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The GO Outdoors Guide to Walking Day Packs and Rucksacks

Day packs are designed for walkers and hikers heading into the hills, needing to carry the bare essentials. 

Whereas packs for climbing with tools and ropes have a capacity of around 50 litres, daypacks for walking are usually around 30 litres or less, and are designed to be easy to carry, with convenient access to additional storage. They offer more space and compartmentalisation than a bumbag, but less bulk than a full rucsack, making them ideal for a variety of situations.

Designed for a day on the hills or the fells, and no longer, a day pack's key selling points should be:

 - Easy Access

 - Comfort

 - Durability

 - Price

 - Weather resistance

Typically, Walking Daypacks are usually manufactured with synthetics such as nylon and polyester, often blended in a diagonal weave to create a ‘ripstop’ fabric that is preventative against abrasion.

Nylon is measured in a denier, which is it’s thickness against abrasion. The higher the level of denier in the Nylon, the heavier the fabric, yet the more resistant it is to abrasion.

The key is to strike a balance between excess weights, and not enough fabric strength.

 Water repellency in a walking day pack is usually created by an additional coating of a water repelling coating such as PU, DWR or silicone.

You can also find water repellency treatments on the zips of your day pack as well. Another alternative is to choose a walking daypack with an inbuilt rain cover to protect it from rain and moisture.

To protect valuables, you should store them within your walking day pack in an additional dry bag.

Walking Daypacks- What To Choose Before You GO

Does it hydrate?
Some walking Daypacks offer a hydration compatibility system. These increase the weight of the pack, but can be extremely useful in hot conditions.  If you choose a system without a compatible system, can your daypack secure your water bottle safely in a side compartment?

Is It able to Carry enough?
20 Litres is small for a daypack, whereas 30-40 litres can hold a change of clothes, plus food and essentials. Pick based on your destination.

Would you wear this hour upon hour?

Does it offer protection from water?
Check for a DWR coating for water repellency.

Is it abrasion resistant?
Is the daypack resistant to abrasion? A high denier nylon, or RS (Ripstop) will prevent tears to the fabric.

Can you access the main compartments and side pockets with ease?
Are the straps padded? Is the main compartment comdfortable on your spine?

Is it able to vent? Check for ventilated back panels so moisture can be released. Typically, a steel frame will hold the pack away from your back for comfort. 

What level of storage do you need? Typically a walking daypack will have one main compartment, secured with one or two way zips, alongside various internal pockets as well as external holiding areas. If you need more, consider a rucksack.


Walking Daypacks- What To Look For

  • Load-stabilizing compression straps. These allow your weight to be equally distributed giving you better balance, helping you walk on uneven surfaces with your pack. 
  • Side pockets and compartments. Often used in day packs for walking, these are ideal for quick access to essentials without having to enter the main compartment of the bag. Many daypacks also offer external storage areas for walking poles. 
  • Ventilated back panels. These suspend the load away from your back via a frame so you can allow moisture to evaporate and cool air can circulate. Padded straps for comfort. 
  •  Hipbelts. These fit as they suggest, on the hips and are used to add in extra torsional control. 
  • Openings can be “paneled”, with a main zip opening, or a duffle style bag with a drawstring, known as a “top loading”style. Paneled day bags can be opened with ease and make packing easy, whereas duffle style top loader bags are harder to gain access too, but can take hold more due to their ability to extended their height.


How To Fit A Daypack

The main thing to look for in your walking daypack is comfort and support.

Try your walking daypack on without a load, and then add in your items.

You should check all straps and fittings before setting off on each trip. 

  1. Straps should include padding so they sit on your shoulders without digging in.
  2. Waist straps make sure the bag sits centrally on your back.
  3. Adjustable straps help you to move the bag to achieve an ergonomic, personal fit.
  4. The closer the bag fits to you and the more centrally aligned it is, the better the weight distribution and overall balance.
  5. Chest straps should fit below the breast bone, resting in alignment with the arm pits.
  6. You should be carrying your weight via your legs and thighs, rather than taking the strain on your upper back.
  7. Stand up tall and test where the weight is naturally falling. If it feels unsupportive, readjust the straps and make sure it's not too high up on your back, or too low down. 

    Finally, when packing you should place heavier items at the bottom of the pack to stabilise the centre of gravity. Ensure that your day pack is not overloaded and can shut with ease.