The Best North Face Backpack and How to Find It

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So, you’ve settled on North Face, one of the best and most reliable outdoor companies. Only to find out that North Face Backpack several different backpack designs. How do you find the best of the best?

We’ve done the hard work for you and selected six of North Face’s tried and true backpacks.

If you’re in a hurry, the North Face Borealis will suit almost any purpose. However, this review will explore six of the North Face’s core backpacks and help you find the best North Face backpack for your needs.

The North Face was founded in 1966 by two hikers committed to providing high-performance outdoor equipment. Throughout its many years of operation, the company has evolved with a promise to engineer innovative designs that motivate exploration.

The North Face has held to its promise to deliver high-quality products. In fact, it may seem impossible to choose between all the high performing products they offer. 

IMAGE PRODUCT DETAILS Rating  price
Best ValueNorth Face Jester Backpack North Face Jester Backpack
  • Stands up on its own
  • External bungee system
  • Updated Design
  • Endorsed by the ACA
9.7
Best OverallNorth Face Borealis Backpack North Face Borealis Backpack
  • Durable materials
  • Large laptop pocket
  • Fleece-lined pockets
  • Endorsed by the ACA
9.7
North Face Recon Backpack North Face Recon Backpack
  • Several external and internal pockets
  • Sufficient padding and ventilation
  • 30-liter capacity
  • Endorsed by the ACA
9.5
North Face Pivoter Backpack North Face Pivoter Backpack
  • Stash pocket
  • Comfortable padding
  • Sleek appearance
9.5
North Face Surge Backpack North Face Surge Backpack
  • External pockets
  • Compartmentalized laptop pocket
  • 31-liter capacity
  • Endorsed by the ACA
9.5
Budget-FriendlyNorth Face Vault Backpack North Face Vault Backpack
  • Sleek, minimalist design
  • Wide water bottle pockets
  • Comfortable carry
9.5

Review of North Face Backpack

The North Face Jester Backpack – Best Value

North Face Jester Backpack
4,337 Reviews
North Face Jester Backpack
  • CAMPUS READY. The ultimate pack for a day on campus features a 15" laptop sleeve, comfortable shoulder straps and a feature-rich layout. A large main compartment hold books and binders while a front elastic bungee system provides external storage.
  • FLEX VENT TECHNOLOGY. The FlexVent suspension system features a flexible yoke built from custom injection-molded and flexible shoulder straps, a padded mesh back panel and a breathable lumbar panel for comfortable, ventilated support.
  • TOTAL ORGANIZATION. Two mesh water bottle pockets double as multi-use pockets. The front compartment has an extra padded tablet sleeve and zip pockets.
  • COMFORTABLE CARRY. For school, commuting or travel, this backpack has a top handle for easy grabbing and a sternum strap with whistle for extra support and safety. Reflective details help you stand out.
  • TECHNICAL SPECS. Dimensions: 19.75" x 13.25" x 7.5" (50 cm x 34 cm x 19 cm). Volume: 28 Liters. Fabric: 600D Polyester Emboss, 600D Polyester Print, 300D Heather Polyester.

The North Face Jester Backpack was designed to be the ideal campus backpack. With this purpose in mind, North Face took pity on poor college students and fairly priced this bag at only $69.

College students everywhere thank North Face for their kind deed. However, if you have backcountry uses in mind for this bag, you may want to take a closer look at its features before you buy it. The Jester has the best value of the North Face backpacks in this review, making it an all-around great bag for school use. 

This is undoubtedly a versatile bag, but some high-quality features did need to be sacrificed to allow for the low price point. For example, the Jester is made of a durable polyester as opposed to the stronger nylon material used in some of their other bags. The zippers are not YKK, and the laptop sleeve is included in the main pocket rather than having its own designated pocket.

Nonetheless, the North Face Jester is an amazing product. It has two large pockets: one for organizational pocket and one main pocket. The bungee system on the front of the pack and mesh water bottle pockets on either side give the bag versatility. And, the double handle and stand-on-its-own design make this bag convenient and practical to use.

