Most outdoor adventurers have a basic collection of equipment that they consider essential. This usually includes a tent, backpack and sleeping bag (the so-called “big three”), as well as a few other things like a water filter, a camp stove and a set of trekking poles. But more and more campers, hikers, skiers and canoeists are adding a daypack to their collection of basic outdoor equipment. We’ll talk about some of the reasons that daypacks are beginning to be treated as indispensable gear below, as well as a few of the things to think about when picking out your own.
Five Reasons Outdoor Enthusiasts Will Appreciate a Daypack
Daypacks provide a number of different benefits for those who spend their free time enjoying the natural world, but the following five will likely make the biggest difference during your next outdoor adventure.
1. Daypacks Make Daytime Excursions Easier
By the second or third day of most camping trips, most people have completed all of the necessary chores involved in setting up a functioning campsite. This leaves a lot of downtime during the middle of the day, which provides a great opportunity to spread your wings and explore the surrounding area.
But you’ll need to bring a few items along with you while hiking around the campsite. You’ll need plenty of water (and potentially a water filter), a small first-aid kit, and perhaps a change of socks. You may even want to bring a camp stove and some food along. A daypack will provide an easy, convenient and effective way to carry these items, without forcing you to lug your full-size backpack for no reason.
2. Daypacks Can Double as Pillows
Because daypacks lack the rigid frame that most high-capacity packs do, they are soft and flexible. This means you can use them as a pillow if you stuff them full of soft items, such as your clothes. Just add or remove garments as necessary to adjust the size and firmness of the pillow.
Note that clothing-stuffed daypacks aren’t only effective for supporting your head – you can also use your daypack pillow to elevate your legs when resting up after a long hike. In fact, you can even fill your daypack about half-full with clothing to make a comfortable sitting cushion that you can use around the campfire.
3. Daypacks Are Ideal for Long-Distance Hikers
Daypacks are not only helpful for campers who spend several days in the wilderness at a time, but they’re also helpful for hikers – especially hikers who enjoy racking up the miles and burn calories hiking. While you may be able to hike a mile or two with little more than a water bottle and cell phone, you’ll likely want to bring a few additional items along for longer hikes.
For example, it’s a good idea to pack a small first-aid kit and an extra pair of socks if you are heading on a multi-mile hike. You may even want to bring a poncho, in case the weather sours. A daypack is ideal for carrying these types of things without weighing you down the way a rigid-frame backpack may.
4. Daypacks Can Help Keep Your Gear Organized
One of the underappreciated benefits daypacks can provide is improved organization. For example, you can fill your daypack with all of your cooking gear, clothing or food, and then place the daypack inside your framed pack. This will not only keep all of these items in the same place, but it’ll also make them easy to access once you get to camp.
You’ll obviously have to empty and refill the daypack to use it for day hikes or a pillow, but this will only take you a few moments.
5. Daypacks Are Helpful for Urban Adventures
Daypacks aren’t only helpful for wilderness adventures. You can also enjoy the benefits a daypack provides when making your way through the big city. A good daypack can make it easy to carry around the things you need for work or school, and they can even be helpful for carrying groceries.
And unlike the backpacks most people use to carry their day-to-day items, most daypacks intended for use on the trail will be much more durable and resilient. This ensures they’ll last longer and hold up better to the wear-and-tear most backpacks are forced to endure.
What Should You Look For When Picking a Daypack?
Now that you understand the value daypacks can provide, and how they can help you enjoy your time outdoors even more than usual, it is time to find one that suits you well. There are a number of daypacks on the market, but they differ significantly in terms of quality, price and features. We’ll try to help you find the best daypack for your needs below, by discussing some of the things you’ll want to look for.
One of the best ways to separate high-quality daypacks from their poor-quality counterparts is by noting the materials used in their construction. Cheap daypacks are typically made from flimsy polyester or cotton, both of which are likely to tear the first time you lean too close to a thorny bush. On the other hand, most high-quality daypacks are made from high grades of rip-stop nylon or PVC like dry bags. This material is inherently durable, and it is designed to prevent small cuts and tears from turning into large ones.
It is important to select a daypack with a reasonable capacity. You don’t want to carry a larger (and therefore heavier) pack than you need, nor do you want to purchase a daypack only to discover that it won’t allow you to bring along the things you’ll need for a short hike.
Different outdoor enthusiasts have different needs, so broad generalizations regarding pack capacity are difficult to make. Nevertheless, the vast majority of hikers and campers will find a daypack with a 15- to 20-liter capacity works well.
While you’ll clearly care more about the capacity and quality of your daypack than its color scheme while you’re hanging out in the wilderness, that doesn’t mean you should completely ignore the way a pack looks when making your selection. After all, you’ll likely enjoy using your daypack more if you like the way it looks, so give the pack’s aesthetics some consideration.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so there isn’t much to worry about when comparing the color schemes and general appearance of different packs – just pick the one that you like best (while still keeping the functionality of the bag in mind).
While a daypack needn’t have as many pockets as your primary pack, those that feature multiple compartments make it much easier to keep your gear organized. Generally speaking, you’ll want to pick a daypack that comes with two to five separate compartments. Avoid the temptation to purchase a pack with too many individual pockets, as this often means you’ll have trouble carrying larger items, such as trekking poles.
You’ll usually use the straps to carry your daypack on your back while you are in the wilderness, but if you are using your backpack around town or to travel, a carrying handle with prove invaluable. This way, you can simply carry your bag instead of having to take it off your back every time you need to grab something.
But don’t just pick the first pack with a carrying handle you see – you must select a pack that comes with a strong, heavy-duty handle, to make sure it’ll stand up to the rigors of frequent use.
If you plan to use your daypack frequently or for lengthy hikes, it is a good idea to select one that comes equipped with a sleeve into which you can fit a hydration bladder. This will eliminate the need to stop and fish your water bottle out of your pack every time you need a sip. Instead, you can just drink your water without having to stop. Just be sure that the hydration sleeve comes with a secure closure – you don’t want the bladder to slip out if you accidentally lift the pack from the bottom instead of the top.
There are a lot of daypacks on the market, so be sure to take the time to purchase one that suits your individual needs. If you choose wisely, you’ll likely start using it frequently, and you’ll eventually wonder how you ever got by without one.