5 Best North Face Backpacks in 2021

man and woman hiking with backpacks

If you’re short on time, the best North Face backpack on the market today is the Borealis Backpack

Looking for the perfect daypack?

The North Face has got some strong contenders.

I spent a considerable amount of time looking into all the fine details and came up with a hand-picked selection of 5 of the best backpacks The North Face has to offer.

Whether you’re looking for a bag to take hiking, to college or just for everyday life, you’re sure to find something on this list that checks all of your boxes.

The way I see it, there’s a North Face backpack for everyone. It’s just about finding the one that’s best suited to you and your lifestyle.

So, are you ready? Here are my top 5.

Best North Face Backpacks: Our Top 5 Choices

The North Face Borealis Backpack

The North Face Borealis Backpack

Backpacks come in all different shapes and sizes, so finding a daypack that’s just right can be tricky. In my opinion, the Borealis backpack is the sweet spot.

It’s not too big, but it’s not too small either. It isn’t quite as light as some, but it isn’t heavy by any means. And, it’s got loads of pockets and features, without being bulky and uncomfortable.

There’s a padded sleeve in the main compartment that fits a laptop up to 15”. The front compartment has a tablet sleeve and electronics pockets. Externally, you’ve got a fleece lined pocket, a bungee cord and dual stretch-mesh water bottle holders.

When it comes to comfort, the Borealis shines. It features FlexVent suspension, a sternum strap and a removable waist belt. These components provide you with plenty of support, making your load feel lighter.

Pros:

  • Lightweight and spacious, weighing 2 lbs 11 oz with a total capacity of 28 L.
  • Made of tough polyester and nylon ripstop for outstanding durability.
  • Plenty of pockets make it easy to stay organized.
  • Premium comfort provided by a fantastic suspension system as well as a sternum strap and waist belt.
  • Cyclists can attach a light to the 360 degree reflective bike light loop.

Cons:

  • Neither the sternum strap or the waist belt are padded, so it could get a bit uncomfortable if you’re carrying a heavy load long distances.

Best for: anyone looking for an all-round great daypack with a functional and versatile design.

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The North Face Recon Backpack

The North Face Recon Backpack

Ladies, listen up. This one’s for you.

The structure of men’s and women’s backpacks varies slightly, taking differences in anatomy into account in order to maximize comfort. I thought The North Face did this particularly well with the Recon backpack.

It’s a spacious 30 L daypack with all the pockets and compartments you could wish for. There’s a padded 15” laptop sleeve in the main compartment. It’s also got a front compartment with a tablet sleeve and pockets for your electronics. There’s a fleece lined zip pocket and extendable stash pocket on the front, along with a stretch-mesh water bottle holder on each side.

The FlexVent suspension system, as well as a sternum strap and removable waist belt, make this bag really comfortable to carry around. At under 2.5 lbs, it isn’t too heavy either. This means you can also use it for day hiking with no trouble at all.

Pros:

  • Made of durable polyester and nylon ripstop, so it won’t tear easily.
  • Comfortable to carry, with a great suspension system along with a sternum strap and waist belt.
  • Easy to stay organized with all the practical compartments and pockets.
  • Lightweight, weighing in at 2 lbs 7.7 oz.
  • 360 degree reflective bike light loop, which comes in handy when you’re cycling at night.

Cons:

  • As with the Borealis backpack, there isn’t any padding on the sternum strap and waist belt, so if you’re carrying a heavy load it can become a bit uncomfortable.

Best for: ladies looking for a backpack that’s built specifically for a woman’s frame.

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The North Face Jester Backpack

The North Face Jester Backpack

In need of a light yet spacious hiking daypack to take out on your favourite trails? The North Face’s Jester backpack might be just what you’ve been searching for.

The Jester is extremely light for a 27.5 L backpack. It won’t weigh you don’t unnecessarily, yet you’ll still be able to fit a lot into it. This makes it absolutely perfect for day hikes.

It’s made up of 2 compartments. The main compartment features a padded 15” laptop sleeve. The front compartment has a zip pocket inside for secure storage, as well as mesh pockets for easy access to your small personal items. It hasn’t got any pockets on the outside, but it does have an external bungee cord and dual stretch-mesh water bottle holders.

