We recently wrote a guide on the best 50L backpacks which are ideal for slightly longer outings or times where you need to carry more gear. But if you’re heading out on a day hike, need a backpack for accessories for work and any other less demanding activities, 20L backpacks will provide you with more than enough space.
Of course, when you search for a 20L backpack, you’re going to notice the immense range of options. So how do you choose?
Well, the answer lies within this guide where we’ll provide you with some of the best buying tips as well as showing you some amazing 20L backpacks on sale right now.
What Is A 20L Backpack Good For?
If you need a backpack for things like a day in the city, committing or day hiking then 20 litres is usually just about the right size. It's big enough to contain all of your most important bits and pieces but not so large that you’re weighed down. After all, there’s no point lugging around an 80L pack when you’re only going out for an afternoon.
For most people, a 20L backpack isn’t going to be enough for an overnight adventure. For this, you might need to go up to 35L or 50L. However, if you need something that’ll fit in the overhead lockers in the aeroplane cabin then 20L will be perfect.
Top 5 20L Backpacks
There are tons of 20L backpacks out there and it can become pretty tiresome trawling through your options. But there’s really no need for you to do that when we’ve put together this handy list of reviews on some of the very best products on the market right now.
OUR TOP PICK
One of the first things we noticed about this backpack is how sturdy and durable it is. For demanding day hikes, this is perfect as it won’t easily rip and is made from polyester which is lightweight. While the bag does feature a water resistant coating, it isn’t fully waterproof so may not be the best choice for extreme weather conditions or hikes with water crossings.
The Highlander is a very stylish backpack that comes in various colours. But one thing we did notice is that some of the colours are almost double the price of others - red and olive, we’re looking at you! Still, they’re not overpriced so you aren’t going to burst your budget.
We love that the Highlander daysack has an advanced ventilation system so you won’t feel clammy and uncomfortable if you start to sweat. Moreover, with padded shoulder straps and a chest strap, weight is evenly distributed and you get an excellent fit.
Water resistant as opposed to waterproof
Padded straps for comfort
Additional pockets at the sides and front
Compatible with a hydration bladder but this is not included
When your backpack isn’t in use, you’ve got to find a place for it. But what if we told you that you could get a foldable backpack that doesn’t compromise on quality? You see, most would believe that using a foldable material would mean it wasn’t as strong but that couldn’t be further from the truth where the ZOMAKE is concerned.
This backpack is made from nylon which is an incredibly durable material and to top it off, it’s tear resistant as well. You can go on as many adventures as you please in any kind of weather thanks to the waterproof quality of the materials. The only real issue is the lack of a firm bottom but for lightweight use, this isn’t going to affect the use too much.
The ZOMAKE backpack is super lightweight and ideal for travel and also comes in a wide range of colours so you can show off your style. Moreover, style doesn’t come at the cost of comfort since this backpack has super soft straps that don’t dig in.
It doesn’t have the most pockets we’ve ever seen on a 20L backpack but with a spacious main compartment and a couple of zip pockets, you’ll have more than enough room for your essentials and a few other bits.
Lightweight and foldable
No firm base
Choice of colours
Waterproof and durable
Comfortable and adjustable straps
If you’re looking for a stylish and good quality backpack for older kids at school then this is ideal. One of the main features that makes it perfect for students is that spacious main compartment that will comfortably hold a 12 inch laptop along with books, pens and other essential equipment.
Plus there are other pockets for smaller items as well as a place for a bottle of water. The MOLLE extension system means you can compact or expand the bag as your needs demand.
The material is super durable so this is ideal for everyday use. Made from 900D nylon, there’s no worry of the bag ripping or fraying. Plus, it’s even waterproof so it doesn’t matter if the heavens open on the way to school.
The backpack features comfortable shoulder straps and an adjustable chest strap. However, the straps aren’t huge so aren’t suitable for larger people.
Straps could be bigger
Made from durable materials
Lots of pockets and compartments
Ideal for school or college
BEST FOR CYCLISTS AND RUNNERS
If you’re into sports and need a lightweight yet reliable backpack then we’d highly recommend the Local Lion biking backpack. It’s got everything you would expect out of a 20L backpack and is pretty stylish to boot.
We love that the Local Lion backpack features comfortable mesh straps and a mesh panel at the back. If you’re going to be active, this will keep you from feeling sweaty and wet. What’s more, the backpack boasts padding in the lumbar strap for even more comfort as you’re moving around.
You’ll be able to go off on even the most demanding runs or bike rides with this pack since it’s made from tear resistant material and it’s water resistant. The only real issue is that the stitching isn’t as good as you might expect so avoid overloading the pack.
It’s got an expandable main compartment as well as a lot of other pockets so you won’t be limited on what you can take. Plus with two way durable zippers, the contents inside are protected but easy to access.
