Give me a light, packable backpack any day. I've never seen the point of the big ones for ordinary travelers. Why travel bent under a pack the size of a small European car? We've all seen the backpacker, nearly folded in half under the weight of an entire bedroom closet, wiping out innocent bystanders as while lumbering along to catch a plane, bus or train. But small, packable daypacks are ideal for sightseeing, day hikes and cycle rides. Tuck in a map or guidebook, a bottle of water, money, keys and snacks and, as they say over here, Bob's your uncle.
Here are some I've seen recently that I like.
This is a super lightweight pack with a lot of features. It weighs only 15 oz. and can easily be flattened to pack in your luggage. The padding on the back of the bag and the adjustable, non slip straps make it quite comfortable and it's lined in silver - so you won't lose small items in the interior blackness.
Don't expect to pack a bedroll and all your foul weather gear. But you can easily free your hands for taking pictures and carry enough supplies for a day long hike up Mount Snowdon.
Best Feature: Lots of organizational pockets inside.
The makers of this pack call it the Fort Knox of backpacks. It is slash-proof, snatch-proof and tamperproof, with a layer of steel mesh between two nylon layers making it impossible to cut open. The shoulder strap is reinforced with wire steel mesh as well. It comes with a separate, removable compartment for your laptop or papers and has outside compartments for an organizer and a bottle of water. This pack's security features make it ideal for staying hostels, camping barns and other non-secure, group accommodations.
Best Feature: A "lock and leave", removable interlocking mesh cage and cable system is like a portable room safe. It locks shut and then locks to a secure fixture - in a room or car.
Small, lightweight backpack - in a range of unisex colors - adds almost no weight to your luggage. Once you arrive, use it for day walking, short hikes, sightseeing, or carrying a bit of extra shopping.
Best Feature: Remarkably sturdy for its size and weight.
A sturdy, full size backpack that packs into its own 6 x 8 inch pouch. Yet shake it open and you can pack a picnic for two, with wine, a camera, a journal and a rain jacket - and still have some room for your wallet or a few cosmetics. It's ripstop nylon and has a front zippered pocket, side mesh water bottle pocket and - amazing considering its size when folded - lightly padded straps.
Best Feature Lockable, double zippers on the main compartment.
Another of Magellan's slash proof packs, this one is a little bit bigger so you can stuff in a change of clothes if you have to. The outside is soft microfiber, concealing the steel mesh reinforcement of sides and bottom. The straps are also slash proof and strong enough to be anchored to a secure fixture in your room or car. The main compartment has a contrasting lining for visibility and several small pockets so you won't misplace your PDA, hone, MP3 player and digital camera. The front, foldover flap and the main compartment close with tamperproof zippers.
Best Feature: A headphone port allows you to listen to music or chat on the phone while you are on the move, rain or shine.
Light but heavy duty, this daypack pack also comes in a rolling version. You can't really pack it in your luggage, but it makes a very generously sized carry-on bag. After you arrive, it doubles as a useful, capacious pack for longer hikes (stuff in some dry socks and a change of clothes) or serious shopping expeditions. It's made of sturdy ballistic fabric with heavy duty, black hardware and is fully lined. The main compartment is roomy and so are several exterior and interior pockets. The back and shoulder straps are padded for extra comfort.
Best Feature: I like the chunky, square-ish shape, which rests nicely on your back.