Daypacks – Group Test

Peter MacfarlaneA daypack is something most or all of us will have. It’s a rucksack to take all of our kit for a day in the hills, small enough to be easy to manage but sometimes big enough to carry your gear for a lightweight night out. A daypack is also general use kit carrier, you can take it to work, school, it won’t get in the way too much on a busy train and if you pick the right model it’ll also be perfect for a cycle commute.

This adaptability is important to me as I do so many different things with a day pack. Therefore I looked at models from the plainest load carrier to multisport oriented packs which meant a wide range of features to evaluate. Some had almost no features, just a zip or a lid to open the pack up with maybe a zipped pocket and for some uses that’s all you need. There are also have numerous storage options, mesh pockets and bungee cords, flaps, buckled webbing and holsters for your bottles. Storage you can access on the move is something that old rucksacks never had and I used to add camera and accessory pouches to keep my bits and pieces handy. It’s not laziness, it’s practical, honest. Having a bottle accessible while walking is one of my favourite features, no stopping and messing around inside my pack which sometimes has me thing “I’ll stop and get a drink on the ridge”, you can sip away all day. It means I drink more which on a long day isn’t a bad thing. Hydration systems which some of these packs come fitted with, and most are designed to incorporate, do the same job of keeping a drink handy but they come with an extra amount of maintenance which you will or won’t want. These systems work well, but what works best for you is down to personal preference.

Back sizing isn’t as important on most of these packs as it is on larger capacity packs. In most cases you won’t be carrying enough weight to need a hipbelt to balance the load and I found they all worked on my 5’11” frame although some we were more comfortable than others. Like I always say, you have to try gear out in the shops to get a feel for it. I say in the reviews whether the pack feels long or short and how it sits on my back with kit in it.

A daypack is a vital bit of kit and it is worth your time to try a few on and get the one that’s just right for you.

BerghausBerghaus Trailspeed 30


Features and layout: Buckled lid with drawcord closure, two lid pockets, two hipbelt pockets, two bottle pockets, hydration system compatible, ice axe/pole loops, bungee storage panel, key clip, compression straps.

The Trailspeed is probably the most regular looking mountain pack in the review and its 30 litre capacity adapts well to cinching in for daywalks and carrying a bigger winter or lightweight overnight loads. The padded hipbelt and shoulder straps mean heavier loads sit pretty well. The freeflow back system curves away from you leaving an air space to help you avoid the familiar sweaty back syndrome. The gap isn’t too great so I don’t feel like the pack is hanging away from my back when it’s full. This back system is quite stiff which again helps with heavier loads and I do think the Trailspeed is at its best when it’s got a good bit of kit inside it. It sits well and I can see it being a good daypack over the coming winter. The fabric feels light, but its tough and I’ve not been worried about dragging the pack over rocks.

Back length is perfect on my 5’11” frame and having tried it on a few other folk, the stiffness of the back system seems to give it a few inches leeway, but much taller or shorter folk won’t find this such a good fit.

A well thought out, proper mountain rucksack.

CamelbakCamelbak Cloud Walker 18


Features and layout: Zipped entry, two compartments, external webbing, compression straps, two external mesh pockets, hydration system compatible with 2L bladder included, chest strap.

The Cloud Walker is a handy wee pack, it takes enough gear for a shorter day in the hills and its clean design and size makes it perfect for general use. It’s quite a short pack so there’s no waist belt but the padded straps and back keep it stuck limpet-like to my back and it’s a very stable pack when skipping across rough ground on foot or wheels.

The included bladder is excellent, it’s the easy to clean, wide access type and hangs cleverly on a loop down inside the pack rather than in a fabric sleeve or on a hanger at the top as you find in many packs.

A neat little pack for shorter hill days and everyday living.

CraghoppersCraghoppers Kiwi Pro 30


Features and layout: Zipped Entry, two compartments, one external zipped pocket, two external mesh pockets, internal organizer, pole/axe loop, bungee storage panel, chest strap, waist belt.

