The North Face Borealis Backpack Review
When I got my Northface Borealis backpack two years ago, I wasn’t sure what to expect. The brand certainly has built a strong reputation, but this was my first time getting an all-purpose bag from them.
Ultimately, I wanted a bag that would hold up in pretty much any environment. If I was fishing, I wanted a bag that could function on the boat, from a kayak, or from the shore. If I was camping, I wanted a bag that would handle simply overnight or weekend trips.
After two years, I can say a couple things for sure regarding the Borealis:
- This is my all-time favorite multi-purpose outdoor bag
- The Borealis is not a perfect bag, but it has held up well in a variety of settings
Below, I will share my experience using Northface’s Borealis in a variety of settings.
Above, I noted that the Borealis is not a perfect bag. When it comes to camping, some of the limitations become clear.
There are definitely other bags more suitable for camping, especially if you are planning on going for more than a day.
For weekend (or longer) trips, a larger, lighter, multi-day pack would make sense. If you plan on doing some fishing (from a boat or the shore, especially), you might be better off looking at the Lunkerhunt LTS Backpack. If your trip is geared specifically toward camping, though, the Osprey Atmos AG 65 Backpack is a good choice.
That said, the Borealis is still great for a simple overnight trip. It has four compartments (including two large and one medium that open from the top and a generous utility front pocket), as well as two side pockets. The front pocket is one of my favorite features as I can securely fit my car keys, gloves, and other miscellaneous items safely with easy access.
The Borealis’ larger compartments easily fit an extra change of clothes, multi-tools, lighter/matches, small cook kit, some drinks, and a small amount of food. Though not the ideal bag for camping, it is rugged and spacious enough to get you through a night easily.
As a hiking bag, you might run into some of the same issues as you will with camping. For shorter, couple-mile hikes, the Borealis will be great.
If you are planning to do some serious hiking, though – like the type you might experience on the Appalachian Trail or some of America’s other most challenging trails – then other bags might serve you better.
The Ascend Bellcanyon 45L Backpack is a solid option if you are looking to invest in a solid bag without going overboard. For more serious hikers, though, the Osprey Kestrel 68 or the Ascend Pintler 90L are much better equipped to handle long hikes and camps, especially in rougher terrain.
Out of all the outdoor settings, I have found that the Borealis holds up best when fishing. The bag is relatively compact, so it has functioned well when kayak fishing. This is where the multitude of pockets really comes in handy. Since there isn’t a ton of room to move around in some kayaks, having easy access to tackle and lures is really helpful.
When I’m on the boat, this is also an excellent utility bag. For a trip of a few hours, I can store pretty much everything I need in there. My lunch, drinks, and a even a couple small tackle trays – like the Plano CDS StowAway – if needed.
Considerations When Using the Borealis
If you like to grab a fishing pole and head out to the lakes, rivers or ponds, the Borealis really shines. Having used this bag on multiple trips to lakes and rivers in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia, it is really one of my favorites outdoor bags.
The bag is weather resistant to an extent, but a heavy rain will permeate. If this is cause for concern, carrying an extra cheap poncho – like the Coghlan’s Lightweight Poncho – to throw over the bag will help tremendously with keeping your belongings dry.
When heading out on the boat, I also pack the Borealis with my fishing graph, trolling motor remote and charger, extra clothes and various different tools plus my wallet, keys and other essentials (such as hand soap or sanitizer) which I keep in one of the outer side pockets.
One of my favorite things about the bag is the fact that it is very easy to wash. After a couple weeks of fishing, it can get a bit funky – but rarely shows or smells like it. Still, I like to keep it clean.
Even after numerous machine washes, it has held up very well.
Overall, this is a really good bag for basic outdoor and recreational use.
Pros and Cons of the Northface Borealis
- Very good quality
- Good support for medium distances
- Ample space
- Machine washable/easy to clean
- Not ideal for long hiking or camping trips
- Not waterproof
- Bulky if completely filled