Backpack Faceoff : North Face Borealis vs Recon

[no_toc]When it comes to backpacks, North Face and Borealis have it down. You could choose either of these backpacks and come away with the feeling that you have spent your money well, but which is the better of the two? When it comes down to it, which backpack should you go for? That is what we are here to look at today.

A no-nonsense review of the key features of both backpacks, with our recommendation for the ultimate backpack.


The North Face Recon has 31 liters of storage vs. Borealis’ 28 liters. If size is a factor to you, then you know which way to lean. Both backpacks weight in at around the same weight, with the Recon at 2 lbs. 10.68 oz and the Borealis at 2 lbs. 12.45 oz. When it comes to price, both the Recon and the Borealis will cost you under $100.

The Recon comes in 8 colors while the Borealis comes in 22. If you want more options, then the Borealis will have a color which will more closely match who you are, and it will cost you $10 less than the North Face. Both backpacks are made from high-durability ballistic nylon with Cordura.

The North Face Borealis, TNF Black, OS
1,237 Reviews
The North Face Borealis, TNF Black, OS
  • Integrated reflective loop for blinky light. Winged, stowable hipbelt. Large main compartment for all your essentials. Laptop sleeve is compatible with most 15" laptops. Hydration compatible with port. Front stash pocket and bungee cord for added storage. Mesh side water bottle pockets. Endorsed by the American Chiropractic Association (ACA). Safety whistle located on chest buckle. Capacity: 1770 cu in / 29 L. Materials:•420D nylon.•600D polyester print.•1680D ballistics nylon.
  • The North Face® lightens the load with the Borealis backpack.
  • FlexVent™ injection-molded shoulder straps with a top layer of Atilon foam for added support.
  • Comfortable, padded airmesh back panel with Spine Channel and PE sheet for extra back support.
  • Adjustable shoulder straps provide a comfortable and snug fit.

Last update on 2020-07-11 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Are They Constructed Well?

Both backpacks come from North Face so you would expect them both to be durable and solid, and you would assume right. They are made from the same materials and the construction is high-quality. The stitching is great, the zipper is solid, and you get what you pay for.

Are They Comfortable?

North Face has been in this game for a long time. If one of their backpacks were not comfortable, then there would be something wrong. The Recon has a little more capacity so it could weight you down more, but both backpacks have comfortable shoulder straps which are padded. The hip belt on both backpacks help to shift the weight from your shoulders and give even more comfort.

Technology Compatible

In this day and age, you need somewhere to store your laptop or tablet. How do these backpacks hold up? Both backpacks have space for a 15” laptop, with a padded sleeve at the front of both backpacks.

Additional Storage

Both backpacks feature external pockets for the items which you need to reach quickly. They also both have mesh pockets for holding water bottles and other beverages. The Recon has an additional front pocket which is large; this pocket can be used to stash items such as jackets and additional clothing.

Hiking and Biking

When you are out hiking, or on your bike, you want all of your gear to stay in the same place. If the contents of your backpack, or the backpack itself, moves a lot as you move, then it can become uncomfortable and cause you strain. Both of these backpacks have compression straps on the sides and bottoms of the bags. Once you tighten these straps, everything will stay in place.


Both of these bags have reflective loops attached. If you find yourself out at dawn or dusk, then you will appreciate the extra visibility which both of these bags give you.

What Else Can They Do?

You want a backpack that is for more than just hiking, and North Face knows this. Both backpacks come with enough space to hold everything you could want on a hike, a bike, a trip, a vacation, and even for school. The additional pockets and mesh holders make them extremely versatile, and both have adequate space for a lot of items. They are both durable and tough. The only main difference when it comes to what they can do is the capacity.

The Recon has 3 liters additional capacity when you compare it to the Borealis. With 28 liters in the Borealis, this is not a big deal, but, if every liter counts, then the Recon will give you more space. If you need to hold more, such as on a camping trip, then the Recon will give you that extra space.


Both bags do not come with any additional options other than the choice of color. Both backpacks come in classic black, which will be enough for many hikers, but if you want choices when it comes to color, then the Borealis is where it is at. With a choice of 22 colors, you will be able to find the color which matches your life. The Recon comes with fewer choices, but there are still 8 colors to choose from.

Bungee Storage

The Borealis backpack comes with a bungee cord system across the front of the bag. Where the Recon has a front pocket, the Borealis has a bungee cord. This bungee cord system is fine for storing some items but does not function as well as a pocket. The one advantage is that you can access your items quicker with a bungee cord.

The North Face Women's Recon Backpack, Montague Blue Light Heather/TNF Blue, One Size
4 Reviews
The North Face Women's Recon Backpack, Montague Blue Light Heather/TNF Blue, One Size
  • RECON CLASSIC. Our iconic 30L backpack is updated with a stretch front stash pocket and improved organization. A spacious main compartment with a padded fleece-lined 15" laptop sleeve protects your computer.
  • 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.

Last update on 2020-07-11 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Bottom Line

Both of these backpacks are worth the money. One does not stand out over the other, but there are some key differences which may affect your choice.

If you want a bigger backpack which can hold more, then the Recon is going to give you that extra space. 28 liters is a large amount, but if every liter is of the essence, the 31 liters of the Recon is going to give you what you need. It may cost you $10 more, but either bag is money well spent.

If you are more excited by choice of color, then the Borealis will give you that. With 22 colors to choose from, you can find exactly what you need and you are going to save yourself $10.

If we had to choose, we would go for the Recon. The extra 3 liters allows for a little more breathing room when packing your bag. The color choices are sufficient, and we like the front pocket over the bungee cord system. Both bags are great, but the Recon just tops the Borealis.

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