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When it comes to purchasing a travel backpack, you want to feel confident that you’ve made the right choice.

The most important aspects to consider when choosing a backpack for traveling include size, weight, material, storage compartment options, and durability.

There are numerous backpack brands you can choose from, but North Face has been a market frontrunner since its inception in the 1960s.

This is no surprise as North Face delivers exceptional quality and their products are known for their comfort and utility.

In this article, we compare two of their best-selling pieces – the North Face Surge and North Face Borealis .

While each has a lot to offer, you want to be sure you’re getting the one that is most suited to your specific needs.

Specs Overview – North Face Surge vs North Face Borealis

ProductGear Capacity WeightMaterial(s)
#1. North Face Surge
Our Best Pick

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31 liters / 1,892 cubic inches3 lbs. 2.8 oz.Nylon
#2. North Face Borealis

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28 liters / 1,709 cubic inches2 lbs. 12.45 oz.210-denier Cordura ripstop nylon

These two backpacks have a couple of things in common. They also have a few differences. Let’s start with the similarities.

Similarities between North Face Surge and North Face Borealis

  • One size

Many backpack brands produce various sizes of the same backpack model, such as small, medium, and large. However, North Face has produced only one size of the Surge and the Borealis.

The good thing about this is that the back panel of these two models has few special features, allowing it to be adjusted to most torso lengths.

  • Laptop compartment

Both the surge and the Borealis feature a 15-inch laptop compartment. However, the compartments are located in different locations depending on the backpack you choose.

  • Detachable waist belt

Both these backpacks have a waist belt designed to help hold the backpack in place, preventing it from swaying back and forth especially if you’re cycling.

You can also remove the waist belt when not in use. You don’t want something dangling from your backpackif you’re just walking.

  • Side water bottle pockets

Both backpacks have solid, opaque side water pockets. That means no one can see exactly what you’re carrying in your pockets.

  • Reflective bike loop

This is one of the things that make these backpacks a perfect choice if you normally travel by bicycle. A reflective loop helps to minimize your risk of being injured by oncoming vehicles, especially in foggy and dark conditions.

  • Fleece-lined tablet sleeve

Both the Surge and the Borealis spot a fleece-lined tablet sleeve in their main compartment.

Now let’s explore the differences between these backpacks.

Differences Between North Face Surge and North Face Borealis

  • Size and Capacity

With dimensions of 20 x 13.25 x 10.5 inches and a capacity of 33-liters, the North Face Surge is somewhat larger than the North Face Borealis. The Borealis dimensions are 19.75 x 13.5 x 8.5 inches, and it can hold 28 liters of gear.

At 3 lbs. 2.8 oz., the Surge is also heavier than Borealis, which weighs a little over 2lbs.

  • Type of laptop compartment

The Surge boasts a TSA-certified lay-flat laptop compartment, which is designed to ease the checkout point process at the airport. The Borealis doesn’t come with a lay-fat laptop compartment.

  • Location of laptop sleeves

The Surge has one of its laptop sleeves located in the front compartment. Conversely, Borealis has the laptop sleeve located in the main compartment. What’s the significance of the laptop sleeve’s location?

A laptop sleeve that is located in the main compartment usually delivers a better center of balance. Unfortunately, it can also limit the number of items that you can carry in the main compartment.

  • Presence of bungee cords

North Face Borealis features plenty of bungee cords area along its front pocket. You can use these bungee cords to attach external gear.

You can also use them to compress the backpack’s content when you have nothing in the front compartment.

The Surge doesn’t feature bungee cords.

  • Presence of daisy chains

The Borealis features a daisy chain at the top. Some external gear can be so large that they can’t be attached by bungee cord. You can use the daisy chain to attach such gear.

North Face Surge doesn’t come with a daisy chain, but it does have a large loop.

  • Large Loop

The North Face Surge is equipped with a large loop above the front compartment for attaching external gear. Unfortunately, this loop can’t hold as much gear as the bungee cords and daisy chain on the Borealis.

  • Vertical pockets for more storage

Besides the top zippered pocket in both backpacks, the Surge also sports two vertical zippered pockets at the front. You can put your additional smaller stuff there.

>>Check North Face Borealis Vs Patagonia Refugio

The final call: North Face Surge vs. Borealis

When shopping for a travel backpack, you want to get exactly what you need for the best price.

These two units fall within the same price range and are quite affordable. However, North Face Surge is the best value for the money.

It offers a better comfort level, durability, and value. The North Face Borealis does have plenty of space for external gear, but it loses to the Surge when it comes to internal compartments. The Surge has two additional vertical pockets as well.

As a result, if you’re looking for a backpack that can hold more gear, you’re better off with the Surge as with a 5-liter larger capacity.

Conversely, if you are into backpacks that have a slim profile, the Borealis would be a great choice for you.

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