There’s a lot of choice out there for hiking and trekking backpacks. But if you have the money, and you’re looking for the sort of hard-wearing backpack that’ll cover you for pretty much any eventuality, then Arc’teryx are one of the brands you should be looking at. As soon as you pick up a piece of their gear you can tell instantly that its made to last. The Bora 50 backpack is no exception. Seriously, it’s one handsome beast of a bag.
Aesthetically, the Bora 50 ticks all the boxes. It’s a sleek, tidy design that looks so nice you don’t even want to take it out of the house. The Borneo Blue variant is bright, but without looking garish. Even though it comes with a fair whack of fasteners and connectors, they somehow seem to be subtly hidden, unlike some of the other bags we’ve used that look like some sort of carriable weeping willow.
The backpack is made from a combination of 420d and 630d nylon fabrics as well as weatherproof AC² fabric – for parts that will be exposed to rain and snow. It’s a covering feels comfortably secure against the elements without giving the texture (and weight) of more plastic coverings you can find on some products. The result is a less rigid design which works well for when you’re not fully packing it.
The really impressive elements of the Bora 50 can be seen when you flick the bag round though. Firstly, there’s a plastic back panel that keeps the bag’s structure as you carry it. It’s made from super lightweight thermoplastic composite called Tegris, which adds no noticeable weight whatsoever. Secondly you have the frankly wonderful straps linked into a padded back that sits above the plastic. Thirdly, there’s the RotoGlide hipbelt, which is a sort of massive padded strap connected with a movable pivot in the plastic backing. The result of which means you have a lot more mobility when wearing it.
Sure, that all sounds good on paper, but how would the Bora 50 actually hold up in the field? Well, to test it out we decided to head down to Eastbourne for a two day wander up and down the cliffs that lead to Brighton. A route we’ve done before that’s received a 10/10 rating for difficulty in Time Out’s Country Walks Near London Guide. Last time we did it we carried a tiny little 20L backpack, and it was still tough, so we were expecting to feel the pain using something over twice the size.
On the way down to Eastbourne, through crowded trains and tubes, the Rotoglide hipbelt was a bit of a struggle, it’s massive. To the point where we kept hitting things with it every time we picked it back up. However, the Bora 50 isn’t designed for busy cities and when you have it fully strapped on it’s perfectly secure. As soon as we passed the first few miles of undulating coastline, we suddenly realised how effective it was. Largely due to the fact the backpack was barely noticeable as we clambered up and down. If you reach down to the ground, the little Rotaglide connector slips the bag up to redistribute the weight. Combine this with the nicely fitting padded shoulder straps, and the whole carrying experience is far better than we’ve come to expect from larger hiking backpacks.
Storage using the Bora 50 is a real treat. The main compartment is perfectly sizeable for a 50L, however the real plus points come from the extra front section (perfect for the kind of things you need to access quickly, waterproofs or a camera), and the two massive zip compartments on the underneath and top of the main hood. Add to that the various well-placed straps for things like tents, poles and sleeping apparatus, and you’re looking at all the space you’re likely to need.
So, against a two-day clamber across the south coast the Bora 50 was a delight. Light, accessible and more than enough storage space for the job. Sure, two days with some minor rain might not be enough to really see how it holds up against some of the tougher elements you might face, but we’ll continue to test it out in tougher situations. If any of the other Arc’teryx kit we’ve used is an indicator, the Bora 50 is looking like a pretty popular feature in our future travels.
The Arc’teryx Bora 50 is available for £380 at the Arc’Teryx website.
Note: We received tests product for this review.