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Reviews > Packs > Lumbar & Torso Packs > Mountainsmith Day Lumbar Pack > Test Report by Coy Ray Starnes
Day - Recycled Series
Initial Report: September 26, 2007
Field Report: December 3, 2007
Long Term Report: Feburary 1, 2008
Front view of the Day
I live in Northeast Alabama. I enjoy hunting, fishing, canoeing, and most other outdoor activities but backpacking is my favorite pastime. I enjoy hiking with friends and family or solo. I hike throughout the year and actually hike less in the hot humid months of summer. My style is slow and steady and my gear is light. However, I will sacrifice weight for comfort and durability. A typical 3-season load for me is around 20 lb (9 kg) not counting food or water.
Initial Report: September 26, 2007
The Day is a rather large lumbar pack (I call it a fanny pack). I guess the name Day could be because the pack is big enough to carry all I might typically need while out for a day in the woods. It certainly is bigger than my current fanny pack. The Day also looks very robust. The outer material is listed as 450d PET Velocity nylon but reminds me of a fairly heavy duty nylon Cordura. The bright yellow inside liner is listed as 150d PET rip stop. I can see a gridlock pattern on the liner material. The zipper size is not mentioned but they are all hefty and the zipper pulls look big and strong. The pack cloth used in making the Day is from recycled materials (from 13 to 16 plastic bottles) but I can not tell any difference. I applaud Mountainsmith for their commitment to reduce our dependence on oil and save those bottles from the landfill.
As I said before, this is a big fanny pack. I can easily see why Mountainsmith lists the Strapette as an assessory. The Strapette functions much like the harness on a backpack which should be helpful taming a tall and heavily loaded Day. I have one on order because I plan to use the Day when bike riding where I will not want it to flop any. In just trying the Day on with some odds and ends thrown in, I could see right away that the pack tends to lean away from my back at the very top. However the compression straps did do a good job of limiting this.
Back to the pack. It has one big main compartment that measures about 5 in (13 cm) front to back, 11 in (28 cm) wide and 13 in (33 cm) deep. In front of that is another smaller compartment that measures about 3 in (8 cm) front to back, the same 11 in (28 cm) wide and 10 in (25 cm) deep. Also inside this forward compartment is a small snap hook dangling from a short strap. I may use it to secure my keys as it is always easier to lose something not physically attached.
On each side of the Day are the water bottle pockets. This is pretty much the standard configuration for this type pack. Both are made using a combination of mesh material and a strip of the recycled material centered up the middle but wider at the bottom with the words Day and the Recycle symbol prominently displayed. The top of each pocket can be closed with a bungee cord and cordlock arrangement. However, these water bottle pockets are huge and are listed to hold a 32 oz (946 ml) bottle. I have already confirmed they will with a couple of 32 oz (946 ml) Gatorade bottles (one shown here).
The back of the pack and hipbelt is nicely padded. The hipbelt is wider than most but I think it needs to be considering how tall the Day is. The Delta Compression system is basically a Y like arrangement of straps which connect to the hipbelt and the upper and lower sides of the Day. By pulling them tight the whole pack and hipbelt are snugged and the pack feels secure. Here is a close-up of the Delta Compression Straps.
There are 2 straps running under the pack which could be used for holding something under the pack, or by tightening them, they will help compress the pack. On the front is a bungee type cord with a cordlock which can be used to secure additional items. I envision a sweaty shirt or maybe a boggan (watch cap) I might need to remove when hiking. There is also a good sized inner pocket inside the main compartment. It runs across the pack near the top and measures 9 in (23 cm) wide and 5 in (13 cm) deep but is envelope shaped which will limit bulky items. I can see using it for keys, lip balm and other small items I don't want to have to dig out.
The Day also has a removable shoulder strap. It is attached at the top of the pack by 2 snap buckles and is adjustable in length. There is a nice padded section that can be slid along the strap to where needed. By pulling the strap short, I can carry the Day like a satchel. By letting it out, I can carry it more like a (dare I say purse?) side bag. In fact, I tried it this way and I ended up putting the hipbelt on. That seemed very comfortable and I may end up using it this way some. The hipbelt strap is nice and wide with a very solid snap and buckle arrangement. In fact, everything about the packs screams tough.
