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33 of 34 people found the following review helpful
I am a part time professional photographer. As any photographer can attest, you will one day find yourself surrounded by many gear bags. It just happens- don't try to fight it; just learn that Craigslist can be a good friend to unload gear bags you outgrow. After culling my most recent collection, I was left with a Domke 700-02A F-2 Bag (Brown Waxwear Finish), a Lowepro 350 AW DSLR Video Fastpack (Black),a Timbuk2 Commute 2.0 Laptop Messenger Bag (modified with a Timbuk2 Snoop Camera Insert), and the Lowepro Pro Roller x300 Camera Bag (Black) that replaced my Lowepro Pro Roller x200 Camera Bag (Black). I use the Mountainsmith when I need to move fast and don't expect quick gear changeouts. As any photographer will tell you, there are specific bags that meet specific needs and your needs change all the time. For example, do you really want to bring an X300 to a street shoot in downtown Nashville? But, the Timbuk2 really does not allow you to carry all the gear you might need (at least in my case as I am a prime shooter mostly).

I have been a Mountainsmith fan since 1996, before they developed camera bags. Mountainsmith quality is world known and you will often see their gear on Everest expeditions. In my opinion, and in my use trials, I equate their gear to being indestructible even under unusual circumstances. Their customer service is also legendary and I do not say that lightly. This bag is no exception. When you take the bag out of the box, you will immediately feel the quality. Some of this quality can be felt through the weight of the bag, I estimate at about 4.75 pounds unloaded. It is heavy duty material and webbing that gives it this weight. Like I said, it is designed for serious abuse. Additionally, Mountainsmith is known for paying attention to details that may add some weight. For example, loops around all the straps to prevent excesses strapping from flying around (can be very annoying). The attention to detail also extends to the ability to remove the entire camera insert, which is smartly colored yellow, to convert the bag into a full expedition pack.

The design of the pack is classic Mountainsmith engineering. They obviously have photogs on staff who contributed to the design. The top part of the bag can store a significant amount of gear, photo related or not. In my case, for street shoots, I load it up with lunch, energy bars, cell phone, rain gear, hat, first aid kit, etc....... Like other Mountainsmith bags, it is like loading a bottomless bag and thus very easy to overload with stuff you really do not need and you soon find yourself looking like you are going on an expedition. The bottom section of the pack, which carries photo gear, can be custom configured. In my case, I carry a Nikon D300s w/grip, and 80-200 2.8, 50mm 1.4, 2 Nikon SB-700's and sometimes a 105,, 2.8. Note, that larger camera bodies may have to sacrifice some space. The photo gear compartment is really not that big however and if you have a lot of gear that you like to travel with, this bag may not be for you. Due to size constraints, you have to plan your shoot and anticipate your needs. For example, this is not a bag you would use for a fashion shoot If you are looking for a Mountainsmith bag to carry more gear, I suggest you look at the Mountainsmith Parallax Recycled Camera Backpack. Alternatively, you could pick up an additional camera insert to place in the top compartment, allowing you to carry twice as much gear. The Borealis has plenty of pockets to store your other smaller gear as well. A tripod or Monopod (even both at the same time) can easily be attached to the pack using the provided straps and foot pocket on the back of the pack. The rain cover pocket stores internally at the top of the pack, and is a great place to store a min-first aid kit as well. Interestingly, Mountainsmith did not include a water bottle carrier pocket like LowePro fastpacks do; but, LowePro Fastpacks do not include a tripod carrier system like Mountainsmith does. I find that a little odd to be honest. However, there are a number of attachment points for that or you could slip a hydration pack into the laptop/Ipad compartment, though that is where I usually store my speedlight flash modifiers and reflectors that fold flat.

In summation, this bag is best described as a photogs dream travel bag (counts as one bag when flying) and the quality of the bag is simply incredible. The bag does have minor gear carrying limitations as just about any other bag would. The Borealis design also does not allow for fast gear change outs as the LowePro Fastpack series does. This could be a serious consideration for a street shooter when used in that specific application. But, if you need an all around camera travel bag, this is what you are looking for- especially perfect for airline travel. Shooters who like carrying one or two zoom lenses and maybe just one flash, will take to this bag.

