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Top Picks

Deuter Futura 32

user rating: 5 of 5 (5 reviews)

Great pack! Very comfortable and functional. My back stayed pretty dry, despite some warm conditions on long day hikes in the Grand Canyon, recently.

Reasons to Buy

  • The suspension on the back keeps your back fairly dry.
  • Love the small pocket on the belt for my phone/camera.

Reasons to Avoid

  • A full hydration bladder seems to reduce the inner compartment capacity, quite a bit. Not a deal breaker, but I wish there was a bit more room.

Purchased this pack recently to use on some long day hikes, with a few overnighters on occasion. I just came back from a week of camping at the Grand Canyon, with some long day hikes taken every day. Each day I packed a full hydration bladder, a liter of Gatorade, snacks, first aid kit, and a light jacket. Everything fit perfectly, though when the hydration pouch is full, it does tend to really reduce the capacity of the inner compartment. No biggie, as everything I needed fit perfectly. Once the straps were dialed in and everything was adjusted, the pack was extremely comfortable and I barely noticed that it was on.

Read more: Deuter Futura 32 reviews (5)

Top Winter Pack / Daypack

USWE Pow 16

user rating: 5 of 5 (1 review)

The Pow 16 is a specialized winter alpine pack for skiers/snowboarders. It is designed to hold avalanche gear, skis/board and features a CE-Certified full back protector. The pack uses the magic of Swedish engineering to keep your drinking tube thawed in sub-zero temps. The USWE POW makes bold claims and lives up to them all. Your new best ski partner. I'll save you the reading and say this; buy this pack.

Reasons to Buy

  • Keeps the pack snug during vigorous skiing
  • Hydration bladder keeps water thawed using an innovative Thermo Cell pocket
  • Storage specifically designed for snowsports, including avy gear
  • Multi-impact CE-certified spinal armor
  • No more "dancing monkey" on your back while skiing

Reasons to Avoid

  • The zipper to the goggle pouch might scratch your lenses if you aren't careful
  • You'll probably end up wanting the rest of their bounce-free packs for running/biking/motorbiking

Do you ski or snowboard in front or side country? Need to carry your plank(s) uphill occasionally? Want the peace of mind of dedicated, quick access pockets for avy gear? How about multi-impact rated, CE-certified spine protection? How about a hydration system that actually keeps your water thawed in sub-freezing temps?  Well, here you go! You hardly know it's there. It's that comfortable. The unisex USWE POW 16 (pronounced YOU-SWEE) fixes many of the frustrations faced by winter sports enthusiasts when it comes to their backpacks.

Read more: USWE Pow 16 review (1)

Osprey Talon 11

user rating: 5 of 5 (5 reviews)

I purchased this pack for very long distance unsupported trail runs. I am new at this distance and and will likely never be a professional. I do not race.

Reasons to Buy

  • Minimal weight
  • Minimal bounce
  • Straps don't rub
  • Pack doesn't "crawl" up your back as you run (I hate that!)
  • Pockets on hips large enough for GPS, Smart phone, or a couple of Clif Bars, yet small enough that they don't abrade the inside of my forearms
  • Pockets on shoulder straps fits energy gels, my watch, my old-fashioned flip phone.
  • Fits my older Platypus Hoser 3-liter hydration bladder.
  • Easy to extract said bladder for refill without emptying contents of the pack.
  • Fits enough gear for changing temperatures/altitude/conditions and "essentials" on daylong backcountry trail runs.
  • Stretch pockets on side of pack for narrow water bottles (i.e., not Nalgene 1-Liters) perfectly sized and perfectly placed (I can reach them without removing the pack)

Reasons to Avoid

  • Light load compression should be better. The external storage bungee acts as a very limited compression.
  • My waist has not yet shrunk to be sufficiently narrower than my ribs to prevent the hip belt from riding up over the bottom of my ribcage. I think, however, that this is more the fault of my slight paunch than that of the pack. If my waist narrows, I shall update this review.

WHY I GOT ITFor shorter distances (6 to 10 miles), I just need water which can be accomplished in a myriad of ways readily available. For longer distances (over 10 miles) I need some source of energy (gels or whatnot), and even for this there are plenty of waistpacks or running vests or hydration whatevers which will hold enough water, and a couple of energy bars and energy gels. However, I plan on running 50+ miles solo and largely without support through unfamiliar backcountry. There are plenty of packs which can be used to walk this distance, but the experience of running in most day packs goes from unpleasant to painful to injurious.

