This is another guest post by our good friend and Practical Hacks contributor Berg.  In her latest post, she takes a close look at the Sea-to-Summit Daypack:

 

The Pros: Compressible, low-profile, lightweight, quality materials, fairly water-resistant

The Cons: No structure, only one pocket, not fully waterproof

The Verdict: A tough, featherweight bag that takes a licking and keeps on…zipping

The STS Daypack is made of siliconized Cordura nylon, comes with sturdy YKK zippers, and, when scrunched into its own storage pocket, can fit into your palm.  It can carry 20L (1220 cu in) of gear and weighs a mere 2.4 ounces.

I recently put this bag through its paces on a whirlwind trip across Switzerland, Germany, and France.  It accompanied me on planes, trains, buses, boats, cars, and even a gondola, and doubled as a personal item (stuffed with chocolate, of course) on the way home.  Furthermore, it kept my camera surprisingly dry during an absolute downpour in Tübingen.   If there is a downside to the Cordura, it’s that it isn’t all that breathable.  Expect your shoulders and back to be wet if it’s hot out.

The backpack feels (and looks) flimsy, but, structure aside, it’s anything but.  I had every random piece of travel gear shoved into it at some point (pens, notebooks, clothes, souvenirs), and it never showed signed of tearing, wear, or stress.  The straps, which are simply strips of Cordura nylon, do well even under heavier weight.  They tend to spread out and not roll in on themselves, which actually distributes the load more evenly over the shoulders.

Know that whatever you pack in this bag will not be where you put it when you go to retrieve it.  There’s only one main pocket, and unless you have a magazine in the back for structure, the contents will probably shift around however they please while you’re carrying them.   However, what items you do have in the bag will at least fall consistently downward, which helps give the bag a slimmer profile.  And despite carrying some bulkier items, I never had a real problem with anything poking me in the back.  I recommend rolling up a shirt or sweater at the bottom of the bag if you plan on carrying a camera or anything breakable; that way, when you inevitably drop the bag on the ground, it won’t be accompanied by a horrifying “crunch”.

I do wish the bag had one, smaller pocket, just to save time finding the essentials without digging through the whole compartment.  But considering how much you can actually fit in this bag, I guess it’s hard to complain.

Lastly, this bag might even help you make friends!  On a train crammed with Japanese tourists traveling up the side of a Swiss mountain, one lady noticed that we had the same bag.  She and her friends met this discovery with great enthusiasm, and a “conversation” soon followed with lots of hand gestures, broken Japanese (on my part), and a little English (on theirs).  If anything, it made the trip more entertaining.  Hopefully it’s not imprudent of me to point out that most Japanese travelers I’ve come across tend to buy very high-quality gear.  So if one of them thought this little STS bag was just as good as the Deuters and Mountain Hardwares used by their companions, well… what maybe that’s a nice little less-is-more endorsement right there.

The Sea-to-Summit Daypack sells for $29.95 at REI and other outdoor gear retailers.  See it here:  Sea-to-Summit Daypack

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8 Comments on Review: Sea-to-Summit Daypack

  1. Adriano says:

    One question: how strong is it? Is it strong enough?

    [Reply]

    Berg Reply:

    Is it strong enough for what? Can you be more specific?

    I wouldn’t recommend carrying concrete or a small child in one, if that helps.
    I’d say 5-8 lbs would be pushing the comfort level.

    [Reply]

    Kevin Reply:

    :-)

    [Reply]

  2. Adriano says:

    Yes, I think 3.5 kilos (i.e. 8 pounds ;-) ) are enough.
    My other doubt was about tear resistance against edged objects… Have you tested it against this?
    Thanks!

    [Reply]

    Berg Reply:

    No, not specifically. I did have edged items in the bag, and it never tore or even started to tear. I think you could probably cut through the bag with a knife if you wanted (won’t be testing that, sorry ;), but in my experience with Cordura, even if it does tear, the material is designed to resist *further* tearing.

    Will the bag last on a trip around the world? Depends what you put in it and where you go. If I can do a specific stress test for you I’d be happy to try.

    [Reply]

    Adriano Reply:

    Thank you for the reply. There is no need to further test it – Mine was just curiosity. Actually I have already found another solution: Orbit 20 by Ande, an Italian company.
    It is not keychain sized, but it has two pockets in the cover and an inside smaller pocket. There are two layers of fabric, so it seems to be quite sturdy. Moreover, there are two bottle holders outside and waist belt!
    Downsides: the inner waterproof cover has slightly peeled off… It looks a bit too mountain style. And I haven’t tested it in rainy weather.
    You can find it here:

    http://www.ande.it/ande/docs/WB-outdoor-2012.pdf

    page 39.

    [Reply]

  3. Michael W. says:

    For something more rugged, but also a lot bulkier (it’s not a keychain pack), take a look at the REI Flash 18. It has continued to impress me over 2 re-designs. You can’t beat the price, also under $30.

    For a little more dough you can get xpac from cilogear. I have this pack: http://www.cilogear.com/20lws.html and it is really quite nice. Only 10 ounces. Once again it isn’t a “key chain pack” and the remarkably small key chain size of the bag Berg used so successfully is amazing (I considered the Sea to Summit when I got my Flash 18 – current edition – but wanted something more substantial).

    Finally, if you are willing to go into the 16 oz. or so range, I find the Rickshaw Mini Zero gives an amazing benefits to weight return. Rickshaw Bagworks, Mini Zero.

    When I am overseas (SE Asia) I like to carry either a Rickshaw Bagworks as an everyday carry bag, or a daypack. Since I have a lot of daypacks, I rotate among them and we all have our favorites. For messenger style carry, it is really hard to beat the Rickshaw since they are so light. If I am stopping at a 7-11 to buy a quart of milk and some water and smaller stuff, I carry an REI re-usable shopping bag which is under a dollar or maybe a couple of dollars and has dual handles, one set for hand carry (shorter) and a longer set for shoulder carry. It is cheap & light.

    I applaud Berg for going above and beyond the call of duty by really pushing this ultra light, key chain, emergency day pack to the limit by using it as her everyday bag! Now we know – they ARE tough.

    [Reply]

    Kevin Reply:

    Michael,

    Good to hear from you; thanks for another of your (always insightful) comments.

    kc

    [Reply]

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