Traveler's Gear Box: Can A Shoemaker Build A Decent Daypack?
I've long been a fan of Keen, the shoemaker. I find that their shoes fit me as if they made the lasts from my foot. But when I heard Keen was getting into daypacks, I raised an eyebrow. Can a shoemaker make a decent daypack?
The short answer is "yes." With a $90 price point, the Newport DP is a pack with options. Whether you're right-handed or left-handed, there's a hydration routing option to quench your thirst. And there are more pockets than I've seen on most daypacks. There's a pocket for a hydration bag, though you also could use it for storage. And then there are two main top-to-bottom compartments, and each has side pockets for more storage, including one zippered mesh pocket for those things you don't want to get away -- like that extra flashcard for your camera or your wallet.
And, of course, there's the internal 'beener to hook your keys onto so they don't get lost in the fray, either.
Externally, the Newport DP offers the largely ubiquitous bungee-cord compression system to hold gloves, jackets, or whatever you need to carry with you that didn't find room inside the pack. There also are two external pockets on the bottom of the pack for stashing things like water bottles, fleece hats, munchies, or perhaps even hiking poles, which can be cinched tight to the pack with the accompanying compression straps up near your shoulders.
One of the neater surprises of this pack is the attached rain cover. Stashed in a pocket on the pack bottom, you deploy this rain cover by unzipping the pocket, pulling out the cover, and wrapping it over the daypack. Quick, easy, and conveniently stored. Nice touch.
I took this pack with me on my trip last week to Yellowstone National Park, though my wife wondered if I needed a larger pack. I had stuffed the pack with a 35mm camera, two lenses, reading materials, gloves, and more. And I still had some room leftover.
All told, the literature says this pack offers 1,465 cubic inches of storage. The fabric is polyester, and there's some recycled nylon involved, also. Too, Keen has picked up leftover rubber and aluminum from its shoemaking endeavors and used them in building this pack. A nice sustainability touch. You can't overlook the thick, cushy padding that makes the pack comfortable against your back, nor that used in the shoulder straps. The construction of these areas also favors air flow, which I imagine will come in handy during the warm months.
I was determined to put the Newport DP to the test in Yellowstone, and it passed largely with flying colors. My biggest problem was finding items deep in the central compartments, but that was operator failure and a lack of familiarity, not due to a construction flaw.
However, I'm not entirely sold on the external compression straps that are looped through aluminum hooks; they don't seem to function quite as easily as the more common plastic buckles, and I wonder if they'll hold up to months of use. More field testing will be needed before I can determine whether they will prove as stout.
This pack should be showing up in retailers this month, so keep an eye out for it and see if it meets your needs.