While consumers tend to put a considerable amount of thought into multi-day packs, tents, and hiking boots, it can be easy to neglect implementing the same train of thought when shopping for more casual items, such as water bottles or daypacks. Though they may not be designed for extended trips, there are certain characteristics in a daypack that you should still look for when shopping for one. Keep reading for tips on distinguishing a quality pack from a poorly made one.

One thing you’ll definitely want to take a closer look at is padding. Shoulder straps on quality packs will offer plusher padding and great longevity in comfort. Some models even feature shaped bottoms or structured back panels to keep contents closer to your back, which prevents the pack from sagging and becoming uncomfortable.

The fabric used in packs can be integral in its longevity and structural integrity, so it can be wiser to opt for higher quality materials and spend a little more. Discount packs often use heavier fabrics purchased in bulk to cut costs, while higher quality packs may use better materials, such as denier nylon, which is abrasion and tear resistant and offers superb durability and less weight.

Other desirable features include ventilated back panels, which keep air flowing to your back to reduce the amount of sweat, or waistbelt pockets, which can be handy for keeping small items within reach without being in the way. Water bottle pockets are typically standard with packs these days, but some packs include sleeves for a hydration reservoir, which you’ll be thankful for on hot days. Some may even want a pack with tool loops or gear lashes, which offer convenient carrying solutions for smaller tools that you want nearby when the need arises.

Obviously, price is a factor when choosing a pack for dayhikes. As with most outdoor gear, higher quality typically means higher cost, and it will be up to you to decide which features are worth it. Decide on what you need first, then think about what you want in a pack, and make your decision.

While you’ll initially save money with a bargain pack, you’re likely to miss out on design refinements found in top-brand packs that deliver better performance, convenience and comfort. Daypacks may not be what you’ll take on a week-long excursion to the backcountry, but even a dayhike can get uncomfortable or stressful with poorly made gear. The features outlined above will help get you started on the right track when shopping for a daypack. 

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