Sierra Designs Discovery 30
Best day pack I've ever owned
- a bit pricey...
When I think of Sierra Designs, I usually think of tents, then sleeping bags, and maybe outerwear. Packs I think are a new area for them. I got my hands on this 'Discovery' day pack about a year ago now, and I am very impressed.
It is a 30-liter pack. I find this to be the perfect capacity for day hikes all year except for when you need full winter equipment. For that I like a 40 liter pack (I'm eyeballing the Sierra Designs Ministry pack now).
The suspension on the pack is the first thing you'll notice. It's very sophisticated. But, it's still super-light. With a suspension like this, you could haul way more cargo than you'll ever need on a day hike. It combines an aluminum stay and separate top (shoulder-area) and bottom (waist area) foam sections.
Air can easily pass through the area between the upper and lower sections to keep your back cool. The upper and lower sections can move independently of each other. The shoulder straps are lightly padded. The waist belt is also lightly padded at the hips; and uses the forward-pull strap method that I love in my larger backpacking packs. All great stuff.
It is offered in two sizes (S/M and M/L). Check the specs to see which size is right for you. It is based on the length of your back. I am 5'10" 175 lbs which I expected would have put me in the larger size; but actually the smaller size fit me better.
The main pack fabric is very light. I suppose durability could be an issue over time. But so far, no problems. It is water resistant but not water proof. You'll want to protect your stuff inside in wet weather with a pack cover (or choose your other favorite strategy). All the fabrics, straps, etc seem to have been well chosen to be light but not flimsy. The main body of the pack is very straightforward. It's a top-loader with one main section. The top closes with a zipper; and the small-ish top section has an interior zip pocket with a clip for car keys or whatever.
The inside area also houses a hydration sleeve; and there's a small exit port behind your neck. Pretty standard, works fine. It has a large stretch-fabric external pocket on the back, and one each side. The external stretch-fabric pockets are super streamlined when not in use, but they expand more than I would have thought. They can hold large items easily. You can fit a 1-liter Nalgene bottle in the side pockets. The outside back pocket is even bigger.
There are also nice little zip pockets on each side of the waist belt. They are perfectly sized for a power bar and some Gu; or a small camera or GPS. There are also some attachment points on the back/outside of the pack for trekking poles or ice tools. There are compression straps on each side. They work well when needed.
So, this pack is actually quite feature-rich. But it achieves this in a very un-assuming way. The overall look is very plain and streamlined. I'd say it's an impressive melding of minimalism and outdoor-techy. It's great for moving fast and light in the mountains; but if you need to load it up with more weight, the suspension can handle it. It's a basic, simple looking pack, but I think someone actually put a lot of time and thought into getting it just right.
I've had this pack for almost a year now and I've used it maybe 20 days. It has become my favorite day pack ever. Highly recommended.
Source: bought it new
Price Paid: sale price, less than MSRP
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Historic Range: $84.95-$189.95