The Kiwi Pro takes what could be travel or laptop bag and adds some mountain friendly features to make an attempt at a do-it all rucksack. It’s a short, square design so sits high on my back but feels very stable and comfortable with padded straps, a plain webbing waist strap and a very thickly padded back. It’s so padded I could carry bricks in there and not feel it, handy when you just threw your cook kit in and have to run for it when the rain comes on. Storage space is fine for hills days, the 30L rating feels a little optimistic to me but day walk kit fits in fine.

External storage is good, the pockets take bigger bottles and the bungee stash panel is big enough for wet waterproofs. The internal organiser feels a little urban in design and I can see this appealing to students and commuters as much as folks looking for a simple hill day pack.

HaglofsHaglofs LIM Lite 25


Features and layout: Buckled lid, drawcord closure, lid pocket, side mesh pockets, bungee storage web, chest strap, waist belt, axe/pole loops.

The LIM is a very simple pack indeed and reminds me of the first generation of mountain marathon packs made a long time ago with the aim of taking all you need without adding any weight from the pack itself and at 340g, there’s not much weight to worry about here. There’s no back system to speak of, just a lightly padded mesh which sits close to your back and needs careful packing so sharp edges don’t dig into your back. The shoulder straps are light but moulded to my shape right away and the simple waist strap adds a little stability. Stability is what is most remarkable here, I expected a shapeless shifting horror rolling around on my back but the LIM was rock solid unless I overloaded it. It’s also very comfortable as long as carefully packed or stick a sit mat inside as I do sometimes. The bottle pockets are easy to reach on the move, the single lid pocket is big enough to be useful and the bungee takes a load of kit, as always wet waterproofs being first in line.

The light fabrics are wearing well, the back mesh showing the only real wear so far and the length suits me well, the LIM has a long shape, another thing that adds to its stability and comfort on the hill.

I thought it was a poly bag with straps when it came in, it’s actually a great lightweight mountain pack.

OspreyOsprey Talon 18


Features and layout: Buckled lid with drawcord closure, two lid pockets, two hipbelt pockets, two bottle pockets, mesh pocket on shoulder strap, hydration system compatible, ice axe/pole loop, key clip, compression straps.

The Talon feels like a hybrid with the features and lines of a racers pack but the weight and carrying comfort of a mountain pack. The M/L back length I had on test was perfect on me, the Talon sits very well with an excellent lightly padded hip belt which help give good stability and ridged back system that sits close but lets plenty of air circulate to help keep you a bit drier. I can get everything I need for a mountain day in the Talon so don’t let that 18L rating put you off, as unscientific as it seems, it just feels like more, and even rammed the Talon feels fine on my back.

The side pockets are great but the compression straps get in the way when trying to get bottles in and out while you’re wearing that pack. I’d like to have seen an external bungee for storage as it feels like a racers pack but it’s not a show stopper.

A great all round mountain pack with a couple of little niggles.

PlatypusPlatypus Sprinter XT 35

1220g Size L

Features and layout: Zipped entry, one main compartment, large external expansion sleeve, two hipbelt pockets, two side mesh pockets, compression straps, axe/pole loops, lid pocket, hydration compatible with included bladder, two hipbelt pockets.

The Sprinter has a few unusual features, I tested the 35 featured here and the smaller 25 which is roughly the same just smaller capacity. Both were in the M/L back length and are a good fit on my frame. The zipped entry flips back like a wheelie bin lid giving you great access to the pack for packing and unloading, especially good for camping which the 35 is a good size for if you like lightweight nights out. The external sleeve will take a tent or snow shovel but sits flat when not in use. The side pockets are big but not accessible while wearing the pack which is a shame. The back has a removable stiffening plate which helps when you’re carrying a bigger load but does make the pack feel a little unwieldy. The straps and hipbelt are lightly padded and fit me well, and with the stiffener in, it feels good on trails rather than open hillside.