The Jester product line is still active, meaning that new versions are being engineered. An active product line ensures that the best version of the North Face Jester is available to you through various retailers.

The North Face Jester has earned a 9.8-star rating, and 98% of customers report that they would recommend this product.

Pros

  • Stands on its own, unsupported
  • Low price point
  • Updated design
  • Bungee system for extra storage

Cons

  • Materials are not as high quality as other North Face backpacks
  • The laptop sleeve is included in the main pocket

The North Face Borealis Backpack – Best Overall

Sale
North Face Borealis Backpack
4,280 Reviews
North Face Borealis Backpack
  • BOREALIS CLASSIC. Our classic 28L backpack is updated with easy-to-access pockets, an overhauled suspension system and front elastic bungee system. A spacious main compartment has a dedicated and highly protective laptop compartment.
  • FLEX VENT TECHNOLOGY. The FlexVent suspension system features a flexible yoke built from custom injection-molded shoulder straps, a padded mesh back panel and a breathable lumbar panel for comfortable, ventilated support.
  • TOTAL ORGANIZATION. Two extended mesh water bottle pockets double as multi-use pockets. The front compartment has an extra padded tablet sleeve and zip pockets. An external fleece-lined pocket stores small items or electronics.
  • COMFORTABLE CARRY. For school, commuting or travel, this backpack has a top handle for easy grabbing and a removable waist belt for a custom fit. A sternum strap with whistle buckle adds extra support and safety. Reflective details help you stand out.
  • TECHNICAL SPECS. Dimensions: 19.75" x 13.25" x 9.75" (50.2 cm x 33.7 cm x 24.8 cm). Volume: 28 Liters. Fabric: 600D, 400D or 300D polyester, 210D Cordura nylon ripstop with a water-repellent finish depending on colorway. Boot: 1680D ballistic nylon.

The North Face Borealis Backpack is very similar to the Jester. Howbeit, everything we love about the North Face Jester is made better in the North Face Borealis Backpack. If the Jester is the campus backpack, we’ll call the Borealis the career backpack. The Borealis ranges from about $75-$175 depending on color and retailer.

The North Face Borealis is great for carrying your belongings to work. Its 28-liter capacity can even hold an extra pair of clothes if you like to hit the gym after your workday.

The Borealis introduces high-quality features such as a separate laptop pocket that is fleece lined to prevent damage. This pocket is marketed to hold up to a 15” laptop. Although, it is larger than the sleeve in the Jester, and some customers report that they carry their 17” laptop in this bag without a problem.

The Borealis is made of a durable nylon material. It has one organizational pocket, one main pocket, one separate laptop pocket, and a small, fleece-lined pocket at the front. Every one of these pockets is zippered with YKK zippers. Additionally, this bag has two compression straps on either side to cinch down and secure your belongings.

The high-quality features of the NorthFace Borealis make it durable, versatile, and reputable. This is why we name the Borealis as the best overall North Face backpack. This bag is rated at 9.8 stars and 96% of customers would recommend this product.

Pros

  • Durable materials
  • Large laptop pocket
  • Fleece-lined pockets for scratchable items

Cons

  • Mesh water bottle pockets are subject to tearing

The North Face Recon Backpack – Most Organized

Sale
North Face Recon Backpack
2,319 Reviews
North Face Recon Backpack
  • RECON CLASSIC. Our iconic 30L backpack is updated with a stretch front stash pocket and improved organization. A spacious main compartment has a dedicated and highly protective laptop compartment.
  • FLEX VENT TECHNOLOGY. The FlexVent suspension system features a flexible yoke built from custom injection-molded shoulder straps, a padded mesh back panel and a breathable lumbar panel for comfortable, ventilated support.
  • TOTAL ORGANIZATION. Two extended mesh water bottle pockets double as multi-use pockets. The front compartment has an extra padded tablet sleeve and zip pockets. An external fleece-lined pocket stores small items or electronics.
  • COMFORTABLE CARRY. For school, commuting or travel, this backpack has a top handle for easy grabbing and a removable waist belt for a custom fit. A sternum strap with whistle buckle adds extra support and safety. Reflective details help you stand out.
  • TECHNICAL SPECS. Dimensions. 19.25" x 13" x 7" (48.9 cm x 33 cm x 17.8 cm). Volume. 30 Liters. Fabric: 600D, 400D or 300D polyester, Novelty polyester directional heather or 210D Cordura nylon ripstop with non-PFC DWR finish. Boot: 1680D ballistic nylon.

