Side straps, a top-loading lid, and other features can separate a day pack from the competition. LZF/SHUTTERSTOCK
Some day-pack features are worth the money; others less so. Here’s what to look for and what to skip:
Side straps are useful for lashing gear to the outside of your pack or for compressing an underfilled pack.
Bungee systems also let you attach gear to your pack’s exterior, but these tend to be less secure and lose their stretch over time.
A sternum strap clips across your chest and helps keep the shoulder straps in place. Some sternum clips feature an integrated whistle for hands-free access, a lifesaver if—worst-case scenario—you lose the use of both arms simultaneously.
A clip in the lid pocket on toploading packs secures your keys—the last thing you want to lose in the middle of a day hike.
In winter, you may want to lash crampons, ice axes, and/or skis to your pack without shredding the fabric. Look for thicker, tougher pack materials for these activities.
Equipped blogger Matt Heid is AMC's gear guru: He loves gear and he loves using it in the field. While researching several guidebooks, including AMC's Best Backpacking in New England, he has hiked thousands of miles across New England, California, and Alaska, among other wilderness destinations. He also cycles, climbs, and surfs.