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How to Select the Right Sized Day Pack

et’s begin with short hikes -- We define short hikes as 3 miles or less, 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Hydration – About 1 liter is the least water we ever carry. Even on a short hike, nothing can ruin your day quicker than thirst. Essentials – Required items for these hikes are limited. We always take an energy bar and some GU, some toilet paper and a small camera. I also carry at least some of the ten essentials listed below because they are always in my packs.

Just about any daypack will work here as long as you can carry some water and food. The Gregory Wasatch 12, Womens Freia 14 or Fury 16 offer adequate space to grow to the next hike level. Each pack has exterior water bottle holders and a sleeve inside the pack for a hydration pack. For easy hikes on the beaten track I might even use my Mountainsmith Tour lumbar pack.Weighing around one pound each, you’ll have more than adequate room for extra food or a place to put the layer you need to stash.

Mid length hikes – 3 to 10 miles depending on terrain and trail conditions. 1 1/2 to 4 hours hiking time.

Gregory Freia 22
Gregory Freia 22

Depending on how much gear you like to carry, you could use the Gregory Womens Freia 22 , Fury 22, Miwok 22, or the Osprey Stratos 24 . You might want to or graduate up to a 28-38 liter pack like the Osprey Kestrel or Gregory Savant 38.

Hydration – About 1/2 liter per mile or 1 liter per hour is considered typical. Water consumption varies with conditions and users. At 8.3 lbs per gallon, water is a heavy and bulky part of your load. Using a bladder system like the Osprey HydraForm Reservoir can help distribute the load and make drinking more convenient.

If water supplies will be available along the trail, water filters like the MSR Hyperflow or filter bottles like the Katadyn My Bottle filter are options to reduce carry weight and space used for hydration.

Ten Essentials and more:- We carry the AMK Ultralight Waterproof .3 Medical Kit, Toilet Paper. Food and carbs to account for calorie burn rates of 400 – 600 per hour. I always carry some Gu for that little pick me up that I need sometimes on long day hikes. I always carry safety equipment including a Storm Whistle, Coghlans signal mirror, Storm Matches by Proforce in a waterproof container, SOL Emergency Bivy or Blanket. Longer hikes require some form of navigation. A trail map and Silva Starter compass are the minimum. Light weight raingear like my Marmot Precip jacket can easily stash in a corner of your pack, and a lightweight Patagonia capilene 2 or Capeline 3 baselayer might be a good idea depending on the season. Sunscreen is a must. A 2 oz tube of Dermatone 23 works for me and I always take my Maxx sunglasses too.

Having a 2 oz tube of Ultrathon lotion with 34.34% Deet can save the day when the bugs are really bugging you.

Beyond the minimums, you can choose to bring along some comfort items. On long day hikes, my wife and I enjoy a cup of coffee or cocoa. I can either carry a small stove like the MSR Pocketrocket, or my Jetboil stove with a coffee press. A couple of small cups and we're set for our mid-day caffeine break.

The best advice we can give is, be prepared and make each adventure your own!


Jim Broshears was born and raised in Northern California and has enjoyed the great outdoors in the State of Jefferson for over 50 years. Jim worked as a firefighter for 35 years and currently owns and manages Trailhead Adventures, an outdoor outfitter store in Paradise CA. Helping others enjoy the beauty of our amazing area is his passion. Jim co-manages a blog, that is dedicated to providing information about hiking and backpacking gear, local adventures and tips on outdoor safety and survival.


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