Hikers: what do you look for in a day pack?

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I finally wore my pack out after 6 or 7 years of abuse. I tried a few before I found one I was happy using, and it kind of surprised me what I wound up with. After going through this exercise I'm curious what other people consider essential in a pack, and which of those features are negotiable?

In my case, I just couldn't use a pack that doesn't have a side zipper without being frustrated. I try to pack my stuff in the order I'll need it, eg wind shell, water, and lunch on top, but every time I have to go digging I know there's a better way and I'm annoyed not to have it available. Turns out, to my great surprise, I was willing to give up hydration bladder compatibility (I can make it work) and convenient ice ax carry (I can make it work) for a good side zip, a comfortable carry, and aesthetics.

What about you?

Replies

  • Dogmom1978
    Dogmom1978 Posts: 1,580 Member
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    Carry comfort, hip belt, side pockets, top zip pocket to put stuff I need to access quickly without digging around.

    Favorite brand for me is Osprey. I find them most comfortable and I find their features to be well thought out.
  • spiriteagle99
    spiriteagle99 Posts: 3,696 Member
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    My husband and I been using the same daypacks for about 20 years. They still don't look very worn, so I won't be replacing them any time soon. Size and durability are the main issues for me. Can I fit a jacket, rain jacket, and water inside. One of the packs has separate water bottle pockets, which is helpful if we are going to be accessing water often but for a short hike where I am only carrying one bottle, it isn't a necessity. I don't like bladders because of the cleaning issue and freezing problem in winter.
  • cheriej2042
    cheriej2042 Posts: 241 Member
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    I have 5 different backpacks,different sizes for different uses and I still haven’t found one that meets all my needs. Durability of material without too much weight, wide hip straps, ability to distribute weight and stack it vertically not have the pack weight too wide, side external pockets, zippered smaller compartments, zippered pockets on the straps both sides so I can access quick snack/shot block etc ,rain cover contained in a bottom compartment because I’ve lost too many separate covers in the wind, a frame that allows for airflow between my back and the pack,bladder compatibility a must (I drink a lot of sips of water so I don’t use bottles)with a clip on the strap for the hose, ring clips are nice and I did see a Mammut bag that had loop straps sewn into the shoulder straps that I would love to have so you can have a different hand position over longer hikes. I do look at backpacks when in Europe because they seem to have a better variety of features. And no dark colored packs that attract and retain heat. Right now I’m using a deuter which is ok but still not the unicorn pack I’m looking for!😀
  • lorrpb
    lorrpb Posts: 11,464 Member
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    How it sits on my hips, and feels for my back and neck. After that I like some easily accessible pockets for the small stuff.
  • christopherdeis
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    Check out the REI Co-op Trail 25 Pack, it has good storage and looks like it opens well. I have an older light Mountain Hardware climbing pack I use that just won't fall apart...
  • lalalacroix
    lalalacroix Posts: 834 Member
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    I have packs of all sizes and types but the ones I use the most are the smallest. I carry as little as possible on day hikes, more in the winter than summer. Must be light and comfortable and hold water bottles. I personally prefer few pockets and zippered compartments.

    I guess for me, less is more.
  • CipherZero
    CipherZero Posts: 1,418 Member
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    Comfort and fit first, always. If that isn't good, it doesn't matter what else you're doing, it's GOING to suck.
  • thegeordielass
    thegeordielass Posts: 208 Member
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    I probably start from a different place because when I go hiking, usually one of the reasons I go is photography so my starting point is a bag with a side pocket which is big enough to fit my camera body and a couple of lenses in (and then a pocket at the top for quick access to filters). It also has to have enough space left for a jacket/hat/gloves/torch and food. Side pockets are a must as I put my water bottles in there (unlikely to fit in main bag unless it's huge because of the space the camera and protective padding take up). Somewhere I could balance my tripod is also a must (ideally a side packet and straps higher up). If it can hold all these then it has to be comfortable: no point looking for comfortable first it it doesn't fit my other needs! Straps on the waist (with pockets) and a chest strap are a must too. A pocket on the front of the bag is a must for carrying the little bits I may want access to quickly - like snacks or any medications.

