My Osprey Tempest 20l is an absolutely fabulous day pack. I’ve had it since summer 2014, and have used it (and abused it) very regularly since then. It’s my go-to pack for day hikes, for cycling, and even for the walking commute to work (not that I’ve done that recently…!). But it is a technical hiking pack. It has a long and narrows shape for ease of movement, and has a capacity that is comfortable to carry on a very long walk. It is lightweight, has all kinds of straps and features that are great for the trail, but really a bit annoying when I just want to carry a laptop and a packed lunch.
So what about when I’m not hiking or similar and want something that is a bit more, well, normal? If you’re not needing something super technical for using on the trail, or do want something a bit more practical for everyday use, there are hundreds (and hundreds) of day packs to choose from. In this post I want to share a few of my current picks.
I could describe these as “lifestyle” packs. They are day packs of the non-technical variety.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with any of these packs for short hikes and maybe even full-on day hikes. They certainly borrow technology and materials from their brand siblings, and that makes them much better to carry and use than the basic School backpacks of my childhood. Really, though, they are designed for days out or overnight stays rather than being super technical.
What Makes a Good Day Pack?
For me, a good day pack is a decent size, somewhere between 15 litres and 30 litres, or there abouts, to allow enough space to carry a laptop, food, jumper, and other bits and bobs. The lower end of that scale is great for days at work, whereas the larger volume adds space for a change of clothes or overnight paraphernalia. These sizes would also work well as a cabin bag on a flight (when we’re allowed to fly again…) or bus, and as an overnight bag when you only need one change of clothes and a wash kit.
It is also well made, with good quality stitching, easy to use zips. It’s not too rigid in structure – it needs to mould to my back to make it comfortable to carry, and sit under my desk or at my feet on the bus. Ideally it is also waterproof, or at least getting there, so that I’m not scared for the contents in a rain shower.
When it comes to pockets, I like a large pocket, which needs to have a opening to match so that getting things in and out is easy. I’m not bothered about small external pockets for small items, but somewhere to keep my water bottle is definitely preferable. The straps need to feel good on my shoulders, and a sternum or waste strap is a bonus.
I also much prefer a day pack that has some personality. Be it colour, pattern, straps, or a classic timeless design, something else, life is too short for plain black. Although you can keep your pink packs, thanks.
So with that all being said, here are a selection of bags I’ve got on my day pack list.
The iconic day pack from Fjallraven, the Kanken is a 40+ year old classic that is easily recognisable and very often copied. It was actually designed to help prevent back problems among Swedish school children, but is now known the world-over as a day pack for school, work, trekking and more. There’s a large main compartment with a smaller front pocket, the boxy shape and long zip makes loading and unloading super easy, and it comes in all the colours you can imagine. I’ve got the mini (read my review here), which I adore, and I would very happily pay the £80 RRP for the full sized version.
JanSport Big Campus Backpack
If the Kanken is the brand leader when it comes to this type of back pack, JanSport is its good value cousin. Still great quality, and a classic design, but half the price. The Big Campus has a rounded back pack look with an additional pocket for a water bottle and a dedicated laptop sleeve, padded shoulder straps, and enough space for everything you need for a full day out. An excellent option.
The range of colours is always changing over on the JanSport website. £48.
If you are looking for a day pack from a brand who truly knows what they are doing when it comes to carting your gear around, the Osprey Arcane is one for you. This super simple 20l pack borrows from its more technical siblings to provide something that has all the features you need at a comfortable to carry weight. Oh, and it’s made from recycled polyester packcloth, which is a good step in the right direction when it comes to our environment.
Patagonia Arbor Market
At the smaller end of the scale when it comes to a day pack, the Patagonia Arbor Market is a 15l pack that is stylish and will last. The simple top-loading design provides fast access to all your stuff, including the all-important laptop sleeve (which can also hold a hydration bladder if you so choose). The padded “human curve” shoulder straps are said to provide all-day comfort. This is another pack made from fully recycled polyester, which is very good to see, and Patagonia are a good brand to be associated with when it comes to sustainability and activism.
Jack Wolfskin TRT
Jack Wolfskin make some great packs, and I could have included a bunch of them in this roundup post of my current favourite picks, but I decided to choose this very cool looking 18l TRT pack. Apparently, TRT stands for “tough, rough, technical”, which I like. Apart from the usual large pocket and laptop sleeve, the front of the pack is equipped with multiple gear loops so you can carry additional items of kit or fasten your bike light to it. And if you’re going away for more than one day, you can attach this pack to the front of the other TRT packs in the range so you have a day pack attached to your full sized back pack.
Lowe Alpine Pioneer
Lowe Alpine are another brand who really know what they are doing when it comes to back packs – I chose their Manaslu for my West Highland Way hike (read my review here). The Pioneer is a 26l is a retro-styled urban daypack based on an original Lowe brother’s design from 1985 – another absolute classic.
Deuter UP Stockholm
Another very simple looking day pack, this is definitely the theme of this post and round up. The Deuter UP Stockholm is a 22l pack made from 35 500ml PET bottles – another outdoor manufacturer trying to do right by our planet. The pack is designed carefully to accommodate everything you need, using a u-shaped zip opening to provide easy access, and including a padded front and base to make sure it holds its shape well.
Vaude Consort II
Retro design is definitely the name of the game in the day pack world at the moment; the Consort II is inspired by the very first Vaude packs. Made from modern technical materials, the large 27l carrying capacity will be plenty of room for any day time – or night time – adventure. I particularly like how you can grab your laptop out of this pack using the side zip so you don’t have to open the main top compartment on the train, which is handy.
Herschel Little America
Last, but by no means least, I offer up the Herschel Little America, another one of those classic looking day packs with the mountaineering feel that has been brought back for everyday use. These are marketed as fashion as well as function, with a padded and fleece lined laptop sleeve, magnetic closures so you don’t have to do up the buckles, pockets with hidden zips, and a headphone port.
Do you own one of these day packs? I’d love to know what you think about it in the comments below. And if you don’t, let me know which you would choose for yourself.
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