What's a daypack? Most likely you have heard the term while grabbing a cup of coffee at the local Starbucks or maybe wandering past an outdoor outfitters store in a local mall. It's a term bandied about by guys who favor shorts with 2 inch inseams, Patagonia quick wick shirts, floppy hats, and wraparound sunglasses. They are forever going on and on about the merits of various daypacks. They use terms like panel loading, ventilation, internal frames, lash points, lumbar support and hydration system compatibility. Confusing huh?
It doesn't have to be confusing. A Daypack is simply that. It's a pack you take on a day trip. It is designed to hold everything you might need on a one day hiking or camping trip. It's designed to be sleek, comfortable, lightweight, and easy to access. Remember that backpack you used to throw your school books in? That can be considered a type of Daypack. Think of a Daypack as a suped up tricked out version of a bookbag.
Is it making a little more sense now? So okay, you know what a Daypack is, and now you want to go out and buy one. Why? Well, they look cool, maybe you are thinking about taking up hiking, you've got an upcoming camping trip, want to jaunt around the world, or you're really worried about 2012 and want to have a good go bag ready and waiting for the Apocalypse. Before you jump in and waste your money on something that you really don't need, is going to be uncomfortable, or won't last through three hiking trips, there are some things you need to know.
Quality hiking daypacks don't come cheap. Expect to spend between $40-$150 , but as in most things, you get what you pay for. Most quality daypacks come with a lifetime warranty. You might pay a little more than you would like, but you are getting a pack for life. They will replace it any time it breaks or tears. New pack every three years! You should be able to get a quality pack for about $75.
Bigger is not better. In this case, smaller is better. People carry too much stuff when they go on little hiking and camping trips. You don't need all that extra junk. A smaller pack will force you to refine and eliminate, a skill all trekkers should work on. The ideal capacity for an average sized man is about 1800 ccm. Also important are the lashpoints and external pockets for waters, ponchos, and other sundries.
You're looking for nylon and other ripstop fabrics. The last thing you want is for your bag to rip and all your carefully packed belongings spilling out on the trail. The cheaper daypacks use a less durable and heavier material.
4) Padding, Ventilation and Fit:
You want the bag to be well padded and well padded bag makes for an easy trip. It's going to be resting on your back and shoulders for a long time. Ventilation is also important. Some higher quality packs allow the load to be suspended away from the back allowing air to flow. Everyone hates a sweaty back. How does the bag fit? Everyone's body is different. How does a weighted pack feel along your back? If the pack doesn't feel good in the store, it won't feel good on the trail.
5) Most importantly, what are you going to be using it for?
If you're just going to be carrying books around, make sure you have several padded compartments available and get a smaller pack. Hiking? A panel loading medium sized daypack with several lash points, external pockets and an internal hydration system would be ideal. Trail running? Look for a lightweight small form fitting pack. Climbing? You want a top loading pack with a narrow profile. The sales associate should be able to help you determine which packs best suit your needs. Just don't let them upsale you too much.
Quality Daypacks are awesome and I love them. Once you use one, even if it's just for carryin around your books, you'll never go back to the standard canvas bag.
I will be reviewing the Daypacks of such notable manufacturers as Osprey, Kelty, Gregory, Deuter, etc in separate articles. For a more in depth examination of each, please check them out.