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What size daypack do you use?

My hiking partner isn't as old as me, but we are both pretty old school when it comes to packing our packs.  Extra clothes, extra food, extra water or purifier, first aid, fire starter, rain gear, map, compass, head lamp, emergency bivy, etc.  We look at some of the tiny packs others are carrying and shake our heads.  In RMNP we even see quite a few tourists with no pack at all.  They have a plastic grocery bag in their hand, or even just a water bottle, heading up to timberline or above.  We also see a lot of people still heading up while storm clouds are obviously brewing.  I'm amazed that more people don't die or need to be rescued.

What prompted this post is a review of a 22 liter pack that someone bought for winter hiking.  Hey, no offense if that's you, but I couldn't use a 22 liter pack for summer hiking.  In fact, my current summer daypack is over 30 liters and I wouldn't look at a pack less than 28 liters for summer hiking in the Rockies.  And I pack lighter than my partner.  I think he over does it, and maybe I do too, but there is packing light and there is being careless.  I guess everyone has to figure out where they are going to draw the line, but yikes!

Where do you draw the line?  I pack for the worst case scenario: I get hurt or lost and have to stay out overnight, possibly above timberline.  It could happen to anyone.  It could happen to you.  I read about it all the time.  I've been there when teams were out searching for someone that didn't return home.  Mother nature isn't forgiving of the ill prepared.

That review stated why that pack worked or the reviewer (easy attachment of snowshoes, as I recall), and he simply didn't discuss how he carried the ten essentials, a good many of which should be in your pockets, not in the pack.  Even more important is the skill and knowledge to deal with conditions, which weighs nothing and takes up no room in the pack

I personally prefer a larger capacity pack - something around 60 liters (3500-4000mcu in), but that is partly because I am often retrieving paleontological specimens, and need the extra space for tools and bones....

Under equipped hikers have been common for a long time - and that is why we have SAR groups standing by.....

I often use my full sized pack on day hikes just because it is so comfortable. My only real day pack is 18L and is best for warm weather hikes. In the snow I wear it for short snowshoe hikes where I'm just carrying food and drink, but not in the mountains. It also works well when I use my sled since I can access the pack without taking off the traces.

I now use a ULA Circuit for everything.  One pack fits all.

When I’m just snowshoeing on trails in & around town I carry a 28l pack with first aid kit, water, extra socks & gloves, raingear (if I’m not wearing it), layers, headlamp, snacks, etc, plus I have another headlamp, matches, compass, snacks, fire steel, etc, on my person.

In the White Mountains in summertime I have a 36l pack with the usual essentials, plus down sweater, merino baselayer, hat, and gloves, in case I end up spending an unplanned night on the mountain. I’m not dying from hypothermia that easily! Now I have a 1P tent, 45F bag, and pad that weigh about 4lb in all and easily fit in my 36l pack with everything else. 

Winter in the mountains almost always means my 50l pack with the usual essentials plus 4S2P tent, 0F down bag, down insulated pad, layers, hardshell if not worn, extra hat, extra gloves/mittens, goggles, stove, food, spikes if not worn, crampons if I’m wearing my mountaineering boots, and snowshoes. Weight is generally around 35lb. 

LoneStranger said:

I often use my full sized pack on day hikes just because it is so comfortable. My only real day pack is 18L and is best for warm weather hikes.

 Pretty much the same for me.

Several answers to this question.  First let me state my replies address mountainous regions, unless specifically stated otherwise.  I do not recall the volume size of my packs, but the list of bulky items mentioned should allude to the size of pack used.  I mention only my bulky equipment, because this thread is about pack volume requirements, not gear lists per se.  

  • If three season and only 3-4 hours from shelter, I'll use a sack that can pack a fleece top, balaclava, rain gear, 2 liters of water, lunch, and various low volume incidentals.
  • If three season and going further from shelter, I'll take a pack capable of carrying everything mentioned above, plus additional layers that make a forced bivouac feasible for the terrain/weather.  I'll take enough food to feed me until lunch of the next day, and a small stove (for comfort of hot bevies).
  • If cold/snow season a few hours from shelter, I'll take my summer time extended trip pack, additional layers, and spare gloves and socks, sufficient for a mid mountain forced bivouac, and snow tools (e.g. shovel, crampons, ice axe).
  • For cold season day hikes far from shelter I use whatever the pack I use to haul my camp to its destiny.  The extended day hike kit includes everything mentioned in the short winter day hike pack, plus food for an additional day, and layers sufficient for a high altitude bivouac.
  • For desert day hiking I'll pack similar to the three season short hike mountain pack, except usually leaving the rain gear behind, and add warm layers if early/late season.  I'll add more water for longer trips.



Hmm, I don't own a pack less than 58L right now but plan to get a 40L for Appalachian bush-whacking activities and/or short trips with a trim kit. 

But I also don't day-hike that much by comparison. Like Ed says, it's about tools for the job at hand. The location and conditions determine the load in all cases.

When I do day-hike, my wife is usually present and we like to bring a full camp setup and find a nice place to be for an afternoon. New Years day we hiked about 3 miles into a local wilderness area, set up camp with tent, sleeping pads and everything else you would bring on an overnight; we enjoyed the day and hiked back to the car at dusk. 

The Circuit is 68 liters and 41 ounces.  It is lighter than many day packs. 

I use a very lightweight 20L pack for simply dayhikes.  All I have in there are my list of ten, a couple of water bottles, and maybe a lunch. 

For more serious hikes I take more stuff, and I'll just take my normal backpacking pack--a Go Lite 50. 

I was resently at an ACMG Guide Ball.

Sitting a table with my wife . Feeling her out on if I should bid on this beautiful Cobra 45lt TNF pack. When she piped up and said well how many 45lt packs do you have. 

Long story short I didn’t bid on the pack because I counted 6 so that should answer your question. 

I have a bunch of backpacks ranging from 21 to 45 liters. Some I got from testing them, others I wanted for various reasons.  the different purposes:

-fair weather day hikes where I'm not carrying much - 21 liter bag

-day hikes where I need more space - 25 liter bag with a wire frame and a trampoline/ventilated back panel, 25 liter frameless bag that I also use as a winter summit bag sometimes, straps are ideal for a crampon bag and carrying ice axes; 36 liter bag that has straps particularly well-suited for carrying snowshoes, also the bag my daughters are most likely to borrow.

-3 bags between 38 and 45 liters - one I use as a winter summit bag or if I'm concerned about rocks tearing it up, no frame, ballistic nylon so very durable; one has a bunch of pockets, a hip belt, and a wire frame, good for carrying a bit more stuff (I'll be hiking with that one tomorrow in the snow); a third is good if I anticipate layering up and down, it's easy to access the insides, and it's the most comfortable of all of these. has a really good hip belt that I can stow if I don't need it.    

My standard day pack is 45L and I really like that size as its not too big, but can carry more gear if needed.  I rarely go on a hike without  a shell and an insulation layer along with a first aid kit and a little bivy gear and if I go with my wife I'll usually carry whatever layers she is bringing.  For winter hikes I'll generally go to a full size pack as I carry extra layers and usually carry a beacon/probe/shovel on any snow hike.

25-30L for day hikes, particularly in the winter. 

Longer hikes takes 60L+ bags for me, but I'm schlepping stuff for my kids too. 

To each their own. :)

August 6, 2020
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