day pack backpacking Outside Magazine gear
sunlight (Photo: Vernon Wiley/Thinkstock)
Gear Guy

What Gear Do I Need in My Daypack?

day pack backpacking Outside Magazine gear

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When you have only the weekend to get outside and play, it helps to have an adventure-ready daypack prepacked and ready to go. Think of it as your bug-out bag, but instead of fleeing an impending apocalypse, you’re escaping from the tedium of your workweek.

So whether you’re going to the beach, a music festival, or on a hike, these 10 essentials will get you through any everyday adventure.

Mountainsmith Red Rock 25 Daypack ($80)

| (Mountainsmith)

This pack’s mesh back panel is amazingly breathable when you’re moving. Couple that with Mountainsmith’s plush shoulder straps, and you have a pack that’s comfortable to wear for hours. The hip belt is removable, so you can either cinch it down when you need the extra support or ditch the extra material during travel.

Hydropak 500 SoftFlask ($20)

| (Hydropak)

The 16-ounce Soft Flask packs down to about the size of its lid when empty. Even if you travel with a larger bottle, it’s nice to have an extra vessel in your pack for long hikes without a water source.

Spy Fold Sunglasses ($140)

| (Spy)

I’ve traveled the world with a pair of these shades, which fold down to the size of a pedometer. Spy’s Happy Lenses excel at showing subtle changes in terrain—making them perfect for flat-light skiing or fly-fishing. The Fold’s boxy shape makes them casual enough to work as my everyday sunglasses.

Freewaters Scamp Sandals ($40)

| (Freewaters)

Stash sandals in a weekend pack so you can let your feet breathe while traveling or hanging out at base camp. Freewater’s Scamp sandals were my go-to kicks at camp after kayaking this summer. The ridged Therm-a-Rest footbeds feel like they’re massaging your feet, and the lightweight sandals dry very quickly.

Kind Bars ($1.39)

| (Kind)

Kind Bars have everything I look for in a snack bar: a short list of all-natural ingredients, enough calories to help me keep going if I skip a meal, and a sweet and savory taste that goes down easily as dessert or breakfast. I’m partial to the almond and apricot flavor.

Beyond Coastal Active Face Stick ($7)

| (Beyond Coastal)

This sunscreen from Beyond Coastal uses natural ingredients such as coconut oil and beeswax. The result: a face-stick formula that’s easy to apply and stays with you for hours in the mountains. Bonus: Because it goes on thick, it also prevents windburn.

Smartwool Men’s NTS Micro 150 Pattern Boxer Brief ($50)

| (Smartwool)

You can get away with one pair of shorts or pants on a weekend—as long as you can change out your boxers. Go with high-quality merino wool underwear that naturally mitigates stink when you’re traveling. I like Smartwool’s NTS Micro Pattern Boxer Brief because the flatlock seams prevent chafing and the fabric quickly wicks away sweat. The company also makes a NTS Micro 150 Bikini for women. 

Feetures Elite Merino+ Ultra Light Quarter Socks ($15)

| (Feetures)

It never hurts to throw an extra pair of socks in your bag, and once again, we recommend merino for its odor resistance and wicking abilities. I recommend Feetures Elite Merino+ Ultra Light Quarter socks, which are still hole-free after hundreds of miles of use.

Princeton Tec Sync Headlamp ($30)

| (Princeton Tec)

An inexpensive, reliable headlamp like the Princeton Tec Sync is an adventure necessity. I particularly like the Sync because it has a dial, not a button, on the side that lets you toggle between the light’s four modes. I found this toggle extremely easy to use, even with gloves on—no fumbling with the headlamp to switch from a red LED to a bright stream of light.

Lighter Wrapped with Duct Tape ($1)

| (REI/Pinterest)

This is probably the most versatile—and least expensive—adventure tool out there. You can use it to light fires, fix your gear, and wrap your wounds.

Lead Photo: Vernon Wiley/Thinkstock

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