The Hyperlite Mountain Gear Daybreak is one of the best day packs out there.
The only drawback is its high price. At $210 at the time of this writing, it might be the most expensive day pack on market. It’s lacking in extra features, but I like simplicity.
I bought a Daybreak in early 2018 to replace my classic Osprey Talon 22. There’s nothing wrong with the Talon – it’s probably the best all-round day pack for most people.
But since I do a lot of day hiking (sometimes up to 30 miles), I decided I deserve a premium day pack. So coughed up the money for the Daybreak.
Over 3 years later now in 2021, I’m still thrilled with this backpack.
Let’s dive in.
Hyperlite Daybreak Specifications
WEIGHT: The Daybreak weighs 19 ounces. This is just a few ounces heavier than its main (and much cheaper) competitor in ultralight daypacks, the REI Flash. The Flash, however, is not waterproof.
VOLUME: 17 liters (main compartment), plus 6 liters external storage
HIP BELT: It includes a cushioned hip belt, but no hip pockets.
MAX WEIGHT: 25 pounds
HEIGHT: 21 inches
WIDTH: 11 inches
THICKNESS: 6.5 inches
Yes, It’s Basically Waterproof
The most stand-out quality of the Daybreak is that it’s waterproof. It’s made almost completely with Hyperlite’s classic Dyneema material (DCH150, updated cuben fiber).
I have not tested it with total immersion, submerged in water for a period of time. I feel that if put to such a test, a small about of water would eventually find its way inside the pack. After all, the founders of Hyperlite Mountain Gear admit that their products may not be 100% water proof, but rather that they’re “high water resistant.”
With that said, I’m confident that the pack’s contents will stay dry in a heavy rain storm. Even further, I’m confident in its ability to repel deluges of whitewater, and in its integrity when dunked in slot canyons with deep pools.
Its main compartment is sealed with a watertight zipper. It’s clear that the pack was designed with extra care, ensuring its waterproof integrity with details like its taped seams.
The Drawbacks of Water Resistance
One of the drawbacks in sealing out water is the backpack’s lack of an opening to thread a water bottle hose. Virtually every other daypack nowadays includes such a feature, so this is a glaring (but reasonable) omission. This is partially due to the fact that water bladders have fallen out of favor among ultralight hikers, as they’re generally heavier than plastic bottles.
If you still use a bladder (like I often will) there’s fortunately a way around this. The outer front pocket fits a 3 liter bladder – so if I want to use one, I’ll just put it there. This leaves the bladder partially exposed to the sun (and thorns), but I guess we’ll just have to deal with that.
A secondary drawback to the pack’s waterproof quality is its lack of ventilation. If you get moisture inside the pack and are negligent to leave it sealed for a period of time, there’s a viable risk of mildew growth.
The Dyneema DHC150 / Cuben Fiber Rabbit Hole
I’m going to get technical for a moment, and explain some of the details behind the material that Hyperlite Mountain Gear uses in its products.
Hyperlite’s signature cuben fiber was developed in the early 2000’s as a material for sport sailing. It’s known for having exceptional strength and durability in relation to weight, and for being more resistant to UV rays. It lasts longer than Kevlar, and it’s waterproof.
Cuben fiber is based in a specialized polyethylene (ultra high molecular weight), which is laminated in polyester.
In 2015 the Dyneema company bought the rights to cuben fiber, and re-branded it as Dyneema Composite Fabric.
The acronym DCF refers to Dyneema Composite Fabric, which is essentially the original Cuben Fiber.
The acronym DCH refers to Dyneema Composite Hybrid, which is DCF (above) that’s been laminated to an extra layer of polyester.
The published material used in the Hyperlite Daybreak is DCH150. The number 150 refers to the 150-denier polyester that’s used. “Denier” is a unit of measurement used for fiber weight and thickness.
Build and Features
If you came here from my Ultimate Gear List, you’ll know that I love to break down backpacking gear by its primary function. The Hyperlite Daybreak is designed, of course, to carry the things you need on a day hike. For me this primarily means water, snacks, an extra clothing layer, and so on. So let’s look at how hit carries things.
The Main Compartment
As stated above, the main compartment in the Daybreak has a volume of 17 liters. It’s accessed via a zipper (2 zippers, technically). I like this device (as opposed to a roll-top or straps) because it enable the pack to be waterproof. Its simplicity also evokes thoughts of our first backpacks, which were for carrying schoolbooks. And yes, the Daybreak would be a really bad-ass backpack for a high school or college student.
The zipper enclosure extends far down both sides of the pack, almost all way to the bottom. Some folks would describe this as a “clam shell” opening. The only drawback I see here is the potential for the zipper to fail, as a result of being exposed to too much sand and grit. With that said, the zipper has strong teeth. Mine is still going strong after being ground through the narrowest of sandstone slot canyons.
Inside the main compartment, there’s an additional, hanging zippered pouch that’s designed for important, small items like a wallet or keys. It’s made from sturdy Dyneema composite fabric, and measures at 7 inches wide and 5 inches tall. It just barely fits my iPhone XS with a Lifeproof Fre case, though I never use the pocket for this purpose. In fact I rarely use this pocket at all, but it’s still a nice addition.
There’s a vertical, open-topped sleeve in the interior of the pack that sits flush against the back pad. It’s located in the position typically reserved for a water bladder sleeve. I find myself using this pocket more than any other pocket in the pack – it’s most convenient as a place to store small items.
