Marmot Aquifer 24
$129, 24L/1,465 c.i., 1 lb. 11 oz. (without Hydrapak reservoir, included)
Wear a daypack for enough hours and you will know—maybe better than you want to—whether you love it, like it, or might chuck it off a cliff. I hauled Marmot’s Aquifer 24 hydration pack on a couple of ultra-hikes on opposite ends of the country, in very different terrain and climates: a 17-mile, 6,800-foot, 15-hour, June dayhike over four summits in the Northern Presidential Range in New Hampshire, and a 25-mile, roughly 4,000-foot, 12-hour, late-May dayhike off the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, to take a full measure of the Aquifer’s comfort and functionality.
I also carried it on shorter (and saner) outings up Zion’s Angels Landing and to Garnet Canyon in Grand Teton National Park. The pack carried comfortably with up to about 15 pounds inside through the Northern Presidential Range and with up to 18 pounds in the Grand Canyon. That’s because the internal, curved, plastic framesheet, with a removable, aluminum center stay, flexes very little along either the vertical or horizontal axis, thus providing rigidity for hauling that much weight. One of the pack’s nicest features, the trampoline-style back panel, kept air circulating between the pack bag and my back, which I really appreciated on long, uphill slogs in the Grand Canyon and Presidentials. The harness is minimalist, helping keep the pack light and cool to wear: The perforated, thin foam padding in the shoulder straps felt good even throughout huge days, and a wide waistbelt, consisting only of a thin layer of flexible, perforated foam, distributes the pack’s weight across a broad swath of your waist and hips to prevent pressure points or rubbing.
The top-loading design is very basic: a main compartment with ample space (on the 17-miler in the Presidentials, I took my stuff plus much of my 14-year-old son’s food and his jacket, with room to spare); a lid pocket that doesn’t skimp on space for small essentials; a front stuff-it pocket large enough for a rain jacket; and two stretch-mesh side pockets that each fit a liter bottle. (Bummer: Can’t reach into the side pockets while wearing the pack.) There’s also one stretch-mesh waistbelt pocket that lacks a zipper, making it a bit less secure, but I never lost any of the bars I put in it. Rounding out the feature set are ice axe and night-biking light attachments.
With the exception of the mesh side pockets, the Aquifer is built tough, with 300-denier polyester ripstop fabric, even on the stuff-it pocket—which kept it from tearing when I stuck mini-crampons inside it on the hike to Garnet Canyon. However, I was careful not to lay the pack’s front side against a rock with those sharp points inside; that fabric isn’t really designed to withstand that level of abuse.
Bonus: The Aquifer 24 comes with a 3L/100 oz. Hydrapak hydration bladder, which I’ve long been a fan of for their ease of opening and closing, simple locking mouthpiece, and internal divider to minimize sloshing.
If you like a daypack whose design places a premium on low weight, functional simplicity, letting the breeze cool your back, and comfort no matter how flippin’ far you decide to hike, Marmot’s Aquifer 24 has your name on it.
See all of my reviews of daypacks and my reviews of hiking gear that I like. See also my stories “Buying Gear? Read This First,” “5 Tips For Buying the Right Backpack,” and “The Simple Equation of Ultralight Backpacking: Less Weight = More Fun.”
NOTE: I’ve been testing gear for Backpacker Magazine for 20 years. At The Big Outside, I review only what I consider the best outdoor gear and apparel. See all of my reviews by clicking on the Gear Reviews category at left or in the main menu.
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