Read more: Osprey Talon 11 reviews (5)

Mountainsmith Scream 25

user rating: 5 of 5 (3 reviews)

This pack is a great lightweight and minimalist choice for day hikes. It is easily packed down small to fit into a larger backpack. Durability exceeds anything else in its class. It is a frameless pack with minimal padding, so it has its limitations. If you take those considerations into account before buying this pack, you might just find that it's perfect for you.

Reasons to Buy

  • Solid materials and construction
  • Good capacity for 3-season day use
  • Lightweight
  • Packable
  • Deep side pockets

Reasons to Avoid

  • No structure
  • Easily overloaded

Fit: This is a one-size-fits-all pack. I'm about 5'10" and have a 19-ish inch torso, and it fits me really well. I'm a fairly normally proportioned guy, and the space between the shoulder straps is just about perfect. Unlike some other packs that this one competes with, like the REI Flash 18 and Flash 22 and the Marmot Kompressor series, the Scream 25 doesn't feel awkwardly small on your back. Comfort: The shoulder straps are made with the same breathable, super-thin padding found on similar packs.

Read more: Mountainsmith Scream 25 reviews (3)

REI Flash 22

user rating: 4.5 of 5 (6 reviews)

This pack is incredibly lightweight and perfect for day hiking as it will hold layers of clothing peeled off from your hike, to lunch and your sunglasses and still have room! It has an interior bladder pouch and I best like the super deep water bottle pockets on both sides of the pack. Great pack, must have for day hikers and if you want a easy, lightweight pack to travel with.

Reasons to Buy

  • Lightweight
  • Deep pockets both inside and outside of pack
  • Easy to pack when not being used or in luggage
  • Capability to add hydration bladder
  • Inexpensive for its functionality

Reasons to Avoid

  • Not a very beefy suspension system, but this would add weight
  • Doesn't come with hydration bladder
  • Doesn't come with rain cover

Although I won this pack at the 2013 Warren Miller movie tour, now that I have used this pack, I would definitely pay money for it! I am a backpack enthusiast and have many packs already. I find myself using this pack most often.   All the "Cons" that I wrote about with regards to this pack, would all come with a price to pay…literally. I think the most important features that people tend to look at when purchasing a pack are: price, function, and weight in that order or importance (depending on what your need is).

Read more: REI Flash 22 reviews (6)

Osprey Talon 22

user rating: 4.5 of 5 (16 reviews)

A great daypack for beginning hikers or just everyday use. Biking, hiking, skiing, fishing, school books, etc. This pack is versatile and durable.

Reasons to Buy

  • Lightweight yet durable
  • Spaces are plentiful
  • AirScape mesh back allows the back to breathe
  • Bright color options — great for cycling or hiking in areas near hunters

Reasons to Avoid

  • Zipper handle on main compartment is sometimes lost in crevices
  • Hipbelt pocket is too small
  • Top mesh pocket sometimes snags on sharp objects inside pocket

Fit: Great fit. Even for a slightly bigger person (6'3" with a 34" waist) like myself. Straps are very adequate. I bought the M/L size, which is a full 22 liters, whereas the S/M is only 20.  Comfort: When going on a day hike, my wife and I will fight over who gets to carry the pack. Yeah, it's that comfortable.  Capacity: For a 22 pack, this thing is incredibly spacious. I've seen packs closer to 30 that would be hard pressed to store as much stuff as this one. One highlight is the front stretch pocket.

Read more: Osprey Talon 22 reviews (16)

The North Face Recon

user rating: 4.5 of 5 (4 reviews)

Great bag for edc (everyday carry) and day hikes. Comfortable, durable, and well designed.

Reasons to Buy

  • Comfort
  • Durability
  • Compartment organization

Reasons to Avoid

  • Not very water resistant
  • No way to secure straps

I have two of these packs, one for everyday and a back up in case something happens to the 1st. They've held up really well and hold an obscene amount of stuff. For example in the smaller front pocket I keep: my bushcraft knife, backup folder knife, a couple of SAK's, my Leatherman OHT, Fenix pd 32 flashlight, work gloves, 100 feet of para cord, a Zippo, fluid for said Zippo, a knife sharpener, calculator, fire steel, two pens, a stethoscope, e-shears, thermometer, and my Oakleys in their hard case.

