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Find the Perfect Travel Daypack

daypackAfter years of schlepping through airports with a side bag that made my shoulder and back hurt, I finally got savvy and decided to carry a travel daypack. On flights, my daypack acts as my “personal item” to go along with my rollaboard. This combination saves me an average of $50 per trip in airline baggage fees.

What should you look for in the perfect travel daypack? Here are some tips:

daypack high sierra

A well-fitting daypack can keep your hands free–for eating churros.

City, sport, or minimal.  You’ll find three basic kinds of daypacks. The city or urban daypacks are made to use every day. They usually have plenty of pockets for great organization and a padded sleeve for notebook or tablet. They also are usually a bit more stylish looking.

The sport daypack is just what you’d think—a daypack designed for hiking or other outdoor activities. These aren’t as stylish and often come with plenty of straps and places to hook stuff onto. They tend to be, however, more comfortable than may city-type daypacks. And they often offer features like rain-resistant covers.

Minimalist daypacks are usually made of lightweight material. They tend to be small and foldable. They’re designed to roll or fold up into your suitcase and be used after you get to a destination. They often have just a few pockets and are light on features found in the sports daypacks.

Theft proof. Crowded cities, public transportation, big markets—they’re all places ripe for rip-offs. Know that as a tourist, you probably stand out like a sore thumb and thieves will easy target you. I once traveled with a friend who had her daypack picked when we walked through a busy Mexican market.

One way to prevent theft is to stay aware of your surroundings. Don’t allow yourself to get so engrossed in taking that perfect photo or admiring that amazing statue that you become oblivious to what’s happening around you.

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If you can’t afford a security-enabled pack, even a simple clip can deter thieves.

Another way to deter theft is to invest in an anti-theft daypack. Several companies, including PacSafe, offer products that deter thieves.  They offer daypacks with clever clips that prevent thieves from unzipping pockets and even slash-proof fabric to prevent the slash and go technique.

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Plenty of secure, internal pockets will help keep you organized and safe.

Anti-theft products are a good investment, but if your budget won’t allow it, at least look for a daypack with zippers that can be clipped or locked together. And them use them. This will deter most would-be-thieves.

Secure, zippered internal pockets. You’ll want a daypack where you can hide your valuables like money, credit cards, and passport. I like a pack that has an internal pock that’s zippered or at least features a Velcro closure for those can’t-lose items.

Weight. The larger, more organized and sturdier the daypack, the more likely it will be heavy. For years, I carried a terrific daypack that I could stuff with an amazing amount of gear. However, the pack alone was terrifically heavy. I finally ditched it for a smaller bag that wasn’t as bulky.

Size. This goes along with weight. Your daypack should be large enough to carry what you need—camera, lightweight sweater/jacket, maps, snacks, water. However it shouldn’t be so big it’s too heavy or difficult to navigate crowded spaces like trains or uses.

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Waist/hip and chest straps can take the weight off your shoulders.

Comfort. Often you’ll be wearing your daypack all day so it’s got to be comfortable. Look for features like padded straps and ventilated backs. I also like a small chest strap and a waist strap that help take the weight off my shoulders and re-distributes it into my hips.

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Sturdy pulls and zippers make getting in and out of your pack a snap.

External Pockets. My perfect daypack has plenty of external pockets for stashing last-minute items or things I need handy like pens, maps, notebooks.

I prefer a daybag that has a few external pockets that will allow me to have easy access to non-valuable items like notebooks, pens, maps, and other similar items. I especially like a pack that has a deep mesh external pocket that allows me to roll up and stash my latest copy of the NY Times of favorite magazine.

Deep, cinch-able water bottle pocket. I always carry water when I travel. The air on airplanes is notoriously dry and it’s important to stay hydrated to prevent getting colds and other ailments. It’s also better for the planet to carry your own water bottle than to constantly buy plastic water bottles.

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Deep, preferably chinch-able water/coffee coffee cup pockets are a must.

Many daypacks feature side water bottle pockets, but they’re often not deep enough and the water bottle falls out. Look for a daypack with one or two deep water bottle pockets, preferably one you with a cinch tie so you can secure the bottle. – Bobbie Hasselbring, Editor Realfoodtraveler.com

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Bobbie Hasselbring, RFT Editor

RFT co-founder Bobbie Hasselbring has been a travel junkie her entire life. An award-winning writer and editor for more than 25 years and author of the regional food-travel bestsellers, The Chocolate Lover’s Guide to the Pacific Northwest and The Chocolate Lover’s Guide Cookbook, Bobbie is editor-in-chief at realfoodtraveler.com.


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