SPECIAL NOTE TO STREET PHOTOGRAPHERS: Fast moving and rapid gear changing can be accomplished with minor effort. For example, if you really like this pack but are turned off by the need to take the pack off to access gear, you could add the Mountainsmith Descent AT Recycled Camera Chestpack which can attach to the cross straps of the chest harness or even independent of the pack altogether. You could also look at adding something like a Cotton Carrier 122 CPF-5940 Camera Vest System Pro-Pac in concert with the Mountainsmith Borealis AT Recycled Camera Backpack.
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36 of 39 people found the following review helpful
on October 23, 2011
Verified Purchase
I did a tremendous amount of research prior to purchasing this bag for an upcoming international trip. I already own several large camera backpacks and aspire to achieve in a photo backpack a balance between photo gear protection & access as well as having all the other stuff you need that most dedicated camera backpacks don't allow for. Things like food, water, light jacket, clothing misc, etc. Oh, and be small enough to be carry-on flight baggage. The top-bottom divide of the Borealis seemed pretty ingenious...
In theory I love this bag, but in actual practice I loathe the camera compartment zipper. It is shockingly frustrating to either open or close to access the camera gear as the zipper constantly gets caught, especially in the lower reaches where the zipper curves a bit. I realize things get snug after loading in the gear, but the zipper is very difficult to use with either an empty or packed bag. The last thing I want is a bag that is an obstacle between myself and my camera. I ended up returning my Borealis pack. The quest for the balanced camera backpack goes on...
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on November 12, 2013
Verified Purchase
One of the top compartment zippers starting coming apart after 4 month of moderate use as a daypack for photography. They do offer a warranty repair. However ... it takes 6 WEEKS for the turn around on repairs ... so, hope you don't mind sitting around for a month and a half waiting for your pack to come back.

---> They should offer a return/exchange option !!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on August 18, 2012
This pack is perfect to hold all of my gear. My gear consists of a Canon camera with three lenes all of which fit perfectly in the lower camera compartments. My MacBook Pro slides easly into the laptop compartment with pleantly of room for the power cord and two externl drives. The top part of the pack is big enough for clothing and a pair of size 9 shoes. This bag can take so much more and it has so many little compartments and straps to keep your gear happy. Best of all is that the bag is the perfect size to come on board all commercial flights! It stowes under the seat with ease so I have access to all my toys during the flight. Great tough comfy pack!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on March 15, 2012
So I must admit - I am like a giant Mountainsmith freak. I discovered them while living in California about 10 years ago and bought my first bag of theirs. 10 years later, this is now my 4th Mountainsmith bag - each one better than the last. This one is a perfect blend of being able to carry my Canon 60D with 18-270mm Lens, Flash, Filters, etc as well as a back up Canon G10 in the bottom compartment - and then of course there's the rest of the bag, for whatever else I need to carry. I feel like every time I put it on I discover a new feature or pocket. It's like a TSA Agent's nightmare. Looks like it could hold everything currently in my apartment if I got clever.

And I can speak for Mountainsmith's Customer service as well. When that original 10 year old bag's zipper broke, I contacted them and they told me to send it back immediately for repair - for free. When it came back, along with it was a 20% discount off my next bag for my "inconvenience". After 10 years, and countless trips all over the world with that bag packed to the gills - no need to apologize. Just keep up the awesome work and making bags like this.

And yes - I still use that original bag with it's replacement zipper as my daily commuter in the hell that is New York City.
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on April 9, 2012
Verified Purchase
I have had this pack for a month or two. I haven't used it every day, but have used it quite a bit. I think it's a great pack if used for it's real intended purpose. In my opinion it's really made for longer day hikes when you will need a lunch, rainsuit, water, etc.. or possibly for students- with it's built in lap-top pocket. The bottom half is padded for camera gear, and the top is not padded for less delicate stuff.

I have not had any 'problems'. I wish the zippers were YKK, and they don't appear to be, but I haven't had any problems with them at all. Everything seems to be very heavy-duty actually. The bag itself is kinda heavy, but I'm ok with that if it lasts longer because of it.

I find it to fit my back very comfortably!

My only issue with it is that because only the bottom half is really designed for camera gear, I have to know exactly what I am going to be shooting that day. There is not room to bring a lot of gear. If you only need 1 body and a couple lenses, OR if you don't mind having to take the lens off the camera body to pack in better, then this is a great bag in my opinion.

I often find that I want many lenses, and maybe a couple bodies with me depending on what I find, a waterfall or wildlife, etc... Because of that I also picked up the larger padded other bag from Mountainsmith - the Parallax.
But...I think they are both heavy-duty quality bags, I plan to keep and use them both for different situations.

And that being said, the Parallax is designed for a different purpose too, because it does Not have space for lunch, jacket, etc.. it's pretty much just for gear, for if I want a lot of stuff, but don't plan to be too far from my truck, etc...
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on March 7, 2012
Verified Purchase
It fits all my camera equipment, plus my rain gear in case it rains, and plenty of room for a lunch and a jacket in case it gets cold out. It has an attached rain cover for the bag thats easy to put on and take off and fold up when not needed. I use Mountainsmith bags for my extended backpacking trips, and a mountainsmith bag for my city traveling, and just like those bags, this camera backpack is everything I could want. High quality materials and well made. Highly recommend this bag.
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5 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on April 22, 2011
Verified Purchase
I've been looking for a camera/daypack to take with me while fly fishing. I opened the box and pulled this backpack out of the box and noticed that it was made of great quality and had plenty of storage. I loaded all my camera gear and put it on for a few minutes. The backpack weights over 5 pounds out of the box and once you start loading it down, it gets really heavy really quick. I returned it and purchased a smaller, more light weight backpack. Great quality, storage, adjustablilty but, I justed needed something a little lighter.
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