A backpack that holds enough gear for a single day adventure, yet does not offer more bulk than is necessary, is known as a daypack. Daypacks come in one of two varieties: top-loading, or panel-loading. A top-loading daypack, as its name suggests, opens at the top and usually closes with a drawstring instead of a zipper. Though the designs tend to be simple, many top-loading daypacks have compression straps on the sides to stabilize the load. A panel-loading daypack looks like your typical school backpack with U-shaped zipper closures and multiple compartments. The compartments make these bags much better for keeping gear organized. It is also easier to load and to retrieve gear from a panel-loading daypack since the openings are wider.
Experts at REI say that the target capacity that most adventurers want in a daypack is 1,830 cu. in., or 30 liters, though today an ultralight hiking movement has increased the availability of lightweight, lower capacity packs intended for hiking gear (http://www.rei.com/expertadvice/articles/daypack.html). Read on for some top picks!
This ultralight panel-loading daypack can carry 15-20 pounds of gear comfortably, despite that the pack itself weights only 1 lb 5 oz. With its wide waist belt and comfortable shoulder straps, stability is excellent and weight is evenly distributed. The waist belt even has pockets for small items. This 1,100 cu. in. pack comes in two men’s and women’s sizes, and sells for around $70.
If you are on a budget, then this is the daypack for you! This top-loading ultralight 10 oz pack has a capacity of 1,100 cu. in. The main compartment closes with a draw cord and contains a storage sleeve with organizing features. It is compatible with hydration reservoirs, and a sternum strap helps keep your load stabilized. The ripstop nylon is coated with polyurethane for weather resistance, and features exterior daisy chains for attaching tools and extra gear. This is a no-frills daypack, but sells for only $30!
This daypack is available in two sizes: the S/M has a capacity of 1220 cu. in., while the M/L has a capacity of 1343 cu. in. At 28 oz, this is still relatively lightweight. This panel-loading daypack has 4 pockets in addition to the main compartment, including pockets on the hip belt. It is hydration compatible, has an adjustable suspension system, and its back panel has air channels for breathability while you are on the move! For a pack with a little more room, check out the Osprey Talon 33. This top-loading model has an S/M capacity of 1892 cu. in., and an M/L capacity of 2014 cu. in., and weighs in at about 31 oz. The Talon 22 sells for $79 while the Talon 33 sells for $89.
This 1282 cu. in. panel-loading daypack is versatile enough to use for school as well as for short hikes. The hydration compartment can fit a 3 L bladder, and internal zippered pockets keep your gear organized. This pack also features a laptop sleeve, water bottle pockets, a removable hip belt, and a stowable rain cover. This bag sells for $90.