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How to Buy a Great Daypack

These packs pull double duty. Each can be a book bag by weekday and hiking pack by weekend. Check out seven of our favorite daypacks as you prepare to head back to school.

THE LOWDOWN

If you want to use your daypack for hiking, you’ll want a traditional backpack-style pack. There are several other types of school bags, such as messenger bags, sling bags and roller bags, but these don’t work very well on the trail.

The Osprey Talon 22 ($110, ospreypacks.com) soars above your average book bag with its adjustable harness, stabilizing suspension and ventilating back panel that will keep you comfortable carrying up to 20 pounds for hours. Storage is plentiful; the pack has a separate, zippered inner sleeve for a hydration bladder; and it even has attachments for trekking poles or a bike helmet. Available in two sizes. 1 lb. 5 oz., 1,220 cubic inches

COMFORT

Sure, a cool looking pack is, well, cool — but comfort must be your No. 1 concern. Bottom line: books are heavy. You want a backpack with padded shoulder straps, a padded back panel and maybe even a hip belt and sternum strap, which help you carry heavy loads easier. Look for adjustable straps that accommodate bigger or smaller body frames and fit well on your back and shoulders.

Try it on. Make sure the bag doesn’t ride up toward your shoulders or sag down in the back. It should sit comfortably in the small of your back.

While it is designed for hiking, the Exped Skyline 15 ($130, exped.com) transforms into an awesome book bag capable of carrying up to 25 pounds. The pack’s one-of-a-kind suspension system can go between “stability” mode (with a back-hugging fit) or “ventilation” mode (with a breathable, trampoline-style back panel) with the flip of a switch. It also comes with a detachable rain cover. 2 lbs. 5 oz., 1,318 cubic inches

SIZE

Take a quick inventory of the things you’ll be carrying on most days. Will everything fit inside the pack? And do you have extra room for gym clothes and things you might carry occasionally, like snow boots or your bicycle helmet?

Check the tag, too. The amount of stuff a pack can carry is measured in liters or cubic inches. Be sure to measure the width of your school locker to make sure the bag will fit inside.

For hiking, look for a daypack that has a large capacity (at least 1,500 cubic inches) and perhaps room for a hydration bladder.

The main compartment of the Camelbak Scout ($60, camelbak.com), sized for younger guys, will swallow books or a jacket, plus its five external pockets help keep track of smaller belongings. The pack also comes with the durable, easy-to-refill 1.5-liter Crux bladder, which has an on/off lever to prevent dripping. 14 oz., 600 cubic inches

FEATURES

Some guys prefer bags with one big bin-style compartment, while others like plenty of pockets, dividers and holders to keep their stuff organized. Look for handy extras like a cellphone holster, key holder, fleece-lined sunglasses pockets and ports for your headphones.

A laptop sleeve at the back of the bag can be a nice feature for some people. That way you don’t have to search through your bag and figure out what your laptop is stuck on when you’re trying to pull it out.

The Granite Gear Verendrye ($80, granitegear.com) looks like a sleek trail pack, but it is designed with smart features that make it an excellent book bag, such as a whopping 38 liters of capacity, a padded hip belt that can be tucked away when not in use, a 17-inch laptop sleeve, a water-resistent stash pocket to keep your tech gear from getting damaged and more. 2 lbs. 13 oz., 2,380 cubic inches

DURABILITY

A quality pack should last long past your high school graduation. Look for bags with sturdy reinforced bottoms and load-bearing seams lined with binding tape. If you live where it rains a lot, get a water-resistant pack.

And never underestimate the need for heavy-duty zippers. Thick zippers help keep your bag closed when it’s packed really tight. The straps and buckles need to be strong, too, for those days when the bag is full.

The Boy Scout Day Pack’s ($30, scoutstuff.org) bright red, heavy-duty 420-denier fabric makes you easy to spot in crowded hallways or on the trail. Its simple design and quick-grab water bottle side pockets make it great to carry on short hikes with friends. 1 lb., 1,685 cubic inches

OTHER ACTIVITIES

If you plan to use your backpack for more than just hauling your homework back and forth from school, look for a pack designed with other activities in mind. For instance, if you love skateboarding consider a pack with a skate keeper.

The Jansport Hatchet ($60, jansport.com) is built to protect electronics, books and other stuff. The pack’s internal sleeve can hold either a 15-inch laptop or a 3-liter water bladder. Made with durable 600-denier polyester, it’ll last years. 1 lb. 6 oz., 1,710 cubic inches

The Gregory Salvo 28 ($129, gregorypacks.com) can shoulder gear for an all-day hike or to and from soccer practice. The pack’s suspension has more support than you’ll find in many daypacks, courtesy of a steel perimeter frame with an aluminum-leaf spring. Well-padded foam shoulder straps and a wide hip belt add superior cushioning for carrying up to 20 pounds. 2 lbs. 7 oz., 1,708 cubic inches

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