REI Flash 30
$80, 1 lb. 6 oz. (medium)
Sizes: Medium 30L/1,830 c.i., Large 31L/1,892 c.i.
Unless you can afford a quiver of packs, you expect a daypack to be many things: lightweight and compact for when you don’t need to carry much, spacious and comfortable when you do need to haul a fair bit of stuff. Not many daypacks are that flexible—but the Flash 30 is. On a recent trip to Oregon, I used it on Columbia Gorge dayhikes by myself and with my family, and even a quick morning ski up to 10,000 feet on Mt. Hood.
I easily fit food, water, and extra clothes for family members inside the pack, and it proved perfectly comfortable with 15 to 20 pounds inside, thanks to a very simple foam framesheet and spare but adequate shoulder and back padding. That foam framesheet is also removable, letting you roll up the pack and stuff it inside a backpack for side hikes on a multi-day backcountry trip. When I wanted a smaller daypack for light, solo jaunts, the front bungee squishes the pack nicely—and the whole thing weighs only as much as many much smaller hydration packs, so it feels like a small pack. While Spartan in design, this top-loader’s spacious lid, side mesh, and hipbelt pockets offer all the organization you really need. The Flash 30 does a lot by not trying to be too much. And after buying it, you’ll have cash left over for post-hike pizza and beers.