North Face Borealis Special Edition Backpack

29 Jun

So here is the promised review of my North Face Borealis backpack!

I’ve been using it as my gym backpack for about a week to try and get rid of the “new  backpack” look so when I use it properly I don’t look like a year 7 kid on her first day of school. Anyway, here are my impressions so far. =)


The backpack has a capacity of 27 litres and consists of:

  • 2 mesh slots on each side for water bottles.
  • Small, shallow pocket at the front for easy access to wallets, phone, etc.
  • A compartment with some pockets to put stuff like pens, books, etc.
  • A main compartment with a laptop slot.

There is also elastic at the front, which I’ve been told is useful for stuffing your jacket if it’s been raining so you don’t get the interior of the backpack wet. There are also buckles at the chest and waist to distribute the weight, and straps on the side to compress the backpack if required.


The biggest con for me is the shiny edging. I think it looks a bit weird on a backpack, and I hope it dulls or scuffs over time. There are flaps over the zips as an extra layer of protection when it rains, but because the shiny stuff is so stiff it makes it quite difficult to fold the flaps back to unzip the bag. Fingers crossed it eventually gets more pliable.

Another big con is that one of the elastics for the water bottle slots was broken on arrival. The left is the broken one.

Because the elastic doesn’t go all the way through I can’t tighten it if I’ve got something small in there. I can’t be bothered exchanging it since it means I’d be a month or two without a backpack. It’s not a big deal since the pockets are quite deep and my water bottle isn’t in danger of falling out (or I can just use the other pocket) but it’s still pretty shoddy.

The only other complaint I have is the straps are set slightly too wide for my shoulders, and sometimes one of them will slip off. Apparently there is a women’s version of the Borealis that is more suited for smaller people, but I don’t think they have women’s versions of the SE backpacks. I’ve only carried light things in the backpack so I’m hoping that a heavier load will weigh the straps down so they don’t slip. If I’m trekking or something I can always use the chest buckle to keep it in place – it just looks a bit dorky using it in the CBD. Nitpicky, but I thought I would mention it.


I love the houndstooth and the pops of red from the elastic and the stitching! Plus it comes with this awesome red lining.

James’ Air Boss also has red lining, and the high contrast colour makes it easy to find things. Plus it just looks cool.

A lot of reviewers said that their laptops didn’t fit in the slot, but mine does (15″ widescreen). The laptop compartment has a cushion at the bottom so you won’t damage your computer if you dump the bag on the ground. I don’t carry my laptop around, but it means it will fit James’ laptop for if he ever needs to use the backpack.

I was initially worried that there were two shallowish compartments rather than a single roomy one, so I put my white gi in it to see if it would fit. It fit easily. I bet I could stuff all my gis in there. =) I carried it on my back to see how it felt, and it’s heaps lighter than lugging it around on one shoulder. I’m really glad I went for a backpack instead of a duffel bag.

When the backpack is empty it’s quite flat (which is good, because I hate bags that are bulky even when empty), but it can expand an impressive amount.

Overall I’m very pleased with the looks and functionality of the bag. It’s much more comfortable carrying my workout gear across two shoulders – which is important now that it’s a slightly longer walk to my new gym. There’s only one week to go until I can (hopefully) start training properly again and give this bag some proper use.


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