Choosing your Daypack or Backpack

The key to choosing a daypack is to match the pack to the activities you have in mind, making sure to include the features that you value the most - a large capacity, pockets, compartments for organizing gear, etc.

Bushwalking, cycling, skiing, climbing, fishing, shopping , carrying textbooks, running — 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.

The key to choosing a daypack is to match the pack to the activities you have in mind, making sure to include the features that you value the most - a large capacity, pockets, compartments for organizing gear, etc.

Daypacks (15-35 litres)
Traditionally there a small fabric packs with little or no internal support. They are great for short, low-capacity activities such as day walks, skiing, cycling etc. The small capacity means the weight of a loaded daypack is generally carried on the shoulders. Some features to consider are a waist strap for stability and padding along the back for comfort.

Daypack Materials
Texturised nylons: these include materials such as Cordura. They are very strong and abrasion resistant.

Canvas: This includes manufacturer specified canvas fabrics. Although slightly heavier, canvas is more water-resistant than nylon. Many will have nylon patches sewn over the heavy wear areas to improve abrasion resistance.

No pack can be considered totally waterproof, so in wet conditions we recommend the use of a pack liner.

How to Choose a Daypack
Generally you do not want to exceed a load of 12 kilos in a daypack, because if it offers no padding for your back or hipbelt the weight will be carried entirely on your shoulders, which can be very tiring and painful. More technical daypacks often provide a 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 and is designed to stop the pack moving from side to side as opposed to transferring weight off the shoulders. 

Features to consider on daypacks:

  • Bushwalking: Stick with a narrow-profile pack, one that includes a padded back or a framesheet. A hipbelt and a sternum strap will also be a bonus. As you may often be walking in a variety of environments you may need a larger capacity (30 litres plus) pack to accommodate extra clothing etc.
  • Rock climbing: Your ambitions will determine whether you need a low-capacity internal-frame pack (mountaineering, trad climbing) or a technical daypack. Compare your standard equipment load (ropes, carabiners, shoes etc.) with the list of specialized features a pack may provide (ground sheet, internal pockets, daisy chain, crampon straps). A sternum strap and a variety of compression straps (which consolidate your load and keep it from shifting) are also important.
  • 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 or waist strap of some type will serve you well.
  • Bush running/multi-sports: A bum bag with water bottle holsters is probably your first choice. Bum bags are usually more stable while you run, and it's nice to keep your back clear to allow perspiration to escape. If size is the issue then a technical daypack or a hydration pack, (many of which offer more capacity to carry additional clothing), will make a good choice. Pay careful attention to the effectiveness of fastening and stabalising systems on these packs.
  • Work/school/university: Daypacks have replaced briefcases and shoulder bags for many people over the last 20 years. Many manufacturers these days produce specialist packs or even generalist ones that will cater for your needs on and off the streets. If carrying books, not gear, is your primary interest, look for book bags/daypacks that offer compartments, slots and sleeves to help you organise everything.
  • Hydration packs: These are usually small to standard-sized daypacks that include a removable reservoir (or bladder) with a sipping hose attached. They range from the very basic to very sophisticated in respect to additional features and some thought should be given to your specific needs. With the drinking end of the hose clipped to one shoulder strap for easy access, you can travel for kilometres without dropping your pack in order to take a drink.
  • Bum bags: These are compact little unit’s ideal for day walkers, cyclists, skiers and even city walkers, who want the benefit of an extra pocket without the hassle of carrying a pack. For longer outdoor walks on hotter days, a bum bag and the full ventilation it affords your back is a great option.

Daypack styles
Front or zip loading vs. top loading. Traditionally, daypacks feature a panel-loading style, where the main storage compartment is accessed via a long, U-shaped zipper. Fully opened, one side of the compartment falls away like a flap. This wide opening makes it easy to access items such as clothing or books, which may be more difficult to locate in a top loading pack.

Top loaders usually do a better job of keeping gear from shifting, especially if they offer compression straps. For activities where balance is vital (climbing, ski touring, walking), or a greater degree of waterproofness (zippers tend to allow seepage even if covered by a flap), then choose a top loading daypack


Sourced from Paddy Pallin