Sturdy, lightweight packs are an excellent choice for hiking in the heat.
By Gibbs Milliken
Compact, lightweight packs are usually of two types and are designed to carry the items necessary for a single day in the field. One style is centered on the back and held by two padded straps; the other is a sling-type over one shoulder and rides at your side.
Perhaps the toughest of all daypacks is the Maxpedition Falcon II built for years of hard use. This unit has four large, zippered pockets, two hidden compartments and features modular attachment webbing for Malice accessory clips on almost every surface. An insulated external sleeve against the back can hold an optional 100-ounce hydration bladder. The quality of construction and hardware is excellent with comfortable contoured shoulder straps and fully adjustable waist and sternum belts. A smaller Maxpedition Fatboy Versipack is a military-style shoulder sling pack of Teflon coated industrial strength fabric. It has an extra wide padded strap and is a perfect size for birders, fishers and almost any outdoor activity where a light essentials-only bag is needed. ($114.99, Falcon II, #0513K, Maxpedition, 877-629-5556, www.maxpedition.com) ($64.99, Fatboy S-Type Khaki, #0408K, Maxpedition)
Looking for a minimalist low-profile rugged hydration pack? The CamelBak Chaos comes with a 70-ounce (2-liters) Omega HydroTanium wide-mouth reservoir for adding ice and easy cleaning. It has two other cargo compartments and the main pocket is 17 inches deep with a smaller pouch for easy access at the lower back. This multipurpose design is ideal for most outdoor activities in hot weather. The back panel features air-mesh pads and harness for enhanced ventilation as you hike or bike. ($75, Outback Chaos, #60385, Color: Coyote Brown, CamelBak, 800-767-8725, www.camelbak.com)
If a larger pack is needed for a load of light, yet bulky gear, the Oakley Icon 2.0 made with durable ballistic cloth, riveted reinforcements and fittings of large size and strength is a good choice. It is roomy, high-tech and functional with wide soft-padded shoulder straps and lots of drain ports, but it is not waterproof. Simply add a dry-bag enclosure or thick zip-lock plastics for things that need to remain dry. The large central chamber allows the items to be centered on the back. Adjustable three-way compression straps keep the pack and the contents from shifting. ($135, Icon 2.0 Pack, Color: New Khaki #92027-323, Oakley, 800-431-1439, www.oakley.com)
The nylon Canon Camera Backpack is lightweight and water resistant with separate padded compartments for delicate photo gear. The unit opens fully using twin-zippers for easy access to your pre-selected camera and lens combination. It has just enough room for up to two camera bodies, four medium size lenses and accessories. Straps provided at the bottom of the pack can carry a compact tripod. NOTE: Keep the twin-zippers of the main compartment together and low on one side, not at the top-center of the pack where, under pressure, they can accidentally spread apart and dump your gear. ($69.95, Canon 200EG Deluxe Pack, Canon U.S.A., 866-802-8500, www.precision-camera.com )
The flat profile Wilson’s Convertible Backpack, made of leather and nylon, can be easily transformed into a classic messenger style shoulder bag in two easy steps. Simply unclip the backpack straps and tuck them away in a special rear pocket; then attach the adjustable shoulder strap, and you’re ready to head for the outback with sketchbook and pencils or into the urban jungle armed with a laptop. ($100, Convertible Pack, #07763, Color: Café, Wilson’s Leather, 800-236-9976, www.wilsonsleather.com)
Today’s packs have evolved into highly specialized designs for just about any outdoor activity. These versatile daypacks remain the most practical means for individual, hands-free transport of essential gear in the outdoors.