I plan to use the Day as a fanny pack for day hiking and bike riding. I have already used it as my work bag. I take a change of clothes and other things for my long shifts at work. I also plan to use it worn in front when I go backpacking. I have used a fanny pack in this manner for years and I like having my water, snacks and camera handy. I especially appreciate having my water easily reached as I have found the water bottle pockets on all my packs hard to reach. When hiking with someone I can ask for a hand but if alone, which often happens even when hiking with someone (one is faster than the other), this is aggravating. This concludes my Initial Report.
Field Report: December 3, 2007
Day with Strapette
Test Locations and Conditions
My main testing during the Field Report phase was on a 3 day hike in the Smoky Mt. National Park. On this hike the weather was absolutely perfect. Highs were in the mid 70s F (24 C) and the low both nights was around 40 F (4 C)). There was no rain and what little fog we saw was in the valleys below us. Elevations varied from about 3600 (1097 m) to 6595 (1736 m) but both camp sites were at the higher end of these elevations. Back in Alabama, I have used the Day for several day hikes, on one overnight hike and on several of my bike rides.
Field Test Results
The Day has worked well; in fact, it is the most comfortable fanny pack I have worn to date. This begs a correction. In my Initial Report I referred to the Day as a fanny pack in a couple of places. A few weeks ago I received an email from someone who liked my report but set me straight on the differences in a fanny pack and a lumbar pack. I honestly had not thought there was any difference. A fanny pack is generally just a single compartment bag, but some of the fancier ones do have one or two water bottle pockets and multiple compartments. It is usually just worn with a simple waist belt that starts at the end of the bag or where the water bottle packets are stationed. Also, a fanny pack typically hangs below the waist belt.
According to the email I received, Mountainsmith developed the Lumbar Pack (and I don't believe it was from anyone inside Mountainsmith). It differs from a fanny pack in how the waist belt is designed and attaches. It is not just stuck on at the ends, but rather it is attached more towards the middle of the back of the pack. Also, the waist belt is attached at the bottom of the pack bag and therefore the pack bag rises up from the waist and sits in the lower back or lumbar region. It is designed to be more comfortable and offer better freedom of movement and is ideally suited for very active individuals such as mountain bike riders and trail runners. All I know is that it does feel very good when I am riding my bike. I don't trail run due to bad knees.
What I Carried in the Day
I kept a few emergency supplies in the Day at all times and swapped out other gear depending on where and for how long I was going. The emergency supplies include a small Bic lighter, a space blanket, Aqua Mira Water Treatment, a small Buck knife, a compass, some string (masons twine), a large trash bag and a whistle. This all rides permanently in the smaller front pocket. In the main compartment I usually had my camera, a few snacks, a light rain jacket, my cell phone and some toilet paper. I added other gear when needed.
Author using the Day on a hike in the Smokies
Using in the Front
I used the Day on a three day hike in the Smoky Mountain National Park. I first used it with my backpack by wearing the day in the front. The photo above shows this well. The only thing I had to remember was to put the Day on first and twist it around to the front before putting my "regular" backpack on. I really liked having my water, snacks and camera handy. I am looking for something in the above photo, but now, some two months later, I don't remember what...
I have been asked; doesn't wearing the pack in the front make your belly sweat? I will just say, yes it does, but I usually sweat enough when backpacking that I really don't mind a little more sweat. Besides, I think I'm more balanced with part of the load in front. I have found that wearing the Day in the front does not normally bother my stride except when climbing very steep slopes. When it does, I just pull up on the top handle for the duration of the steep part of the trail. It never has interfered with my arm swing, whether walking with or without hiking poles.
Using as a Lumbar Pack
I used the Day in the more traditional manner several times during this hike. The first occasion was to head out before daylight to take some sunrise pictures from a scenic overlook. This hike was almost 2 miles (3.2 km) from Icewater Springs (the shelter we were in the first night) and the Day held everything I needed just fine. I estimate that with my water, camera, a couple of snacks and the survival gear I always keep in the Day, I had around 5 lb (2.3 kg) of gear. I used it in front again as we hiked to the next camp but used it as a lumbar pack later the same day to head to an overlook about a half mile (0.8 km) from camp and again the next morning to head to another overlook about 1.5 miles (2.42 km) from camp.
Using the Strapette
When I first received the Day, I ordered the optional Strapette but it did not arrive in time for my Smoky Mountain hike. It arrived the following week and I have since used it almost constantly because it really does help make the pack feel even better on my back than just using the hip belt and makes a heavier load feel much better than without it. Where it really shined was when bike riding. The pack is pretty stable with just the hip belt, but with the Strapette it is much more solidly attached. It seems contradictory to say it is attached more solidly yet at the same time allowed greater freedom of movement but that is exactly what I found.
