How to Choose a Daypack
Daypacks today are a highly evolved species, transformed from their Pleistocene-era origins (shapeless bags of canvas, cloth or cowhide attached to a pair of unsympathetic, unpadded shoulder straps) into efficient, specialized, high-performance load-carriers.
Name your activity. Whatever it is, it's likely a daypack has already been designed to help you enjoy it with greater ease and convenience.
Keep 1 guideline in mind as you survey the variety of packs REI offers: Base your selection on the most demanding circumstances you foresee yourself facing. If you can dream it up, you'll probably try it some day. Make sure you've got enough pack to handle your chosen level of outdoor challenges.
Day hiking: Any pack listed among REI's selection of Book bags/daypacks will work for day trippers. Make sure the one you choose includes certain features you value the most-a large capacity rating, side pockets, compartments for organizing gear, etc.
Quiz yourself on your ambitions and expectations. For instance, will your pack get as much use (or more?) at school as it will on the trail? Then steer yourself toward a larger-capacity book bag. Plan to do a little scrambling when you're out for a walk? Consider some packs with thinner profiles such as those listed under Technical daypacks.
Quick backcountry overnighters: Your best options will be found either under technical daypacks (traditionally known as rucksacks) or Internal-frame packs-overnight trips. Your choice depends on your ability to keep your load light for quick-turnaround trips.
If you are equipped with a space-saving down sleeping bag, can get by without a tent and can exclude camping items other hikers might regard as essential, stick with a daypack with a capacity of roughly 2,500 cubic inches (or less).
The best of these packs typically offer padded backing (or some type of framesheet), a modest lumbar pad and a padded (though not necessarily beefy) hipbelt. Some models even offer a single aluminum stay to help accommodate a heavier load. However, if you require lots of amenities (even during an overnight trip), consider instead a lower-volume internal-frame pack. These models will allow you to carry a heavier load more efficiently.
Typically, you do not want to exceed 30 pounds in a daypack if
it offers no framesheet for your back or hipbelt. Otherwise, the
weight may hang too heavily on your shoulders. Some technical
daypacks provide a modestly padded hipbelt. If that's a feature
you want, make sure the belt is something more substantial than
a simple stabilizing strap that buckles at your waist.
Scrambling: Stick with 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 a capacity of around 2,500 cubic inches (or more) to accommodate extra clothing.
Day climbing: Your ambitions will determine whether you need a low-capacity internal-frame pack or a technical daypack. Compare your standard equipment load (ropes, carabiners, etc.) 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 (which consolidate your load and keep it from shifting) are also important. Ask your climbing companions what works for them.
Ski touring: A smooth, narrow profile is a must. Your range of travel (and the extra clothing you customarily carry) 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; a hipbelt of some type will serve you well. Serious skiers will almost always opt for an internal-frame pack, though a technical daypack can suit your needs nicely during short jaunts.
Trail running: A fanny pack or lumbar pack with water bottle holsters is probably your first choice. Lumbar packs are less inclined to shift while you run, and it's nice to keep your back clear to allow perspiration to escape. In cooler times of year, a hydration pack (which offers more capacity to carry additional clothing) makes a good choice.
School: Daypacks have largely replaced briefcases in the past quarter-century. Somewhere along the line "daypacks" morphed into "book bags," and pack manufacturers have kept pace with the trend. If toting books, not gear, is your primary interest, look for book bags/daypacks that offer at least 1 divider or 2 compartments.
REI's brand of book bags have earned a good buzz for featuring the REI "Obsessive Organizer," a well-conceived interior panel amply equipped with pockets, slots and sleeves to help you manage everything from pens to CDs to airline tickets.
Some packs, like the Yahoo! Hardware line, include padded cases for laptops that can be removed and carried separately. A carry handle is a nice option for warmer days when you want to keep your back clear. Plus, these packs make an easy transition into outdoor-minded gear carriers on weekends.
Hydration packs: People love hydration packs-standard-sized daypacks that include 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
The simplicity of their design encourages you to hydrate more often, which is a good thing. Sometimes, in order to maintain a pace, you postpone a drink stop because that's the last thing you want to do-stop. Hydration systems (found in many full-sized backpacks as well) can keep you refreshed while you keep moving.
Fanny packs: These are nice items for day hikers, cyclists, skiers, even city strollers, who think of them as a purse on their rump. For shorter outdoor jaunts on hotter days, a fanny pack and the full ventilation it affords your back is the great option.
Lumbar packs: These are larger-capacity fanny packs that ride on the small of your back as well as your waist. Their snug design is very popular with trail runners.
Panel loaders vs. top loaders. Traditionally, daypacks feature a panel-loading style, where the main storage compartment is accessed via a long, U-shaped zipper. Fully opened, one side wall of the compartment falls away like a flap. This wide opening makes it easy to pack bulky items such as cold-weather clothing or books.
Top loaders usually do a better job of keeping loads from shifting, especially if they offer compression straps. For activities where balance is vital (climbing, ski touring, scrambling), give a top loader some serious consideration.
Little extras: You know your own preferences. Manufacturers have tried their best to accommodate the ones shared by the most people. So read through each description in search of specialties that are close to your heart, from ski slots to key loops to a carry handle. Think through all your potential needs before you make your selection.
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