Aug 06 2011

Wanderlite Daypack Review

Leonardo daVinci said “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” I think that the people who make the Wanderlite Excursion pack are big fans of Mr. daVinci because their approach to packs would make him smile.

It is no secret that I have a bag addiction nearly as large as my tech addiction. I like pockets and zippers and hidden compartments and a myriad of things that the Wanderlite is not.

But there is something ineffably right about the approach here.

The Wanderlight is a daypack. This kind of pack is a simple pack appropriate for a day trip, be it a hike or a traipse across campus to make your next class.

My Wanderlite in Hunter Green

The pack’s designer, Wayne Snyder tells the story of beginning the process of working on the Wanderlite. He began to be concerned that the pack he had used since the 70’s would wear out. He tells a sad story of looking around and trying out multiple packs but all of them seemed lacking in one area or the other. They were too bulky, or they didn’t fit right or they were just overdone. Mr Snyder is a sort of back pack Goldilocks!

Like a good entrepreneurial sort he decided that if he couldn’t buy what he wanted he would simply have to make it. So, a business was born around a passion for a single product. Finally, he found one that was just right!

Made of 420D nylon the pack is very strong and very light at 9 ounces. The material of the pack is highly compressible and can be squished or rolled into a very small package but at a capacity of 1925 cubic inches it will hold a LOT of stuff.

It features a smaller pocket on front to give you some place to store smaller pieces like a phone or keys. The bulk of the pack is taken up with a cavernous internal open section that opens in a clamshell style to allow easy packing and unpacking. The nylon, coil zippers run the length of the pack to make the opening the greatest possible size. The zipper handles are metal and have stretchy pulls on them to make them easy to grab.

The ruler gives a good reference of how deceptively large the pack is!

The straps have a single adjustment point and the hardware is the kind of high impact plastic that will outlive me in its usefulness. I am reasonably sure that the straps are actually seatbelt material. There is not a waist or sternum strap, but I don’t see a real need for them in a pack of this kind.

(editors note: Barefoot confirmed for me that the straps are indeed seatbelt straps and the diagonal weave pattern on them actually keeps them from cutting into your shoulder when under load.)

The attachment points are very well stitched and are double reinforced where the narrower adjustment straps meet the shoulder straps. There is also a half-inch handle at the top of the pack of the same strap material.

What do you think? Seatbelt or backpack strap?

I loaded up the pack with a ridiculous amount of stuff to test the comfort of the simple non-padded straps. As promised, the pack hung low and rode in the small of my back with good balance. The straps did not cut or bind and were very comfortable even with the 20+ pounds of stuff I decided to shoe horn into the pack. Pretty impressive and far beyond what I would normally stuff in a pack like this.

Much of the appeal of this kind of pack is that you can drag it along as a day pack on trip without tying up lots of space in your luggage. As a dedicated “one bagger” I like the idea of taking along a small bag for excursions but I hate tying up a lot of weight and space in my luggage to do so.

Since the Wanderlite is so small and light it can comfortably hide in an underutilized corner of your luggage by folding it to fit a space or rolling it and stuffing it into a water bottle pocket.

Next to a 24 ounce water bottle for comparison.

In doing some reading on-line it seems that the pack used to come with a little bag that you could stuff the Wanderlite into, if you had the skills of a contortionist with double jointed thumbs.

It got me to thinking about some other products that I had played with and it occurred to me that if you want a neat, non-rubber banded package that you could turn the small front pocket inside out and stuff the whole pack into it for a tidy, self-contained package. The zipper is not a double-sided one so you have to be a bit careful but it actually works well!

The kangaroo approach!

The pack is well made and is the perfect little pack to drag along with you on a trip. I wouldn’t want to use it for a multi-day hiking or camping trip, but it is perfect to have in your luggage to use for a museum trip or a day at the beach.

I would love to see a key clip in the bag somewhere and a double-sided zipper would make my little pouch trick a bit easier. Other than that though, I love the elegant simplicity of the Wanderlite as it does exactly what it is intended to do, and does it very well.

At $27.95 the Wanderlite would be a good deal anyway, but when you factor in the fact that this is a product made by hand in the USA with a lifetime warranty that looks like an even better price. It is available in Midnight Blue, Burgundy, Hunter Green, and Classic Black.

I also love a company with a social conscience and a desire to give back (take a look at my review of BBP Industries Pack for a company with a similar thought process).

According to Barefoot’s website:

Barefoot Enterprises dedicates the net proceeds from the sale of Wanderlite packable daypacks to support the work of World Vision : helping the world’s poorest people work toward bettering their lives and communities through intelligently and compassionately applied microlending and agricultural activities.

I heartily applaud their stance on this and you can feel good about buying a product from Barefoot, knowing that they are supporting such a deserving cause.

I love to find a product like the Wanderlite that is eminently useful, simply but carefully made and does exactly what it says it will. It is already hidden in my luggage awaiting my next excursion.

319 East Plum
Fort Collins, CO 80524
(970) 232-8046

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