The North Face Recon Backpack specializes in organization and comfort. It is the most organized backpack of the six in this review. It is efficient for carrying school or work materials but is especially great to use as a commuter bag. The price of this bag runs around $98.

The Recon has a 30-liter capacity, so it can hold everything you need for a day at school and work. And, its special features aid in safety and comfort during your commute whether you be walking or biking. 

These features include a flexible suspension system that is both padded and breathable. The thoracic and lumbar padding is thick and has vertical and horizontal ventilation patterns for optimal airflow. Additionally, this pack is designed with 360-degree reflective accents to keep you visible to others on the road from all angles.

The Recon has several pockets to allow you to organize your backpack exactly how you like. There is a separate laptop pocket at the back of the pack, and a smaller, padded tablet sleeve near the front. This pack has a medium-sized organization pocket for smaller items and a small, fleece-lined pocket for scratchable items, such as phones or sunglasses.

Externally, this pack has two mesh water bottle pockets on the sides and one stash pocket at the front. The stash pocket is designed to fit a bike helmet, so you have a place to store it once you finish your commute. However, this pocket can be used for layers or other items and secured with compression straps.

The Recon is one of North Face’s most trusted designs. It has received a 9.6-star rating and is recommended by 93% of customers.

Pros

  • Several external and internal pockets
  • Sufficient padding and ventilation
  • 30-liter capacity

Cons

  • Doesn’t stand on its own

The North Face Pivoter Backpack – Most Comfortable to Carry

Sale
North Face Pivoter Backpack
393 Reviews
North Face Pivoter Backpack
  • PIVOTER CLASSIC. With the help of students, we updated this 27.7L back-to-campus pack with a modern aesthetic and features. A 15" laptop sleeve and extra tablet sleeve stows your electronics. Pack stands on its own for easy loading and unloading.
  • FLEX VENT TECHNOLOGY. The FlexVent suspension system features a flexible yoke built from custom injection-molded shoulder straps, a padded mesh back panel and a breathable lumbar panel for comfortable, ventilated support.
  • TOTAL ORGANIZATION. For school, commuting or travel, this backpack features an updated front compartment that simplifies organization for the modern user Secure-zip pockets, electronics sleeves and a key fob keep you organized.
  • DESIGNED FOR EVERYTHING. Two top handles offer versatile carrying. An external stash pocket fits quick-access items And two water bottle pockets provided extra storage. Features a supportive sternum strap and reflective details to help you stand out.
  • TECHNICAL SPECS. Dimensions: 11" x 8.5" x 18" (27.9 cm x 21.6 cm x 45.7 cm). Volume: 27.7 Liters. Fabric: 600D 50% recycled polyester or 300D heathered polyester with a water-repellent finish depending on colorway. Trims: 100% recycled.

The North Face Pivoter Backpack is an all-around great bag. Its sleek design matched with the Flexvent suspension system makes this bag the easiest to carry. The Pivoter can be purchased for just $78.

The Flexvent suspension system is the same support system as the Recon. It is ultra-comfortable and optimizes breathability through its vertical and horizontal ventilation webbing. 

The Pivoter has one external stash pocket and two long water bottle pockets, which give it a sleek appearance. When carrying this backpack, you will not need to worry about your belongings falling out of the outside pockets.

There is on main pocket large enough to fit clothes, school books, or work materials. Inside the main pocket is a padded laptop sleeve that is large enough to fit up to a 15” laptop. This backpack also has a small organizational pocket for small items, such as pens and pencils. Above the organizational pocket is a small pocket for items that you need quick access to.

The North Face Pivoter has received 9.6 stars, and 90% of customers would recommend this backpack to a friend.

