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Reviews > Packs > Frameless Backpacks and Day Packs > Dakine Heli Pro Pack > Test Report by arnold peterson

March 19, 2009



NAME: Arnold Peterson
EMAIL: alp4982(AT)yahoo(DOT)com
AGE: 70
LOCATION: Wilmington Massachusetts USA
HEIGHT: 5' 8" (1.73 m)
WEIGHT: 165 lb (74.80 kg)
TORSO: 19 in (48 cm)

Backpacking Background: Presently almost all my experience has been hiking in New Hampshire, Florida, Colorado USA, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia Canada using an 11 lb (5 kg) day pack. I have backpacked on Mt. Washington and at the Imp shelter located between North Carter and Mount Moriah mountains in New Hampshire. The gear I will be writing about has been used a lot hiking mostly all year around in New Hampshire. I have completed the forty-eight 4000 footers (1219 m) of New Hampshire. My day hikes have been as long as 12 hours covering almost 20 miles (32 km).



Manufacturer: Dakine
Year of Manufacture: 2008
Manufacturer's Website:
MSRP: US$ 85
Listed Weight: not listed
Measured Weight: 53 oz (1490 g)
Volume: 1200cu in (20 L)
Size: 21 11 x 5.5 in (53 x 28 x 14 cm)
Material: 600D Polyester
Size: Large
Color: Black Chop Shop
Cross and Vertical Snowboard Carry
Diagonal Ski Carry
Fleece Lined Goggle Pocket
Deployable Water Bottle Pocket
Insulated Hydro Sleeve
Quick Draw Ice Axe Sleeve
Waterproof, Fleece Lined Camera Pocket
Other details:
Product is PVC free


There is a lot of detail in this product. There is a look and feel of sturdiness about the Heli. All zippers performed well except for the one on the pocket on the waist belt. This is a waterproof zipper and does perform differently. The Heli pack appears to be well constructed in terms of workmanship and quality of material. The main part of the pack has a sleeve for a hydration pack. There is a fabric tag to show the location of the exit passageway for the hydration tube. The hydration tube passes through the left harness sleeve and exits near the bottom of the harness. The hydration tube is accessed through a zipper in the harness. The access port is closed when the zipper is down and is open when the zipper is up. When I inserted my 3 L Platypus hydration pack, the tube was long enough to fit to the bottom of the sleeve area and double back to the top of the zipper. The bend in the hose may help keep water from coming out accidentally in case there is too much pressure on the hydration pack.

The shoulder straps each have an adjustment. The breast strap for the shoulder straps is adjustable both horizontally and vertically. The deployable water bottle pocket accommodates a 1 L bottle. This pocket is zippered and has an adjustable tension cord to secure the hydration bottle. On the right side of the waist belt there is a waterproof, fleece lined camera pocket. There is also a key hook in that pocket. This pocket is just large enough for my 5 year old digital point and shoot camera which is almost twice the size of newer cameras. The fleece lined goggle pocket is more than adequate to accommodate wraparound sunglasses in their case. There are multiple straps and loops to attach a variety of items. The lower outside pocket can be used to store a snow shovel or other items that may have snow or ice on them. This pocket has a drainage hole at the lower end of the pocket. The drainage hole is round black plastic insert with several holes. See picture below.
front view

back view

lower attachment loop with storage pocket

waterproof fleece lined camera pocket

exit for hydration tube

hydration tube exiting shoulder strap

deployable water bottle pocket

drainage hole

cross country skis attached

snowshoes attached


The instructions were essentially 6 pictures showing the following features:
Fleece lined goggle pocket
Deployable water bottle pocket
Insulated Hydro sleeve
Snowboard cross carry
Vertical cross carry
Diagonal ski carry


I put the pack on and was surprised to find it felt lighter than it had when I was holding it. The waist belt adjusted to size easily. I then snapped the breast strap together and this adjustment was also easy. I then noticed that the breast strap can be adjusted vertically by means of a slide. That is a nice feature not found on all packs. The empty pack felt very comfortable and secure on me. I tried carrying cross country skis and snowshoes in my backyard. The snowshoes were easy to attach and I felt they were comfortable in the short distance I walked. I did have more trouble attaching the cross country skis but, once they were on, they did not feel too much different than the snowshoes. This will be interesting under actual field conditions.


I am not a snowboarder, however; I snowshoe, cross country ski, and go on day hikes throughout the year. It will be easier to attach my snowshoes, and skis to this pack than my present pack. I also have a problem with the hose of my hydration pack freezing in cold weather. If the insulated Hydro Sleeve works as indicated on the web site, this will be a great improvement over my present hydration system. I will also be testing for comfort, function and dependability. I like a pack that becomes a part of me and that is comfortable enough for me to keep on during short breaks. It is nice to be able to find and manipulate items in my pack with liner gloves on. A good pack withstands trail abuse with seams intact and zippers functioning.

I will be hiking and snowshoeing in New Hampshire and Massachusetts. I will be using the Dakine Heli for all my day hikes including snowshoeing, except when I will need more capacity than the Heli can provide.


