The best day pack hiking pack available - LL Bean's Bigelow Top Load Pack
Jul 31, 2008 (Updated Dec 10, 2008)
Review by Jeff Senterman
Rated a Very Helpful Review
Pros:Comfortable, Lots of support, Padded straps, Lots of space, Included rain fly, Cost, Durability
The Bottom Line: The Bigelow backpack offers lots of storage, easy access, and a comfortable fit that lets you wear it on the longest of hikes without discomfort.
I’ve been through a lot of day packs over the years and I can confidently say that the Bigelow Day Pack from LL Bean is the most comfortable day pack that I’ve owned and used.
Recommend this product?
Really, it is that comfortable to wear.
Not only that, but it’s reasonably priced and it’s backed up by LL Bean’s lifetime warranty that they have on all of their products. Now that’s a day pack you’ve got to love.
The Bigelow, as its name suggests, is a top loading backpack (they actually sell a panel loading version too), which means that to access the inside of the pack, you open up the top of the pack and reach in. In addition to this main form of access, you can also unzip one of the side pockets, which opens into the pack itself, allowing you access to everything that you’ve packed in there. I honestly thought I would use this feature more, but in the end, I usually just access the pack from the top since I usually pack my bag to have the stuff I use more often up top.
In addition to the main compartment which has about 2,000 cubic inches of space (1800 in the medium size, 2100 in the large size, which I have), the Bigelow offers storage space in the top portion of the pack that folds over the pack, along with a pocket in the front of the pack and one functional side pocket. There are two mesh pockets along the bottom of the pack where you can store a water bottle on either side. One really cool zippered pocket is located right on the waist strap – it’s big enough to hold a small camera or some other items that you need easy access to.
For those with hydration bladders, there is a built in sleeve for your bladder in the Bigelow. Just put it in and run the tube around so that you can reach it.
In regards to protection from the elements, the Bigelow is made from synthetic, nylon material that is water resistant, but for even more protection, in a small pocket on the underside of the pack is a rain fly that you can cover your pack with to keep it even dryer.
One reason the pack is so comfortable is the amount of support and padding that it provides. This day pack features a stiff, internal frame that provides plenty of support. In addition the back is ergonomically cushioned, as are the shoulder straps and then waist belt. The waist belt is the most comfortable and functional part of the pack in my opinion. It’s a fully padded waist strap, unlike a lot of day packs, which allows the strap to provide more support while staying comfortable around your waist.
The Bigelow, without any other items in it, weighs just under 4 pounds.
The back comes in two sizes, based on your torso height. The medium fits torso that are 17 to 19 inches in length, while the large fits torsos 19 to 21 inches in length (measure from your belly button to your chin).
I’ve been using the Bigelow for about a year now and I’m continually surprised and happy at how comfortable it is and how easy it is to wear.
I think a lot of it boils down to the strong internal frame of the backpack and the padded waist band, that has been designed to take on a lot of the weight, which would be on your shoulders in some other day packs.
I’ve stuffed the pack and weighed it down and it is still comfortable. Sure it’s heavy, but it keeps the load well centered on your back and the straps and the back don’t become uncomfortable over time like they have with some of my other day packs.
I like the amount of space that this pack has to offer too. I can easily pack enough for almost any day hike, even one in the wintertime where I am bringing along more gear. Not only that, but the pack can even function as an overnight pack for a short camping trip. I’ve done a couple of overnights with it and while you have to pack wisely, you can do it and it saves you from having to bring a full-size backpack.
The mesh pockets for the water bottles come in really handy. While they are a bit tough to reach while you are wearing the pack, if you are hiking with someone, it’s very easy to get the bottles without taking off the pack.
The rain fly is a nice addition too, since it provides a bit of extra protection for you pack in the rain. I’ve used it a few times – it is easy to get on the pack and it does keep it a lot dryer than if you hadn’t used it.
The biggest thing though is the overall comfort of the pack. I can wear it hiking all day and at the end of the trip my back doesn’t hurt, my shoulders don’t hurt and my waist doesn’t feel like it’s been squeezed by a thin strap all day. That’s something I couldn’t say about any of the other day packs that I’ve had in the past.
Last year Backpacker Magazine named the Bigelow as its best overall day pack. I have to agree with them. I’d argue it’s probably should win that title for a couple of years.
Since this is an LL Bean product, there’s a lifetime warranty on it. Should it fail, otherwise be damaged, or you just aren’t happy with it, they will replace it for you or refund your money.
So you can’t really go wrong with that – if anything happens to the Bigelow, you know you can take it back to Beans and get it replaced with a brand new one.
I’m not lying when I say that this is the most comfortable day pack that I’ve owned over the years.
LL Bean has crafted a great backpack with the Bigelow. It offers lots of storage space, easy access, and a comfortable fit that lets you wear it on the longest of day hikes without discomfort. No wonder Backpack Magazine ranked it as the best overall day pack in 2007.
If you need a day pack, go out and get the Bigelow from LL Bean, you won’t be disappointed.
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