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Day Pack Reviews: The Roundup
July 13, 2008 07:31 PM

Outside of avid hikers and dedicated military personnel the depth of thought that goes into most people’s daily carry backpacks is, “Hey, this one’s on sale!” The cycle rolls on from year to year replacing our old and worn out packs with a new one, and commonly not the same model as our previous one. Shortly after our new pack purchase the ominous signs of end-of-life are readily apparent, worn zipper pulls, frayed material, and various seam rips can be found all over. The question was, buried beneath the pile of ubiquitous “on-sale” backpacks did rugged and well thought out packs exist?

My quest led me to see if makers of high end enthusiast and professional backpacks offered anything for the average Joe. The companies were The North Face, High Sierra, Camelbak, and Tactical Tailor. The North Face has been making rugged outdoors enthusiast products for decades and seemed like a good place to start. High Sierra is another classic outdoors company that routinely provides packs and bags to professionals requiring ruggedness and function. The innovative Camelbak has always been there for the sportsman with their hydration system. Their packs are not only outdoors qualified, but battle proven around the world. The last company, Tactical Tailor is a smaller company than the others, but is known exceptionally well in military and government circles for their tough gear.

The Packs
Extreme Every Day Packs Lineup

Starting from the left to the right we have: The North Face: Recon, Camelbak: Urban Assault, Camelbak: Urban Assault XL, High Sierra: Grid, and Tactical Tailor: Enhanced Day Pack

Testing Method
The standard/control for this pack comparison is going to be the Recon backpack from The North Face. The Recon is an extremely popular backpack and has many great qualities. While not as obviously rugged as our other models, we felt it would display the differences between a more mainstream backpack and our overbuilt rugged packs.

Grading is based on a few different criteria on a scale of 1-10:

  • Construction: Many cheap backpacks are constructed “just good enough” and the poor effort put into them shows. Blown seams, ripped stitches, as well as inferior materials can all lead to many annoyances in a backpack. We’ve taken a look at the materials used in the construction of our test packs, how durable the stitching is, down to the brands of the zippers.
  • Design: All of our test packs had to meet a few criteria to be included in our tests. Since we are a tech blog, every pack had to accommodate a laptop. Along with the laptop compatibility we graded these packs on how well they stored your everyday gadgets such as mp3 players and phones.
  • Comfort: One of the most commonly overlooked part of a backpack is how comfortable it really is. Seeing as it’s difficult to load up a backpack at a store this often taken for granted. We tested the ability of our packs to stay comfortable with both average light and heavy loads. Thanks to special correspondent Lauren Steussy we were also able to include any comfort/fit differences for women.
  • Price/value: You can have the best pack in the world, but if it’s priced too high what difference does it make? Each pack will be graded on just how much it’s worth the price as well.

The Round-Up
Well here we are at the end of our journey and ready for the judges. Grading is based on a 1-10 scale. Here’s what the scale denotes:

  • 1 – poor
  • 2 – not great
  • 5 – average
  • 9 – excellent
  • 10 – perfect

The Northface Recon
This pack exhibited much user friendliness. While not the best in utility due to the smaller size, for what it will carry the trip will be a comfortable one. With a price of $79, good design, moderate construction, and excellent comfort the Recon deserves respectable marks.

  • Construction: 6
  • Design: 7
  • Comfort: 9
  • Value: 6
  • Overall: 28

High Sierra Grid
The Grid can easily be summed up as a well-rounded pack. With good looks, a good amount of pockets, and a comfortable fit the Grid was a pleasure to use. The construction of this pack is a bit disappointing, so if you need something near bomb-proof unfortunately the Grid will have to pass. For a light-weight pack at only $70, the Grid is a favorite.

  • Construction: 5
  • Design: 7
  • Comfort: 8
  • Value: 7
  • Overall: 27

Tactical Tailor Enhanced Day Pack
The Tactical Tailor Enhanced Day Pack exceeded everyone’s expectations and came out the leader of the pack with ease. With a simple, yet functional design, extreme comfort, near bomb-proof construction, and plenty of cargo room the Enhanced Day Pack is a near-perfect buy at $97.75 for anyone looking for a pack.

  • Construction: 9
  • Design: 8
  • Comfort 9
  • Value: 8
  • Overall: 34

Camelbak Urban Assault
The Urban Assault is the most ferocious and action packed pack in our lineup. With many pockets and hidden features to impress, the potential utility of this pack is mammoth. If you’re looking for a pack that can carry a good deal and is average sized the Urban Assault ready for your mission, but at the price of $159.

  • Construction: 7
  • Design: 7
  • Comfort: 4
  • Value: 5
  • Overall: 23

Camelbak Urban Assault XL
This behemoth of a pack is sure to carry whatever you need. Armed with large pockets, and secure connections you can count on this pack should you need to go out for a few days. Don’t underestimate what you can stash in this pack, but be prepared to feel it at the end of the day. The large offerings of this pack come at a large price of $179.

  • Construction: 7
  • Design: 7
  • Comfort: 4
  • Value: 5
  • Overall: 23
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