Gear Review: Daypack

When it is cold outside, I find myself choosing shorter hikes, and shorter hikes mean I don’t have to lug around my sixty-five liter pack.  For these quick trips, I grab my Osprey Daylite Daypack.

  • Pros
    • Lightweight, weighing in at one pound.
    • Perfect size for a day hike.  Personally, I hate those middle-size packs (the ones around thirty/forty liters) because they are not big enough for a backpacking trip but they are too large for a day hike.  That’s why this pack is ideal.
    • It has a foam backpanel and then mesh over that so my back is comfortable and cool.
    • There’s a basic design here, which I love.  Companies are starting to do away with the ‘extras’ (extra pockets with extra zippers, extra straps, etc) because all of these additions equal weight.  This pack has a basic design — two zippers, two buckles — which means it is light.
    • Fits my three-liter hydration bladder perfectly.
    • Great multi-use pack: Because it is light and small, I often use it for purposes beyond hiking, such as my carry-on for flights.
  • Cons
    • I’ll be honest, the need for a daypack may be in the past due to companies designing large packs with removable top lids that can be converted into daypacks.  Because of this — if you are serious about getting into camping and/or backpacking — I’d go straight for a large pack because it may come with a removable lid.  By purchasing the large pack first, you may automatically get your daypack too, which means you will end up saving on money.
    • This pack’s side mesh pockets for drinks needs to be deeper.  My drinks fall out often when I set the pack down or make drastic movements.
    • The small front pocket is very small.  It can essentially fit my cellphone and a couple other tiny bits but that’s it.
  • Rating: IMG_2397IMG_2397IMG_2397 out of Five Vistas
    I feel a daypack should have two functions: One, be able to carry a minimal amount of gear and two, be able to carry drinks easily.  Because this pack scores low on carrying drinks in the sidepockets, it holds down the overall rating.
  • Tips when tracking down your own daypack
    • Remember, if you want to get into backpacking, check out larger packs and see if they have a removable top lid before purchasing a little day pack!
    • Short and sweet: Be sure the pack’s liter-size suits you.  Test it out and if you don’t like it, take it back.  Don’t grab those medium-sized packs for day hikes because all you’ll find it that it is extra weight and has unused space.
    • Determine what your priority is for a daypack — If it is having space to put layers you shed, be sure you have room to do that.  If it is storing drinks to hydrate yourself, be sure there is space for a hydration bladder and side pockets that are large enough to secure drinks.

Happy trails!

Huge Gear Testing News

Happy Friday, friends!

I am so excited about a bit of news I recently received that I couldn’t wait to share — I’m now Columbia’s newest gear tester!  I’ll be testing footwear for casual wear, hiking, and training.

I’ll keep you in the loop on when I put their products to the test!  Until then, here’s me saying I hope you have happy trails!


Oh, and PS — Please keep the votes coming each day for my story in the Appalachian Trail contestMy work is called “The Story That Probably Shouldn’t Be Told” and has a picture of Andy and me.  Just click that link to vote and feel free to share it with others!  Voting ends February 12!  Thanks to you I’m in third place so far!  Eeee!!!  *Sending internet hugs*

Gear Review: Base Layer

It is snowing outside, the type of itty-bitty flakes that make you question, make you squint and look at something dark to determine if there really is snow.  The snow, the winter season in general makes me have hiking fever where I find myself aimlessly traveling over hiking pictures in an effort to one-up the next hike I have planned.

When I first got into hiking, I started in the middle of July — the hottest month in Virginia.  I put my pack on and set off to the mountains at least two weekends every month.  People thought I was mad — “It’s stifling, way too hot,” they said.  “The humidity is so dense it is choking.”  And they weren’t wrong — It was hot, so hot I sweated in places I didn’t know a person could sweat but in the end, I didn’t think that was a reason to stop hiking.  Now that it is winter, I hear something similar — “It’s too cold,” people say.  “But it’s icy up there.”  And again, they aren’t wrong.  But why is that a reason to not go?

What I’m getting around to is that if you decide to hike in the middle of the coldest months of the year, hike smart and that starts with what you wear.  Dress in layers, making sure you put on an all-important base layer.  I’ve had different ones throughout the years — ones that date back as far as when they were called “long underwear” and “long johns” to the now super trendy “base layer.”  However, I can say with confidence, my all-time favorite is Smartwool’s Merino 250 Base Layer shirt and bottom.

  • Pros
    • Most important: Super warm.  I just got back from a hike where the frost was at least a good inch-thick on everything but I stayed toasty.  I wore this base layer then leggings on the bottom and a wool sweater under a down vest on top.  I’m always cold so for me to not be wearing my thickest winter coat outside and, instead, trusting my base layer — that says something.
    • All shirt and bottoms are 100% merino wool.  I’ve said it before, but merino wool is the best when it comes to hiking because it is soft, allows your skin to breathe, wicks away moisture, dries quickly, and prevents you feeling massive temperature changes.  It’s also anti-microbial (read: no odor in armpits during strenuous hikes).  Don’t be scared of wool: It isn’t overly hot and itchy.  Try it!
    • They are extremely soft, light, and comfortable.  I find myself wearing it around the house often and if I’m cold, it is under my clothes no matter where I’m headed — my parents’ house, work, doesn’t matter.  Plus, small details were not overlooked when they made the base layers — Take the bottom, for instance.  It fits snugly against me and doesn’t bunch; the waistband is sturdy and wide compared to others with flimsy, thin elastic.
    • Smartwool has a two-year warranty.  That means you don’t have to rush out to put it to the test and if you’re unhappy awhile later, return it.


  • Cons
    • Price: These are definitely an investment.  Depending on if you want a fancy pattern, you’re looking at $100 for each top then bottom.  Solids aren’t the much cheaper either at $95.
    • They do not offer different lengths.  My sister is tall — tall as in 5’11”-skinny-model tall — and she has trouble finding clothes because of her height.  These do not go past her ankles as they should, and that’s a shame because she would love them.


  • Rating: IMG_2397IMG_2397IMG_2397IMG_2397 out of Five VistasIMG_0907
  • Tips when tracking down your own base layer

    • There are different weights from ultralight to heavy so be sure to think about the temperatures you’re trekking off in.
    • Get wool.  Do not make the mistake of starting with cotton layers — Cotton does not wick away moisture so if and when you sweat, you’re going to stay wet.
    • If you’re thinking about a warm winter base layer, get the shirt that goes all the way down to your wrist and the bottom to your ankles.
    • Talking about the winter, get a snug fit.  It shouldn’t be loose — The further from your body, the more area there is to heat.  Saying that, don’t get it skin-tight either.

Happy trails!