpacks available here in 2021, these 4 are the ones we think you should be focusing on for lightweight camera carry and general daypack usage.
Even if you’re not sure how you’ll use one of these feather-light accessories right away, they’re the kind of thing you should keep packed away in a larger bag, or stowed in your car’s glove compartment.
Being able to unfold (or inflate!) a functional and comfortable packable daypack in a few seconds is incredibly useful, and the novelty will never wear off!
Let us know in the comments how you use your lightweight travel daypacks.
Disclaimer: All recommendations are impartial and based on user experience, with no bias to the products or the brand. The products in this post may contain affiliate links.
Usnea Lebendig is a travel and landscape photographer who loves trekking in the wilderness, exploring other cultures, and using photography for social activism.