The Art of the Daypack

How to Daypack

Few hikers take daypacks seriously. It’s just a day hike they reason, I’ll throw everything in and not sweat the details.

On Tusker treks around the world where porters, yaks or mules carry most of your stuff, there is a tendency to under-think your daypack, but that’s a potentially big mistake. On Kilimanjaro’s summit night when your bite-valve on your hydration bladder freezes near the ice-clad top you realize you should have bought the more expensive non-freeze, better insulated tube.

The point is you should put as much thought into your daypack as if you were doing a solo backpack into the cold, wet backcountry of Alaska. Your daypack on a Tusker trek needs to be big enough, water proof, freeze proof enough and comfortable enough on your back to allow you to enjoy the experience without suffering. Fitting a daypack is as involved as fitting a pair of boots. Long gone are the days when you pop down to the local Army & Navy store to pick up a military surplus pack.

Choosing the right pack for you can be daunting as there are a dizzying number of daypacks on the market. To simplify, the four brands that tested highest in Outdoor Gear Labs 2017 three month field test were Osprey, Deuter, Gregory and REI. Comfort, breathability, weight and fit were key considerations.

Tusker’s guides are a great source of info as well.

Asian essentials

Tusker’s Asia trip leader Mel Kaida carries a 36 liter Osprey Kyte on the Nepal Everest Base Camp trek and the Mongolia horseback/hiking wilderness exploration of Tavn Bogd National Park. Your daypack should be a minimum capacity of 30-36 liters and should contain a hydration bladder slot, pouches on the waist strap and it must fit well, Mel says.

For both the Everest Base Camp and Mongolia treks you need a pack with a waist strap so you have easy access to Chap Stick, sunscreen, hand sanitizer and snacks. If your pack doesn’t come with a rain cover then buy a separate one and store it in the pack all the time. When shopping for a daypack try several on and buy the one that fits best,” Mel said. If you shop at a good outdoor retail store, the salesperson will help you size your pack correctly.

Packing for Patagonia

On Tusker’s Patagonia trek everyone carries their own gear on the five-day W circuit loop where the group stays in indoor refugios. Andrew Springsteel, Tusker’s South American guide, recommends at least a 30 liter capacity. “The pack should have a padded hip belt not just a strap and it’s nice to have small zippered compartments to reach essential things. Because of the variable conditions a pack cover is essential.”

For Machu Picchu, Andrew recommends the same daypack that should include a water bladder. Andrew uses the camelback system and also recommends packs that have sternum straps.

Kilimanjaro considerations

Of all Tusker treks, you get the most porter and trail guide support on the Kilimanjaro climb. It’s common on Kilimanjaro to see guides carrying out of shape hikers’ day packs, but it doesn’t look good. You should be able to shoulder your own weight each day so give your day pack some thought before you make the trip.

Get a pack that fits, has proper shoulder, back and hip belt support and pack it properly. Put things in separate plastic bags and know where everything is. Put the heaviest stuff in the middle of your daypack.

On Kilimanjaro it’s especially important to have a hydration bladder because you will drink more when your water is readily available. People get lazy when they get tired and don’t want to make the effort to take off a pack and dig out their water bottle.

On summit day, guides often offer to carry your day pack, but if you packed wisely and included essentials like an extra clothing layer and have a comfortable well-fitted pack then you should be able to shoulder your own weight to the summit. The pack will likely be heaviest on summit night because you may need to include a Nalgene water bottle in case your pack’s hydration system freezes.

And when you get back down off the summit, if you have the right pack, you won’t even notice it’s there.

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