US Outdoor Store
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DAY PACK BUYERS GUIDE

Daypack Buyers Guide

The world of daypacks can be overwhelming and whether you’re hitting the trail, or looking for a new pack to help tackle your everyday commute, it’s a good idea to do your research because the average backpack might not be what you need. The main difference between your classic high school backpack and a traditional daypack is size. Daypacks are made to handle a wide variety of gear and usually range in size from 10L – 35L, with loads of technical features to help you carry everything you need without adding excess weight.

Styles & Activities

The most important question to ask yourself when buying a new pack is, “what do I need to use this for?” Are you running, biking or just taking the bus? Or do you need something more technical for hiking, climbing or snow sports? No matter what you’re into, there’s a daypack that perfectly fits your needs.

Everyday

When you spend 8 hours at work, and an hour or more in traffic, a purse or briefcase starts to become more hassle than it’s worth, and that’s where a daypack can come in and save the day.

The biggest difference between an everyday pack and other more technical bags are the pockets and style components. Many travel or commuting packs feature multiple organization pockets and a padded pocket for your tablet or laptop, which is an obvious must in today’s world. If you plan on traveling via an airplane anytime soon, it might be worth checking out a bag that meets carry-on guidelines.

Weather can also play a factor in what bag you end up choosing. Since I spend a good portion of my commute in the rain, the very first thing I look for in a pack is whether or not it’s waterproof. Most outdoor specific brands like Ospery, Timbuk2, Chrome or The North Face offer waterproof options in all sorts of styles. If you ride a bike, you might prefer a messenger style bag that’s easier to get into on the go, or if you do a lot of walking a good quality backpack with a comfortable back panel and shoulder straps might be the ticket.

Backpacking & Day Hiking

Like the cycling packs that I mentioned earlier, technical packs are all about simplicity and versatility. Depending on where you are and what kind of hiking you’ll be doing, a waterproof or weather resistant pack might be what you need and many brands offer these sorts of options. Most hiking daypacks range from 10 – 50 liters and finding the right size for your adventure is one of the most important aspects of picking out your new pack.

11 – 20 liter packs are aimed for shorter hikes with just enough space to fit an extra layer, some food, a water bottle and a few other, small pieces of gear. 20 – 35 liter packs are that perfect middle ground, they have plenty of space for your small essentials with a little bit of extra room for binoculars, your favorite book or a camera. 35 – 50 liter packs are the big boys of the category and are perfect for more gear oriented hikes that might include some climbing or mountaineering. If you’re carrying gear for a child or dog, this pack is a great way to make sure you don’t leave anything behind.

Biking

When it comes to road or mountain biking, you main goal is all about finding a pack that’s both lightweight and hydration compatible. Mountain biking packs have a tendency to be a little bit bigger than regular road cycling packs to accommodate more gear, both overall both styles feature a low-profile, stream lined design that’s comfortable and won’t interfere with your pedaling.

Snowsports

When you’re looking for a pack to take with you up to the mountain there are some extra features that you’ll want to keep an eye out for. Daypacks that are made specifically with snow sports on mind have a slimmer profile and usually feature a hipbelt and a sternum strap to keep your bag in place and secure. Most snow packs have some sort of ski or snowboard carry, but it’s also good to pick out a pack that has extra pockets for your snow shovel, probe and other must have essentials.

Features

Pack Access

Top loading bags are the most common style for accessing your pack. It’s an incredibly easy design that’s perfect for a wide range of activities, just be sure to put your most important gear in last so that it ends up on top and within easy reach.

Packs with a front access option give you an easy window into the main compartment and can be helpful for quick and easy access to your gear. A lot of packs also offer a side-access point and some also feature a bottom access so you can easily reach clothing or gear that’s floated to the bottom of your pack.

Internal Frame Design

Internal frames are a great way to add some extra support to your pack if you’re carrying a lot of weight. If you’re not carrying very much gear, a frameless pack is lightweight and compact, which makes it perfect for running or biking.

Hydration Sleeves

Hydration sleeves are another good thing to look for in your day pack. Most bags have some sort of hydration sleeve or water bottle pocket, but if you need something a little bit more, a hydration reservoir is the way to go. Some packs come with reservoirs already installed, but for most you’ll need to buy this separate.

Rain Covers

For extra versatility in all weather conditions you can always look into getting a raincover. Raincovers are compact and easy to carry with you so that you always have backup in case the weather gets sketchy.

Fit

If you’ve never been fitted for a pack before, the best place to start is by going to your local outdoor store. Getting a pack with the perfect fit can be difficult, and talking to someone who can walk you through everything is ideal. But just in case that isn’t an option for you, I’ll walk you through how to find the right fit on your own.

Getting the right fit is mainly about two important things, how snug is the pack around your hips, and is it the right size for your torso length. If you need help finding your torso length and hip size, be sure to click on our more in depth Backpack Buyers Guide

Women's and Youth Specific Packs

Women’s specific packs feature smaller frame sizes with shorter and narrower torso dimensions that are better fitted to a woman’s shape. Another difference between the women’s specific and the men’s specific packs are the hipbelts and shoulder straps, which are both contoured to better fit a woman’s shape.

Youth specific packs are similar to the women’s (you can even put older kiddos of both sexes into a women’s specific pack or a smaller men’s pack). These youth specific packs have smaller frame sizes, smaller capacities and usually offer an adjustable suspension to help the backpack keep up with any random growth spurts.

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