Lots of compartments
Stitching isn’t brilliant
Good quality zippers
BEST FOR HIKERS
The Veektac backpack might look a little bright and in your face but if you can get over that then you’ll see what a brilliant little backpack this is. It’s perfect for hiking, largely because of its compatibility with a hydration bladder. Although keep in mind that you will have to buy this separately.
The backpack is incredibly comfortable to wear. In fact, we’d go as far as saying that it’s one of the most comfortable we have seen. It boasts padded, mesh panelled back, adjustable waist, chest and shoulder straps and it’s lightweight. A lot of thought appears to have gone into the design.
We also love that this 20L backpack comes with some nice added extras like a whistle clip and cycle helmet mesh; and that’s on top of the additional side and internal pockets. You really do have space for everything.
But how does it fare in terms of durability? Well it’s made from waterproof nylon and polyester so you get the best of durability and being lightweight.
Lots of space and add ons
Not the best looking backpack
Very comfortable and breathable
Made from durable materials
Hydration bladder compatible
Choosing The Right 20L Backpack For Your Needs
If you’re buying a 20L backpack then you’re probably looking for something that’s going to allow you to carry your essentials and that won’t weigh you down. But despite having already chosen the right size, there are other features you will need to consider if you want a 20L backpack that’s going to be perfect for you.
There is very little point in purchasing a 20L backpack that is going to fall apart after one or two uses. Looking for packs that are made from high quality materials and that will stand up to life’s challenges is so important.
The more you pay for a backpack, the better the materials and construction are likely to be. That’s why we wouldn’t recommend going uber cheap but still stick within your budget, of course.
You’ll find that nylon backpacks are far superior in terms of durability when you compare them to those made from things like polyester. However, they’ll also cost more.
You want to also make sure that the material isn’t going to rip or tear easily and a lot of manufacturers are using materials like this for modern backpacks.
Check the thickness of the material which is usually given in denier or just ‘D’ as this will tell you how robust it is.
A lot of backpacks are designed for adventurous use and this means that they will be exposed to the elements. To protect what’s inside, you’ll want to look for a water resistant or waterproof material or something that has been coated to prevent water getting in.
Where being waterproof is concerned, you will also need to make sure that the seams and zippers are watertight. One of the biggest gripes of backpack users is that a pack might be made from the very latest and most technologically advanced waterproof materials but the zippers are low quality and water drips right through them.
As you move about, especially in hot weather, you’re going to sweat. It’s gross but it’s totally natural and we all do it. But the last thing you want is for the sweat to build up on your back making you feel wet and uncomfortable. Choosing a backpack with mesh panels improves ventilation and ensures that you aren’t left feeling sweaty and clammy.
There are even some backpacks that have a suspended pack and this allows air to flow around the outside of the pack between it and your back.
20L backpacks are among some of the smallest packs on the market but that doesn’t mean that you don’t want to keep your items organised. Finding a mobile phone or key at the bottom of a 20L pack is still not easy so having a range of pockets and compartments can help to keep things organised.
Some will come with one large main compartment and just one or two small outer pockets. Others, however, will have many more compartments and even space for things like your laptop which is great if you’re using the bag for commuting.
There are backpacks that also feature outside clips and loops for storing items that you need easy access to. However, it’s more common to see these on larger backpacks that are designed for lengthy adventures.
Even if you are only going out for a day, you’ll want your backpack to feel comfortable. One of the most important things to look at here are the straps.
All backpacks feature shoulder straps but it’s essential that these are well padded so they don’t cause discomfort. What’s more, the best 20L backpacks will have adjustable shoulder straps so you can get a better fit which means you’ll be able to carry the load more comfortably and the backpack won’t swing around as you move.
For heavier packs, there is usually a waist strap or even a chest strap. These keep the bag more secure and help to better distribute weight.
Some backpacks come with added extras although some of these extra features are only usually found on larger backpacks.
You might want to look for a backpack that has a hydration system. This is especially important if you are hiking as you’ll need to keep drinking plenty of water and a system like this means you can do that on the go.
There are some backpacks that also have an insulated compartment where you can store food to keep it warm or cold. Even if you’re only heading out for a few hours, the last thing you want are warm, soggy sandwiches.
Some hiking backpacks come with added safety features like lights and whistles. These are perfect if you’re going somewhere remote, even if it is just for a day.
For day hikes, work, college and short outings, a 20L backpack provides you with all the space you could possibly need without being so big that it weighs you down. There are loads of great 20L backpacks on the market but some have slightly different features than others.
For example, some are hydration bladder compatible while others are designed with a space for your laptop. How you intend to use the bag will determine which features are best for you.
Our selection of the best 20L backpacks and our helpful buyer’s guide will ensure you find the most appropriate backpack for your needs.