There are so many variables that go into preparation for a jaunt into the backcountry, whether it’s for a quick lap outside the resort boundary or an all out charging full day tour. Planning and packing are essential. Part of having a successful outing is contingent on having the right gear and that’s where DAKINE’s newest brainchild- the Pro II comes into play.
Details of the Dakine Pro II Pack
After rocking the past few seasons with the popular Heli Pro model, I always seemed to find myself wishing I had a little extra room available to stuff in some of those optional items that may make or break a trip. Although from the outside it’s not completely noticeable, the Pro II squeezes in an extra 300 cubic inches for a total volume of 1550 cubic inches.
The large snow tool pocket, accessed from the front of the pack, comes complete with plenty of room for the shovel blade, while allowing additional free space and mini pockets for other items. Functional features of the snow tool pocket include a probe holster and seat cushion. Once the shovel pocket is removed, it unfolds to create a padded seat cushion- perfect for that mid-day lunch break. Two additional smaller pockets are located adjacent to the shovel insert.
Exterior features of the DAKINE Pro II include a quick draw ice axe/shovel handle holster which provides speedy turnaround when seconds are crucial. A diagonal ski carry (cross or vertical for snowboards) provides easy, yet quick assembly. An added amenity is a zippered waist belt that can easily accommodate most digital cameras, small snacks, or other small tools. To assist with maintaining an unfrozen water bladder spout, DAKINE has also included a hydro sleeve.
Dakine Pro II Pack Review
Once I got familiar with the new pack, it was off to challenge its durability in one of the world’s most unforgiving environments. I knew the conditions in Las Lenas, Argentina, would really put the pack through the ringer. With brutal gale force winds, all forms of precipitation from rain/sleet to dry cold powder snow, it was the perfect locale to test the functionality and potential limits of the Pro II.
The weeks spent last summer in Las Lenas consisted of long one-day tours outside the resort boundary. The many added pockets in the newer version became handy and assisted in making each tour run more smoothly, especially the snow tool pocket. Extra padding for the shovel blade can be used as a seat meanwhile plenty of room exists for a pair of skins, probe, blade, and a few other touring essentials. What also makes this feature user friendly is the easy access it provides to gear required during an emergency.
The backpack itself is rather waterproof and holds up well in the weather. I kept an extra pair of gloves and socks inside the larger pocket without any wet incidents. Additional padding that virtually insulates any Camelback bladder helps keep the majority of the space dry- although if your bladder is prone to any leakage, it eventually finds its way through to the bottom core.
The weight (3.3 lbs) of this pack with a comfortable frame allowed the pack to mold against my body, allowing more freedom of movement. DaKine could decrease the weight of the pack by limiting the excess strapping but it didn’t seem to slow me down. The only exception to this is when the diagonal ski carry function is utilized- which can place a little strain on the left shoulder for those long hikes. It also made a few sections maneuvering around rock bands a bit more technical as opposed to having a vertical carry option.
When looping skis in the diagonal carry, it became a relatively quick and efficient process. Skis with larger tail twin tips such as a Volkl Gotama will need to be placed through the loop one at a time. Those tails with less profile make for a quicker fit, but nothing a few extra seconds won’t cure for the big guns.
As for durability, I discovered one shortcoming. With only a few days of wear and tear, it was unusual but not completely unexpected to notice some surface erosion from the diagonal ski carry. The drawback here is the lifetime of the backpack suffers from the constant etching from sharp ski edges coming in contact with the material separating the shovel blade from the outside of the pack. This is something I’ve found that limits the use of these kinds of packs to about two seasons. Eventually the nylon fabric gets worn down to the point it can easily tear.
Although the pack is more spacious than its predecessor, using a full bladder still limits the amount of gear you can carry effectively. At maximum capacity, I had a shovel, probe, crampons, skins, a small first aid kit, a few snack items, one extra pair each of socks, gloves and goggles, and a light breathable dry clothing layer. With this much stuff, it definitely maximized the capacity for a one day tour. Although the exterior zippered waist pocket was designed with digital cameras in mind- I found it very useful for quick grab items such as a compass, sunglasses, and snacks.
The Bottom Line: Dakine Pro II Pack
The Dakine Pro II performs up there with the best. With each evolution of the DAKINE products, I get a more favorable view. This particular pack fits my body most comfortably without becoming a hindrance and provides just enough functions and accessories to efficiently execute a full backcountry tour.
Using a diagonal ski carry comes with both its positive and negative aspects, but I’ve grown more accustomed to them in that position, though it would be nice to have the option of a vertical A-frame carry for skis.
If you’re length of backcountry trips are primarily one day or resort accessed, I would highly recommend the quality and functionality of the DAKINE Pro II model. Although there are some drawbacks, the positive elements far outweigh the criticism. For those looking for lift accessed backcountry and short day trips, this is definitely an item worth checking out.