I find the Dakine Heli Pro 20 L pack attractive. It is a little heavier than I thought it would be. For a small pack, it has a lot of adjustments. There are several attachment loops which should make it easy to attach a variety of items. I am looking forward to using the Heli on all my hikes that do not require a larger capacity.

This concludes my Initial Report. The Field Report will be appended to this report in approximately two months from the date of this report. Please check back then for further information.

My thanks to Dakine and for the opportunity to test the Dakine Heli Pro 20 L pack.



Locations in Massachusetts: temperature; time duration; weather; field conditions.

Virginia Woods: 50 F (10 C); 4 hr; sunny with very little wind; mixed forest of mostly hard wood and mature trees; very rocky and hilly.
Boxford State Forest: 60F (16 C) to 50 F (10 C); 6 hr; winds increasing; fairly dense forest of mostly hardwoods and areas of dense undergrowth; rolling hills.

Locations in New Hampshire: known elevation; temperature; time duration; weather; field conditions.

Cannon Mountain: 4100 ft (1250 m); 30 F (-1 C); 3 hr; sunny with some clouds; wind at higher elevation; small grassy areas to dense evergreen with areas of ledge.
Bald Mountain: 2340 ft (713 m); 60 F (16 C); 3 hr; sunny with no wind; steep and almost all rock with some scrambling near the summit.
Artist Bluff: 2340 ft (713 m); 60 F (13 C); 3 hour; sunny with no wind; lightly forested with mostly rock and assorted trees.
Echo Lake: 55 F (13 C); 3 hr; sunny with no wind; relatively flat.
Brown Lake Barn: 20 F (-7 C); 5 hr; sunny with gusting winds; rolling hills.
Mt Hedgehog: 3140 ft (957 m); 15 F (-9 C); 5 hr; sunny with some clouds; no winds until summit, winds 20 mi/hr (32 km/hr).
Flume Gorge: 30 F (-1 C); 3 hr; overcast with slight breeze; steep inclines and declines.


During this test period, I hiked 8 times with my Heli Pro pack and contents weighing about 11 lb (5 kg). I felt no discomfort from the pack even on my longest hike of 6 hrs. When preparing for a day hike, I set out the items that I think I will need and proceed to pack them. It is a problem if my pack gets filled before all items are included. Running out of pack space was not a problem with the Heli Pro. On each hike I had extra space. Having extra room in my pack is beneficial if a fellow hiker finds their load too heavy and needs someone to carry some of it. I found keeping my items organized was easy with the number of pockets available. I do have a concern with putting a camera in the camera packet on the belt along with car keys. I feared that the keys might damage the screen of the camera. The goggles pocket is big enough for my sunglasses case, camera, and cell phone. Other than that all the other pockets had adequate space, and were easy to access and load. The darker colors are very nice in the winter, seems like it adds a little warmth when hiking on a cold and sunny day.

Using the insulated water hose

The first real test of keeping my water flowing was the Brown Lake Barn hike on a windy 20 F (-7 C) day. I normally attach the bite end of the hydration tube with a clip to the breast strap. If I did that under those conditions, the tube would probably freeze up as it has done in the past with my other packs. Thus, I kept the hydration tube inside the insulated sleeve until I was ready to drink. Getting at the tube was relatively quick and easy. I did have some trouble putting the tube back in and pulling the zipper down to close the opening. Part of the problem may have been that I am left handed. I did have to take my gloves off, and then hold the tube in place with one hand while I used the other to pull the zipper down. Pulling the zipper down tended to move the hydration tube out of place. On this 5 hr hike I had no problem with the water freezing. The next really cold hike was Mt Hedgehog. It was a cold 13 F (-11 C) just outside the building that day, when 4 of us left the ski club. We drove about 30 minutes east to the trailhead parking lot. In the parking lot, I took out the hydration tube for a drink. While I was drinking, another vehicle got stuck in the snow. I dropped my pack on the ground and went with the others to help out. With 7 of us pushing, it did not take long to get the vehicle back on the road again. In the short time I was helping, my hydration tube had started to freeze. Judging from past experience, I knew to get my water flowing again and to clear all the ice. From this point on, the tube only came out when I needed a drink. Most of the hike was in moderately mixed forest with about 6 in (15 cm) of snow on the ground. There was little or no wind until we emerged from the protective forest near the summit. In the last 10 minutes before reaching our destination, we hiked over snow covered rock. The winds in this unprotected area were about 20 mi/hr (32 km/hr) with stronger gusts. Fine powder snow was swirling all over. After a quick 15 minute lunch near the summit, we decided to return to the parking lot because we were feeling cold. Over the course of the hike, I took the tube out several times when I needed a drink. The water was cold, but it did not freeze again. With any of my previous packs, my hydration tube would have been frozen. Keeping hydrated is worth the extra effort of stopping, taking off my gloves, extracting the tube before drinking, returning the tube to the sleeve, and zipping it back into place. For me, this process is preferable to taking off my pack to get a drink. Keeping warm on a cold windy day is a lot easier when I am hydrated.

