Hi Everyone -- I'm a pack snob, constantly on the lookout for the perfect bag with perfect features for everyday use (urban, trail, etc). I am a minimalist and like to go small when possible.. I have bags for every occasion, and well designed bags get big points with me. I currently have a Camelback Mule which is the perfect size with a perfect outer pocket (loose for jacket, etc) for day use. I love most features of this pack. That outer pocket, size, and durable straps to name a few. I rarely use the water bladder, but just use it for routine use. If I were to upgrade, I'd like the following features: 1) possible water bottle holder 2) breathable mesh back ( I sweat a ton), 3) pencil holders or outer zipper for passport, documetns, keys 4) loop rings for keys, caribiner, etc.
Other features that I have found impressive in a well made/designed bag over the years include: - leather bottom bag. I had an old EMS bag that had this, super durable and tough. LL Bean also used to make a rucksack that fit the bill, but was a bit too boxy and didn't offer much in the way of back support. -- We know it when we see it, but a well designed, easily accessible slider pocket for a phone, strategically placed holes for headphones if tethered. Pocket depth and placement is important too. This is priceless.
If anyone would like to discuss good pack features or share stories, or bag names, please feel free to do so here. thanks!
It sounds like you are looking for a combination day pack and book bag. I think you will not find either with a breathable mesh back unless there is some sort of internal frame, which most small packs do not have. I used to use the REI Flash 18 (9 oz, 1,100 in³) as both a day pack and a stuff sack when backpacking, but have since upgraded to the slightly larger REI Flash 22 liters (13 oz, 1,343 in³ ). I have been happy with them both but the Flash 18 has been redesigned since I purchased it a few years ago. I used to use a day pack as a book bag, but not since I needed to carry a laptop and wanted the padded compartment and shoulder strap option as well as wearing it as a pack. I think both outdoor Research and Osprey make a small pack with laptop sleeve, pocket with dividers for pen & pencils, and the capability of stuffing the shoulder straps into the bag and using a single, larger shoulder strap.
@t-mizzzle I have been loving the RE Trail 25. The internal frame and mesh back should be what you are looking for (or at least as close as possible).
I have a Gregory J33 that I love. Probably wouldn't work for you as main compartment closes like a standard backpacking backpack, ie draw cord with strap across top and "brain" type lid over that. It does ride really well however, doesn't lay against my back due to the internal frame, has a great hip belt with two belt pockets great for trail snacks, and water bottle holders on each side as well as a front pocket, pocket underneath lid and large pocket in the lid. It also came in purple which clinched the deal for me.
it also has space for a 3 liter hydration bladder.
Maybe similarly to you, I tortured myself for weeks looking for the perfect daypack. I ended up with a Vaude Maremma 26, and it's been very good to me. It's got an internal frame and mesh back, the flap pocket on top is great for snacks and first aid on the trail (I'm short and can just reach behind my head to grab a snack), the hip belt is comfy and overall it's just a comfy pack. Probably would double as a good commuter pack, and even larger loads don't feel that heavy.
Later, I impulsively bought an REI Flash 22 during a sale and I've been very impressed with it. Very light and versatile, and it seems to have a lot of the features you're looking for. 🙂