Hands-on Gear Review

Dakine Explorer Review

Price:  $60 List | $32.97 at Backcountry
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Lightweight, large, has skateboard carrying straps
Cons:  Poor water resistance, large bulky laptop protection sleeve
Bottom line:  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.
Editors' Rating:   
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Volume (L):  26 L
Dimensions:  20 x 12 x 10 in.
Weight:  1.14 lb.
Manufacturer:   Dakine

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 in the category of "backpack that also happens to carry a laptop" and is not designed as a dedicated laptop backpack.


RELATED REVIEW: The Best Laptop Backpacks of 2018


Our Analysis and Test Results

Review by:
Katherine Elliott

Last Updated:
Tuesday
November 29, 2016

Share:
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 room 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 the most affordable pack we tested, by a wide margin. At the end of the day, this bag seems intended for the younger, college-aged user because of its smaller frame size. It will probably garner little interest from other users or purposes.

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 protection, we had to rate this contender at the bottom of the bunch, tied with the Timbuk2 Rogue. 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.

We also found that the pouch was much too large and wished that our 15-inch fit in there snugly to alleviate movement. While the laptop may be secured better if the bag was full of other things like books, we couldn't assume that it always would be and in our assessment, the protection was inadequate when compared to the value of a laptop computer.

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 pack for carrying a heavy load. Even with our electric skateboard in tow, it maintained its 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 H2O. 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.

Ease of Use


The large size of the main compartment makes it possible to carry a lot of things in this bag. Throwing in a rain jacket, a change of clothes, or some climbing shoes should be no problem with this beast. It also carries a heavy load more comfortably than most of the other bags we tried, the exception probably being the Osprey Flapjack that won our Editors' Choice Award. That said, we would choose either Patagonia Black Hole 25 or the Timbuk2 Rogue in a second over this bag, especially if we were going hiking for the day. We think you would too.

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.

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. If style is what you're after, the Burton Tinder wins our Top Pick for Style.

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.

Water Resistance


The Explorer was one of the worst performers in our 30-second water resistance "shower test". When holding it in a shower for 30 seconds, we noticed that it does not have a durable water resistant (DWR) coating, like most every other bag. Water absorbed into the fabric and there are no fabric flaps to cover the many exposed zippers. In the end, there was a considerable amount of water inside 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.

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 was extra roomy and allowed 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. This is far and away the most affordable bag we reviewed. For this price, we think you will be happy with your purchase. The price range is in line with other laptop backpacks you may be looking at, and cannot be compared to the $129 price tag of the Patagonia Black Hole 25, a high-end product designed for outdoorsy professionals.

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 better suited for college students on a budget rather than the outdoorsy working professional. That being said, its large single compartment makes it versatile and the straps are comfortable enough to carry heavy loads.
Katherine Elliott

You Might Also Like

OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews


Most recent review: November 29, 2016
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:  
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
 (3.0)
Average Customer Rating:  
 (0.0)
Rating Distribution
1 Total Ratings
5 star: 0%  (0)
4 star: 0%  (0)
3 star: 100%  (1)
2 star: 0%  (0)
1 star: 0%  (0)


Have you used this product?
Don't hold back. Share your viewpoint by posting a review with your thoughts...