- Buyer's Guide
A Thrifty Surprise :: BIG PACK Daypack
I found this guy in a second-hand shop on Vashon Island, Washington, USA. I didn’t see it the first time I rummaged through the box full of packs including the tacky Star Wars pack. I was more focused on this other gem I found, a Frostline make-it-yourself-kit backpack. I was so stoked with that find that I walked around the shop hugging the Frostline pack looking at other potential things to buy. I went back to the backpack box just in case I missed anything, and there it was, this unassuming thing by Big Pack. I’d never heard of Big Pack but after doing some research, I found that it was created in Bissingen, Germany by a mountaineer-engineer named Knut Jaeger.
I know there are several brands, including Kelty and Epperson Mountaineering, that make fanny packs (bumbags for our Commonwealth readers) that convert into backpacks and vice versa. To be honest, the reason I bought this pack was because it was retro and looked retro. I never had the intention of using it since I hated the idea of a backpack with no back support, aka not having some sort of padding. I make backpacks as part of my living, but I never have time to make my own, or maybe the actual reason is that I’m afraid to make myself a backpack because I’d be the most annoying customer. Anyway, through moving from country to country, and getting rid of my possessions, this pack somehow survived my elimination process. It ended up being my only option as a daypack, and I’m very happy to report that it is the perfect daypack!
As you can see the pack consists of two parts: one main compartment and one smaller compartment. I used the pack extensively on a three-week trip in London. In the main compartment I fit a sketchbook, a rain jacket, a button-up shirt, a camera, extra lenses, and a water bottle. In the smaller compartment I threw in a book, pencils, pens and other small effects.
The smaller compartment was actually the perfect size. When you are exploring a place like London, you tend to spend a lot of time using public transport like buses and trains. The rides are usually just long enough to read a few pages. With this smaller compartment, it was easy to get the book in and out with no hassle and I really like that about the pack.
Another thing that put me off with this pack when I first got it was the straps; 1.5 inch webbing. It’s not the fact that it’s not padded, because I feel that strap comfort has more to do with the way a strap covers a certain surface area and how it is able to contort to the landscape of the shoulder area. I just assumed that 1.5 inches isn’t substantial enough, that it would cut into my skin after even a few minutes. Well it didn’t. When I wasn’t riding on buses and trains, I walked and I walked for miles. The straps never got uncomfortable.
Onto the lack of back support: I carried a A4 sized sketchbook, which covered most of the area that my back would come in contact with. That was my back support. But even with the sketchbook support, the pack still sagged and that sagging left a slight gap between my back and the pack.
“…I walked and I walked for miles. The straps never got uncomfortable.”
I’m guessing that whoever designed this pack didn’t care about sweaty backs, but this lack of back support and sagginess prevented my back from sweating and I was walking in the middle of London, in the middle of summer and I’m somebody who unfortunately sweats very easily so that’s a hard problem to avoid. So high five whoever you are that designed this pack!
This is what the pack looks like when it’s in fanny pack mode. It actually looks pretty awesome. So I never used it as a fanny pack because I’m too “cool” for that. A few years ago, I went to Tokyo and I noticed this huge trend of folks wearing fanny packs as cross-body slings. When I use this pack in fanny pack mode, I actually use it in sling mode and it’s fantastic. I think it’s a great look and it’s also highly functional. There are times where I know I won’t use my sketchbook, I won’t be carrying too much but I also won’t be able to fit everything in my pocket and this is perfect for that. It’ll fit a book, a rain jacket, water bottle and maybe some candy.
Or in this photo’s case, a 500ml bottle of Jack Daniels. I don’t think I need to go into detail on how a sling works, but essentially all your stuff is behind you and when you need it you swing it in front, open it up, grab what you need, then slide it back behind you.
“When I use this pack in fanny pack mode, I actually use it in sling mode and it’s fantastic.”
The cool thing is, when you remember that you forgot to grab groceries for dinner that night, within seconds the pack converts into a backpack and BOOM! you’ve got a huge amount of storage for whatever you need to carry that you didn’t plan on carrying when you first set out.
I give this pack a 9.5 out of 10. Of course I wouldn’t use it if I was going hiking or maybe on a long bike ride but for your typical city daypack, it’s near perfect. The straps are surprisingly comfortable, the lack of back support prevents sweaty back syndrome, your stuff is easy to get in and out, it converts functions quite quickly, and it looks pretty rad.
“…within seconds the pack converts into a backpack and BOOM! you’ve got a huge amount of storage…”
Oh and because of the lack of padding, it’s highly packable which makes it the perfect satellite pack to that too-big-to-use-as-a-daypack backpack that you are using to travel.