    At the moment I have an amazing Lowe Alpine bag that fits all my needs. The zip on the size is possibly starting to look a little worn from unzipping to get the camera out but I think that can be replaced pretty easily. My family liked by bag so much they got one each too!
  • NorthCascades
    NorthCascades Posts: 10,968 Member
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    I always thought a good waist strap was essential. Guess I don't carry that much weight unless I have my camera, because the pack I just retired didn't have one, and I actually liked it. Meant I could get into the pack more quickly. :smile: It unzips like a suitcase, letting me get at anything anywhere in the bag without having to dig around to get what I need. I took my old pack on a 25 mile day hike - twice - and it didn't give me anything to complain about. Guess I can't ask for more than that.

    This is me wearing my retired old friend.

    29976655972_dedfe7ed7b_o_d.jpg
  • NorthCascades
    NorthCascades Posts: 10,968 Member
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    Nobody will let you try anything on because of covid, most outdoor stores are saying they'll be happy to take returns, that's the new version of trying on. So I've gone through the cycle of buying a pack, loading it up with the stuff I typically hike with, and then returning it because something wasn't right. Couldn't get an Osprey in the right size and with the right features locally, which is a shame because their packs always work for me.

    And then I decided to try my ski pack on a hike. And it worked out. The pockets are a little weird for hiking and it doesn't have a lot of the features I want, but it's comfortable, has a side zip, and, bonus, I already have it. :smile: Plus it looks good, and matches some of my clothes. :smile: :smile: Another bonus, the ski straps carry my tripod pretty well.

  • HilTri
    HilTri Posts: 378 Member
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    I really like my Osprey. I love the pockets on the waist belt, the exterior pocket that I dedicate for snacks, the hydro pack is a must for me. I keep my poles in one of the side water bottle pockets and a bottle of electrolytes for long hikes. Osprey was recommended to me by fellow hikers, I am really pleased with the two that I have.
  • Psychgrrl
    Psychgrrl Posts: 3,177 Member
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    Super-comfy straps. Easily accessible side pockets. Compartments to keep things separate. My newest one has a solar panel that clips on the front. It’s sweet and works great!
  • sgt1372
    sgt1372 Posts: 3,992 Member
    edited October 2020
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    If it's a really short hike, I don't use a day pack at all or just wear a fanny pack.

    On the other hand, I've have around 10 different type of "day" packs on hand.

    Which one I use varies depending on how long the hike will be, the terrain and the weather which will determine what gear and clothing I need to carry and whether I need to carry water or not.

    Of course, you want a pack that will be as comfortable as possible but the level of comfort will depend on how much wt you carry in the pack and how well designed and constructed the pack is to support that weight.

    If you need to carry water, it's better to use a pack w/a pouch for a hydration bag wc will be easier to carry than separate water bottles

    If you are carrying a lot of gear that's heavy, it's better to use a pack w/hip support and a chest strap and that also provides some separation of the pack from the frame to provide ventilation to allow the sweat off your back to evaporate, especially if you're hiking in steep terrain in hot weather over a long route.

    Organization of the pack is also important so that you can find the things you need w/o too much trouble. A pack w/only one compartment can be just as bad as a bag w/too many compartments. Usually 2-3 seoarate compartments is all you need but situations/needs vary.

    So, what I look for in a day bag really depends on the hike that I have planned and what I need to carry. There is no single pack that will fit every situation.

  • NorthCascades
    NorthCascades Posts: 10,968 Member
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    I got some complements on my pack yesterday. But after six hours hiking my neck and shoulders hurt. Couldn't get it adjusted well. I carried more than usual yesterday. It was extremely comfortable to ski in last winter. Hopefully it was just a bad day.
  • cheriej2042
    cheriej2042 Posts: 241 Member
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    Just an observation but looking at the picture of you in the old pack, it looks like it’s hanging down too low on your back and would pull on your shoulders and neck especially after 6 hours. Try adjusting the front straps to pull the pack higher up on your back and see how that works. It could have been just the extra weight.