Choosing a hiking pack is like choosing a car. In car shopping, safety is likely a huge factor–in pack shopping, fit is more important than anything. One problem with being a somewhat-more-casual hiker is that I don’t have the need to be trying new gear out constantly–I buy quality stuff and use it gently, so my Osprey Mira 18 I got two years ago is still holding up fine, even though there is a newer model available. I cannot guarantee the current model is the same, but as I mentioned before, you should be looking at packs in person anyway to guarantee best fit.
After fit, there are some bells and whistles that can make or break a pack’s worth to you. While my Mira was the best fit for me of packs I tried on, I also chose it for some of these extra features. My old pack with two bottle side pockets gave me a maximum of two liters of water that would rarely stay cold, and I’d have to evenly drink from each bottle or end up lopsided, so a hydration pack was a must. I chose one that holds 3L–on a hot day I’d usually have to limit myself at one point to make two liters last until the car, so that extra liter is helpful. I love how the hydration bladder has a huge opening–some campground spigots erupt vigorously and the wide opening will still catch the spray.
For a day pack, room is not quite as vital as an overnight pack. The Mira has a perfect pocket on the top for sunglasses and a cell phone–I also toss my gloves in there on colder days. There’s another pocket below that where I keep keys and hand sanitizer and some first-aid gear, and the main pocket can hold the remaining essentials and a thin jacket. To hold everything but stay comfortable, I knew I wanted a sturdy frame, especially compared to my previous pack. Osprey daypacks have AirSpeed Suspension–a mesh frame is on your back, which allows for tons of breathability. It’s hard to show in pictures, but trust me it’s a far less sweaty experience than having a pack directly on your back.
Lastly, one feature I really wanted was a hip belt pocket. If you’re hiking at a hard pace in the sun (or eating salty trail mix), odds are your lips are a lot dryer than usual, so having lip balm at fingers’ reach was a luxury I demanded. I also love the magnet feature that attaches the hydration mouthpiece to the chest strap and keeps the hydration tube from flopping around.
There are a few features of the pack I have sadly not tested out yet–one is their ‘stow on the go’ pole suspension system. Rather than lashing your poles to the back of the pack (which I’m sure is no easy feat when hiking solo), this system is on the front of the shoulder straps. I have yet to purchase my own poles, but I am sure when I do this feature will come in useful. Not owning a bike (my apartment has no such storage for one) I have not used the helmet attachment loop either, but I hope to when in Bend this summer.The other feature I have not gotten to test out is the rain cover. The pack has a built-in pocket for a rain cover that was supposed to come with the pack, but sadly someone must have nicked it from the store or forgotten to replace it, as my pack came with no such cover. Luckily, Osprey has excellent customer service, so when I discovered the missing rain cover, a quick email to customer service and they are sending me one for free! And not a moment too soon, as yesterday I was waiting for rain during the whole hike.
I’m happy to say that my pack has everything I’d like, and then some. What features do you love on your hiking daypack?