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Reviews > Packs > Frameless Backpacks and Day Packs > Dakine Heli Pro Pack > Test Report by Kathryn Doiron

Dakine Heli Pro pack


Test series by Kathryn Doiron
Initial Report: Nov 6, 2008

Field Report: Jan 27, 2009

Long Term Report: Mar 20, 2009


Image of Dakine Heli Pro pack



Personal Information:
Name: Kathryn Doiron
Age: 32
Gender: Female
Height: 5' 8" (1.7 m)
Weight: 150 lb (68 kg)
Email: kdoiron 'at' gmail 'dot' com
Location: Washington DC, USA

Brief Background: I started backpacking and hiking seriously almost four years ago. Most of my miles have been logged in New Hampshire and Massachusetts. I have recently finished 1200+ miles (2000+ km) of the Appalachian Trail. My style is to be as light as possible while not spending a fortune. My pack weight tends to hover around 25 lbs (11 kg) with two days of food and 16 oz (0.5 L) of water. I have recently started getting into winter hiking, snowshoeing and kayaking.


Product Information:


Manufacturer: Dakine
Website: http://www.dakine.com/
MSRP: $85
Weight: (stated) n/a
Weight: (actual) 3 lbs (1380 g)
Volume: (stated) 1200 cu. in. (20 L)
Colour received: Chopshop cyan



Initial Report:
November 6th, 2008

This pack is geared for snowboarders and skiers so it has nice little features that will fit right in on the slopes. The pack can handle a snowboard both horizontally through a slot in the back or vertically with the various straps. There is a place for skis at the diagonal and an area for poles. One of the pockets is fleece lined to accommodate goggles. This pack has so many little features that I hope I can do them justice in this description. The pack consists of two major pockets, and the main compartment. One major pocket is fleece lined for goggles while the lower pocket is larger and will accommodate anything. The main compartment has a place for a water reservoir and a hook to hang the reservoir from. At the top of the pack is a place to feed the reservoir tube through for protected access from a small zippered slot on the left shoulder strap. The sternum strap rides up and down on a track to allow for easy height and comfort adjustment. There is a small pocket on the right hip belt with a key D-ring. There is a small pocket on the lower right side of the pack for the ski attachment straps to roll up out of the way. There is a water bottle pocket that also rolls up into a pocket on one side of the pack. There is also a small daisy chain on the front of the pack.

To show where the snowboard goes   with the snowboard slot opened
This is a before and after shot showing where the snowboard would go. There is a slot between the body of the pack and the back

My initial impressions of this pack were that it was a bit smaller than I expected and heavier than I thought a small pack would be. Otherwise, I was pleased with the cut and style of the pack and how sturdy it felt. There are so many pockets and adjustment points on this pack that I am afraid to misplace my maps. I hope to at least try attaching snowshoes to the pack at some point to see how well the pack can accommodate something similar to a snow board but not quite.

To show the sternum and rails plus water tube slot   Showing the hook to hang a reservoir from and the slot a tube can be fed through

This pack is made of sturdy material and has a good weight and heft to it. Although the pack seems heavy I am pleased with how sturdy the materials are. It makes me feel like this pack can handle a beating. Which it will get if I attempt to try skiing. I have been playing with the pack over the last couple of days and took it out on one day hike, and I feel I have barely scratched the surface of what this pack offers. Each time I pick it up, I seem to discover something new. While testing this pack I will be evaluating it mostly as a day-pack, but I will also take it out snowshoeing and skiing as time and snow permits. I would like to try to use this pack as an ultralight overnight pack but with temperatures dropping, I may not be able to test that out until after the test period in which case I will try to add an addendum. For the most part, I will evaluate various ways to strap objects to the outside of the pack as well as how much I can comfortably carry inside the pack. The pole slots look like they will also be good for trekking poles so I will evaluate fit and ease of use.

My test plan over the next couple of months will be to use the Dakine Heli Pro pack on all my outdoor activities. This will include backpacking if I can fit everything inside, and day hiking trips in the George Washington National Forest and the Shenandoah National Park as well as occasionally carrying the laptop around. I will be interested in looking into how well the pack stands up to wear and tear as well as snow.



Field Report:
January 27th 2009

I have taken this day pack out on numerous day hikes of various lengths, and cross country skiing in the rain. The pack has worked well for all the trips with few complaints. Read on for more information.

