Gear Geek: Seven Killer Day Packs

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Gear Geek: Seven Killer Day Packs

The perfect day pack can be simple—two shoulder straps and big ol’ closing pocket inside which you can cram all your stuff. Hell, go for a simple duffel and you only need one strap and none of the fancy add-ons. But that doesn’t mean you should forego a more activity-specific pack. From climbing to hitting the gym to urban exploration to cycling, here seven of the best day-hauler options to solve problems the simpler solutions can create.

1. Topo Designs Rover, $139; 2. Mission Workshop Monty, $165; 3. Aer Duffel Pack, $150; 4. Petzl Bug, $70; 5. 5.11 Tactical Rush 12, $100; 6. Brooks England Pickwick, $260; 7. PacSafe Vibe, $130.

Image: Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, CC-BY

Nathan Borchelt is a gear-obsessed travel writer and adventurer whose collection of shoes, backpacks, jackets, bags, and other “essential” detritus has long-outgrown his one-bedroom apartment (and his wife’s patience).

Topo Designs Rover


Both fun and functional, the Rover backpack adds a few unconventional elements—an upper synch closure underneath a zippered top panel, panels of colorful 1000D Cordura fabric for durability—with your traditional rucksack, including lightweight padded shoulder pads, two zippered pockets for quick and easy access, and compression straps. You also get a 15-inch laptop sleeve, twin water bottle side pockets, and a D-ring configuration to add a sternum strap, if so desired (a feature that cyclists should appreciate). No waist strap means this isn't the pack to carry heavy loads over great distances, but for quick day hikes or urban wandering, it's grand. And you can also use the array of straps to secure additional layers or a cardboard tube containing that limited edition print you had to buy at that hip gallery next to your Airb&b.
Topo Designs

Mission Workshop Monty


With 1,300 cubic inches of storage, the Monty excels at hauling a day's worth of gear—especially if that includes spare layers, shoes, and your favorite post-bike-ride six-pack, which all fit into the waterproof main compartment with the bag's flap clipped down. Hauling more? Use the drybag-style roll-down to increase carrying capacity, which also frees up access to two Velcro- and clip-secured front pockets as well as a zippered main compartment, which is big enough for a 13-inch laptop and has two more zippered pockets inside. The colors, fit, and overall design are sartorially on point, and it comes with a lifetime guarantee. You can easily configure the back to rest across either shoulder by swapping the strap configuration, and the cross-chest stabilizer can be removed by sliding the strap into the slot in the middle of the buckle.
Mission Workshop

Aer Duffel Pack

With 1,300 cubic inches of storage, the Monty excels at hauling a day's worth of gear—especially if that includes spare layers, shoes, and your favorite post-bike-ride six-pack, which all fit into the waterproof main compartment with the bag's flap clipped down. Hauling more? Use the drybag-style roll-down to increase carrying capacity, which also frees up access to two Velcro- and clip-secured front pockets as well as a zippered main compartment, which is big enough for a 13-inch laptop and has two more zippered pockets inside. The colors, fit, and overall design are sartorially on point, and it comes with a lifetime guarantee. You can easily configure the back to rest across either shoulder by swapping the strap configuration, and the cross-chest stabilizer can be removed by sliding the strap into the slot in the middle of the buckle. Aer

Petzl Bug


Designed for single-day multi-pitch rock climbing, this fun little pack offers plenty of storage to carry food, layers, and water, along with an ingenious rope strap at the top, which synchs-secures your climbing gear for evenly-distributed hauling. A central daisy chain runs down the pack, allowing you to clip on the rest of your kit, with a separate outer zipper panel, twin compression straps, and both a sternum and fold-away waist strap to help distribute the weight.
Petzl

5.11 Tactical Rush 12


If you like to be ready for any eventuality while traveling—from unkind baggage handlers to natural disasters to riots—the military-inspired products from 5.11 have you covered. Their Tactical Rush 12 backpack comes with 16 total compartments, each designed for a specific use, along with a laptop sleeve, adjustable sternum strap, compression straps, contoured yoke shoulder straps, self-repairing zippers, glove-friendly pull tabs, zippered fleece-lined eyewear pocket, hydration pocket, and a wrap-around web platform that lets you lash…anything…onto the bag. The 1050D nylon fabric is weather-resistance, and a total storage capacity of 1,476 cubic inches should accommodate your hiking, biking, hunting, climbing, or "go-bag" military style bug-out needs.
5.11 Tactical

Brooks England Pickwick


This Italian-crafted pack's apparent simplicity belies all the smart little touches that Brooks England has layered into the pack. The roll-top pack is crafted from water-resistant cotton with leather trim, with a padded laptop inside—and not much else, save a sternum strap, shoulder straps, and a voluminous 26-liter storage capacity. The roll-down design lets you adjust the pack height based on what you're carrying, with two side snaps to keep things protected and a leather/canvas pull tab that threads into the high-end hardware.
Brooks England

PacSafe Vibe


Intrepid travelers will appreciate the depth of security afforded by the Vibe backpack, which includes security clips, slash-protected straps, interlocking zipper pulls, an anti-theft anchor lock, "eXomesh" slashguard fabric (basically metal mesh layered into the outer fabric), and materials that block out any lurking radio-frequency identification (RFID) tech attempting to lift your electronic identity from your credit card or passport. But PacSafe has layered in these signature security features without making the backpack look like some paranoid android's fever dream, with an internal pocket big enough for a 15-inch laptop, internal and side compression straps, a side stretch pocket, stow-away padded shoulder straps, and 28 liters of storage space.
PacSafe