When I realised I preferred to ride with a pack, I picked a good, general purpose outdoors pack I already owned, and while this has been ok for a few years, I realised that it wasn’t perfect – the depth of the pack and the many sections in it meant that things could bunch up at the bottom, which can be uncomfortable on chairlifts. So I decided to try out the Dakine Heli Pack 12L. I chose this because it’s small and low profile – I generally want to carry a bottle of water, a small snack, tool, mini sunscreen, spare goggles or lenses, my purse, and maybe a spare mid layer. This Dakine pack looked be about the right size.
Dakine Heli Pack – The details
Variations on this pack have been around for a few years, with the main selling point being its minimalist design. The first thing that struck me was that it felt light, robust, and not overly padded.
There is one main pocket accessed by a zip which handily opens quite low on each side for easy access. The main pocket contains an elasticated off section which can be used for a hydration pack or a small laptop and it’s also compatible with a separately purchased spine protector, if you’re someone who hits the rails or jumps. There’s also a fleece-lined pocket at the top of the pack for goggles, or for easy to access items such as wallet, phone or tool.
The stash pocket on the front is designed to carry a shovel, however I found it useful to secure my helmet. The clips and straps are configurable to carry a snowboard (vertically) or skis (diagonally) if hiking to those fresh powder fields is your thing.
This is a women-specific model, which along with special colours and designs (this design might not be to everyone’s taste), you get the usual narrower shoulder straps and shorter-torso adaptations. The shoulder straps are S-shaped, which means they are designed to go around the outside of your boobs and not squash them. The waist and sternum straps are not padded, and you do get a built-in safety whistle on the sternum strap.
On the slope
I was struck with how light this pack was, yet also a little concerned about its lack of padding, but I needn’t have worried. With the amount of clothes I wear when boarding and the fact that the contents of my pack are generally light, I didn’t notice the reduction in padding on the shoulder, waist or sternum straps at all. I had no problem fitting all the gear I needed for a day out on the mountain – Yes it was almost full, but that stopped things moving about.
On the lifts, the low-profile meant I did not feel uncomfortable or pushed too far forwards and when riding I hardly noticed that the pack was there. The straps adjusted easily to secure it in place and when we needed to stop mid-trail, it was easy for my riding partner (husband) to access things in the pack for me due to the wide opening of the Heli pack. The simple internal design made it easy to find things too.
I used the shovel pocket to carry my helmet once we’d come off the slopes, it just opened wide enough to be able to secure it, which was a real bonus.
If you are looking for a small yet stable ski or snowboard pack, I would not hesitate to recommend this. The size and the functionality of it are perfect for me, and if I ever feel I need to carry more, then larger versions are available. The jazzy design of this one might not be to everyone’s taste but at least my husband could spot me easily on the mountain. I suspect I will be using this pack on my snowboard holidays for some years yet.