Pros

  • Stash pocket
  • Comfortable padding
  • Sleek appearance

Cons

  • The laptop sleeve is included in the main pocket
  • Only one large pocket

The North Face Surge Backpack – Best Extra Features

North Face Surge Backpack
629 Reviews
North Face Surge Backpack
  • SURGE CLASSIC. Our 31L backpack is updated for professionals with a tech-inspired design to organize your electronics and simplify life on-the-go. A dedicated, lie-flat, fleece-lined 15" laptop compartment allows for protected, checkpoint-friendly travel.
  • FLEX VENT TECHNOLOGY. The FlexVent suspension system features a flexible yoke built from custom injection-molded shoulder straps, a padded mesh back panel and a breathable lumbar panel for comfortable, ventilated support.
  • TOTAL ORGANIZATION. Two Teksever fabric pockets offer the ability to conceal contents. The front compartment has an extra padded tablet sleeve, zip pockets and webbing for cord management. An external fleece-lined pocket stores small items or electronics.
  • COMFORTABLE CARRY. For school, commuting or travel, this backpack has a top handle for easy grabbing and a removable waist belt for a custom fit. A sternum strap with whistle buckle adds extra support and safety. Reflective details help you stand out.
  • TECHNICAL SPECS. Dimensions: 20" X 13.25" X 10.5" (50.8 cm X 33.7 cm X 26.7 cm). Volume: 31 Liters. Laptop Sleeve: 10.25" X 14" (26 cm X 35.6 cm).

North Face has released an all-new 2020 version of the Surge Backpack. This is another one of North Face’s core backpacks that is highly praised by customers. The North Face Surge Backpack has the most extra features, which makes it very practical. It is priced at $129.

The Surge has more external dimension than the other backpacks we have reviewed. There is a carry handle on the front of the pack to make it easier to grab when traveling. There are several small external pockets, including two vertical pockets and two horizontal pockets. And, there are two deepwater bottle pockets with compression straps on either side of the bag.

North Face paid attention to detail when designing the Surge Backpack. There are several fleece-lined pockets throughout the entire backpack. Another small detail that makes a big difference is the small access point in the water bottle pockets that allow you to grab snacks or small items while carrying the backpack.

There is a separate laptop compartment that is divided into three sections. One of the sections can be used for your laptop, another for your tablet, and another for important files and documents. This is one of the best North Face laptop backpacks.

The North Face Surge has received a 9.6-star rating. 92% of customers report that they would recommend this product to a friend.

Pros

  • External pockets for organization
  • Compartmentalized laptop pocket
  • 31-liter capacity
  • Long mesh pockets

Cons

  • The high price point of $129
  • Does not stand up on its own

The North Face Vault Backpack – Budget-Friendly

Sale
North Face Vault Backpack
22 Reviews
North Face Vault Backpack
  • CITY COMMUTING. This newly updated pack has a fresh look and suspension born from technical expertise. Perfect for speedy city commutes, the main compartment features a padded 15" laptop sleeve and comfortably fits your books and binders.
  • FLEX VENT TECHNOLOGY. The FlexVent suspension system features a flexible yoke built from custom injection-molded and flexible shoulder straps, a padded mesh back panel and a breathable lumbar panel for comfortable, ventilated support.
  • ORGANIZED DESIGN. The front compartment has internal organization pockets and an extra padded tablet sleeve for all of your electronics. Two extended mesh water bottle pockets carry water bottles, your umbrella or rain coat.
  • COMFORTABLE CARRY. For school, the office and an on-the-go lifestyle, this backpack has a top handle for easy grabbing and a sternum strap with whistle for extra support and safety. Reflective details help you stand out during rush hour.
  • TECHNICAL SPECS. Dimensions: 19.5" x 13" x 8.75" (49.5 cm x 33 cm X 22.2 cm). Volume: 26.5 Liters. Fabric: 600D Polyester Emboss, 600D Polyester Print, 300D Heather Polyester.

The North Face Vault Backpack is our budget option. It is not as feature-heavy as the other North Face backpacks on this review. However, it does have some design elements that make it an efficient pack. This backpack’s simple design gives it a low price point of $59.

