Hydration packs must be catching on because just about every accessory company has added them to their product lines, and women’s specific models are starting to become more common.
Dakine is no exception and they have added a number of models to their line-up of packs. This review is for the Girls Amp 8L pack.
The Dakine Girls’ Amp hydration packs employ the same basic design as the men’s version, but are sized to fit a girl’s (usually) shorter torso and narrower shoulders. My daughter is 5′ tall and the pack fits her well, albeit with the shoulder straps cinched all the way down. This model ships with a waist belt, but she does not like to use one and fortunately a quick pull of two velcro tabs allows easy removal. The shoulder straps are wide enough to sit comfortably without twisting or digging in, and the back panel is perhaps the best I have ever seen. Even on 80° days, she had no sweat issues with it.
The pockets and cargo area are simple and well thought out. Starting at the top there is a fleece-lined pocket perfect for sunglasses, a GPS, a smartphone, or an MP3 player (just not all at the same time.) Next is a smallish quick access pocket suitable for keys, a CO2 inflator, and other small items. The main pocket unzips all the way around for wide-open access. There is an elasticized pocket that holds the water bladder, a dedicated tire pump sleeve, and several mesh organizer panels for stashing a spare tube, snacks, maps, etc. Across the bottom of the pack there is a a dual access outside pocket that works for quickly stowing empty snack wrappers, arm warmers, or even a light jacket. I was initially dubious about how much it would hold, as it’s fairly tight, but it works surprisingly well for the above mentioned items.
I have to admit that the the hydration system threw me for a loop initially. I guess I’m just so accustomed to the ridiculously simple operation of that other hydration pack. The 70oz bladder is the type with a fold-over top and plastic slider. This style is great for fast fill-ups from pretty much any water source, and it is easy to dump ice into. The slider closes securely and we experienced no leaks from it. The hose is detachable and the valve sports an on/off rotating ring. For drinking, the valve actuates easily and has a very good amount of water flow. However, due to this feature you MUST turn the valve to ‘off’ before stowing the pack or you may arrive at the trailhead with an empty water bladder and a wet car.
Even though the lining sports a girly flower motif, it isn’t all roses with this pack. I already mentioned the ease of valve actuation leading to leaking if a another item ends up on top of it. Another issue is that the water has a very noticeable plastic taste. This doesn’t bother me, and I assume it will fade after several uses, but this may be a show stopper for some people. Overall the hydration system functions as advertised, but in my opinion it could be a little bit simpler to operate. In reality though, these are nit-picky details, and the pack works pretty well, all things considered.
Bottom line: This pack is perfect for after work rides or short weekend excursions. The 70oz bladder is plenty, and the pack easily holds the essentials for non-epic trips. The size and fit are very good, even for shorter women, and the vented back panel is excellent. In addition to mountain biking, with the waist belt in place, this pack works just as well for hiking or skiing/boarding. Assuming the plastic taste abates over time, or if that doesn’t bother you, then this is a great little pack. Oddly enough, it’s not listed on Dakine’s site, but an internet search shows it available from $44 – $60 at a variety of online retailers.
Thanks to folks at Dakine for sending over this pack for review.