Dakine Drafter 12l hydration pack review£60.00

Cleverly designed mid-size hydration pack

BikeRadar score4/5

For some reason Dakine doesn’t seem to make a big deal about its mountain bike gear, and we’re not sure why. With the brand's luggage, backpacks, skiing and surfing gear stealing the limelight, its hydration packs, pads and clothing are at risk of being left by the wayside – which would be a shame.

Take the Drafter pack. With ample storage for tools, food, and an extra layer or two, it's seen heavy use over the past couple of months and proven to be an awesome bag for BikeRadar Australia's all day backcountry adventures.

Made from durable ripstop nylon, the Drafter still looks brand new after months of use. To get a minor annoyance out of the way first, it's worth mentioning that you don’t get a rain flap, and while the bag beads water for a while, hours out in a downpour may leave the gear inside damp.

The air mesh panel allows for some airflow between the bag and your back: the air mesh panel allows for some airflow between the bag and your back
The air mesh panel allows for some airflow between the bag and your back: the air mesh panel allows for some airflow between the bag and your back

The suspended back allows some airflow between you and the bag

Like many current mountain bike packs, the Drafter features a mesh panel that sees the bag suspended off your back, and allows air to flow between it and your body — this also keeps your water cooler for longer, as it’s not being warmed by the heat radiating off you. The internal frame that curves the back of the bag also helps to distribute some of the weight of the pack from your shoulders to your hips.

Between the two interior pockets there’s plenty of room for a 3l reservoir, an extra layer, and enough tools and food for you to take care of a small boy scout troop for the day. The innermost pocket sees a designated sleeve for the reservoir which in combination with the curve of the pack make it a tight fit. In the same area there’s still a bit of room for a light rain jacket, and an extra layer if need be.

The outer pocket zips fully open like a suitcase and features zippered mesh compartments to can keep all your bits and pieces organised. There’s also a devoted shock pump sleeve and a small zippered pocket perfect for a phone, ID/credit card and some cash.

On the outside of the bag there's a helmet carrier which can handle both xc and full face helmets: on the outside of the bag there's a helmet carrier which can handle both xc and full face helmets
On the outside of the bag there's a helmet carrier which can handle both xc and full face helmets: on the outside of the bag there's a helmet carrier which can handle both xc and full face helmets

With the Drafter you can be that guy at the enduro race with a full face for descending and XC helmet for climbing

The storage isn’t just limited to the interior of the bag; there's also an external helmet carrier and webbing to carry pads. With the ability to carry both XC style and full face helmets we think this bag may be a hit among enduro racers. If you’re not toting a helmet, the external pouch also works great for bulkier layers and jackets.

There’s also a small fleece-lined sunglasses pocket, which cradled all but the largest shades we had laying around the BikeRadar office.

The shoulder and waist straps are filled with dense foam and feature large triangular cutouts for ventilation. They still offer enough padding to prevent the straps digging into your shoulders when the bag is fully loaded, but also limit those nasty backpack strap wet patches.

The magnetic hose clip always managed to bring the tube back to where it belonged: the magnetic hose clip always managed to bring the tube back to where it belonged
The magnetic hose clip always managed to bring the tube back to where it belonged: the magnetic hose clip always managed to bring the tube back to where it belonged

The magnetic hose keeper is a stroke of genius

The feature we liked best though is the magnetic hose clip on the sternum strap. There’s no fiddling while you're on the move, simply grab the bite valve, put in in your mouth, drink, spit the tube out, and the magnet brings the hose back to its home every time.

As with clothing, backpacks fit everybody differently – but the Drafter certainly fit me well enough. In the past we’ve complained the shoulder straps on some Dakine bags were too close together, but it seems the brand has rectified the issue.

Our bag came with a 3l/100oz hydrapak reservoirs: our bag came with a 3l/100oz hydrapak reservoirs
Our bag came with a 3l/100oz hydrapak reservoirs: our bag came with a 3l/100oz hydrapak reservoirs

The full length opening at the top makes for easy filling and cleaning

Our sample pack came with a 3l/100oz Hydrapak Shape Shifter reservoir. We’re particularly big fans of Hydrapak reservoirs as the full length opening is leak free and far less fiddly than some of its alternatives. Sealing like a dry bag, the full length opening makes for easy filling whether it be in the kitchen sink at home, or tap at the trailhead. We’ve also found the Blaster Valve seems to drip less than its Camelback counterpart and there’s no plasticy taste. With that said, the hose on our sample was kinked, but beyond aesthetics worked just fine.

The Drafter is also available in a BYO reservoir version and can handle a 3l/100oz Camelbak Antidote Reservoir.

Between the fit, the storage and the clever features like the magnetic hose clip, the Drafter is an awesome choice when you’re headed out for a day on the trail.

We do wish the Ripstop Nylon was DWR treated to help the bag shed water better, but it wasn’t a major issue. It’s also a pretty good-looking bag to boot.

Colin Levitch

Staff Writer, Australia
Originally from Denver, Colorado, Colin now resides in Sydney, Australia. Holding a media degree, Colin is focused on the adventure sport media world. Coming from a ski background, his former European pro father convinced him to try collegiate crit racing. Although his bright socks say full roadie, he enjoys the occasional mountain bike ride, too.
  • Age: 25
  • Height: 175cm / 5'9"
  • Weight: 70kg / 155lb
  • Waist: 81.3cm/32in
  • Chest: 90cm/35.4in
  • Discipline: Road, mountain
  • Preferred Terrain: Tarmac mountain climbs into snow-covered hills
  • Current Bikes: BMC TeamMachine SLR01, Trek Top Fuel 9
  • Dream Bike: Mosaic Cycles RT-1
  • Beer of Choice: New Belgium La Folie
  • Location: Sydney, Australia

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