The Outer Front Pocket
On the exterior front of the pack there’s an outer pocket, as is typically found in most backpacks today. The pocket is made of the same sturdy Dyneema fabric as the rest of the pack, complete with 3 small holes at the bottom for draining moisture. I use this most often as place to put my Camelbak bladder.
It’s also a convenient place to store a water bottle. For example, if I’m on a very short trip (or not a genuine hike at all) it’s a good place to shove a single water bottle without throwing off the pack’s balance. Likewise, if both side pockets are in use, then it’s a great place for a third container. Over time you’ll find yourself packing the Daybreak in any number of different ways to suit your needs for the day.
Over the top of the outer front pocket you’ll find your traditional, cross threaded shock cord. I rarely use this, but see its benefit as a place to stow a bulky outer layer. It can even hold a foam sleeping pad (like my ThermaRest Z Lite) for a fast and light overnight trip.
An additional drawstring loop is located nearer to the top of the pack (on the left side) for extra stability. A more traditional, small looping strap mirrors it near the bottom.
A drawback in the main drawstring (in addition to how it’s prone to snag on branches) is its length. In order to accommodate for the potential volume of the pack, the cord has way too much slack for most day trips. To account for this, I need to stuff the cord’s slack deep in the outer front pocket.
The Side Pockets
The Hyperlite Daybreak has 2 side pockets. They are composed of the same Dyneema fabric as the rest of the pack (surprise surprise) and have a small drain at the bottom. Each pocket is capable of fitting 2 1-liter Smartwater bottles, but it’s a tight fit for these. The pockets are best suited for the size of a single Nalgene bottle.
Don’t expect to be able to reach a water bottle in a side pocket while you’re wearing the pack. A majority of manufacturers claim that this is possible for their backpacks, but I find it rarely to be true. Everyone’s personal ergonomics are different (flexibility, long arms, etc.).
The Hip Belt
The Daybreak has a padded hip belt with a sturdy buckle. This goes a long way in supporting the pack’s maximum published weight of 25 pounds.
Personally, I never use the hip belt, and am considering cutting it permanently from the pack. This is because I’ll rarely use the Daybreak for an overnight trip. I’d rather suck up the extra pound and carry my Hyperlite Southwest 3400 for the added convenience and stability.
The hip belt sits most often as dead weight. To keep it out of the way, I’ll weave it through the shock cord on the front of the pack and buckle it closed. I see the benefit of stuffing all I need for an overnight, warm weather trip in the Daybreak, but such a trip comes about so rarely (versus traditional day hiking) that I’ll probably remove the belt soon.
Another instance where the hip belt may come in handy is for a long, hot day trip with a big water haul. I can easily stow 2 gallons of water in the pack. This would weigh 16 pounds (alone) and create a desire for more stability, but again in this case I’d start drinking down the water weight within the first hour of the hike.
The Hyperlite Daybreak does not have hip belt pockets.
The shoulder straps are typical of those found in Hyperlite’s other products, featuring their white-on-black grid design. A thin strap runs down the front of each shoulder strap, which you can use for add-ons or to thread a water bladder hose. Each shoulder strap terminates at point where it’s inserted into a tough weave of Dyneema fabric, attached to the back pad.
The shoulder straps can be joined via your classic sternum strap. With this backpack in particular, I find that the sternum strap adds an impressive level of stability – especially since I don’t like using the hip belt.
The buckle used in the sternum strap doubles as an emergency whistle.
Frame and Back Pad
The frame feels as though it’s simply made of a piece of pliable foam – there is no rigid structure to it, metal or otherwise. This means that the empty backpack can be folded or rolled to be stowed away as necessary. Therefore it has the potential to be used as a summit pack from base camp on a longer backpacking trip. Ideally you’d want something a lot more lightweight for this purpose (or you could simply use your primary backpack, emptied of overnight gear).
The lack of back ventilation in Hyperlite’s packs versus its competitors is one of its greatest drawbacks, a sacrifice made in their effort to cut weight. The signature Dyneema fabric sits snug against your back, encouraging a buildup of damp sweat.
The result is that even on a moderate day hike in cool weather, you can expect to build up an inordinate amount of sweat in the shirt on your back. This is the price that one must pay for such a waterproof, ultralight daypack.
My Review of the Hyperlite Daybreak
As I near the end of the review, I’d like to emphasize what a major role this pack plays in my personal gear. As of the time of this writing, the Hyperlite Daybreak is the only day pack that I own, and in fact the only day pack that I’ve owned for the last 3 years.
Day packs are not only used for long, brutal day hikes. I’d venture that this backpack has carried my laptop even more often than it has carried a SPOT satellite beacon for a backcountry hike. Whenever I’m going ANYWHERE and the occasion calls for more than I can fit in my pockets, this is what I reach for. It’s a good-looking, durable backpack.
And this is where the waterproof quality of the Daybreak really shines. I can stow a laptop or other sensitive items without the need to worry about rain or snow. It’s ideal for short bicycle rides too, where loading panniers is less convenient.
When I travel by vehicle to stay in a hotel, all of my important items go in the Daybreak. If any extras are required, those go in a duffel bag.
There’s only 3 main drawbacks I’ve experienced in using this backpack:
- The price of entry (it’s expensive, for a day pack)
- The lack of ventilation against my back (and ensuing sweat build-up)
- The lack of built-in components to accommodate a hydration bladder
After 3 years of use I have yet to experience a failure in any component of the Daybreak. The zipper to the main compartment gave me a scare one time (after hiking the wet and sandy Zebra Canyon in Utah), but it seems to have worked itself out.