At any given time, you will find a huge selection of daypacks on ems.com. By any Which pack is right for you? Depending on how much you plan on carrying and for how long, the answer can be as simple as which style you like best and as complex as waist belt configuration. Here are a few thoughts and suggestions to simplify your buying decision..
What is a daypack?
Daypacks are the smallest of the backpack family, typically measuring between 1200 and 2500 cubic inches. Unlike larger overnight backpacks, daypacks do not have an internal frame and are designed to carry loads of no more than 20 to 25 pounds. Many daypacks have been specialized for a particular activity or to carry specific gear.
How will you use the daypack?
Are you buying a pack for school? For hiking? Or maybe you intend to rock climb with it? Refer to the Primary Use spec on our online daypack pages to make sure that the daypack was designed for your intended activity.
Daypacks for hiking.
For hikes lasting two to six hours, plan on carrying water, a lunch, and possibly extra clothing, depending on the weather. The daypack should have padded shoulder straps as well as a sternum strap that reaches across the chest to stabilize the pack. A hydration sleeve for carrying a water bladder is a nice-to-have feature. Recommended size depends on what you carry. Typically 2000 cubic inches suffices for most day hikes. If carrying gear/clothes/food for others, you may need to graduate to a midsize backpack (2500 to 3500 cubic inches).
Daypacks for school
Look for a pack that's large enough to carry all your books and that have padded pockets designed to carry your electronics. An organizer panel for pens and other small items can be helpful. And books can get heavy, so the shoulder straps should have plenty of padding.
The right size for school packs.
Kids and teenagers shouldn't be carrying more than 10% - 15% of their body weight on their back. Anything more can invite back problems that last into adulthood. This means a 70 lb. child should carry a maximum of 10 pounds, while a 100-pound teenager should keep the load below 15 pounds. As such, it's a good idea to keep the pack's volume to a minimum. If the extra space isn't there, it's not going to get filled.
Daypacks for college and commuting.
It's most important to look for a daypack with a padded internal sleeve designed to carry a laptop computer. The sleeve should be the correct size for your laptop and be padded on at least one side as well as the bottom.
Daypacks for Climbing.
This specialty pack should be narrow and streamlined with a minimum of exterior pockets. The waist belt should be removable or not there at all. The fewer things that inhibit your mobility, the better.
Understanding cubic inches.
Internal volume of a pack is measured in cubic inches. Admittedly it can be hard to visualize cubic inches, so think of it this way: A soda can takes up around 30 cubic inches of space, and a 32-ounce Nalgene® bottle takes up a little over 100. Now, that doesn't mean that you will be able to cram 66 soda cans into a 2000 cubic inch daypack (depending on the pocket configuration, you might fit half that many), but at least it gives you a frame of reference.
Recommended daypack volume.
Packs measuring between 1500 and 2100 cubic inches are plenty big enough for hauling your stuff around school or campus. Hiking packs can be almost any size, but if you choose one that's at least 1900 cubic inches, you will have enough capacity to handle most situations short of overnight camping.
The right daypack fit
Daypacks are typically unisex and can fit almost any adult, though a few are specifically made for women or kids.
By using bungee cords and other creative packing methods, you can load the world onto a daypack, but your shoulders probably will never forgive you. A daypack's suspension is designed to carry only so much. For loads of 20 pounds or more, think about investing in a full-size backpack that includes a solid internal or external frame and a well-padded waist belt designed to transfer the pack's weight to your hips.