The Sprinter has waterproof zips and sealed seams which makes it very waterproof which is good on the move and again adds to its backing packing/trailwalking feel. The hipbelt tucks away completely to keep it out of the way which is perfect if you end up wearing a Sprinter on your mountain bike.

Lots of good features, just a little stiff with the back system installed for general use I think. Comes with the excellent 3 litre Platypus Big Zip bladder.

RaidlightRaidlight Ultra Olmo 20

£109.00 pack
806g including bottles as supplied
£35.00 Olmo Front Pack

Features and layout: Zipped access, multiple storage option, hydration compatible, bottles included.

Looking at the photo you might just think “what is that?” but here we have a wild card of sorts. The Olmo is a dedicated racing pack with a lot of features that I find ideal for any hill activity. The main compartment is spacious, with a mesh bladder sleeve and silver reflective lining to keep your water cooler. There is an internal zipped pocket and outside there are pockets everywhere both zipped and elasticated mesh, all with space enough to keep something useful within easy reach. There are bottle pockets on the shoulder straps and the supplied bottles have straws for getting easy sips on the move. There are also more pockets on the shoulder straps, one of which had a mini pack repair kit in it. The back has no stiffening but has thick padding with a large central vertical gap for ventilation and flexibility, this gives it enough structure to give the pack shape and although the Olmo feels a little short on my frame, it’s been stable and comfy in use.

The chest pouch which is sold separately came as part of the test rig and a chest pouch is something I’ve rarely been without for years. Writing routes and taking photos, you need a lot of kit to hand and a chest pouch is perfect for it. Here there’s room for a good amount of gear and the pouch features an insulated bottle sleeve which comes from the desert racing influence as well as a fold away map case. The pouch also comes with a detachable shoulder strap which is very useful, I’ve used the pouch with other rucksacks when I’ve been on overnighters and once camped I take the pouch out on its own as I go and explore. Flexibility and adaptability is at the core of this Raidlight kit, it might not be for everyone but it works very well.

Terra NovaTerra Nova Laser Elite 20

224g Size 34″
Women’s version available

Features and layout: Rolltop closure, two side mesh pockets, two bungee storage patches, two hip fin pockets, waist strap, chest strap.

The laser is very light at 224g and designed with adventure racers in mind, but a light pack means less weight on anyone’s back and I’ve been testing racing gear for years and having good results. The Laser is pushing the limits of weight loss but still has a lot of useable features with the side pockets being large enough for a lightweight single person tent and the main compartment feeling large for its 20 litre rating. The closure is a roll top, you press the two sides of the closure together, roll them up together and secure them with webbing buckles. It works very well, it’s a system I’ve always liked but here it works best when the pack is full as the strap attachments are positioned a little high up, a few inches further down would be better for a part-filled pack.

There is no back system, careful packing or a well-positioned sit mat inside is needed, but the Laser feels secure enough with a back length that’s just a little short on my frame but has still been useable. The minimalist harness is secure and the pack feels stable, the storage bungees can pull any slack in the body if the Laser isn’t full which helps with how it feels on your back as well. The hipbelt pockets don’t have enough expansion built in so you can’t get much in them and still keep the hipbelt fitting snuggly.

The fabric is tougher than it looks and the Laser fits and wears well, but there’s a couple of niggles that hold it back for me.

The Last Word

I hope I’ve thrown out a few new options to think about with this review. Day packs can be as specialist as you like or just an everyday item that lives with you through work and play.

From the test the biggest surprise was the Haglofs LIM, on me it was the most stable pack to use and if loaded correctly if was comfy all day. Berghaus have the most traditional feeling mountain pack, it would do you fine on the Munro’s all year round.

Everything else had pluses and minuses, The Osprey fits very well and Raidlight really knows how to let you have your kit where you need it.

You’ll know when a pack is right for you, fill it full of kit and put it on, shoogle your shoulders a bit, run round the shop, get a bottle in and out of the side pocket while the assistant looks at you as if you’re daft. Then try another, the perfect pack is out there somewhere.

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