Four-season daypack

12:56 a.m. on March 31, 2015 (EDT)
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I'm looking for a new daypack! My budget is about $200, so I have a wide range of options. The problem is, I'm not seeing a ton of options out there that meet my needs.

What I'm hoping for:

-30 to 35 liter capacity, but I'll consider up to 40

-side pockets that will securely hold 1-liter bottles

-comfort up to 25ish lbs

-convenient ski/snowshoe attachment

-top loading is preferred but not essential

-back ventilation is great, but not essential

-doesn't have to be ultralight (not as big a concern for me with a daypack)

I've looked at the Opsrey Kestrel and Mountainsmith Mayhem 35 packs in person. The Osprey looked and felt great, but the side pockets are worthless. The Mountainsmith checked off every box on the list, although the hipbelt is pretty skimpy. Like the Kestrel, the compression straps reach around the pack to secure awkward things like snowshoes. The trouble was the fit. Too big for my torso and shoulders.

I've considered the Deuter Speed Lite 30, but I'm skeptical of the mesh hipbelt. Might be worth a shot, though. Mystery Ranch makes the Sweet Pea, but it's pricey and I'm not sure it offers A-frame ski carry (I sent them an email this afternoon). Also not sure about those side pockets.

Any other recommendations? I'm sure I'm missing a ton of options. Thanks in advance!

7:29 a.m. on March 31, 2015 (EDT)
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I can't believe Osprey hasn't come up with a better solution for their side pockets. I love my five year old Kestrel 68 but I haven't bothered to use the pockets since the first few trips.

Pretty much everyone says the same thing about those pockets so I just don't get why they haven't changed them.

9:08 a.m. on March 31, 2015 (EDT)
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I have the kestrel in two sizes. and love them both. Great packs. I don't really think it is designed as a "four season pack."

It is more of a winter bag. Waterbottle pockets on a winter bag are a bit silly, in my view. While I certainly fall in the old school Nalgene water bottle camp most of the time I, too, have found it harder to find a pack bag with pockets. I hate sucking on the bladder straw.

I can appreciate only wanting one bag, but I encourage you to reconsider and get two bags.

Now to directly answer your question, Consider the following:

1. Mountain Hardwear Fluid 32

2. Mountain Hardwear Hueco 35 - great bag but more of a climbers bag thus not a great waist belt

3. One last thought. I don't know how you feel about used, but try to find an Arcteryx Bora 40. Great pack and I wish I had never sold it. I think it came in a size smaller, too. The Bora 40 was more like 38 liters or so - thus it is at the top of your volume range.

Good luck and let us know what you do.

11:29 a.m. on March 31, 2015 (EDT)
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Thanks for both replies. I've definitely considered two packs, because I know the needs are different. The side pocket issue is just one example. Just hoping I could find an option, though.

Here's something Mystery Ranch sent me in an email:

Ski carry with our packs can be done however I stress that our packs were designed more for hiking use and when we did make ski packs we used different material to hold up to the edges and constant wear such as hypalon or rafting material.

So that doesn't exactly rule the MR packs out, but I think it makes me less inclined to spend so much on one of their packs. It almost seems like MR is pulling out of the recreational backpack market altogether. I think most of their money comes from military stuff. Some on hunting. Much less from backpackers.

3:35 p.m. on March 31, 2015 (EDT)
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My favorite daypack by far is my camelbak linchpin. About as durable as packs come, and holds snowshoes just fine(not sure about skis though). It is only 29.5L though, maybe 32ish if you dont have the water bladder filled. A mystery ranch frame on a very well laid out pack bag= bliss for me.

11:11 a.m. on April 1, 2015 (EDT)
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A quality day pack will work fine in all seasons.  I have a TNF day pack I bought more than 30 years ago. We had a water quality project in the mountains of central Nevada that had to be sampled once a month for a year. In the winter we drove to the end of the plowed haul road in the dark.  Then used x-c equipment down 2,000 feet with all of our sampling equipment. It was 8 miles along the creek, then 8 miles back out with 28 pounds of water samples apiece and all of that equipment.  We hiked back up thru the sagebrush in the dark 2,000 feet with the skis strapped to daisy chains.  If you have a good day pack you only need one.

