Wanted: The Perfect Day Pack. Must excel in casual, urban outings AND day long outdoor activities. Must be big enough to fit my laptop and a change of clothes for the former and a day hike’s worth of gear for the latter. It must be made of environmentally friendly materials. And it must have easily accessible water bottle pockets.
Oh, and it must not look goofy.
The Long Search
Granted, the “must not look goofy” requirement is subjective, and I might be pickier about looks than some… but, to me, the above seemed like a fairly reasonable starting point for a day pack search. I thought I would be overwhelmed by options. But that just wasn’t the case. I was surprised how hard it was to find something that met all of my needs.
I’ve been at it for awhile now. Years I would say. Getting by in the meantime on old, worn down, inadequate packs… just waiting to find the “this is it!” pack – the one that I was sure I would be happy with for some time to come. But that never happened.
Finally, tired of struggling with my current packs, and convinced that my efforts were paralyzed by a search for perfection, I decided to compromise. It was time to find the pack that came closest to what I wanted – and try to be happy with it.
The Osprey React
In the outdoor community, Osprey packs have an absolutely fantastic reputation. It borders on fanaticism. Seriously, go read online reviews or talk to a gear head at your local outfitter. People love these packs. So it didn’t surprise me that as I began to narrow down the list of packs that came close to meeting my requirements, several Osprey’s were at the top. Eventually, I settled on The Osprey React Daypack as the one that came closest to my ideal.
The React is part of Osprey’s ReSource line of packs. It is made almost entirely from recycled materials, and the fabric comes from ground up water and soda bottles.
– 100% recycled PET fabric
– Minimum 70% total recycled materials by content
– 100% Recycled mesh pockets
– 60% recycled content spacer mesh
– 55% recycled stretch woven pockets
– 100% recycled binding tape
– 100% recycled webbing
– Recycled buckles – reground from buckle scrap
– 100% recycled fabric zipper pulls
This pack clearly fits my “environmentally friendly” requirement, which, I have to say, I thought would be one of the harder requirements to satisfy. I am pleased this was not the case. The outdoor industry is doing a fine job of offering green products, and the React is just one example of many I found.
Size and Style
At 1700 cubic inches the React is on the low end of what I wanted for space, but I can still manage to fit what I need for both casual and day long outdoor activities. For trips to the city, my 16 inch laptop fits in the pack just fine. There is no dedicated padded laptop sleeve, but I find those to be mostly unnecessary. The light padding where the pack rests on your back, with whatever else I stuff in the React, is enough protection for my laptop as far as I am concerned. As a telecommuter, I find that this pack fits my needs for a day trip to the city, or an overnight stay. Along with my laptop I can fit a change of clothes and a few other small items in the main compartment. For outdoor day activities, this packs gives me all the room I need. Day hikes, peak bagging, snowshoeing, bike rides… I can’t imagine needing to bring anything that this won’t handle.
In terms of style, it is a pretty standard non-technical daypack. It has a nice streamlined profile, not too boxy like some of the others I was considering. The available colors were mostly nice, with black – Osprey calls it Panda – being my favorite. Overall I like the look of the pack enough to not think twice about hauling it around town. It definitely meets my “must not look goofy” requirement.
If you had told me this requirement would be the one I had to eventually compromise on I wouldn’t have believed you. Accessible water bottle pockets on a daypack are just something I thought would be standard. I was wrong.
While the React does include nice, roomy, well made side pockets for water bottles… these pockets ride high enough on your back that you still need to take the pack off in order to get to them. Unless, I suppose, you are double jointed. This is a design flaw I saw in EVERY pack I looked at. The only way to overcome it would have been to bump up to a more technical daypack, one with a full torso frame that sat on my hips – but even then there were very few packs that pulled this off, and I wasn’t willing to go that route due to my desire to also use this as a casual pack.
From what I can gather, this is a design decision related to the industry embracing ‘hydration pack’ technologies. Instead of extending the profile of their daypacks a little lower, or around the side a bit more, or angling the water bottle pockets in a way that you can grab them, manufacturers are designing packs to be hydration pack compatible. I suppose on some level this makes sense, and maybe I am just one of the last people to embrace hydration packs… but the idea of sipping water through a big, inevitably dirty, plastic tube just doesn’t sit well with me. And I am not a germ freak, I swear! Filling up a water bottle and slipping it into a pocket on the side of the pack is just so much easier to me.
Environmentally friendly and stylish looking daypack gets the job done on and off the trail. While it falls just short of what I would consider my “perfect daypack,” it comes as close to it as any I have found.
A good size for most day long activities, both casual and outdoors. Great pack for school, commuting, hiking, snowshoeing, skiing… you name it. Responsibly made from recycled products. Nice enough looking to wear around town or campus. Some nice “extras” including an electronics harness on the shoulder straps. Hydration pack compatible.
If you are a pack rat, and like to bring the kitchen sink on your day adventures, this pack might run a tad small for you. Water bottle pockets are nice, but still require you to take the pack off in order to access them.