Back in February of this year, the times were a bit different for me.
A book I wrote recently published, I had an opportunity to instruct some NOLS classes potentially, I signed up with the most-well known hiking-based guiding service in town, and I started a new SAR volunteer role.
Then COVID happened.
And we know that story.
On a personal level, another potential set of writing gigs did not materialize, the NOLS opportunity vanished, and the local guiding season cratered. I returned to my IT roots here in town (and, as detailed before, landed much better on my feet than I expected). And because I am staying here this summer rather than guiding as the past couple of years, I am more involved in my volunteer role.
And part of that volunteer role meant acquiring a new beefier day pack that I had planned to double duty for similar equipment I carry in my day-use guiding pack. Something to handle large water carries for people, an expanded first aid kit, and such things required as WAG bags and a trowel, additional equipment as needed, and some carrying capacity for extra gear when people ran out of gas figuratively.
And also, using something that does not look as beat up as my current day pack, either!
The pack I went purchased? The Six Moon Designs Daybreaker Pack.
The Daybreaker is roughly 25 liters in size at 20 ounces. Compare the Daybreaker to my mainstay Gossamer Gear Type II Utility Pack at 11.5 oz…but, spec-wise, the same size.
However, as you can see from these side-by-side photos, the Daybreaker is roughly 25% larger than my daypack of choice.
Currently (July 2020), the Daybreaker retails for $120.
I find pack specs vary between manufacturers and provide a rough guideline versus an absolute
I think this photo below on my 5’6″ frame might give a better visual clue to the size:
And here’s me wearing the Gossamer Gear pack as another comparison:
Enough of the specs, how does it perform for me?
While I have not used it in a guiding role, the Daybreaker is serving well in my volunteer role as my “go bag” for when a page goes off. It’s always packed, staged, and grabbed when I go out on a call.
It is durable, large enough to schlep extra gear when needed, and comfortable when walking (or scrambling) up paths a bit. It has a light foam backing that makes a bit of frame, too. You can easily remove the foam pad to make a sit pad. A handy feature if I need to get someone off the cold ground or if I find myself having to sit tight for a while.
I do like the overall design of the pack, as it is similar to my regular daypack. The Daybreaker has a flip-over lid with a pocket on top and a simple drawstring closure that makes it easy to get items in and out of the pack.
Though I don’t use the bladder holder, it is an option for those who prefer it. As you can see from the photos I initially posted above, it has some deep water bottle pockets. Perfect for holding the 1.5-liter bottles I like to carry when hiking in the desert around Moab.
I also like the large front pocket versus the zipper pocket of my Type II Utility pack. It makes it easy to stash items I need very accessible in a pinch.
Other things I like?
The front mesh pockets are useful for holding for 12-20oz bottles, a radio, a GPS, or a satellite communication device such as an inReach or similar. I had planned to grab an inReach or a competitor at some point in the immediate future for both guiding and my volunteer role, so I can picture using that pocket for this purpose.
One item I’ve been pleasantly surprised at its utility is the whistle on the sternum strap. Helpful when trying to get the attention of people quickly and to cut through any noise in the area. Not something I’ve used for my hiking, but something useful in my volunteer role.
I miss not having hip belt pockets. Extremely useful to keep snacks and sunscreen easily accessible versus pockets that quickly fill up. I could be both 1980s and 2020s cool and have a fanny pack, but that extra equipment could interfere with some tasks I perform with my volunteer position. (To be fair, I do use a fanny pack of sorts when I use my camera. But, again, that’s a different role.). The front pockets can hold sunscreen and snacks but not as well as hip belt pockets IMO.
But my biggest nit-to-pick is the two-strap design to get into the main pack compartment. For such a durable pack, the buckles themselves seem flimsy, and I foresee a point of failure if I put the Daybreaker through my typical hard use over the coming years. Additionally, I find this type of design gives too much of a futz factor. A straightforward strap with a more sturdy buckle is not only more durable but also quicker and easier to use when I need to get my gear and clothing efficiently. Luckily Joan’s a talented person with a sewing machine and has repaired our equipment. 🙂
Three months of semi-regular use is not quite enough to give a thorough review, but it does provide some experience I can extrapolate from that I think will prove accurate in the years ahead.
I think this pack will take a lot of abuse, the stated load capacity of the already generous 20 lbs can probably be pushed a little further in a pinch (all that water adds up!) as well. Additionally, it will prove to be versatile for how I currently use it, perhaps day use guiding in the future, and some trail work where I am carrying extra gear as well.
Now, 20 oz for a daypack does seem on the heavier side, and at $120, it is not inexpensive.
But I think of this pack as less of a daypack and more of a technical pack.
And what’s a technical pack? That’s fancy of saying a pack that carries more crap than a day hike and is built sturdy. I’ll still use my Gossamer Gear Type II Utility Pack as it is also durable, but lighter. But, the Daybreaker will continue to be my “go bag” or pack for any time I need to haul extra stuff beyond my personal use. I can also see it easily carrying gear and clothing for colder weather excursions. In that regard, Six Moon Designs priced the pack competitively with similar types of packs from other companies.
However, if you’ll be taking a minimalist kit for day hiking, the REI Flash 22 is very similar to my Type II Utility Pack and a little over $50 or $37 for a non-popular color as of this writing.
For myself and my uses, I’ll need to pay attention to the abuse I give the front buckles but can otherwise see the Six Moon Designs Daybreaker becoming another valuable tool in my gear kit.
If you need something beyond strictly a basic day hiking role that can take a lot of abuse, the Daybreaker might fit that niche for you as well.
UPDATE JANUARY 2022 – The Daybreaker is now the Wy’East pack essentially. After many years of faithful use, I retired the Gossamer Gear pack. I’m going to use the Wy’East pack. Joan swapped in the hip belt of the Gossamer Gear pack and added the single buckle. I hope to get 8 yrs or more from the Wy’East pack!
Disclosure: I purchased this pack from Six Moon Designs with a discount.