After using the same daypack for approximately 10 years, it was time for a new one. On my old day pack, the elastic on the side pockets had worn out, so every time I bent over, my water bottles would fall out and it was larger than what I really needed. I also learned a few things from experience that I wanted to change. I wanted a smaller capacity for day hikes because I don’t carry much more than the essentials, and I wanted a brighter color to be seen off trail in the fall/winter when I do most of my hiking. I REALLY like a bargain, too!
After much Internet surfing, I finally selected the ALPS Mountaineering Baja 20 pack in “Chili/Gray”. It checked off a LOT of my wants. It features include an internal frame, 20 Liter gear capacity, relatively light at 2 pounds, hip belt, suspended mesh back panel (BONUS!!!), a couple of pockets, an integrated rain cover that I’ll never use, it is NOT a neutral color, and is reservoir compatible.
The regular price was $139.99, but I bought it for $84 (on sale and I had a coupon) back in November of 2022 (about 3 months ago) from REI. https://www.rei.com/rei-garage/product/151561/alps-mountaineering-baja-20-pack
I have used this pack on a couple of short day hikes with a total distance of around 20 miles. Overall, I have no complaints so for. One of the biggest differences is that I had to change is my water system. When I’m using my overnight pack (ULA Ohm 2.0), my side pockets sit low enough I can reach my water bottles in the side pockets on either side without assistance. I prefer having two 1 Liter bottles because I think it’s easier to monitor water consumption, and I can put a drink mix (electrolytes) in one of them. This pack does have side pockets, but they sit VERY high, and I could never get a water bottle out on my own. The other reason I carry a 2L water bladder is that it’s a requirement for the Alabama Make-A-Wish Trailblaze Challenge (https://secure2.wish.org/site/TR?fr_id=4503&pg=entry).
Other than the change in water system (which IS growing on me), I really like this pack. It is very light and suspended mesh back panel is very comfortable. The hip belt is small (1 inch webbing), and doesn’t have pockets, but it is very comfortable for the weight (10 pounds or less) I am carrying on day hikes. Instead of using hip belt pockets, I use my Thrupack by Summit Bum to store snacks, my phone, chap stick, and any other items I need to get quickly without stopping. I have used the Thrupack by Summit Bum for the past few years, and I really like it. Here’s my review: (https://jnunniv.wordpress.com/2020/03/20/initial-impressions-of-the-thrupack-summit-bum-pocket/)
Picture: Body side
This is my pack fully loaded for a typical day hike in the 10-mile range. I don’t carry much. I’ll cover what I carry as I go through the review. I REALLY like the color. While it isn’t “Hunter Orange” it is in the same family of colors, and I can be easily seen and not mistaken for a deer or other wildlife as I hike typically in the Fall and Winter months.
Picture: Back side
One of the things I ALWAYS carry is what I call my “poop kit”. It consists of a trowel (http://www.thetentlab.com/Deuce/number2.html) and a waterproof bag that contains wipes and a small bag of hand sanitizer. I keep it stored on the outside of my pack, so it is easily accessible when needed.
Picture: Small outside pocket
This pack does have side pockets for water bottles, but they sit very high and unless you are VERY limber, you will not be able to access them by yourself without taking off your pack. This is another reason I’m using a water bladder. Since I am doing hike support this year, I carry an extra water bottle in each side pocket in case I come across someone that needs additional water.
Picture: water bottle
One of the only “real” pockets on this pack is on the top of the pack. I usually keep my rain jacket in here – even if it isn’t going to rain. I’ve used this jacket as a windbreaker (dual purpose). At 6.2 oz, I ALWAYS bring it. I’ve done a review of this jacket, and did I mention I wanted the ability to be seen since I do a lot of solo hiking? (https://jnunniv.wordpress.com/2019/09/10/lightheart-gear-rain-jacket-initial-impression/). The other thing in the top pocket that I use is a clip for my truck keys.
Picture: Top pocket
The main compartment is plenty big enough for day hike. I don’t think it would be big enough for even the most ultralight overnight trip – at least not with the gear I have! The water bladder does bubble out when full which gives you an empty area at the bottom and top of the pack. On a typical day hike, I won’t have much in here other than maybe an additional layer I discarded as it warms up and my water filter (https://wordpress.com/post/jnunniv.wordpress.com/1980) in the bottom if I think I may use more than 2 Liters of water.
Picture: Inside main compartment
The pack does have a pocket on the very bottom of the pack. It contains an integrated rain shell. I’ll probably NEVER use it because everything I take on a day hike can get wet. I currently use it to store my First Aid Kit where it is accessible, but out of the way.
Picture: Bottom Pocket
This is me wearing the pack with a full 2-liter water bladder, a water bottle in each side pocket, and my rain jacket/wind breaker in the top pocket. For reference, I am about 5’10” and weight 220 (and hopefully less soon), but it will give you an idea how the pack fits.
Overall, I really like this pack. It carries what I need comfortably, and I have no issues or suggestions for improvement.