Every once in a while we get confused when trying to categorize a product. With the Osprey Daylite Plus, we were confused this way. In a good way. It is almost simultaneously a great hiker's pack and a high functioning laptop/travel/daily bag. No other product we tested in this review bridges that gap. For that reason, we grant the Daylite Plus our Top Pick award. Read on for further critique of this niche product.
Osprey Daylite Plus Review
Compare prices at 4 resellers Pros: Seven days a week versatility including hikes on the weekend
Cons: Small for cold or technical day pursuits
Manufacturer: Osprey Packs
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Daylite Plus from Osprey is a most elegant combination of hiking daypack and everyday or travel laptop bag. This model is for a narrow niche of consumers and one that doesn't require reasonably high performance. However, the Daylite Plus is a bag that performs almost equally well while hiking in the wild as it does in the city carrying your work stuff back and forth.
In overall scoring, we evaluated only for day hiking use. We did not consider a product's utility in day to day "in town" use. As a product that could very well appear in our review of laptop bags, the Daylite Plus does remarkably well as a day hiking pack. It is an optimized daypack that can carry your laptop and your daily work materials. As such, its total scores aren't anything remarkable, but it earns our Top Pick award for this versatility in a narrow niche.
Osprey makes comfortable packs. Even with relatively minimalist suspension, the careful proportions of the Daylite Plus are remarkably comfortable. The shoulder straps are thin, but contoured and proportioned just right. The removable waist belt is not necessary except with the densest sorts of loads. The simple mesh-over-foam back panel is more breathable and supportive than this design suggests. We expect both the most breathability and the most support from the most structured back panels. Somehow Osprey has proportioned and tensioned the back panel of the Daylite Plus such that the foam becomes more rigid and structured than other designs of this ilk.
Regarding the minimalism of the suspension system, the Daylite Plus is best compared to things like the Top Pick Marmot Kompressor, the REI Flash 22 and the Top Pick Mountain Hardwear Scrambler 30. However, it is much more comfortable than these. It is not as comfortable as any of the more robustly built packs, like the Editors' Choice Osprey Talon 22, the Gregory Zulu 30, or the Litus 22 from The North Face, but its support and comfort belie the simple construction. For the context in which one will use the Daylite Plus, it is more than comfortable enough.
The Daylite Plus sits in the middle of our weight spectrum. At 20 ounces, some contenders are half the weight, while some are half again as heavy. One pack, the Camelbak Fourteener 24 is more than twice the weight of the Daylite Plus. The Daylite Plus is average; for that average weight, you get slightly below normal capacity but above mediocre durability and construction quality. You also get more accessory pockets than average. Overall, the weight to performance ratio of this Osprey is favorable.
Weight is our most straightforward metric to evaluate and compare. It is also a metric that closely correlates with other attributes. For example, heavier packs are certainly more durable. Also, design characteristics that make a contender more comfortable also make it heavier. As something you will be carrying, lowering the weight is desirable. There is an inherent tension in evaluating weight. We feel the Daylite Plus strikes a great balance, as it pertains to weight. The larger, more comfortable packs like the Talon 22 and CamelBak Rim Runner 22 are considerably heavier. Every model that is lighter than the Daylite Plus, like the Fjallraven Kanken Classic 16 and the Deuter Speed Lite 20 are also less comfortable with fewer organizational features.
Versatility largely links to size. A larger pack capacity gives you the option of hiking in colder conditions or tackling semi-technical endeavors with the associated gear. The Osprey is a little below average in size. It makes up for this size with a few minor features that increase the versatility, especially for those that wish to use it in town with their laptop. Specifically, the Daylite Plus is the only hiking daypack we tested that has a dedicated, padded laptop sleeve.
For true hiking versatility, check out the larger and more feature-rich Editors Choice Talon 22. For city-to-wild versatility, the Daylite Plus is your choice. The otherwise similarly weighted, built, and sized Deuter Speed Lite 20 is less versatile than the Osprey. The Arc Teryx Brize 25 fills a similar niche as the Osprey Daylite, but it is larger, heavier, without the protective padded laptop sleeve.
Ease of Use
Osprey carefully tailors their backpacks. Zippers pull smoothly, buckles operate cleanly, and when a strap crosses a zipper, it does so largely out of the way. The Daylite plus is no exception. We found all the features useful and found the overall construction and main compartment to be functional.
The simplest packs we tested are the easiest to use. The Fjallraven Kanken Classic 16, for instance, with just two zippers and basic shoulder straps, scores highest here. Accessing any of the pockets or compartments is unhindered. There are basically no adjustments to fiddle with. On the other end of the spectrum is the CamelBak Rim Runner 22. With many pockets and zippers (some obscured by straps) it can be tricky to find and access what you have stowed away. The Daylite Plus is exactly between these two. It has fewer features than the CamelBak, but all of them are easy to use. You need to make more adjustments and such to the Osprey than you do to the Kanken, but you get greater organizational and comfort performance.
In a survey of other online reviews, we found numerous complaints about the size of the side mesh pockets of the Daylite Plus. Sure, they could be bigger. But we found them to be suitable for carrying a standard one liter Nalgene water bottle. If you are apprehensive about the security, you would simply clip the side compression strap through the lid loop.
We had no problems with the construction and durability of the Osprey Daylite Plus. Few have had many issues with any Osprey pack. They make great, well-built gear. They also back it up with a great warranty. The Daylite Plus has tight seams, strong materials, smooth zippers, and thick straps.
The other Osprey pack, Editors' Choice Talon 22 is similarly constructed with excellent durability. The super simple Kanken 16 is virtually bombproof. The close competitor Deuter Speed Lite 20 will also last you a long time. The ultralight fabrics of the REI Co-op Flash 22 and Top Pick Marmot Kompressor 18 show wear much faster than any of these. With enough use, these latter most packs eventually become unusable as the fabric fails.
The Daylite Plus is a decent choice for the avid hiker that wants to have a bag for carrying his or her computer and work materials during the week. Additionally, since this doesn't fit anywhere else in our review, it is worth noting here that the Osprey Daylite Plus is configured to easily strap onto certain larger Osprey Packs for travel and backpacking.
For the most part, you pay a premium for Osprey's excellent construction and comfort. Given the simple construction of the Daylite Plus, it is on the less expensive end of what they produce in this size range. With the seven-days-a-week versatility and the years-long durability, the Daylite Plus is a great value.
We really try and sort out products into different categories. Notably, what we test as "daypacks" and what we test as "laptop backpacks" are somewhat similar, but have enough defining differences to categorize products into one or the other easily. The Daylite Plus truly bridges the gap in this case. It made its way into this review purely on its hiking performance, but could easily appear in the laptop review. This versatility earns it our Top Pick award here and now.
— Jediah Porter