- Buyer's Guide
Drive By :: Dakine Sherpa Duffel
I bought my first Dakine backpack when I was in high school more than 12 years ago. The bag has more than paid for itself, being handed down to my older brother who uses it as a main travel bag for the kids. I have the same high hopes for the Dakine Sherpa Duffel, making its debut this Fall. It proved itself to be a worthy travel companion, albeit with a few quirks we’ll get into. The Sherpa ultimately provides great value for its $85 price tag.
Who it suits
A versatile duffel that stows in an airplane’s overhead bin or just as easily carries your supplies to a spontaneous beach bonfire.
Who it doesn’t
Someone who plans to have the bag on their back for hours on end. The backpack strap design combined with the way the items in the bag sit creates unwanted pressure on your shoulders when fully loaded and worn for extensive periods of time.
To be honest, the Dakine Sherpa Duffel was full of surprises, both good and bad. The duffel was definitely a little bit smaller than I had anticipated; granted it’s still 53L of volume goodness. It proved to be the perfect stowable companion during my travels, as if made for the overhead bins.
For a bag of this size, the fact that there are not one, not two, not three but four pockets. Three external pockets and one mesh pocket underneath the main Velcro tab. They are big enough for quick access to your toiletries, pens, Field Notes or boarding pass. However, they aren’t readily accessible while on your back.
Speaking of design, it’s important that we talk about the Velcro closure system. On your typical duffel, there’s a single zipper to keep everything closed. For the Sherpa, the designers at Dakine opted for convenience with a Velcro closer at the top and two zippers on either side. The result is a system that provides quick, easy access to your goods inside. This definitely came in handy when going through security and only once did I notice the zippers on either side slipping in any real way.
The Not So Good
Let’s talk handles. As a travel bag, the Sherpa offers an impressive number of ways to carry it to your ultimate destination with three handles, backpack straps and this thing they have the audacity to call a shoulder strap.
My issue here is the complete laziness and overall uselessness of the 1.5″ webbing without any padding for your shoulders. Dakine, why bother to even include it?
My biggest gripe with the Sherpa is a design flaw in its backpack strap. The system simply isn’t ergonomic over long periods. It works and functions, yes, but isn’t ideal. My issue is that when the pack is filled to the brim, items fall down due to gravity and will wear out your shoulders over time. It’s not a deal breaker, but it definitely got annoying.
Others To Consider
A duffel bag with backpack straps – that might ring a bell with you carry afficionados. Enter The North Face’s iconic Base Camp Duffel, which has been the benchmark for a bag of this type for…well, forever. If you are willing to ditch the backpack straps, a few great alternatives are DSPTCH’s Weekender and a more stylish duffel from Gustin.
Overall, I was happy with the pack’s performance and design. Its compact nature makes it a great travel companion with more room than you might think from looking at it. If you’re looking for an alternative to the Base Camp Duffel at a cheaper price, this is definitely the bag for you.