Making the right daypack choice
The first things to consider when looking at daypacks for hiking is what you are planning to do with it. Hiking daypacks are different than your standard issue school backpack. They have more pockets, have different kinds of adjustments, and are much more rugged than a regular pack you may be used to. They are also typically more expensive than the ones you would go to a discount store and buy for your kids for school.
A cheap daypack isn't worth the savings. That extra weight will become very noticeable navigating those switchbacks.
Panel-loading daypacks offer a main storage compartment that is opened using a U-shaped zipper that runs up one side across the top and down the other side. Fully opened, the panel of the compartment falls away like a flap.
This wide opening makes panel loaders easier to load bulky items and rummage through when you're searching for something. This makes them particularly appealing for most hikers on day trips. If organization is important to you, consider a panel loader. Top loaders are like a duffel bag, often with a drawstring top.
The ideal size for most hikers is around 28 -30 liters. This is large enough to hold all the hiking essentials. Personally, I prefer a smaller pack in the neighbourhood of 22-25 L since I carry some of my essentials outside of the back pack in cargo pants. Some women prefer even smaller packs. Packs designed specifically for women provide improved fit through contoured shoulder straps and sometimes with a narrower design.
Top daypack features:
- Adequate capacity for your needs.
- Deep side pockets (elasticized mesh slots that lie flat against the pack until you wedge an item into place are best.)
- Compartments (slots or pockets) for organizing small items and loose gear. Two or more is good.
- Built-in rain cover (one attached to the bottom of the backpack in a zippered pocket so that it can be pulled out and over the backpack.)
- Hip support pads to transfer some of the weight from your back to your hips.
- Sternum straps to keep the pack stable and prevent the shoulder straps from slipping off your shoulders by pulling the pack to your centre of gravity.
- Waist strap to stabilize the pack.
- Hydration-system compatibility. Some packs include sleeves for a hydration reservoir; most offer ports for a hydration hose.
- An air-comfort breathable curved back that keeps the backpack away from your back allowing air to flow between your pack and your back to keep your back cooler and dry in hot weather. Packs from Gregory, Osprey and Deuter are among the first packs to offer this innovation.
- Lightweight rugged construction. More sophisticated packs may use a rugged 630-denier nylon that offers superb durability at noticeable weight savings.
- Top-loop to aid in carrying the pack or for attaching boots to the pack for air-travel.
- Tool loops and daisy chains: External attachment points for your tools, crampons, climbing gear or trekking poles.
I have all of these in my favourite pack - the Deuter Futura 22 Daypack pictured at top in silver-blue-arctic (about $100) along with a number of biners (carabiners) to attach things to the backpack. Some other brands such as the Osprey Talon 22 offer similar features.
HIKING BACKPACKS VIDEO: