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Showing 1-10 of 59 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 66 reviews
on October 10, 2013
Wow, finding a dslr backpack that has chest and waist straps is quite the chore. Then you also need one with plenty of space, which is another chore. And at the end of these chores, in steps the Mountainsmith Borealis AT Recycled Camera Bag to save the day. Protect your camera, carry your cloths, and distribute the ridiculous amount of weight you plan to put onto your body evenly.

This is a great pack for taking your cloths, camera, and ipad for a weekend trip somewhere (e.g., visiting the folks or the shore house). It could use a little more room, but I am 6'2" so my cloths tend to take up more space then someone who is 5'4".

The pack has built in support for carrying heavy loads (it's basically a hard-plastic ring around the back of the pack). This gives the pack a very rigid feel, which may be a turn off to those who've only used a soft canvas pack (e.g., jansport). This "built in support" is a feature you will see in a lot of hiking backpacks, and it tends to even the weight out on your back. In fact, most of the features on this backpack are built to help you carry a lot of weight (chest strap, waist strap, and adjustable shoulder height strap). The straps are built well, the clips appear to be strong, and the compression straps click in nicely.

Other reviewers have complained about problems opening the zipper in the camera compartment. This is because there's a waterproof flap over a sealed zipper, so you cannot just yank at it like a gorilla or it will snag up (it's like the zipper around a weather sealed enterance/window in a tent, just unzipping it like a gorilla means it'll snag).

Other reviewers also said you cannot open the camera section when the straps are clicked in...that's because these are compression straps and you aren't supposed to be able to open sections you've strapped closed. It's like saying you cannot open a locked door - compressions straps are designed to lock and compress products so they aren't jiggling around. The reason to do this is it provide a more comfortable experience with heavy loads. You can test this, compare hiking with heavy gear that's moving all around vs gear that is secured in place. You will find that gear that is secured (i.e., the point of the straps) feels much better.

That's not to say this pack is "perfect" - improvements could be adjustable waist strap height (tall people will always find it hard to find proper waist strap alignment), it could be longer, and it could have more space (which, is saying the same thing as "make it longer").


+Great for carrying heavy loads thanks to a great chest, waist, shoulder, and compression strap system.
-Could be longer and the straps need height adjustment.

Who should buy:
*People who know the difference between a good hiking backpack and a jansport.
*People who need a weekend pack to carry limited amounts of items + camera + ipad.
*People who think every. single. backpack. should have a chest and waist strap.
11 comment| 14 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on December 26, 2012
In theory this bag is excellent. It can hold a lot of camera gear with plenty of space for everything else you need be it supplies for a hike, travel things (laptop cables, etc) or anything else you'd want to do. Unfortunately in practise it isn't the case. I've used the bag for around 12months and have tried to love it but so far it's left me looking at the alternatives. The individuals sections by themselves have a lot of space (as mentioned in other reviews) and can seriously fit a decent amount of stuff! The bag does feel very tough & I'm not all that nice to it and it's survived everything I've thrown at it without and issue so I've no doubt it's durable. If you're using really big lenses you may struggle to fit them in the camera compartment (most likely not attached if they do fit). The top pocket really does hold a surprisingly large amount of stuff.

I've used this bag for:
:::Day hikes filled with camera stuff, food, drink, 1st aid gear, rain jacket and some other bits and bobs.

:::Travel around the USA for 5months filled with camera gear, 15" MBP, drink bottles, books, cables, snacks, passport, documents etc.

:::Also used the bag with the insert removed and there's tons of space to fit whatever you want (I regularly cram all my groceries in there).

All definite positives and it, again, works very well in theory.

Now to the issues:

:::Getting the camera in and out is incredibly frustrating. Taking the bag off each time isn't the issue, be it for a lens change or camera insertion/removal, it's the fact the camera doesn't really fit in the opening unless you completely open it up and have the camera insert almost out, which involves undoing some clips and fully unzipping the mouth; just a general pain in the behind! Also, you're never going to have quick access to the camera or lens changes with a bag like this but the time required for this bag can be so slow and such a pain that there's times I'd not bother getting the camera out because I can't be bothered dealing with the hassle.

:::Next, there is lots of space in the bag but I feel like it's under utilised, especially length wise. With the camera component in place the only full length section is the laptop compartment, which doesn't stretch all the far if what you have is even remotely wide; eg a rain coat will be pushing it's limits. Not that big an issue but it comes up enough to list.

:::The camera component can't be accessed when either the tripod or rain cover are attached (and they can't be used together). A general annoyance that frustrates me every time they're in use. On a side note the tripod holder works well, with one setback that I'll get to, and the rain cover is excellent and has kept the internals very dry even in long heavy downpours (a few hours of constant heavy rain exposure).

They're the main "issues" with the bag, but there are also a few personal qualms I have that may be of interest to others:
:::Having the tripod holder on the back of what is already a rather deep bag, I find it really pulls the bag back and away from me, making for a not too comfortable experience. Having it attach to the side would be much more pleasant. I've tried my own improvised attempts all to no avail.

:::With the amount of space the bag has it comes as no surprise that it can get quite heavy; not an issue really but the problem is the bag "feels" heavy. I've got an 85L Macpac hiking bag which, even fully loaded, is gorgeous to carry and feel light as a feather. With less weight, the Borealis AT manages to feel significantly heavier and tires me out much faster.

:::I'm 6'5" and find the bag just doesn't fit me well. I imagine for people of more "regular" heights this wouldn't be much of an issue. This, and combined with what was mentioned above, mean for me it's not the most comfortable bag to carry on long days fully loaded and I often finish the day kinda sore.

In saying all this, I do plan on keeping the bag for a while longer as I can't justify the cost to replace it right now (most likely an f-stop Loka/Tilopa) and it does do what it claims, it's just frustrating at times. It's functional, reliable and usable I just wish it did some things a little better. Sorry for the lengthy review (and any typos), but hope it helps.

*Camera equipment generally in the bag:
Nikon d7000 (previously a d5100)
Tamron 70-300
Nikon 35mm 1.8G
Tokina 12-24
Sigma 50mm 1.4
Battery Grip (doors l fits attached & detached)
Memory Cards
Spare Battery + Charger
Wireless trigger
Benro Tripod Travel Angel Transformer something-orother
22 comments| 45 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on September 3, 2016
Back in 2013 when I started to accumulate more gear for my camera and was planning to go visit my brother in Sweden expecting to do some hiking later on in Norway I had to look for a bag that was both big but comfortable to hold lots of stuff, tough materials, and with enough compartments to hold my stuff. I have nothing bad to say about this bag... its been 3 or more years since I purchased it from Amazon. I remember I did a very long research to select it having in my shortlist other bags from Lowepro (from which own several bags already), Kata and other brands.

The result was that this bag from Mountainsmith from which I already owned a couple of large waist bags was the one that fitter the best my requirements, especially when I saw a review in youtube which showed all the stuff that it can hold.

Just to give you an idea of that first trip that I had with it in 2013 I took with me a 13" Macbook that fits perfectly in a dedicated laptop compartment at the very back of the bag, which is conveniently designed so you can take access the laptop easily while on the road or when you have to take it out in those annoying checkpoints at the airports.
Then you have Main top compartment that can hold some essentials for you trip like, a tablet, jacket, magazine, gloves, glasses, large headphones or other medium sized gadgets. It also has a plastic transparent zippered compartment to hold stuff that you want to protect from getting damped like maps, IDs, or other documents. Anyway the bag fabric is good enough to hold some mild rain at bay out of the inside, and if is gonna really rain like hell you can use the rain cover that the bag comes with to protect it.
Then you have another pocket just in front of the main compartment, useful to place smaller items that you want to have at hand and more easy access like a sandwich in a zipper bag or candy bars, pencils, keys, flash drives, mobile phones, flashlight, sun glasses (in their case, recommended), passport, communications radio, smaller point and shoot camera, etc.
Now for the photography guys, at the very bottom, the bag has a dedicated compartment for your camera gear and opens like a clam shell once the zippers are undone. The space here is enough to take the gear that you need to make decent pictures. It can hold a pro-dslr like my Canon 5DMkIII, accompanied with 2-3 lenses, one of them even being a 70-200mm. Also there is space to put a flash or other stuff like battery charges, cable pouches.
Other features of the bag are designed thinking on adventure, especially being manufactured by Mountainsmith. Therefore, besides having at the front a system that allows you to strap or attach a well sized tripod, it also has some loops so you can fix to them skies or maybe trekking poles. Also it has at the sides some loops so you can attach additional pouches to hold more lenses, or like in my case in which I attached pouch to hold a 32 oz water bottle like the ones made by Nalgene.
Now, the straps... these things are made to take heavy duty use... the are wide enough and with enough cushion to compensate somehow the weight of the bag loaded. The also come with a belt that you attaches at the height of your chest for better balance of the bag once worn. Also there bag has the typical straps that sit at your waist level to help distribute the load of the bag, and they come with pockets that are useful to hold other items that you might need to have at you hand reach while wearing the bag, like small maps, a pocket or swiss army knife, flashlight, etc.

Conclusion the bag is built like a tank... even tough is the older model since Mountainsmith has released a new one a couple of yeras ago. But you can also get them still online, on amazon... believe you will enjoy having this companion in your adventures.
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on October 19, 2010
What a hulk of a pack. I purchased this to put all of my camera/ computer equipment in before going on vacation.

In true fashion I packed too much...Canon SLR Body, two lenses, Ipad, 15" Laptop, two external hard drives, chargers for all the aforementioned and I didn't stop there. I then decided the bag looked like it could handle more and packed up my back up point and shoot, charger, underwater housing, sunglasses, two magazines, ipad photo attachments, cleaning kits, and an external flash.

After getting to the airport and realizing I had packed entirely too much stuff we found out our bag that was to be checked was 10 pounds over weight and so in went the mask, snorkel, two pair of shoes (mine), and two purses (hers). Still over weight...the bag then inherited most of the contents of my wife's purse plus her confounded copy of some ridiculously thick Twilight book. At this moment we were both shocked and amazed that it fit all of that in it and still managed to be comfortable to wear albeit heavy. This feeling of euphoria was quickly brought to an end when we had to go through security and all of the contents were up ended out of the bag and then had to be repacked.

Heck the security man was amazed at how many pockets, compartments and spaces the sucker had and swore he was going to buy one. This happened at two major airports mind you LAX/ ATL so you can imagine the crowd of people behind me. Sorry to those that had to wait but if you are a camera guy with a ton of equipment this is the bag for you especially if your wife consistently over packs like mine.
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on May 2, 2012
Great bag. Very happy with my purchase. I don't normally review products but I took a little time to put up a good mention for this bag. Here are a few Pros and Cons I've realized after using this bag for awhile.

-Good quality material, not very flimsy
-Very Spacious, Plenty of room for packing (FYI I packed the camera pocket on the bag up with my Sony Nex 5N with 18-55mm lens attached, mini tripod, two chargers, 3 batteries, 3 sd cards, GoPro Hero 2, Head mount strap, about 15 GoPro mounting brackets, GoPro and Sony Nex 5n charging cords, Lens filter attachments and everything fit nicely.) (Also packed a ton of spare parts for my longboard, tools, helmet, knee pads, elbow pads, slide gloves, couple bottles of water, and other odds and ends in the other various pouches and pockets)
-Love the fact their is a separate pocket on the top by the handle that houses a rain sleeve to seal off the bag from the elements when hiking
-So many different compartments!
-The front straps are very nice and keep the bag securely in place while hiking and wearing the bag while doing things like biking on trails.
-Laptop sleeve fit my 15.6" laptop with an extended battery attached nicely, even when the bag was fully packed.
-Camera pouches are padded nicely
-THIS IS A BIG PLUS, if you don't plan on using the bag for you're camera, THE ENTIRE CAMERA POUCH SYSTEM IS REMOVABLE!! I found this extremely useful if I just wanted to take advantage of the cameras full storage capacity for things other than my camera and attachments
-Nice side pockets and straps, you could mount a full extendable tripod on the side
-Plenty of hooks and attachments for carabiners to hook things on the outside of the bag.
-The metal frame work between your back and laptop sleeve add rigidity and keep the bag from deforming under load.

-With a bag of this size, packing a ton of electronics, can get to be quite heavy and quite the burden on long trips. Just be prepared.
-The interior of the camera pocket is yellow. This is nice for finding things in the pouches, however gets dirty fairly easy.

To be entirely honest, the cons listed are very meager in comparison to the Pros.
Definitely a quality product that is worth the little extra money for the capacity, quality, and durability.

If you're into traveling, hiking, biking, exploring and bringing you're camera gear along to capture the moments, this is a great backpack! (:
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on February 16, 2014
It's been my everyday bag for years now. It's flown with me, rode with me count less miles by bicycle, motorcycle, automobile and rail. It's been strapped to my back while trekking the National Mall of D.C. and Great Smoky Mountains to the back streets of Dallas, Texas. From the Great Lakes to the Caribbean and Atlantic to Pacific. It's been loaded down with camera gear, diapers, Cliff bars, text books, laptops, baby wipes, batteries, tools, pens, notebooks, more Cliff bars, bike tubes, first aid kits, change of clothes, keys, flash light, emergency blankets, MRE's, flash drives and even more Cliff bars. All that and it can still fit into an over head compartment after you compression strap the hell out of it and that's only the inside. You can strap even more to the outside! Sleeping pad, blanket, rifle, tripod, skis and even an extra bag and a hydration bladder or two. If you can't stash it, lash it, tie it, or strap it to this bag then you don't need it. This bag is more versatile than duct tape!
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on May 17, 2013
The Borealis was almost perfect for me, minus a few minor imperfections. It's as close as I've found to perfect in camera bags though, so take these as small nitpicks and still seriously consider buying one of these.

1) This bag doesn't have a water bottle pocket. You can carabiner one on, but of course then it flails around a little bit.
2) Full size paper has to go in the laptop slot, because the upper storage is just a bit smaller than a notebook.
3) When fully loaded (and I mean crammed), even with the compression straps it's a tight fit in smaller overhead compartments. You just might have to cram hard enough.

Truthfully I love this bag, and only listed the imperfections for full disclosure. I don't think there are many other bags that are comparable to this one. It's very comfortable while fully loaded, and includes space for all your camera gear (two bodies/3 lens or 1 body/5 lenses) plus miscellaneous gear (cards, batteries/flashes). There is even room for a fleece jack or rain jacket up top, plus some snacks.

This bag has been to Europe twice in the past year and on many other smaller trips, and looks just like new. Great durability.
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on September 6, 2016
I have owned this bag since 2010 and it is absolutely fantastic. I have taken it to vacations in Peru, the UK, all over the USA, Mexico, and several places in Europe. The bag still looks brand new and is exceptionally durable. It has ample room for camera gear (I keep a Canon 7D, 5 lenses, extra batteries, and lens filters in it) in the dedicated side, and has a lot of extra space in the remaining portion. It is a big, bulky backpack with a ton of functionality. Usually that would mean that it would be uncomfortable... but this distributes the weight very well. It is a great day bag when you're out exploring and I love taking it on vacation. I can't say enough good things about it and would highly recommend it.

By the way, there are no water pouches... but if you're not using your tripod holder it doubles as a water bottle cradle.
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on March 6, 2014
UPDATE 20150507: after a year of use in Anchorage, Alaska, the surrounding environs, and several airline flights, I am very pleased with this bag. So much so, that I am ordering a second while they are still available. In my initial review (below) I was concerned about the size, mainly because I was expecting the bag to be somewhat larger. The 1586 cubic inches have proven to be sufficient, and the build quality is excellent.
I bought this to use as both a commute bag and as a trail bag. I wanted dual shoulder straps (not a sling bag) and a waist belt. I chose to go with Mountainsmith for their history of building premium outdoor gear. From the reviews, I really expected a larger pack, something 25-30% larger. For a guy of average height and build, this is a small to midsize day pack. It is well constructed, and fairly well designed. Personally, I do not like that the tripod mount unfolds to extend below the bottom of the pack; I would prefer it level with the bottom of the pack, so that the pack can still sit on its base. Otherwise, most of the features seem well thought, and the pack does not scream photo bag. I do not find it the cavernous behemoth others have described, and I really have to question how some people got as much gear into theirs as they claim. The Mountainsmith site clarifies that this pack's capacity is only 1586 ci. If this size is sufficient for you, then I highly recommend this pack. I could really use another 500 or so ci to carry hiking essentials: water, snacks, first aid, layers, etc., along with my photo gear.
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on April 16, 2014
I just returned from a five week backpacking around Europe trip, and this camera bag is not one bit the worse for the wear. It is well made, and holds a lot more than you might imagine. In fact, it held so much that it was a bit heavy to get on and off. Once on my back, however, it rode well. I love the belly straps and the chest straps. It seems like I can just keep stuffing and stuffing and stuffing stuff in this bag. But there are also a number of places where I can snap on external things as well. So, for example, I have a water bottle with a carbuncle on the end. No sweat, I can just snap it on one of the four loops if I wish. I can also attach other things as well. What I really bought it for, however, to haul my camera equipment, it does not work quite so well. I mean it is great at protecting my gear, but when I want to swap lenses or get my camera out quickly, dude, that does not happen. I need to find a table somewhere, spread everything out, and then make the changes. I would LOVE to find a real camera gear back pack that would permit easy access to camera, lenses, filters, batteries, strobes, and memory cards, monopods, tripods and all the other assorted gear one accumulates, but alas my search in that area still progresses. But till then, I have this bag.
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