Dakine Explorer Review
Cons: Poor water resistance, large bulky laptop protection sleeve
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. This bag seems intended for college students because of its smaller frame size.
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.
This model 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.
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.
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 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 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.
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 won't set you back much cash. 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.
The Dakine Explorer is a large and comfortable bag designed to be 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