After a good pair of walking boots and a waterproof jacket, a backpack is the next big consideration for anyone heading out for a walk. Having a backpack on frees up your hands for carrying maps or anything else you might wish to take. And with pockets for water bottles, food, spare clothing, cameras and more, they can be incredibly handy.
However, with so many different sizes and styles, it’s important to get one which matches your needs. Don’t just go for the largest backpack – there’s no point in carrying around something massive when a smaller one would do. Think about how you’re going to use it– if it’s for short walks on your own, then a 15-litre backpack would be fine. If it’s for short walks with a family, a 35-litre pack might be better suited. We’ve focused on packs between 15-35 litres – often called daysacks. Larger packs – 45 litres plus – are really for longer distance walks.
Look for adjustable straps to make sure the backpack fits properly on your back – and a pack with an air-flow system will stop you getting sweaty on your back when you’re on a walk. Daypacks often have mesh pockets on the side for water bottles, and pockets with flaps for waterproof storage of your stuff. Some of the daypacks will have a sleeve inside which can house a hydration bladder (a flat water bottle with a tube allowing you to drink while on the go).
1. Berghaus Remote 25 Rucksack: £55, Berghaus
This has pretty much everything you might need in a daypack: two large internal pockets (one of which is suitable for a hydration bladder), two smaller mesh pockets for phones and GPS units, side mesh pockets for water bottles, a zipped pocket in the forward-opening lid flap, and attachments to carry walking poles. It’s comfy, thanks to the padded back with vented foam, and the shoulder straps, although not wide, are adjustable and supportive. The bungee cords are handy for stashing more stuff. Shame it doesn’t come in any brighter colours, though.
2. Regatta Survivor II 35L: £40, Regatta
This is a good-value, hardwearing pack. It has some fairly technical features, such as an air mesh back and shoulder straps to prevent sweatiness, as well as front bungee cord storage. On either side, there’s a zipped pocket and an easy-access pouch for water bottles. While the internal pocket only goes half way down the pack, it’s still big enough for a hydration bladder. There’s a welcome integrated raincover, too.
3. The North Face Litus 32-RC Rucksack: £95, The North Face
This is a really well thought-out backpack. For starters, it comes in two sizes to suit different heights. We also like the adjustable mesh pocket at the front, which is ideal for keeping wet items away from the main storage area. There’s a decent sized zipped pocket on the front lid, one on the inside too – and the lid folds down quite far to allow easier access to the main compartment. The obligatory sleeve is provided along with a service duct, so it’s suitable for a hydration bladder, and a handy pocket on the hip belt is ideal for a mobile or GPS unit. It has a semi-rigid frame (a suspended mesh panel keeping it away from your skin), which might not be to anyone’s taste, but it is comfortable.
4. Terra Nova Laser 20 Elite Pack: £35, Terra Nova Equipment
When you see the weight of this 20-litre backpack listed as 210 grams (7 oz), you could be forgiven for any scepticism, but it really is. It’s actually lighter than most outdoor jackets, which makes it perfect for longer treks, and it still has plenty of features. There are four pockets in total, padded shoulder straps and it is incredibly waterproof. One concession to the light weight is a roll-top hood instead of a zipped one – but this does work very well and stops water seeping into the top of the pack.
5. Aquapac Wet and Dry Backpack: £75, Cotswold Outdoor
This genuinely stormproof pack by the waterproof gear experts is designed to keep the wet stuff out at all times. It has taped seams so water can’t seep in. It also has a large waterproof internal pocket – big enough for a laptop – and a smaller transparent pocket for keeping those little items together. You get into it through a clever roll-seal, which is waterproof and doubles up as a grab handle. There are large, easy-access mesh pockets on either side for the stuff that can survive a soaking (i.e. water bottles). With a full five-year guarantee, it’s a no-brainer for someone always out in the wet.
6. Black Diamond BBEE 11: £36.16, Amazon
Black Diamond might not be very well known in the UK, but its climbing and ski gear is big in the US. We think this 11-litre backpack is perfect for short walks in the British countryside. The contoured back panel together with the ridged design of the shoulder straps take the pack away from the back and help prevent sweating. The entrance is from the front, rather than the top, and features an internal stash pocket suitable for a hydration bladder and a zip pocket on the inside of the flap. One for those who travel light.
7. Mountain Warehouse Bolt 18 Litre Backpack: £9.99, Mountain Warehouse
Available in four colours, the Bolt is a very competent daypack from the value-conscious brand. It’s fairly rugged and durable and despite being a budget buy, it still has an internal sleeve suitable for a hydration bladder, and the required slot for the mouth tube too. It’s perhaps not as comfy on the back as others, but if you’re walking less than 10k, it will be fine. There are two mesh pockets at the side for water bottles, another pocket on the outside at the front, and a large compartment inside, with that sleeve.
8. Osprey Tempest 20: £74.99, Wiggle
Osprey is one of the few companies that makes different backpacks for men and women. The Tempest 20 is the women’s version of its best-selling Talon backpack. It shares the AirScape back panel, which has foam ridges for ventilation, and because of the adjustable torso length, the pack fits snuggly. Side mesh pockets are provided for bottles, and the two zipped pockets on the hip belt are a welcome addition. The reflective graphics work well in this case, and the emergency whistle on the sternum strap is worth a note too. It is also hydration bladder compatible.
9. Craghoppers Kiwi Pro 15L: £30, Craghoppers
With a 15-litre capacity, this is another small daysack and a good buy for short hikes. It’s lightweight and water repellent, and the airflow system on the back works well in stopping you getting sweaty while wearing it. Side mesh pockets are provided for water bottles – and it’s hydration bladder compatible too, with an internal sleeve. The adjustable straps help provide a good fit regardless of your height.
10. Wolffepack Escape: £99.95, Amazon
Every so often a product comes along which is completely revolutionary. The Wolffepack is one of those. Its USP is that the pack unhooks from the shoulder straps for easy access without you having to take it off your back. By pushing a button on a parachute-style rip cord which is stored on one of the shoulder straps, the pack section drops down from the shoulder straps so you can grab it and bring it around to your front. Once finished, it clicks back into place on your back. This is a smallish 18 litres, but has laptop and tablet sleeves, two side pockets and an external zipper pocket – and inside there are two main compartments and an organiser section. It’s not really designed for walking and hiking, but it is comfy on the back and would be a great addition to your outdoor kit.
With so many different styles, picking a best buy is difficult. If you enjoy walking in the rain, then the Aquapac Wet and Dry Backpack is a top buy. The lightest pack of all, the Terra Nova, would be great for walkers carrying heavy gear (whatever that might be) and for its sheer ingenuity, the Wolffepack Escape is well worth a mention. But our best buy is the Berghaus Remote 25. It is pretty much everything you want a daysack to be – compact, tough, waterproof but light and with plenty of pockets, zips and flaps for everything you need on a walk.
Andrew White is a writer, film-maker and broadcaster, and the second series of his Walks Around Britain starts on 27 May at 7.30pm on the Community Channel. He’s also appearing at Countryfile Live in August, talking about walking and camping.
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