The only problem I found in using the Strapette was when wearing my heavier winter coat as I had to let out both the waist and shoulder straps quite a bit. Actually, it was not really much of a problem but rather a slight aggravation. For instance, when I would need to take my jacket off during a bike ride, I had to take a few extra seconds to readjust the straps. In fact, a few times I just went ahead and rode on without making any adjustments and this posed no real problems. Speaking of which...
Using on my Bike
I used the Day while bike riding both with and without the Strapette. Both ways worked great but using it with the Strapette was best. My gear in the Day for my bike rides was similar to what I carried on my dayhikes, only I used the water bottle carriers on the bike instead of using the ones on the Day. However, I added my bike essentials like a spare tube, my repair kit, and a frame pump on one ride when I used the bike without a pump mount. Using the Day has really come in handy lately as winter has made its presence felt. For instance, today it was 45 F (7 C) when I left the house wearing a warm jacket, heavy gloves and a boggin. When I started riding back up the mountain I was immediately sweating so I removed all this and put it inside the Day. On rides last winter I actually carried the jacket tied around my waist and gloves and boggin stuffed in the waist of my sweat pants. Not only is this not the safest way to do this, I lost a glove one time.
Using as an Overnight Bag?
I tried to fit all my gear I would need for a short overnight hike but found the capacity a little shy of what I needed. My smallest down sleeping bag and hammock would fit inside but I had no room for my stove/cook set and food. I could have made it work had I not been testing a cook set by just carrying a few energy bars but to be fair, the Day is not intended for an overnight bag.
I must say, the Day is one tough pack. I have yet to see any signs of wear. In fact it is still remarkably clean and new looking despite much use. All the zippers and buckles are still functioning perfectly.
Likes so Far
Plenty of room for just about any gear I might need short of an overnight stay.
It is extremely comfortable with just the waist belt.
It's even more comfortable using the Strapette.
It fits over my light rain and fleece jackets.
Dislikes so Far
I can't wear it under my jackets so I must let out all straps if the jacket is thick.
It's not available in camo.
Long Term Report: Febuary 1, 2008
The day worked great as a bike bagTesting Conditions and Locations
I have used the Day mostly here in Northeast Alabama during this last phase of testing. The Day spent most of the month of December strapped to the back seat of my new recumbent bike on which I logged 111 miles (179 km). These rides were on very hilly local back roads. I took it off once in mid December for a trip to Memphis with my daughter but put it right back upon returning home. In January I took it off the bike for several day hikes and an overnighter and put a different fanny pack on the recumbent. These hikes were on the steep trails down in the hollow I often hike down to. Temperatures in December were rather mild but January was very cold and rainy. On the bike rides in December the coolest temperature encountered was 48 F (9 C). The coolest day hiking in January was a cold 25 F (-4 C) and the overnighter was a cool 34 F (1 C).
Long Term Test Results
First of all, as noted above, I used the Day for very different applications but the pack worked very well at each task. In fact, if it were easy to attach and remove the Day from my recumbent I would have used it more. As it was, I pretty much left it on the bike during December except for the trip noted above.
When I first got my recumbent, a Bachetta Cafe, I priced a bike bag specifically designed to attach to the back seat of my Cafe. It was $80 so I decided to try and see if I could come up with a cheaper alternative. I had been wearing the Day on my back during earlier bike rides on my regular bike and thought, wouldn't it be nice to be able to continue using it with my new bike. Since the new bike has a chair for a seat I couldn't wear it on my back, and wearing it in front wasn't going to work either (I tried) as it interfered with my peddling. I decided the Strapette (dual shoulder strap accessory) would offer the most secure attachment if I could figure out how to make it work. Since the straps proved too short to go all the way under the seat and back up to the intended attachment point on the Day's waist belt, I needed to figure out a way to attach the other end of the Strapette to the bike. It just so happened that the part that fastened back onto the waist belt fit perfectly in the slot created by my bikes drinking bottle holder (mounted low on the back seat). The photo on the right shows where and how I secured each shoulder strap by putting the metal end sideways in the slot and straighting it where it held securely.