Trips:
I have taken this pack out on two similar day hikes each about 3 hours long. The pack wears very well and I have not noticed any discomfort from the straps or the hip belt. I did notice that once I tightened down the hip belt and shoulder straps to the required tightness, I was left with a lot of excess strap hanging down. I have left it for now but I might look into trying to roll them out of the way. I haven't had to carry much on these shorter day hikes other than an extra layer, 68 oz (2 L) of water, a little thermal jug, camera, car keys and wallet. The pack works well with the load I am carrying. Since using the pack on day hikes, I noticed that most things are user friendly, except for the eyeglass pocket. It works well with little items, but I can't fit my map in it, so that goes in the larger pocket below it. The hip belt pocket is also a little small, I can just fit my camera in it, although I noticed it has a D-ring for keys.

Two more dayhikes including Difficult Run in Virginia where a portion of the hike was in the rain. I didn't notice any obvious signs of water leaking into the body of the pack or any of the pockets. I have been having a few issues with the placement of my drinking hose. The tube fits in the shoulder strap sleeve with few problems but if I want to drink from the hose, I need more length than will fit in the zip pocket. I find that rather then leaving the hose in the zip pocket I pull it out further so I have enough to comfortably drink from without ducking my head down. The picture below shows this. The hose pouch also does not accommodate the 90 degree bend in the tube but does accommodate my other hose without the bend.

Pack with drink hose pulled out

The next day hike saw almost 7 miles (11.3 km) total over about 5 hours going to St. Mary's Rock and the Pinnacles. This was a nice hike but the weather was quite cold with high winds. I was carrying extra layers for warmth, plus a lunch and small thermal jug. I noticed that the exposed part of my drinking hose kept coming close to freezing solid. The temperatures dropped down to 24 F(-4 C), the water in the drinking tube mostly froze and the mouth piece at one point froze solid. On my next hike out I will try to fit the hose into the zip pocket properly and see if that helps the freezing issue. This will also give me a chance to see if there is enough hose to drink from when properly situated in the hose pocket.

This trip out was actually a car camping trip with a day hike. I brought the day pack along as I was able to store all my camping equipment in a duffel rather than needing an overnight pack. The pack only had an extra thermal layer, some water, snacks and camera.

Pack with skis in the ski loops

The most recent trip out, I took the day pack on a cross country skiing trip. It started raining shortly before we started and continued for hours. While not a heavy rain, it was constant and more than a drizzle. I was skiing for about 2 and a half hours with the pack on. Inside the pack I had water, extra layers, extra gloves, snacks and knee braces. Nothing was in protective bags except the snacks. After about an hour of skiing, I paused to pull out a knee brace and found that the outer fabric of the bag was wet, but that it hadn't quite soaked through to the inner lining. After the end of the 2 and a half hours, I found that the outer fabric was soaked, and the inner liner material was wet. The down jacket as my extra layer was a little damp.

Impressions and Comments:
I wasn't sure how useful the hip belt was and whether it was actually helping to keep some of the load on my hips or if it was simply keeping the pack from bouncing around. After a 6 mile (9.6 km) day hike, I unbuckled the hip belt and allowed the pack to sit directly on my shoulders. At the end of the day, I would more clearly notice if there was a difference. I wasn't expecting much, but it was actually quite noticeable almost right away. The hip belt was in fact helping to shift the weight to my hips.

I have been concerned about the length of some of the straps and although I notice that some of the straps have an elastic loop to help contain the extra strap, the shoulder strap and hip belt do not. The pack seems to be designed as a one size fits all and as I have a rather narrow waist area, the straps are tightened down quite a bit leaving long trailing straps. I have only had one issue so far, sometimes when picking up the pack, I will be standing on one of the shoulder straps and that will cause the strap to tighten up. I will continue to keep an eye on where my straps are located and how the length works.

Taking the pack out on a trip in the rain seemed to show that the pack can't resist water. Nothing was soaked after the 2 and a half hours, but some things near the outer surface were damp or had wet spots.

Wrap-up
So far I have been happy with the use and sturdiness of the daypack. It is not showing any signs of wear and I will continue to monitor the pack for wear. I do find that since the pack is a one size fits most, the straps, once tightened to my dimensions, tend to hang down quite far. I am a little concerned they will catch on branches but so far they haven't. The pack does not seem to be rain resistant.



Long Term Report:
March 20th, 2009

I have taken this day pack out on four more day hikes of various lengths, and a snowshoeing trip as well as on a plane trip. The pack has worked well for all the trips with few complaints. Read on for more information.

I took the pack out with me on a car camping trip where I knew I was going to be snowshoeing. While I did manage to get some snowshoeing done, at one point the snow base just wasn't enough to warrant using the snowshoes. So I removed them, placed them together with the crampons facing together and placed them inside the snowboard panel. I wasn't sure this was going to work, but it actually worked out quite well. The padding for the back is integrated into the panel, so when I placed the snowshoes inside the panel, the padding still protected my back. I did find that the buckles for the snowboard panel were about an inch (2.5 cm) too small. I had to use a little compression on the snowshoes to get them to fit. Once inside the panel, I had to loosen the shoulder straps about 6 inches (15 cm) in order to still comfortably carry the pack.

