I chose the REI Traverse 30 Women's Backpack.
I chose this pack for a number of reasons, mainly because I like how streamlined it is, while still having plenty of pockets - 1 main compartment, 4 organizational pockets, and one small pocket on the hip belt. There are also mesh pockets on either side to carry water bottles or snacks, and an internal sleeve to hold a 3.0L reservoir. The major bonuses for me with this pack are 1) the hidden rain cover which many of the competitors I looked at did not have, and 2) it appeals to the green nerd in me... this pack is made of 100% recycled PET polyester fabric. Which means this pack keeps 24 16-oz. plastic bottles out of landfills. :)
This pack lived up to it's hype. It easily held the essentials, with room to spare for additional items that would be necessary for longer hikes. On Saturday, we hiked ~5.5 hours and the pack was comfortable. I really liked having the easily accessible side pockets for my water bottle of Pure Fitness and snacks, and the hip belt pocket that perfectly held my chapstick, camera, and tissues.
The only downside I could find for this pack is that there isn't a small organizational pocket inside to hold things like my ID, search & rescue card, and cash (in case I need to pay-off a bear?). I'm concerned that it's too easy for this type stuff to fall out, or get accidentally pulled out of the existing pockets. However, this isn't such a big deal as I've figured out a work around. I plan to get, or find in my closet somewhere, a change purse type thing to hold such items and attach it to a hook in the main compartment. Problem solved.
Another plus with purchasing this pack through REI is if for whatever reason this pack doesn't hold up, I can return it to REI no questions asked.
Here's a list of the other major competitors (for me):
- CamelBak Fourteener Hydration Pack - Couldn't find it to try it!
- REI Venturi 30 - Women's - The large pockets on each side of the hip belt hit my arms as I walked, which drove me bonkers.
- Gregory Jade 30 Pack - Women's - Couldn't get past the ugly color...
I might have to start collecting packs like I collect Coach purses. :D
Here's my collection so far, aren't they purty?