Hiking steep trails and bushwhacking

The hike on Cannon Mountain involved some bushwhacking and a very steep descent. I was able to pass through thickly forested areas without getting the pack caught on the branches. Getting a pack caught on branches puts my balance at risk. The descent is very steep and in the past I had used a hydration pack only, to avoid balance problems. The Heli was stable at all times and I maintained my balance during this steep descent on icy areas over rocky surfaces. My descent from Artist's Bluff was almost vertical. There are places on this descent where I take small jumps down. During the entire descent I found the Heli very stable and I felt almost like I had no pack on. My pack even remained stable during the jumping maneuvers.
Brown Lake Barn

Flume Gorge

Mt Hedgehog


The Dakine Heli Pro is comfortable, feels like a part of me, keeps my water from freezing and is durable. Storing the hydration tube would be easier if the zipper for the sleeve closed in the up position, . I have worn the Heli Pro about 40 hrs and think it could replace my current day pack.


I will be using the Heli Pro for all my day hikes and some casual walks around my neighborhood and walking trip to the local shopping center.

This concludes my Field Report. The Long Term Report will be appended to this report in approximately two months from the date of this report. Please check back then for further information.

My thanks to Dakine and for the opportunity to test the Dakine Heli Pro 20 L pack.



Locations in Massachusetts: temperature; time duration; weather; field conditions.

Mount Watatic: 1,832 ft (558 m); 15 F (-9 C); 3 hr; sunny with winds up to 30 mi/hr (48 km/hr); mixed forest of mostly hard wood and mature trees, recent severe storm damage, snow covered ground up to 10 in (25 cm).
Middlesex Canal: 25 F (-4 C) to 35 F (2 C); 3 hr; sunny with light wind; mixed forest of mostly small trees and bushes with a few mature trees, relatively flat with wet areas.
Minuteman National Park: 34 F (-1 C); 3 hr; no wind; mostly open areas with large older trees, rolling hills.
Fresh Pond Reservoir: 62 F (17 C); 2 hr; sunny and no winds; mostly flat with puddles and muddy areas.

Locations in New Hampshire: temperature; time duration; weather; field conditions.

Rockingham County, New Hampshire: 54 F (12 C); 2 hr; no wind and sunny; mixed forest with hard crusted snow.


I snowshoed Mount Watatic for about 3 hours on a very cold day, the temperature was 15 F (-9 C) and winds were up to 30 mi/hr (48 km/hr). The snow cover was at least 10 in (25 cm). It was a very bright sunny day and there were ice crystals on most of the trees producing a lot of bright light. There were a few places on the trail where trees had fallen and I made contact several times with branches without losing my balance or having my pack get caught. The water in the hydration tube did not freeze and I was able to stay hydrated. It was just a great day to be outdoors.
Mt Watatic

I snowshoed along the Middlesex Canal for about 3 hours. I was breaking through 2 crusts of snow. There was bright sunlight with a light wind. The temperature was 35 F (2 C). I had no trouble with balance or getting caught while walking through areas of thick brush with the Heli Pro pack on.

I hiked in Minuteman National Park with 19 hikers from a local hiking group for about 3 hours. This was a very sunny, cloudless day with a temperature of 34 F (1 C). The trail was a mix of ice, snow, water, and mud. I offered to carry a few items for a hiker who was having trouble maintaining balance. I was able to easily add his bag to my pack without affecting my balance or causing me any discomfort.
Minuteman National Park

I walked with a group of hikers around Fresh Pond Reservoir on a bright sunny 62 F (17 C) day. Again I was able to carry items for a hiker who was having trouble with items that she was trying to hand carry. This hike was about 2 hours long and 5 mi (8 km).

I hiked 2 hours in New Hampshire on a 54 F (12 C) day on hard crusted snow. The snow would partially collapse with each step. At first I thought this would result in unstable walking conditions. The pack and I remained quite stable during the whole hike. Most of the time I was not aware that I was wearing a backpack.

Urban use.

It is nice to be able to have a pack that can be used in more than one application. I have been using the Heli Pro day pack for the volunteer work I do in Lowell helping refugees with literacy. I can easily fit the needed items into the Heli Pro, and it is a lot easier for me to carry the pack on my back than a briefcase in my hand. The quantity of materials I bring will increase and the Heli Pro will easily and comfortably accommodate the additional load.


The Heli Pro is attractive, comfortable, and has enough space for my day hiking needs even in the colder weather. Most of all, I was able to carry water in my hydration pack all winter long without having the tube freeze. I find dealing with a hydration pack is a lot easier for me, than using other methods of hydration. I would like to have the zipper for the hydration sleeve close in the up direction. I think it would be nice if the waist pocket was just a little larger and also to have a pocket on each side. The ends of the waist straps are a bit too long for me and at some point I will probably cut them back and resew the ends. After 4 months of testing, all zippers perform well and the pack is in excellent condition.


I will be using the Dakine Heli Pro for all my day hikes, and also for staying overnight at my son's house to care for my grandchildren when he is away for a night. I will continue to use this day pack to carry things when I do volunteer work in the community.

This concludes my Long Term Report. My thanks to Dakine and for the opportunity to test the Heli Pro 20 L pack.

This report was created with the Report Writer Version 1. Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.

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