Pack with snowshoes in the snowboard slot

I took the day pack out with me on a day hike. It was a short 6 mile hike. The pack had both my down base layer and a rain shell plus some snacks. I had a metal bottle in the bottle holder with the bungee cord tightened down a little for a tighter fit. I was still able to remove and replace the bottle as needed without removing the pack. I find the bottle holder is a bit high to reach back for but I am flexible enough to reach the bottle. I do wish the bottle holder was a little taller such that the bungee could fit just under the lid of a standard 32 oz (1 L) bottle. This would make the bottle more secure in the bottle holder. The bottle holder does make an excellent external pocket for other small items. I have been able to place my winter cap in the holder as well as liner gloves when not in use.

Another day hike saw me out on muddy trails as the DC area received a strange warm spell in early February. I used a water bottle in the water bottle holder and carried an extra base layer as well as a map, camera in the hip pocket and a few snacks. The hike was about a 5 mile loop hike with little elevation gain. The muddy trails make it very important to have a pack that doesn't shift when I was thrown off balance. I have the pack fairly tight to my body and when I slipped, the pack moved with me rather then lurching away from me.

The next hike out was a 6 mile loop hike with a little elevation gain. The warm spell broke and temperatures were cooler. I once again had a water bottle in the bottle holder. This time, like last time, I was carrying a metal canteen bottle which is narrower then the traditional 32 oz (1 L) plastic bottle I usually carry. As such, I had to tighten the bungie lock a bit to prevent the bottle from moving around too much.

I have also used this day pack while traveling. Although the straps were a concern when I sent the bag into the X-ray machine, it did come out the other end unscathed. The day pack fits nicely in the overhead compartments and with a little push of the foot, also fits under the seat in front. I didn't overload the bag but did have a computer and various travel necessities. Having the hip belt on a travel pack, did make for a more comfortable traveling experience.

Impressions and Comments:
I have really enjoyed using the Dakine pack over the last 4 months and will continue to use it on dayhikes. The pack has remained comfortable to wear and has held up nicely with no obvious signs of wear on the material. I continued to find new features on this pack after the initial list given above. I found that the snowboard slot on the back opens up to easily accommodate a snowboard as well as snowshoes. Although the buckles were a bit tight, they did fit. The compression buckles on the sides of the pack can actually be used to hold a board to the front of the pack vertically. I did find the hip pocket just a little small and couldn't store more than my camera or keys in the pocket. This hip pocket is a water resistant camera pocket and was the only thing that seemed to resist a rain filled trip. The rest of the pack showed signs of rain seepage after about 2 hours in the rain and items in pockets did get damp or wet.

The hose pocket has been interesting. I did manage to get my hose to fit in the pocket without having extra hosing coming out. I have to bend my head down just a little to get the bite valve in my mouth comfortably. The problem is that with my traditional streamlined bite valve, I can fit it into the pocket and get the zipper shut, but I am afraid that any pressure on the sleeve can cause the bite valve to become compressed and leak. My other bite valve, which has a 90 degree angle in it, doesn't fit in the sleeve and I cannot close the zipper. I really didn't find the pocket that useful other than keeping the tubing from flapping around.

Based on my size, many of the straps were tightened quite tight to fit. This left me with a lot of extra strap hanging down. A few of the back straps came with a fabric elastic band to keep the excess straps out of the way, and I think that would have been helpful in other places like along the hip belt and at the bottom of the shoulder straps. The goggle compartment works well with goggles or little items such as cell phones and keys but didn't work with my Appalachian Trail maps for the Virginia area. The larger front pocket was convenient for maps and snacks.

Wrap-up
Pros:

    - lots of straps and buckles to carry various winter gear items
    - hip belt pocket fits my camera perfectly
    - snowboard slot doubles as a snowshoe carrier too
Cons:
    - material not water resistant
    - straps were quite long for me
    - Tubing sleeve not that useful

This concludes my long term report on the Dakine Heli Pro pack. I hope you have enjoyed reading this report series and found it useful. I wish to thank BackpackGearTest.org and Dakine for allowing me to play with this day pack.


Read more reviews of Dakine gear
Read more gear reviews by Kathryn Doiron

Reviews > Packs > Frameless Backpacks and Day Packs > Dakine Heli Pro Pack > Test Report by Kathryn Doiron



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