Read more: The North Face Recon reviews (4)

Mystery Ranch 2 Day Assault

user rating: 4.5 of 5 (1 review)

The Mystery Ranch 2 Day Assault is a multi-functional, durable pack that is big enough (27L) for day hikes and daylong hunting trips, yet hosts additional features, like a laptop sleeve with rear-facing zipper, that allow it to serve as an everyday carry pack (EDC) or a travel/carry-on bag too. A true Swiss Army knife of a pack.

Reasons to Buy

  • Easy to access all areas of the pack
  • Functional and well-placed pockets
  • Endless attachments points with external webbing
  • Accessible water bottle pouches without having to take the pack off
  • Ample storage for day hikes or daylong hunting pursuits
  • Built with rugged material

Reasons to Avoid

  • External bottle storage compartments are too short for extra tall bottles
  • Waistbelt strap has slipped out

Conditions:  This initial review is based on testing the 2 Day Assault pack over a six-week period during the late fall and early winter in the eastern US in mostly cool and cold conditions (mostly below 40°F/4.4°C), with some light rain and snow. To date, I’ve used it exclusively as a hiking daypack and a hunting pack on a variety of trips (three day hikes and four hunting trips). I will update this review as I spend more time in the woods and on the trail with the pack.   Fit: At 6'2" (1.88m) and a fairly slender frame, the L/XL fits my frame well and rides comfortably with or without layers (also comes in a S/M size).

Read more: Mystery Ranch 2 Day Assault review (1)

Gregory Juno 30 H2O

user rating: 4.5 of 5 (1 review)

The Gregory Juno 30 H20 is a women's fit daypack with integrated 3L hydration reservoir (hence the H20 designation). It is excellent for long day hikes or when you need to carry several liters of water. The shape and moisture-wicking fabric on the back make the pack very comfortable, even with heavy loads. With many compartments and storage areas, the Gregory Juno 30 H20 will keep your essentials, valuables, and extras secure while you climb trails. Gregory also offers this pack in Plus Size, as well as the Juno 24, Juno 36, and the unisex/men's Citro series.

Reasons to Buy

  • VaporSpan suspension provides comfort and cooling
  • Many pouches, storage areas, and compartments for essentials, gear, and extras.
  • Water bottle pouches for easy access and return while hiking
  • Wide-mouth hydration reservoir is easy to fill and dries out between hikes

Reasons to Avoid

  • No accessible storage for a cell phone
  • Magnetic sternum strap buckle is not intuitive at first use.

  Pack right out of the box, with tags  Fit:  Designed for women, the shoulder and waist straps can be sized down small enough to fit a pre-teen and up to fit a full-grown man. The women's Juno 30 H20 has "One Size" torso sizing and hip belts that fit waists from 27-45 inches. The fit was excellent on my 19-inch torso. MiniStranger also tried this on for testing purposes. She’s 10 years old and about 4' 8" tall. Though the pack is too big for her, we could adjust the straps for her to carry it.

Read more: Gregory Juno 30 H2O review (1)

Cotopaxi Inca 26

user rating: 4.5 of 5 (1 review)

Comfortable bag for traveling in the woods or around town. A wonderful balance of features and function. Quality construction and design make this pack a solid pick for anyone looking for a bag to use every day for a number of applications. As an added bonus, Cotopaxi works with charities around the world and links each product to a specific charitable product. Highly recommended for a pack that bridges the gap between recreational and work travel.

Reasons to Buy

  • Comfortable suspension system
  • Durable materials
  • Designed for the trail and town

Reasons to Avoid

  • Shoulder strap pocket is a little small for new smartphones
  • Zipper flaps create minor difficulties in zipping

The Cotopaxi Inca 26 is the day/overnight pack I have been looking for to bridge the gap between time on the trail and time spent traveling for work. Specifications: Volume – 26 liters Weight – 1 pound 11 ounces Materials – Combination of 210D ripstop nylon 66 and 210 dynagin nylon Features: Trekking pole carrying system Harness pocket for cellphone Felted sunglasses pocket Daisy chains for gear attachment Stash-able ice tool holders Breathable pack panel Hydration sleeve which doubles as a laptop sleeve (for thin and narrow laptops) Dual waist belt pockets Fit: Cotopaxi designed a pack with the perfect amount of adjustment and padding for a 26 liter bag.

Read more: Cotopaxi Inca 26 review (1)

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