I'm looking for a lightweight, water-resistant, secure, and organization-friendly pack., basically what I would call my weekend pack. I'd like to have enough space for some food, water (hydration sleeve a plus), backup clothes, and all the gadgets we love so much (i.e. cell phone, iPod, GPS, headlp, etc.). Any help you can provide would be greatly appreciated. Chris Royal Palm Beach, FL
Yeah, I know what you mean. I have a pack like that that I always have ready to go for quick evening hikes and that sort of thing. You want it to always have the basics, with room to toss in mission-specific items (Frisbee, wine bottle, blanket).
Spec-wise, you want a pack with about 1,200 to 1,600 cubic inches of capacity. Extra pockets for storage, and lots of straps and tie-downs are a plus. I am neutral on the hydration sleeve. I think it much easier to stuff a water bottle into a side pocket.
My own weekend pack is a Gregory Z22 ($108, but check REI for a closeout price). Nice little pack, with 1,312 cubic inches of space in medium, excellent suspension, packs easily, has lots of little pockets and pouches and tie-ons for extra stuff, and has two hydration ports.
Another good, small, do-it-all pack is Ospreys Talon 22 ($99). About 1,200 cubic inches, and like the Z22 it has lots of cubbies and pouches for stashing stuff (such as cell phone pocket in shoulder straps).
For something a bit larger, but also more affordable, take a look at REIs Flash 30 ($79). It has 1,800 inches of capacity, and is still compact, but with a bit more packing flexibility than a smaller pack. Nice clean design with just enough outside pockets and bungee cords, and a full-cover top lid so you can really jam stuff in there and yank the strap tightly, if need be. Well made, too.
I will say, none of these packs is water-tight. Its just too expensive in terms of materials and construction to hit that bar. A small rain cover from REI is $20thats a cost-effective solution.