Dakine Drafter 14L 2017 Mountain Bike Review

Dakine Drafter 14L 2017

Reviews / Hydration Packs/Bags

Dakine 205,435

At A Glance

Long-standing brand Dakine are a company who know everything there is to making a good backpack. In their continuing search to improve the impact they have in the mountain biking market they have enhanced the Drafter range by adding a 14 litre version. This contemporary and well thought out pack also comes in a women’s specific model which we think will be a real hit.

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With enough pockets and compartments to keep even the most organised riders content with how their goods are stashed, the Drafter 14L caters for any rider who wants to carry everything they could possible need for a big day on the bike. It will take a trail or full face helmet on the back and organise all of your belongings between its unique quick stash zippered side pocket, internal organiser pockets and fleece lined goggles/phone pocket. Oh, and let’s not forget a couple of straps for your knee/shin pads too.

A 3 litre/100oz Hydrapak reservoir keeps you hydrated and is situated on the back in the lumbar region, the aim being to keep your centre of gravity lower. It comes with a high flow bite valve to make hydrating nice and easy and a magnetic clip to hold the hose to the chest strap - a nice simple touch making it easy to access and keeps it tidily stowed.

The bag shapes itself with an obvious breathable design, an air suspended back panel, breathable ergonomic shoulder straps and an eye catching reflective logo. It is compatible with Dakine's own spine protector, although this is an optional extra. The Drafter is available in Blue Rock (as tested) and Black and weighs in at 1.1kg (2.5lbs).

On The Trail

Initially it looked as though this bag had given up too much of its space to the ‘air suspended back panel’ which leaves a void between your back and the bag itself, but as soon as I started filling it with all of my usual necessities it became clear that Dakine (of course) know what they are doing and show everyone that 14litres is plenty of space for a day bag - how could I have ever questioned them?!

The one sided zipper pocket has enough room to take a waterproof, good sized first aid kit and even a group shelter, whilst food can be placed in the same compartment as the water bladder leaving loads of room for all your tools, tubes and whatnot in the internal organiser pockets. These organiser pockets are really easy to access thanks to the zip which allows the whole front of the bag to fully open. No more digging deep into the bag looking for things you can’t see, a nice touch for sure. I have become accustomed to having small pockets on a bags waist strap over the years, the Drafter doesn’t have these, but it didn't find it too much of an issue as there are handy elastic pockets on the side, and everything in the pack itself is organised and easy to find. With nothing on your waist strap there is no risk of anything digging into your side if you were to fall, which of course is a safety aspect to consider.

With the bag full of kit and 3 litres of water sat on your lumber, some real attention is needed to the straps to find the right fit. On my first few rides I found that it was moving over to one side as soon as things got a little rougher. Tweaking the chest straps and making sure everything was neatly fitting solved this and made things more comfortable. It's easy to forget bag fit in the eagerness to get out on a ride, but taking a moment to adjust the straps properly makes all the difference to a sturdy pack.

The bag is super breathable as one would expect with such a prominent suspended rear panel. It kept my back nice and cool on shorter rides, and certainly reduced the heat and moisture on long hot rides when compared with other packs which sit directly against your back. Getting sweaty is inevitable on those sunny days up the hill and when carrying gear, so having a pack that minimises the effects and improves airflow is definitely a bonus.  The magnet which holds the hose to the chest strap is a good touch and strong enough not to work itself loose when in use. The hose itself is a bit on the long side and needs to be tucked back up through its designated insert in the chest strap and can sometimes pop out. This can be avoided though by pulling a length of the hose back into the bag to shorten it.

The Drafter does weigh in at just over 1kg, so maybe not the choice for riders looking for a super lightweight approach, however call this weight a currency towards quality of construction. There are no lightweight backpacks on the market that come close to matching the durability of the Drafter thanks to its exceptional stitching and rip-stop nylon material.

Overall

This is a great bag with plenty of good features that all make sense and work extremely well. There is a place to put everything you could possibly need on big a day ride without it feeling like a huge pack. Once set up right the stability is good and the comfort is excellent. Having the option to buy a spine protector for a nominal extra cost opens the functionality of the pack up even further for those wanting to push the limits and ride even harder. The Drafter is a stylish and practical backpack, suitable for the toughest of conditions, with plenty of neat features and a build quality that will see you through many seasons.

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By Charley Oldrid
Charley Oldrid is a man who spends a lot of time in the saddle. A highly experienced Mountain Bike Guide, having led trips all over world riding the finest trails he can find. His personal riding style can only be described as wild, getting sideways isn't an option on a ride with Charley, it's mandatory. If anyone can find the limit of a test bike, it's him.

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