Panel loaders or top loaders
I have, and use, both top and panel loaders, selecting on preference for the job in hand. The access ease of a panel-load is a bit of a moot point if the contents you want in or out are in a waterproof liner bag inside.
what do you look for in a hillwalking daypack?
Same as any other pack: carrying comfort.
Either. I use a Salomon Raid Revo which is a panel and an OMM 32 which is a top loader depending on how much extra gear I want to take.
For larger sacs I'd always want a top loader. Whilst I've never had a zip fail on a panel loader it is a weak point and wouldn't want to risk it failing on a trip.
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