How To Choose A Daypack

Daypacks of today are highly evolved in comparison to their origins (shapeless bags of canvas, cloth or cowhide attached to a pair of unsympathetic, unpadded shoulder straps). Today’s efficient, specialized, high-performance packs are miles away superior in every feature. Name your activity and you are likely to find a daypack has been designed to help you enjoy it with greater ease and convenience.

Quick Tips

  • Choose a pack with capacity for the most demanding situations you expect.
  • Specialized daypacks exist for climbers and backcountry skiers and others.
  • Hydration daypacks combine a small pack and bladder for a one-stop-shop.
  • Fanny or lumbar packs are ideal for trail runners trying to keep loads light.

Specialized Packs

Hydration Packs: People love hydration packs that are a little more than daypacks including a removable reservoir (or bladder) with a sipping hose attached. With the drinking end of the hose clipped to one shoulder strap for easy access, you can go for miles without dropping your pack when you need a drink. This ease of access encourages you to hydrate more often. Sometimes to maintain pace, you postpone drinking because the last thing you want to do is stop.

Fanny Packs: These are nice items for day hikers, cyclists, skiers, even city strollers. For short hikes on hot days, a fanny pack and the full ventilation it affords your back is a great option.

Lumbar Packs: These are large capacity fanny packs that sit on the small of your back and your waist. This design is very popular with trail runners.

Matching Packs and Activities

Day Hiking: Make sure the one you choose includes certain features you value the most a large capacity rating, side pockets, compartments for organizing gear, etc. Evaluate your ambitions and expectations. Plan to do a little scrambling when you’re out for a walk Consider some packs with thinner profiles such as those listed under climbing packs.

Overnighters: If you are bringing a space-saving down sleeping bag, a pack with a capacity of roughly 2,500 cubic inches can accommodate enough gear for a comfortable overnighter. The best packs in this class usually offer padded backing (or a framesheet), a modest lumbar pad and a padded hipbelt. If you plan on carrying lots of amenities, consider a low-volume internal-frame pack, which will allow you to carry a heavier load more efficiently. You will want to avoid exceeding 20 pounds in a daypack without a framesheet or hipbelt. Without one (or both) of these, too much weight is hanging on your shoulders. If the pack has a hipbelt, make sure it t is more substantial than a simple stabilizing strap made from webbing.

Bouldering: Find a narrow-profile pack, one that includes a padded back or a framesheet. A hipbelt and a sternum strap will be especially helpful. Often you’ll be climbing to higher elevations where the air is cooler, so you’ll need at least 2,500 cubic inches to accommodate extra clothing.

Climbing: Your ambitions and equipment load will determine whether you need a low-capacity internal-frame pack or a technical daypack. Compare this with the list of specialized features a pack may provide (ice axe loop, crampon patches, daisy chain). Avoid side pockets; you want a pack that’s lean and clean. A sternum strap and a variety of compression straps are also important.

Ski Touring: A smooth, narrow profile is a must. Your range of motion (and the extra clothing) will determine your capacity requirements. Look for wand pockets on the sides of the pack; they come in handy when carrying your skis. A sternum strap is essential and a hipbelt will serve you well. Climbing packs work very well for touring or telemarking.

Trail Running: A fanny pack, lumbar pack or water-bottle pack is usually the ideal choice. Lumbar packs are less likely to shift while runningand it’s nice to keep your back clear so perspiration can escape. In cooler weather, a hydration pack makes a good choice.

Additional Considerations

Panel Loading vs. Top Loading: Many daypacks feature a panel-loading style, where the main storage compartment is accessed via a long, U-shaped zipper. Fully opened, one side wall opens up. This opening allows for easy packing of bulky items. Top loaders usually do a better job of keeping loads from shifting, especially if they have compression straps. For activities where balance is vital, consider a top loader. Just recognize that organizing gear in a top loader requires more attention.

Little Extras: You know your own preferences. Manufacturers have tried their best to accommodate these. Search for the design specifics that meet your needs, be it ski slots or key loops or a carry handle. Think through all your potential needs before you make your selection.

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