Hyperlite Mountain Gear Daybreak
$230, 17L/1,040 c.i. 1 lb. 4 oz. (medium)
Sizes: S (fits torsos 15-17 ins.), M (torsos 17-19 ins.), and L (torsos 19+ ins.)
Lightweight and tough aren’t adjectives I usually use together when describing gear, but they both apply to this daypack. I’ve used it for everything from dayhiking up to several miles on a four-day whitewater rafting and kayaking trip on the Green River through Lodore Canyon in Dinosaur National Monument, on multi-pitch rock climbs at Idaho’s City of Rocks National Reserve, and ski touring. Besides carrying comfortably with about 10 pounds inside, it still looks brand new.
While super light, this pack is also super burly. The ultralight, waterproof Dyneema fabric is very durable—drag it through a canyon or lower it off a cliff without fear of damaging this sack. And Dyneema has structure to it, meaning that despite the pack having no frame—only a flexible, quarter-inch-thick back pad—it holds its shape, so you can stand it upright and fish around inside it easily. Plus, conveniently, the lack of a frame makes it very packable: You can roll the Daybreak up and stuff it inside or strap it to the outside of a backpack. The water-resistant zipper, in concert with the Dyneema fabric, means that anything inside will stay dry in just about any situation short of a monsoon or full immersion.
The minimalist design nonetheless nails what I think many ultralight hikers would want in a daypack and nothing more. Although very lightly padded, the mesh belt is wider than a standard webbing belt to distribute weight around the hips, and the mesh shoulder straps do have some padding—important because the pack lacks a frame that would direct weight onto your hips. Still, it’s comfortable carrying up to 12 pounds, and it comes in three sizes—very unusual for a small daypack—meaning most users should fine one that fits well. The belt tucks inside a sleeve behind the back pad, but it’s not removable.
A clamshell zipper (with cords on the tabs for grabbing with gloves), which extends nearly the full length of the pack, accesses a main compartment with enough space for an all-day hike. Capacity is greatly enhanced by the voluminous, front bellows pocket, which could swallow two jackets and has drain holes for wet stuff. There’s a bladder sleeve (that fits a 13-inch laptop) and small, zippered valuables pocket inside, and nothing else. The orange interior fabric is a nice touch, brightening the inside to make locating things easier. The stretchy, adjustable front bungee further increases carrying capacity while adding almost no weight, and there are attachments for an ice axe. In fact, given how tough the fabric is, you could stuff crampons into the front pocket without fear of puncturing anything inside the pack. The two side pockets hold bottles and site within reach while wearing the pack, and the sternum strap has a whistle.
HMG is a small company making high-end, specialized, ultralight gear that’s built to last. In that pedigree, the Daybreak is a seriously tough pack with minimal but smart features, ideal for lightweight dayhikes but versatile enough to be your all-purpose daypack for everything from climbing to bike commuting. It may last longer than you do.
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See my picks for the eight best hiking daypacks and all of my reviews of daypacks I like, and my “5 Tips For Buying the Right Backpack” (which applies to daypacks), plus all of my reviews of hiking gear at The Big Outside.
NOTE: I tested gear for Backpacker Magazine for 20 years. At The Big Outside, I review only what I consider the best outdoor gear and apparel. See categorized menus of all of my reviews at my Gear Reviews page.
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