It doesn’t end there. Thanks to its FlexVent suspension system and a sternum strap for added support, this bag is also super comfy.

Pros:

  • Ultra lightweight at just 1 lb 10 oz.
  • Amazing suspension system and support so you’ll be comfortable all day long.
  • Lots of different pockets to help you keep your things organized.
  • Reflective bike light loop for night cycling.

Cons:

  • There aren’t any external pockets, but you can keep smaller items in the pockets inside the front compartment.

Best for: hikers seeking a lightweight backpack to take on day hikes.

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The North Face Surge Backpack

The North Face Surge Backpack

If what you’ve got in mind is a larger backpack that suits a wide range of purposes, take a look at the Surge backpack. It’s versatile enough to use on a daily basis, for work or college, as a hiking backpack, or as carry-on luggage when you’re travelling by plane.

With a total capacity of 31 L, you can fit quite a lot into it.

It’s got a FlexVent suspension system, a sternum strap and a removable waist belt. With these features, you’re guaranteed to stay comfortable even when it’s on your back for hours at a time.

Inside the main compartment you’ll find a padded 15” laptop sleeve. You also get a tablet sleeve and electronics pockets in the front compartment. Plus, an external pocket lined with fleece to prevent scratching. Both sides of the bag are equipped with Teksever water bottle pockets.

It weighs a little over 3 lbs, which isn’t too bad but it is a bit heavier than some other bags around the same size. Still, if you wanted to take it hiking you definitely could.

Pros:

  • Made out of 3 kinds of nylon, making it tough and resistant to wear and tear.
  • A great suspension system and sternum and hip straps for added support and comfort.
  • Functional sections and pockets keep the contents of your bag organized.
  • When cycling in the dark you can attach a light to the 360 degree reflective loop on the bottom.

Cons:

  • A bit heavier than other backpacks of a similar size, weighing 3 lbs 2.8 oz.

Best for: travellers looking for a versatile backpack that fits the bill for casual daywear, outdoor gear and carry-on luggage.

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The North Face Classic Everyday Commuter Laptop Backpack

The North Face Classic Everyday Commuter Laptop Backpack

Looking for a smaller backpack for day to day use while zipping around town? You definitely want to check out the Classic Everyday Commuter backpack. It has a sleek, minimal design and it’s still packed with the practical features The North Face is famous for.

It’s a super lightweight 22 L daypack. It has a padded laptop sleeve in the main compartment and 2 zip pockets on the front where you can keep your smaller items.

Note that it is only a 13” laptop sleeve, so larger laptops won’t fit. Most laptops will still fit in the main compartment, but this doesn’t provide as much protection.

It also features gusseted water bottle pockets on both sides that snap shut when they’re empty. This is great because they don’t add to the width of the backpack. When you’re not using them, it’s like they’re not even there.

Pros:

  • Ultra lightweight, weighing only 1 lb 7.1 oz.
  • Durable and eco-friendly, as it’s made of 600-denier recycled polyester twill.
  • Multiple pockets make staying organized a breeze.
  • Bike light loop where you can attach a light when cycling at night.

Cons:

  • Laptop sleeve doesn’t fit a 15” laptop.
  • No sternum strap or hip belt, although at this size you don’t really need them.

Best for: city slickers seeking a small, light backpack for casual everyday use.

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How To Choose The Best North Face Backpack

The North Face is famous for producing some of the most top-notch daypacks on the market. They have a sweet selection of bags, and they’re all pretty great. So, how do you figure out which one is right for you?

Well, there’s certain criteria you should always pay close attention to when picking out any backpack.

Before you even start looking, ask yourself what the main purpose of your backpack will be. Once you’ve identified this, look into how different bags vary in terms of the following elements:

  • Materials
  • Size / Capacity
  • Internal Organization
  • Laptop Compartment

With a clear purpose in mind, it’s much easier to determine how closely each different backpack aligns to your needs.