The North Face Vault is a 26-liter backpack. It has one large main pocket with a padded laptop sleeve inside and one smaller organizational pocket. On the side are two water bottle pockets that are slightly wider than the standard water bottle pocket. This is good for carrying larger bottles and such. However, it may cause your items to fall out while you are using the bag.

There are two strips of daisy chain webbing on the front of the pack that allows you to attach more of your belongings. Additionally, this backpack features Flexvent technology and flex zone straps for a comfortable carry.

This backpack is unfortunately no longer available on the North Face website nor does it have any Amazon reviews. We would give it a 9.5-star rating. We recommend the North Face Vault Backpack to customers looking for a high-quality backpack with a small price tag.

Pros

  • Sleek, minimalist design
  • Wide water bottle pockets
  • Comfortable carry
  • Low cost of about $59

Cons

  • Limited availability
  • Wide water bottle pockets may not secure your belonging

How To Choose the Best Type of North Face Backpack

Choosing a backpack relies largely on personal preferences and the purpose you want the backpack to fulfill.

Some questions you might ask are: What will you be using the backpack for (i.e. everyday use, gym use, commuting)? Do you prefer having a lot of external pockets or a sleek external appearance? How important is padding and ventilation to you while carrying your backpack? Are internal organizational features important to you?

North Face carries a wide range of backpacks for a variety of purposes. It’s highly likely that they have a bag to suit your needs. However, you will want to be sure to keep your purpose and preferences in mind to find the perfect bag for your lifestyle.

What Are the Advantages and disadvantages of North Face Bags?

Are North Face backpacks good? The answer is a resounding yes! The North Face has been around for a long time and is highly praised by its customers. Time and time again, they produce high-performance gear that outlasts competing products.

Customers love that North Face designs separate men’s and women’s versions of almost all of their backpacks. This distinction tailors each design to the specific features of each gender to ensure the most comfortable fit.

When it comes to backpacks, they have established a core group of various types of backpacks. Through the years, North Face studies the performance and customer satisfaction of these bags and redesigns newer versions of the same bags to make sure they are putting out the best possible product.

Nonetheless, high quality means high cost. When purchasing within the core group of North Face backpacks, you can be confident that the product is tried and true. However, it does come with a cost. In order for North Face to perfect their designs, they need to spend time and money on labor and materials.

The price point of these backpacks may be high, but North Face has a lifetime guarantee. If anything goes wrong with the backpack you’ve invested in, they will happily repair or replace it.

More: Osprey Talon 22 Review: Your Everywhere, Anywhere Go To Pack!

What To Look For in a North Face Backpack

Capacity: How Much Can It Hold?

Capacity

The capacity of a backpack is very important especially if you’re using it for travel. The average everyday backpack is around 28 liters. This can easily fit school, work, or gym supplies.

With that being said, it is important to visualize where this capacity is stored. Some bags have one large pocket, whereas others have two medium pockets, etc. Your purpose in buying a backpack will determine which layout is best for you.

For those who are using this as a gym bag, one large pocket that accounts for the majority of the capacity is probably best. However, someone using this backpack as a commuter or work bag may want two medium-sized pockets to keep their materials organized.

More: Osprey Farpoint Trek 55 Travel Backpack Review – Is this the Right Travel Pack for you?

Padding: Is It Comfortable?

Padding

Comfort is a key feature when you’re commuting to work, walking across campus between classes, or hiking on the trails. A good backpack has sufficient padding in the thoracic, lumbar, and shoulder areas to ensure a comfortable carry.

Many North Face backpacks are endorsed by the American Chiropractic Association (ACA). These packs feature shoulder straps that are anatomically correct, meaning they are designed to fit the different body structures of males and females. And, they have molded shoulder straps with flex points to reduce stress on the clavicle and pressure points.

In addition, the back panels have been redesigned with a central channel to reduce the pressure put on the spine.

Four out of the six backpacks on this review meet these criteria and are endorsed by the ACA. The four North Face backpacks endorsed by the ACA are the Borealis, the Recon, the Surge, and the Jester.