12:16 p.m. on April 1, 2015 (EDT)
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working from home today, i have a mystery ranch snapdragon and the deuter pace 36 sitting here in front of me.  both reviewed on this site.  both in your size range (you mentioned the sweat pea, a little smaller).  the mystery ranch pack weighs a fair bit more, esp. with the better hip belt padding if you get the 'live wing' hip belt.  which i recommend.  either would probably be fine for  you, but they are different in some ways.  

both carry skis pretty well.  the snapdragon has pass-throughs behind the bottle pockets, so the skis ride on either side.  you would want to call mystery ranch and ask how the current sweat pea or snapdragon would best accommodate skis; mine is several years old, virtually unscathed after a lot of use.  the deuter carries them on its back - the compression straps unbuckle and reach over the back, or you can use your own straps.  

both bottle pockets work; the mystery ranch pockets are truly sized for 1 liter bottles, and they are easy to reach.  the deuter pockets are stretchy, so a little more effort to get bottles in and out, but they will hold a liter bottle too.

the mystery ranch more readily handles 25 pounds, but they are both fine at that weight for me.  the pace 36 has a lightweight synthetic hoop for a frame.  my only issue with the mesh hip belt on the deuter is that at some point, overweighted, it tends to fold over itself and not work as well.  though for me, that tended to happen around 30 pounds in the summer.  in colder weather, the belt actually works better over some kind of thicker layer - the layer provides the padding that the  mesh belt lacks.  

mystery ranch used to make ski-specific backpacks, but they have not for a little while.  you could look for the Fuze - as i recall, they carried the skis diagonally across the back.  as far as durability, the side panels on the snapdragon i have are made from a very tough material, more so than the rest of the body of the backpack.  perhaps they don't do that anymore, but i wouldn't be concerned about durability at all.  on the deuter, i would want my edges facing out, not scraping the pack material.  

both have dual ice axe loops and can easily hold 2 axes - the deuter has some dedicated elastic thingies that are great for securing axes, tools, or a shovel handle.  

5:05 a.m. on April 3, 2015 (EDT)
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I just came across one of these the other day and remembered this post.


Check out the Salomon Sky 38L


Not a brand people think of right away, particularly in the US, but this may be what you are looking for.

12:29 a.m. on April 4, 2015 (EDT)
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Thanks for the recommendation! The Salomon looks promising, but I think it's hard to come by in the US. I'll stay on the lookout!

8:23 p.m. on April 19, 2015 (EDT)
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I just bought an Osprey Momentum for day hiking and as a carry-on bag for vacation flights. It worked great last month and a few weeks in April in France and Spain. Many compartments and a decently ventilated mesh-over-foam back. But NO internal frame or padded waist belt which, at 25 lbs, would be nice.

Lots of space (30 liters) and an integral neon green rain cover plus a mesh front "shovel" pocket for wet items or stuff you may ned in a hurry like a parka, a down jacket or a vest. Not to mention that handy 9 mm Ruger LP 9.

1:17 a.m. on April 20, 2015 (EDT)
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Wellll... I took a Camelbak Commander (about 40 liters) added an internal frame of 1" aluminum bar, cut off the useless cloth waist belt and added an REI padded waist belt that fit perfectly behind the unstitched sides of the Camelbak lumbar pad. 

I added aftermarket side pockets and a QR buckle on the lower side compression straps and it's now perfect for backcountry skiing or 'shoeing - that is if you don't mind Realtree Breakup camo. :o) Hey, the board heads all wear camo. It's sick, Dude.

I used it on a Ski Patrol Mountain Travel and Rescue overnight course and it worked perfectly, as it has on other backcountry day skis.

February 20, 2020
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