In general, I’ve always had a slight aversion to wearing backpacks while I ski. I didn’t like the way they affected my center of balance, the way they made it awkward to sit in a chairlift, or the added weight. But there are some days—especially those spent in the backcountry or off-piste—when it’s immensely helpful to have the extra utility of a backpack.
It’s days like these I love to bring my Dakine Team Heli Pro 24L backpack with me. I’ve skied with it a lot the last few seasons, bringing it along on both long trips and short ones. And while I’m surprised at how much I’ve grown to like skiing with a backpack, I’m equally surprised at how this pack has held up to abuse.
The Dakine Team Heli Pro is constructed out of tough 600-denier polyester ripstop. It also features a water-repellent finish and is made using bluesign-approved material. Together these aspects offer excellent defense against the elements—while using sustainably sourced fabric in the process.
In the main compartment, which can be accessed through the back panel or the top zipper, a moderate amount of storage space carries all the essentials. A sleeve on the back panel can hold a DK Impact back protector (sold separately), but I’ve also used it to store my laptop when I need to bring it along on a weekend trip. The pack is also compatible with hydration systems (also sold separately).
The top pocket is an easily accessible, padded goggle compartment. If you’re not using it for your goggles or sunglasses, though, it’s also a handy place to store your phone or car keys. In the front is another medium-sized storage compartment. I’ve used it for everything from collapsible shovels and probes to extra pairs of gloves.
A slimmer side pocket is perfect for carrying a water bottle. It’s situated in an accessible location, so you don’t have to remove the pack to get a drink. More importantly, though, there are also straps for carrying your skis or snowboard. Skis fit on the sides of the pack in an A-frame style, while the board can be attached to the back. The ski carry straps are adjustable and tough—two things I absolutely need in a carry system. This allows me to bring along my wider skis (124 mm underfoot fits no problem) and allows me to carry them around without fear of slicing the straps up with ski edges.
The surface area of the back panel, shoulder straps, and waist harnesses are fitted with breathable mesh padding. The shoulder and waist straps are fully adjustable, and the sternum strap has a section of elastic, giving it extra play for comfort. A small pocket appears on the left shoulder strap, and the sternum clip comes complete with an integrated safety whistle.
When I first put on the Team Heli Pro, I was worried the backpack would restrict my movement while skiing. It felt like a tight, small pack made to have a very close fit. It seemed like all the excess bulk had been trimmed, and the pack had a very streamlined design. When I found that it didn’t restrict my movement, I immediately took to the way it fit. The Heli Pro’s slim profile and anatomic design helped me stay nimble while wearing the pack.
Even when it was packed pretty full—camera, shovel, probe, extra layers, food, and hydration reservoir—I’ve found the pack remains stable and doesn’t jostle around a whole lot or interfere with my balance. Because of the long, narrow shape of the compartments, the items inside don’t shake and rattle around on my back. In fact, on my first day wearing this pack I had more than a few instances where I forgot I even had it on.
At the resort, this pack feels awesome. I occasionally bring it along when I need to have a camera on hand (in case somebody plans on sending it for the ‘gram) or want to bring some extra supplies for going into the backcountry. Sometimes I slide it off when I’m on the chairlift, so I don’t squash the banana or whatever else I have in there to snack on. Other than that, though, it feels comfortable and secure on my back. The waist harness and sternum strap work well together to keep the load from moving around on my back. The shoulder straps and back panel are both padded, but not overly plush. This keeps the fit comfortable without creating unnecessary bulk.
The place this pack really shines, though, is in the backcountry. With mesh ventilation covering the straps and back panel, this pack does its best to keep air circulating. This is especially handy when you’re touring or bootpacking on a warm spring day. And, with the water-resistant exterior and concealed zippers, the Heli Pro can be set down on the snow without worrying about moisture seeping inside the pack.
Aside from how practical this pack is on the mountain, I’m also really impressed with its durability. I’ve taken a few tumbles while wearing the pack, and I’m honestly surprised that nothing has ever torn or broken. The exterior stands up to branches, rocks, poles, shovels, and ski edges, and the seams are all reliably snug, with no unraveling at any of the straps or buckles. And even if something like that was going on, I wouldn’t fret. Like all of Dakine’s bags and luggage, the Team Heli Pro features a lifetime warranty, so I never have to worry about the pack wearing out on me.
Drawbacks and Shortcomings
One minor flaw in the design is the fact that the upper ski carry straps cover the zipper of the front compartment. This could be seen as an issue because many users put their avalanche shovels, beacons, and probes in the front pocket. When you’re acting in response to an avalanche, every second counts, and as such, having an extra strap to unbuckle before you can access your gear is not exactly ideal.
If I had to sum up this pack in one word, I would say that it’s reliable. It might not be the lightest or most elegantly designed ski backpacks out there, but it performs well where it counts. The padding is comfortable yet efficient, and the compartments are streamlined. The way this pack is laid out makes it very conducive to movement, so it won’t weigh you down or throw you off balance. The exterior and ski/snowboard carry straps are tough and have plenty of structural integrity. All told, this is a pack that feels good on the mountain and will easily last you for seasons to come.
By: Jeff Walker, Content Writer