So we looked into something that would not only meet the current shortfalls but also the future needs of my kidlets, that is, to increase capacity of payload while remaining hi viz. Enter the MEC Dome Daypack for kids. It's total capacity is approximately 9L and it can actually hold notepad and pens. It weighs about 900gms, and features an exterior mesh bottle holder, sternum strap with whistle, a tactical grab handle, and a few pockets. Here is what MEC says:
- Comfortable and breathable 3-D mesh back panel and shoulder strap lining.
- Main compartment has a name and address tag inside.
- Secondary zippered pocket on back for raincoats or mittens.
- Top grab-handle makes the pack easier to carry when it’s not being worn.
- Sternum strap buckle has a built-in whistle.
- Reflective treatment on shoulder straps for nighttime visibility
This pack is priced at about 50% (15CDN) of what a Little Life goes for, and is backed MEC's Rocksolid Guarantee.
We liked this pack so much we got one for each kid. It holds EVERYTHING each kid requires for a day's worth of tripping. Usually that means hydration, lunch, snacks, extra layers, "I'm bored" activities, sunscreen, hat, gum and shit. I like that we can machine-wash this lightweight, simple and "rugged" pack. Now, "rugged" is relative to what my kids would consider as hard use. For them, it means throw it around on the plane, in the taxi, and lately - at each other.
Some reasons I like this pack is that it is made of a 420-denier Velocity nylon which is closer to the ballistic side of nylon, its a denser weave with a smoother surface which means it can withstand more higher abuse-ish situations. It also features a mesh back and should strap - presumably to increase airflow.
The sternum strap (chest strap) is pretty key to the fit and function of this pack. Having tried other kid-sized backpacks, other than the Little Lifes (which also features this strap), this pack was the most comfortable when heavily laden. It has both vertical and horizontal adjustments, and uses a combination of standard nylon webbing plus some elastic to increase the comfort. As you can see there's also a whistle - perfect for locating missing parents.
We made the mistake of trying it out at a holiday beach, and everybody looked to the surf simultaneously for dorsal fins.
One of the major reasons we opted for this pack was the ability for my kids to shove their own water bottles into the holder. What's the point of "One man, one kit" if we have to help them pack. We found with the Little Life, it took a bit of gumption and engineering to shove a Contigo water bottle in (we did rip the mesh on the Little Life) - it cannot be done. With this pack, it can be. Just note that some Contigo water bottles have rubberized bottoms that although is good for stabilizing grip on flat surfaces, sucks for sliding into tight pockets. Once it's in there though, it is secure. I suppose the other option is just to put it into the main compartment.
Which brings me to the next feature, the main and secondary compartments. Generally the main compartment is organized so that hardest and flattest items are closest to her back, then the fluffy and odd-shaped knickknacks are stuffed outboard. The secondary and smaller zippered compartment holds her miscellaneous stuff like gum, gloves, sunglasses, torch, stuffy and other small things. Things that can be dirty.
All in all, for about 15 bucks, you get a solid kids daypack backed by a solid guarantee. You can't even get a shitty Disney backpack from Walmart for that price. Note that the kids use this pack for day trips and travelling. They use a different pack for going to school mainly for capacity reasons. I highly recommend giving this pack a go if you are in the market for a daypack for your kid. My eldest is 6 and she continues to use this as her daytripper. By abstaining from buying a larger capacity pack, we're teaching her to pack wisely and necessarily.
If I have to say one thing missing from this pack, would be a high viz strip or two located outboard, so its visibility is increased from the back as well as the front.