If you’re looking for a hiking backpack that won’t injure your back, take a look at any of these four. The Borealis, the Recon, the Surge, and the Jester are among the best North Face hiking backpacks because of their comfortable padding.

More: Osprey Kestrel 38 Review: Is It Good Backpack?

Protection: How Much Protection Does It Offer Your Belongings?

Protection

Protective features can be found in several areas of a backpack. 

One of the most fragile items carried in a backpack is a laptop. Ideal protective features for laptops include a separate, zippered pocket designed to carry a laptop. Fleece lining inside the laptop pocket to protect the surface. And, a false bottom that protects the laptop from hitting the ground if the bag were to be dropped.

Highly durable and waterproof material is another protective feature that many North Face backpacks have. This will save your belongings from getting wet if you get caught in the rain.

More: Full Review of The Osprey Daylite: Is It A Good Daypack?

Ventilation: How Good Is The Airflow?

Ventilation

North Face has been adding Flexvent technology to the newly released versions of their backpacks. This design incorporates horizontal and vertical channels in the back padding in order to optimize airflow.

All six backpacks in this review have the innovative Flexvent design.

Internal Features: What’s It Like Inside?

The inside of your backpack can either enable or hinder you from packing exactly how you like. And, it’s different for everyone. 

Some people prefer large open spaces, while others seek smaller, more detailed organizational features. Northface offers both.

If you prefer more open space in your backpack, check out the Pivoter or the Borealis. If you prioritize organizational features, then the Surge or the Recon might be for you. A good hybrid option between the two is the Jester.

More: Osprey Porter 46 vs Osprey Farpoint 40: Which Is The Better Backpack To Have

Quality: Will It Go The Distance?

Quality

North Face is renowned for their high-quality products. Nonetheless, some bags are made with more durable materials than others. 

A good rule of thumb is the cliche, you get what you pay for. North Face is fair in their pricing, so if a backpack costs more online, it’s because the materials used were more expensive.

However, regardless of which backpack you purchase, North Face offers a lifetime guarantee. If anything happens to your backpack, they will repair or replace it.

More:Osprey Aether 60 vs Osprey Atmos 65: The Search for a Backpack

Hip Belt / Shoulder Straps: Are They Supportive?

Hip Belt

The hip belt and the shoulder straps are both features that are designed specifically to meet ACA standards. 

On backpacks that are endorsed by the ACA (Recon, Surge, Borealis, and Jester), the straps are sufficiently padded and have flex zones.

The hip belts on the North Face backpacks included in this review are thin and meant solely to keep the bag in place on your body. These hip belts are not designed to be load-bearing.

More: Check our review for best Osprey Backpack here

Size: Will It Double As Cabin Luggage?

Size

No matter where you’re going, a backpack makes a great carry-on. The spacious volume and easy-to-carry backpack straps make it easy to take everything you need on-the-go.

All of the North Face Backpacks on this review can double as a carry-on. 

If you are using your backpack for travel, particularly as a carry-on, you will want as much capacity as possible. If we were to try to pick the best North Face backpack for travel, it would be either the Recon or the Surge.

The North Face Recon (30 liters) and the North Face Surge (31 liters) are both great options for cabin luggage. They are the largest of the backpacks in this review and they have plenty of external pockets for when you need to quickly stash or access your things.

Which North Face Backpack Is The Best?

The Borealis is the winner of this North Face backpack roundup. However, the Recon and the Surge fall closely behind. These backpacks have the capacity, the organizational details, and the protective features to serve almost any purpose. Whether you’re looking for a North Face school backpack, North Face hiking backpack, or North Face work backpack, these styles will hold up. So, wherever you are— on the trails, on the way to the workplace, or around campus— North Face has got your back.

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Tim Fox

Tim Fox

Since the age of 10, Tim, a writer at Outdoor With J, has enjoyed camping in the great outdoors. Although he loves the peace and quiet of the outdoors, he also likes his creature comforts. Tim’s mission is to make camping a fun and comfortable experience for all. You can find more about him here

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