Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Gear Closet: Keen Tilden Daypack

Last August, when I met with the folks from Keen at Outdoor Retailer they were eager to show off their new CNX line of footwear, and with good reason. The new shoes are incredibly lightweight, super comfortable and don't compromise on the famous Keen quality. I have no doubt that the CNX footwear is primed to be a big hit with travelers and outdoor enthusiasts this spring. At that same OR show, the company also introduced a new line of daypacks that are debuting right along side those new shoes. These well-designed packs looked incredibly versatile and ever since I laid eyes on them, I've been waiting anxiously to get my hands on one to test. My patience were rewarded recently when Keen sent one my way and after putting it through its paces over the past few weeks, its clear that it was worth the wait.

The new line of packs includes three models: the 22L Aliso, the 28L Tilden and the 35L Ellwood. I received the Tilden, which I felt was the perfect sweet-spot in terms of size for my personal needs. The smaller Aliso runs the risk of not quite being able to carry all my gear, while the Ellwood is probably a bit too large for my tastes. I'm sure there is a market for both of them, it just so happens that the Tilden was perfect for me.

Keen has fashioned these daypacks to be versatile enough that they can be used for your everyday commute to and from the office or for light-duty use on the trail. Many of the features that are incorporated into the design are able to pull double-duty under either conditions, which isn't exactly an easy thing to pull off. For instance, the thickly padded shoulder straps and the TopoFoam back panel are fantastic for carrying a heavy load, whether that means a bag full of books for university or a day's worth of gear for a long hike. Similarly, an internal sleeve serves equally well as a pocket for a laptop as it does a 2-liter hydration bladder. It is a testament to the talent of Keen's design team that these small touches could have resulted in a daypack that comes across as a bit schizophrenic, but in practice it all works well. The result is a pack that is as close to a jack-of-all trades that you'll find.


Built from recycled polyester fabrics and featuring a weather proof external pocket and bottom panel, this bag is designed to withstand the elements. It is both lightweight and high durable, easily shrugging off the wear and tear that comes with the daily grind. The two large side water bottle holders always come in handy no matter where you're headed and a nicely placed grab-and-go handle make it easy to quickly and easily grab this bag when you're rushing to catch that plane.

Internally the Tilden has plenty of room to carry just about everything you could  possibly need. In addition to the dedicated laptop/hydration sleeve, there is a second one just for an iPad or other tablet and the large main pocket swallows up all kinds of gear. Three organizational pockets help to keep all of our small items under control and within easy reach, while a zippered internal pocket is hidden away inside the front panel. It is clear that Keen wanted to make sure that we had plenty of storage options at our disposal and when they are laid out this nicely, its hard to argue with that approach. I even appreciate the integrated key clip, which always provides peace of mind while traveling or hiking.

After using the Tilden on an almost daily basis I found myself continually impressed with how comfortable it is to wear. This is in large part thanks to the nicely padded back panel and shoulder straps that I mentioned above. It also includes both a waist belt and sternum strap, which aren't all that useful on a daily commute but are indispensable on a hike. It is nice that Keen didn't skimp on those features on a pack that will probably be used more commonly around town than it will be on a serious trek. But the mere fact that this pack can be used in effectively under either scenario is an indicator of just how good it is.

Hardcore hikers will probably want a pack that is more dedicated to those pursuits, but the Tilden will make travelers, business users and occasional hikers very happy. There are few packs that offer so much versatility and built-in features in such an attractive and well constructed package. If you're in the market for a pack that you can carry your laptop and lunch on your way to the office, then serve as a great carry-on for that two-week trip to Europe, the Tilden is a fantastic option. Add in the ability to transition to a trail for a day hike and you have a sense of all of the things this pack can do. Best of all, it comes with an MSRP of just $100, which is a real bargain for everything this daypack brings to the table.

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