If you’re not sure what to look out for, don’t worry. I’m about to take you through it step by step. So, let’s get down to it.

Main purpose

OK, so the first thing you’re going to want to do is make sure you’re clear on what you’re looking for in a backpack.

Are you a high school or college student looking for a bag to carry your books, laptop and stationary to and from school or campus? In that case, you’re going to need a backpack with a large capacity and a padded laptop sleeve, that’s as comfortable as possible to carry around.

Do you often venture out on day hikes and require a lightweight backpack that you can still fit your basic gear and supplies in? If this is you, you’re going to want to go for a backpack that’s as light and comfortable on your back as possible.

Maybe you’re just looking for an everyday backpack to carry your personal belongings with you around the city? You’ll want to be looking at backpacks with great internal organization and external pockets for easy access to your things.

Maybe you’re all 3? That’s ok, too. The important thing is that you have a clear vision of all the things you’ll be using your backpack for. This way, you’ll have a good idea of which characteristics are going to be the most important to you specifically.

Size / Capacity

With the main purpose of your backpack in mind, the first criteria you’ll want to use to begin filtering are size and capacity. Some daypacks are quite a bit larger than others.

If you’re looking for an everyday bag, you’ll probably want something smaller. If you’re choosing a backpack for college that has to be able to fit a fat stack of books and binders, you’ll definitely need something with a bigger capacity.

To give you an idea, for everyday wear in the city, I’d go for a backpack with a capacity anywhere between 20 and 25 L. You could definitely get away with both smaller and larger, depending on the amount of stuff you carry around.

For a college backpack though, I’d want it to be at least 30 L. Again, this isn’t a rule, it’s just meant to give you a rough idea of what you can expect to fit in a backpack this size.

Internal Organization

By this point, you probably will have already been able to weed out a few options, so now you can start focusing on the features and details. For instance, how each backpack is structured internally.

How many different compartments are there?

How many pockets has it got and where are they?

Which backpack is going to help you stay organized while providing you with easy hassle-free access to your stuff?

Again, consider the primary use of your backpack.

If you’re going to be using it as an everyday bag, you’ll probably be opening your backpack countless times a day to access your wallet, keys, phone etc. In this case, having a backpack with a front pocket would make the most sense.

If, on the other hand, you’re looking for a hiking backpack, you probably won’t be opening it nearly as often, so a front pocket won’t make much of a difference to you. As a hiker, you should focus your attention to features such as water bottle holders and bungee cords.

Laptop Compartment

No matter what you plan to use your backpack for, chances are at some point or another you’re going to want to pack your laptop into it. This is why it’s important to make sure the bag you select features a laptop sleeve, preferably with padding.

What’s just as important though is that you double check the size of the laptop sleeve. Some laptop sleeves will only fit a 13” laptop, for instance, and you don’t want to end up with a laptop compartment that’s too small for your computer.

Materials

If a bag has checked all of your boxes thus far, the final thing you’ll want to make sure of is that it’s made of good, high-quality materials.

Having a backpack made of tough fabric is important whatever you’re using it for. If you’re using it as a hiking backpack though, you’re going to want to pay even closer attention. Brushing up against pointy branches sharp rocks as you’re navigating a trail is inevitable. So, you definitely want to make sure your backpack is up to the challenge.

The better the materials used to make a backpack, the longer it’s ultimately going to last. Materials must be durable and resistant to wear and tear, but also as lightweight as possible.

Examples of good materials for backpacks include various kinds of nylon such as ripstop, and certain types of polyester. Ripstop is a really good one because it’s structured so that even if you do get a little rip, it won’t get any bigger over time.

Our Verdict

The North Face sure does make some stunning bags, both aesthetically and functionally.

While it’s hard to choose a winner, I’d have to say that the Borealis backpack is the cream of the crop. It’s tough yet comfortable, spacious yet lightweight, and has plenty of pockets and compartments. Its impressive features and specs make it a star performer in all categories.

No matter what it is you’re looking for in a daypack, the Borealis will make an excellent companion to take on all your upcoming adventures. It’s a backpack that you’ll be able to rely on season after season.