I've been waiting for an opportunity to write this review of the new Exo Mountain Gear Daypack that came out this year (2016). I purchased the bag (only) when it first hit the website, but due to work schedules and summer craziness, I hadn't had the opportunity to exercise it until this past weekend. This daypack over delivered on my short adventure and I'm happy to say it is perfect for the backcountry hunter who may need to stay overnight in hopes of snagging that animal of a lifetime.
Before I dive into this post, let me just say that if you think this daypack lacks features and usability in comparison to the 3500 and 5500 from Exo - think again. It's more than capable of handling an overnighter and with proper planning and gear selection, you could probably stretch it out to two or three nights (yeah…I said it). Bottom line, the team at Exo Mountain Gear always tend to over deliver when it comes to what the bags are capable of holding. Case in point - the 3500 is really more like a 4500 cubic inch pack because they don't count the side compartments. Add in the stretch pockets and you have far more room than advertised.
Just like the promised volume of the 3500, the same goes with the 2016 Daypack. It's 2000 cubic inches in the main bag, but since it's a roll top you can probably add another 300-500 cubic inches of available volume to it and there is a back stretch pocket that can hold plenty of gear as well. Toss on the lid from the 3500 or 5500 packs and you have at least another 500 cubic inches of volume to play with (these are my own rough estimates…contact the guys at Exo for more accuracy). So now this "2000 cubic inch daypack" can actually function as a 3000 cubic inch pack with no problem at all. If you're not familiar with sizes of packs, 3000 cubic inches is perfect for 1-3 night bag with proper planning and gear selection.
I'll stop babbling and get on with it!
The Daypack Fits on Gen 1, 2, and 3 Exo Frames
True story. I have a Generation 1 pack from Exo and as advertised, it fits on there perfectly with no slop or any funny business going on. If you have any frame from Exo and want to save some money, just get the bag and you'll be in business. It's also worth mentioning that it's freakishly easy to change out bags for the mission you're headed out on.
It's a 2000 cubic inch bag, but that's for the main bag compartment ONLY. You have two stretch pockets on each side of the pack and a stretch pocket in the back. Remember you have a roll top that gives you additional volume too. This is why roll tops are so great! If your bag is full, it can handle it. If it's empty, you just keep rolling until it's tight and secure. No sloppy empty pack look?
Horse Shoe Zipper Access
The bag can be easily accessed without unrolling the top via a horse shoe zipper that is pretty dang functional. On the inside of it there is a mesh pocket for stowing gear you need easily accessible. Use it or don't use it, it's not going to get in your way.
Hidden Upper Zipper
This thing is sweet! With the top rolled down and secure, there is a fleece pocket that is accessible at the very top of the pack near the frame. It's a slick design and a perfect place to store fragile goods like a phone or sunglasses. The pocket is soft and rather large. It's just a nice feature to have available when you need it.
Side Stretch Pockets
Okay, here's the somewhat bad news if you're a fan of those awesome long pockets on the 3500 and 5500 bags. They don't exist on the Daypack but that's perfectly okay. It's a daypack and if they did exist you'd basically have the 3500…which is what you're trying to avoid with this design. What you do have is two side stretch pockets for stowing whatever it is you want to have in there (i.e. water bottle, knife, toiletries, headlamp, etc.). The only thing I don't like about these pockets is they're smaller than I'd prefer them to be. If I had it my way, I'd have them come up maybe a quarter of the way up the bag just to ensure everything is secure and to make them deeper, but again, that's just my opinion. They're still very useful and I wouldn’t want to do without them.
Internal Water Bladder Sleeve
Okay, I have to say this is the least favorite part of the pack, but that's because I hate putting my water bladder inside my pack. Nevertheless, for those of you who do, there is a sleeve that hangs on the inside for you to put your bladders in. Steve and Lenny might hate me for this, but I actually cut mine out because I'll never use it and it'll just get in the way. But, it's there if you like that kind of thing.
Roll Top Design
Here's the deal, roll tops are awesome because they provide you with additional volume if you need it. When you don't, they roll down nice and tight to keep everything clean and not so sloppy looking. I promise if you've never used a roll top bag, you need to try it.
The Bag Sits Flat!
Maybe this is just my bag, but I love that when it's full, it sits on the ground flat without falling over. For some reason, the 3500 I have doesn't do this. It always tips over on me when I set it down so when I filled up my pack this past weekend, I was glad to see it sat there nicely on the floor awaiting a ride on my back.
Plenty of straps to go around, but not too many. Side, back, and bottom. Nice and clean without being too much or too little.
Add the Lid for More Volume!
If you have a 3500 or 5500, you can add the lid for additional volume! This is what makes this pack capable of doing 1-3 days if packed properly. This seals the deal for me on how much I love this design.
As always, the CORDURA fabric the pack is made of (I'm assuming) is capable of taking a pounding. It's nice to know that when you are miles deep in the backcountry or busting through thick brush, this pack won't fail you. I plan on using this thing on all may day hunts and any overnighters.
The guys at Exo Mountain Gear always over deliver in my opinion. They are some humble for how incredible their designs are. I know not everyone will love their backpacks, but if you happen to pack and organize your gear the way they do, you'll love it. It has just enough features to do the job without being too much or too little of anything. At 4.5lbs, this pack isn't the lightest out there in its size class, but it's worth it. It's not too heavy and not too light in my opinion. I can't wait to get this thing out on the trail again in the coming weeks. My first outing with it provided a great opportunity to see what it can do and I think anyone who picks this pack up will be very please with it's performance.
Go where you've never been and stay safe out there!
Final, Final Thoughts
If you're wondering what I was able to get into my pack, here's my gear list from last weekend…
· 30-degree down sleeping bag from Sierra Designs
· Big Agnes Q-Core sleeping pad
· MSR Reactor 1-liter stove
· Snow Peak coffee cup
· Kuiu Teton Rain Gear top and bottom
· Sleeping kit - base layer top and bottom, hygiene kit, wool gloves, watch cap
· Seek Outside Redcliff Tent (this thing is huge…I packed it into a Kifaru pullout bag and stuffed it inside the main bag of the Daypack. It's about 4 lbs. and the size of a small-ish pillow when stuffed)
· Ground tarp for one person
· Extra 2 Liter Platypus bag (inside the main bag on top)
· Down puffy jacket
· Small First aid kit
· Camp shoes (strapped to the outside)
o Two 1-gallon zip lock bags full of food for lunch, dinner, and breakfast, with snacks
· Sawyer Mini water filter (inside in the mesh pocket)
o Fingerless gloves
o Small hand ax (outside the pack in a stretch pocket)
o Small flexible tripod (side pocket)
o Olympus OMD-EM 5 in waist belt attachment