Best 20L Backpacks (Small Bags, Big Ideas)

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.

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. 

Additional Features

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. 

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