I never carry a day pack when I travel long-term; I wear cargo trousers with capacious pockets. They must be big enough to accommodate a Lonely Planet Shoestring Guide, my notebook & pen, camera, sunglasses, small-denomination currency and a can of hawker-repellent. An unwieldy day pack is just another thing to carry, lose or be relieved of during a moment’s inattention buying bus tickets. Plus, with a full pack on your back the extraneous luggage must be slung around the front like an unwanted pregnancy – a style favoured by balance fetishists and American gap-year students ‘doing’ Europe by rail.
Enter Sea to Summit’s revolutionary Ultra-Sil Day Pack, made from siliconised Cordura – a weightless yet strong material that packs down to the size of a Black Panther’s fist. It can be stored in a disused corner of your main pack like a forgotten Ziploc bag of ganja but without the accompanying body cavity search that that generally entails. Just bring it forth on day hikes, shopping expeditions or particularly ‘big bag’ days – days when, despite your best efforts, everything that fitted in nicely when you arrived in town has expanded to produce an inexplicable surplus of t-shirts, books and that mosquito net that you’ve carried for three months and never used.
An extra 20 litres of space weighing only 68 grams is not to be sniffed at, but the product isn’t perfect – the thin-gauge shoulder straps dig in if overloaded and the material will only take so much rough treatment before starting to abrade. I somehow don’t think it would survive two days strapped to the side of a jeep bumping through the deserts of north Sudan. However, its usefulness easily outweighs these minor quibbles. Also in the Ultra-Sil range are a shopping bag, dry day pack, sling bag and duffel bag.
The latter, at 40 litres, is conceivably large enough for the entire luggage of a super-light packer. I once travelled with a Swedish guy who had literally the following things: a sleeveless black t-shirt, a long-sleeved black jumper, some long black trousers, some black shorts, a pair of flip-flops (black), swimming shorts, a sarong, a sewing kit, undies and toiletries. He carried all this in a scuffed daypack for his months-long trip, judging by the time-honoured ‘smell-test’ whether or not a piece of clothing was due some sink time. Naturally the rest of our impromptu band, laden with 60 and 70 litre packs, took every opportunity to ridicule Josef with regard to his limited wardrobe, until one dark night we disembarked a ferry on a remote volcanic island. We were a good 10km from the nearest habitation a light drizzle was falling. Heaving a fatalistic sigh and shouldering our loads, we set off to walk along the rough track. It was mere minutes before a cheerful Stockholm accent piped up: “So, guys, let’s talk about our packs. Mine’s feeling pretty goood”.