The next concern was tire clearance. When mounted as high as possible, I only had about 2 inches (5 cm) clearance from the bottom of the Day and the rear tire. On the first ride I stopped often to see if there was any rubbing, but there was none so I became confidant that it was OK. The photo on the left shows the space between the rear tire and the bottom of the Day.
I had two choices on what to do with the waist belt. I could just pull it tight but not go around the seat (bag hung freely) or fasten it around the seat. I tried it both ways and the bag swung around too much when just hanging freely so I adopted leaving it strapped around the seat. I was concerned this might not be comfortable on long rides as the waist belt fasteners protruded a bit but after several rides, some up to 20 miles (32 km), I was pleased to find I never really noticed the buckles other than knowing they were there. This photo shows the waist belt fastened aound the seat back.
Day Hiking Use
In January, it turned much colder so I decided to remove the Day from my Cafe and use it on my long walks for my daily exercise. The Day worked great, just as I remembered it from earlier hikes. I continued to experiment with using the Day with and without the Strapette and finally concluded that even with very light loads, I much prefer it with the Strapette installed.
If anything, the Day proved to be too roomy for most of my day hiking needs but on the few hikes when I was carrying a heavy load (mostly extra water) the Day with the Strapette installed felt great. I wish all my packs felt this comfortable.
Use on Overnight Hike
I used the Day carried in front for one last overnight hike. I had to remove the Strapette and just use the waist belt but I really had no problems. I put the Day on first and after tightening the waist belt I sucked in my gut and spun it around to the front so I could then put on my regular backpack. I actually had a pretty heavy load in the front for this trip as my backpack was only 2000 cu in (33 L) and I needed to put my headlamp, cook set, a lot of my food and other small items in the Day. My total weight for both packs loaded was 24 lb (11 kg) and it just so happened that each pack and contents weighed 12 lbs (5.4 kg).
Use as Travel Bag
I pretty much lived out of the Day while in Memphis for 3 days. Well, at least for the 8 hours each day I spent waiting for my daughter's ear treatments. I had several magazines, snacks, reading glasses, and a lot of odds and ends inside the Day to help me pass the time. I went for several long walks along the city streets and of course kept my keys and wallet in it along with all the other stuff as I don't like things in my pockets if I can avoid it. I also had some tea and water in SIGG bottles in each of the water bottle pockets.
Use as a Lunch Box
After removing the Day from my Cafe in January, I also used it to carry junk to work. Some items were similar to what I carried to Memphis but I also managed to fit a 14.5 oz (411 g) box of Cheerios in the main compartment. I put milk instead of tea in the SIGG 1 L (33 oz) Traveler which went in the bottle holder. Of course, I transferred the SIGG (milk) to the refrigerator as soon as I arrived at work.
The above really just described different scenarios in which I used the Day, so now I want to comment on how the Day performed. On the Cafe it worked wonderfully as a place to keep my stuff safe and secure. I kept most of my things inside the main compartment such as my pump, a spare tube, and toilet paper. I often carried a banana inside the main compartment and it always survived, that is, until I ate it. Since I had my water on the bike in the seat mounted bottle holders, I used the water bottle pouches on the Day for my phone (inside a Zip-Lock type bag) and a few snacks. I still had lots of extra room in these pouches.
On my day hikes I found wearing the Day extremely comfortable. With both water bottle pockets holding (one in each) a 32 oz and 33 oz (about 1 L each) bottles, I had a tad more than a half gallon (about 2 Liters) of water. I really never needed it all but then again, I was hiking in pretty cool weather. In the summer when it is really hot I often run completely out of water on my exercise hikes when I just have two 20 oz (0.6 L) bottles onboard. Admittedly, 65 oz (1.9 L) is more than I like to tote but I found that when using with the Strapette, this was not a problem. I am looking forward to using it more this summer when I will need that much water.
I have used the Day enough to say it is a very well made pack. All the zippers are still working flawlessly. I was wondering how well the recycled material would hold up and can only say, this material would have to rank as one of, if not the toughest, pack materials I have ever dealt with.
I have really come to appreciate the comfort and varsatility of the Day. It has performed very well, even at tasks it was not designed for. In fact, if it were not for the bother of rigging it up on the bike, it would be my perfect all around day and bike pack. As it stands, I would like to have a Day in bright yellow to leave permanently on the bike and have a camo one for my day hiking.
This concludes my reporting on the Mountainsmith Day. I would like to thank Mountainsmith and BackpackGearTest.org for this opportunity to test the Day.
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