Depending on the voracity of the hiker, day hikes can range from a few miles to dozens of miles completed in one day. No matter the distance, hikers have a plethora of gear and supplies they need to carry comfortably and sensibly. It’s important to pick a day pack that suits their needs and still offers enough convenient space to keep all of their gear safe and well-organized.
There are two types of day packs: panel-loading and top-loading. Panel loaders open up with a u-shaped zipper and a large flap that makes it easy to search the pack for an item. This is a great option for parents and scout leaders who are often opening up their packs and searching for snacks, first aid supplies, or weather-related items.
The top-loading pack is tall and slim and lighter than their panel loading counterparts. This is an ideal pack for those who like outdoor activities that require a lot of gear, like rock climbing. Oftentimes, the top-loading packs come with a floating top lid to allow room for more gear. Compression straps allow for stability, a necessity with the tall, slim design of this type of pack.
There is no one-size fits all pack for day hiking. In the end, it comes down to what kind of gear the hiker is going to be carrying and if they’re using it for more than one recreational activity. Here’s a quick checklist when choosing the best pack:
- Aim for a pack that fits at least 30 liters
- Elasticized mesh pockets for quick access to necessities
- Hydration system-compatible to avoid banging and leaking water bottles on longer hikes
- Overnight Backpacking (for the minimalist adventurer):
- One to two aluminum stays to accommodate a heavier load
- Lumbar support; the amount of gear is going to be significantly heavier than a day hike
- Padded back and a waist belt to transfer the weight to the hips to avoid shoulder fatigue and keep the hiker comfortable all day
- A minimum of a 40-liter capacity
- Narrow profile
- Padded back or framesheet
- Specialized features for essential gear (ice axe loop, crampon patches, etc.)
A few other functional things to consider on a day pack are a mesh back for constant ventilation if the load is going to be lighter, water-resistant zippers, straps with scapula padding, and packs designed specifically for women with contoured shoulder straps and narrower profiles. Experts always recommend trying a pack on before purchase and carefully considering every feature of the pack, not just its size and price. Considering the overall needs of the hiker will ensure a perfect fit.