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Dakine Explorer Review

While this is a great backpack for commuting to and from campus, we would recommend an extra layer of protection for your laptop, if carrying one.
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Price:  $60 List | $30.58 at Amazon
Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros:  Lightweight, large, has skateboard carrying straps
Cons:  Poor water resistance, large bulky laptop protection sleeve
Manufacturer:   Dakine
By Katherine Elliott ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Nov 29, 2016
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62
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#11 of 12
  • Laptop Protection - 25% 5
  • Comfort - 20% 8
  • Storage - 15% 6
  • Ease of Use - 15% 7
  • Water resistance - 15% 5
  • Style - 10% 6

Our Verdict

The Dakine Explorer is right in the middle of size at 26L but feels roomy thanks to its great organization pockets. It is a super comfy laptop backpack. With this bag, comfort is critical, as it seems custom made for carrying all of your textbooks around at school. While it is designed to be used at school, its extremely large size and big compartments make it versatile enough to be used in many different situations. There is also a place to attach a skateboard to the front of the bag, without getting in the way of all of the other items you may want to carry. While it does have a laptop pouch, this bag fits into the category of "backpack that also happens to carry a laptop" and is not designed as a dedicated laptop backpack. That said, it does carry a large 15-inch laptop in this compartment.


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Our Analysis and Test Results

A college school bag at heart, with a dash of an outdoorsy feel, the Explorer is tailored to its intended user. It includes plenty of storage in the main compartment, two mesh water bottle pockets on either side and a well fitting back panel and shoulder strap combo. It's perfect for lugging around those heavy textbooks. It also has the distinction of being one of the most affordable packs tested, by a wide margin. At the end of the day, this bag seems intended for college students because of its smaller frame size.

Performance Comparison


The Explorer didn't take home any awards but it had a clever function for attaching a skateboard  or electric skateboard in our case  to the back of the pack.
The Explorer didn't take home any awards but it had a clever function for attaching a skateboard, or electric skateboard in our case, to the back of the pack.

Laptop Protection


When it comes to laptop safety, this contender is not the most protective. Its system for carrying the laptop seems to be thrown in as an afterthought. Sitting against the back plate inside the main compartment is a padded pouch that holds the computer. There is no securing strap, and the padding covers about half of a 15-inch laptop.

The pouch is much too large; our 15-inch laptop did not fit snugly. While the laptop may be secured better if the bag was full of other things like books, we can't assume that that'd always be the case. In our assessment, protection is inadequate. Make sure to use it with a laptop protective cover.

The extra space in the laptop sleeve allowed for lots of movement and inadequate protection.
The extra space in the laptop sleeve allowed for lots of movement and inadequate protection.

Comfort


This is a bonafide comfortable option for carrying a heavy load. Even with our electric skateboard in tow, it maintains comfort. The sternum strap and unique design of the shoulder straps allow for an agreeable commute. It should come with the forewarning that this pack is designed for walking, and doesn't do quite as well on a bike. However, it has a large, supple, and padded back that molds to the body well and is comfortable against the back. It is rather flimsy and didn't offer as much protection for your laptop like many of the other backpacks. The shoulder straps attach super wide at the top of the bag and sit flat and comfortably over the shoulders. This pack excels at carrying large or heavy loads.

The sternum strap is a nice feature when you load this bad boy down with a 25lb. electric skateboard. We did feel as though a hip belt would also help maintain stability while carrying heavy cargo.
The sternum strap is a nice feature when you load this bad boy down with a 25lb. electric skateboard. We did feel as though a hip belt would also help maintain stability while carrying heavy cargo.

Storage


Even though this is a middle of the road sized pack in the review, this laptop backpack has plenty of room for storage. Along with its single main compartment, it has two other large pockets for organization, and two large mesh water bottle pockets, which can be used for other items if not carrying water. It also has a fleece-lined sunglasses pocket, and a small top pocket for other small loose items, such as your keys. This bag is plenty big enough to hold almost anything you'd want to carry around for a day.

With a very school bag feel  the Explorer was host to a multitude of pockets for staying organized.
With a very school bag feel, the Explorer was host to a multitude of pockets for staying organized.

Take a look at the storage options in this backpack by watching this short video made by Dakine.

Ease of Use


The large size of the main compartment makes it possible to carry a lot of things. Throw in a rain jacket, a change of clothes, or a lunch. It won't be a problem with this beast. It also carries a heavy load more comfortable with its padded and well-placed straps. That said, there is no separate access point to reach the laptop, so you need to dig to get to it when the pack is loaded down.

The pack's large capacity and great array of pockets made it a strong contender in our testing criteria. We especially liked the two top pockets  one with fleece for sunglasses and one for easy user access to your valuables.
The pack's large capacity and great array of pockets made it a strong contender in our testing criteria. We especially liked the two top pockets, one with fleece for sunglasses and one for easy user access to your valuables.

Water Resistance


The Explorer is one of the worst performers in our water resistance "shower test." When holding it in a shower, the water absorbed into the fabric. We noticed it does not have a DWR coating or fabric flaps covering the many exposed zippers. In this test, water pooled at the bottom of the bag. If you expect to get wet a lot, then this is not a great choice for you.

This was the lowest rated laptop backpack in the 30 second shower test. Its fabric immediately became fully saturated and made the inside wet and the paper soggy.
This was the lowest rated laptop backpack in the 30 second shower test. Its fabric immediately became fully saturated and made the inside wet and the paper soggy.

Style


We understand that style is a subjective thing, but to us, this bag screams college student, especially when you strap a skateboard or longboard to it. For those for whom style is the most important, we find the look of this bag a bit limiting. One plus is that it comes in five different colors and patterns, so perhaps there is one you like.

The Explorer had a unique feature where you could attach a skateboard or electric skateboard and was still decently comfortable  even with the extra weight of the board.
The Explorer had a unique feature where you could attach a skateboard or electric skateboard and was still decently comfortable, even with the extra weight of the board.

Best Applications


The Explorer would be a great choice for those whose main priority is not transporting a laptop and just want to carry a lot of gear. If you do end up putting a laptop in, be sure to have a secondary form of protection, as the sleeve is extra roomy and allows for a lot of wiggle room. If you are a skateboard or longboard commuter, this bag has a great attachment that allows you to strap it to your pack (rather than carry it when you aren't riding).

The fleece lined sunglass pocket on the top was a nice feature  especially when our pack was at capacity. It was nice to know our eyewear would be protected  maybe even better than our laptops.
The fleece lined sunglass pocket on the top was a nice feature, especially when our pack was at capacity. It was nice to know our eyewear would be protected, maybe even better than our laptops.

Value


The Explorer will only set you back $60. It's far and away one of the most affordable options out there. While it is cheap, it doesn't have the best performance but works as a daily commuter or for general use. Overall, there are better, high-value options out there, but if the price is what you care about most, consider this a great option.

Conclusion


The Dakine Explorer is a large and comfortable bag designed to be used as a school bag. Don't let the name fool you; we think the Explorer is best suited for college students on a budget. That said, its single, large compartment makes it versatile, and the straps are comfortable enough to carry heavy loads.


Katherine Elliott