Maybe you are the kind of person who likes to travel a lot and live out of a backpack. Maybe you are a student studying at university, or you might just be a weekend warrior camper. Regardless of who you are, if you ever use a backpack to carry the essentials, this review is for you.
When you have to lug around a lot of stuff, one of the most important questions you ask yourself is “Which backpack should I use?” And since there are so many options out there, it can be easy to not know which backpack is right for you.
So today we decided to help mitigate this confusion by doing an in-depth review of two of the best backpacks out there. The backpacks under review are The North Face Surge and The North Face Recon. Just to shake things up, we are going to do this as a comparison review.
The North Face is an iconic brand that has been in the game of producing some of the finest outdoor products for a long time. They primarily manufacture and design backpacks, activewear, and outdoor gears. The North Face Surge and The North Face Recon are just a couple of the many amazing backpacks designed and manufactured by The North Face.
Before we dive into the actual comparison between these daypacks form North Face, we are going to take a look at some of the specs from each of them.
This daypack has a volume capacity of 31 liters and comes with a lot of special features. It is designed for professionals, students, outdoor adventurers and just about anyone that needs a good backpack with a lot of room.
This backpack is especially recommended to people who like organization in their life because this backpack has several compartments that make it very efficient and easy to store all your items without the process being more chaotic than it needs to be.The North Face Surge is available for men as well as women, in a whole range of eye-pleasing colors. It is a one-size-fits-all backpack and that makes it infinitely easier to buy the Surge backpack without spending a lot of time trying to gauge different sizes and dimensions.
20 inches x 13.25 inches x 10.5 inches
3 pounds and 2.8 oz
500D nylon oxford slub, 420D nylon and – 210D Cordura nylon ripstop
10.25 inches x 14 inches
As we discussed earlier in this review, The North Face Surge has a volume of 31 liters. So it is perfect for people who need a larger backpack. Due to its large storing capacity, this backpack is an ideal option as a faithful companion in most shorter outdoor activities. It is also recommended to students who need to carry a lot of stuff around with them.
This Surge backpack from The North Face has an impressive 6 total compartments. Two smaller side compartments on either side of the front of the backpack, a bigger front compartment, another compartment on the front and two main compartments. That is especially sweet because you can store a lot of things in a mess-free manner.
This backpack can also be used to efficiently carry laptops or tablets. If you need to take your laptop or tablet wherever you go then this bag is going to meet that requirement. It has a padded compartment ideal for storing a 15-inch laptop. This backpack also has another padded tablet sleeve placed on the front compartment for easy access.
The padded compartments are also lined with fleece. This ensures extra protection for your precious electronics.
Let’s be honest, no matter how good a backpack is if it is not visually pleasing than it is probably not going to be a favorite. Fortunately, that is not the case with this north face backpack. It is beautiful. Despite having a high storage capacity, this backpack does not look or feel bulky.
The FlexVent technology used to craft this backpack gives it flexibility and breathability. The custom injection-molded shoulder straps, padded back panel, and a lumbar panel makes it comfortable to use and distributes weight equally on the shoulders.
This backpack is safe and travel-friendly. It has a 360-degree bike light loop which is reflective so it is a great choice for people who use bikes for daily travel. There are two water bottle pockets which are made with Teksever fabric.
The shoulder strap has webbings which make this backpack even easier to carry. The top handle of the backpack is padded so you can even carry this backpack using the top handle rather than strapping it on your shoulder. There is a waist belt on this backpack which can be removed.
This backpack also has a sternum strap. A sternum strap that covers the chest. A sternum strap provides extra support for the chest and it also minimizes the jarring motion of the backpack when carried while walking. The sternum strap on The North Face Surge backpack has a whistle that can be used during an emergency.
This is another daypack by The North Face. It has a volume of 30 liters and is available in one size that is suitable for all. This backpack is highly durable and organized. It has several compartments and pockets which makes it a champion among frequent travelers.
It has a men-specific and women-specific model available. These backpacks are manufactured in several different colors that allow your backpack to be highly personalized.
19.25 inchesx 13 inchesx 7 inches
2 pounds and 7.7 oz
600D polyster toile, 500D nylon oxford – slub, 420D nylon, 210d Cordura nylon – ripstop, polyester jacquard camo.
11.5 inchesx 17.75 inches
This bag has a volume of 30 liters. It is neither too small nor too big, it is just the right size. This backpack is large enough to use make it useful in various places. You can use this to as a school backpack, an office backpack, for traveling, and even for short camping trips.
Organization with this backpack is infinitely easy. There is a large main compartment that can be used to store files, books etc., another front compartment, an external pocket to store small items, a front, extendable stash pocket that allows easy, quick storage and retrieval. This backpack has a total of 4 external compartment and several internal pockets and organizers and bandoliers for storing your goods.
This backpack has a laptop sleeve in the main compartment. This backpack is ideal for carrying a 15 inch laptop. There are extended mesh pockets that can be used to store cell phones as well. The front compartment also has a tablet sleeve. The compartments are padded and lined with fleece to give protection to your devices and also prevent damage from falls and bumps.
This backpack has a unique FlexVent suspension feature that makes this backpack very comfortable to use. There is a padded lumbar panel, a padded shoulder strap, and an extremely comfy padded mesh back panel.
There is a sternum strap on this backpack which has a whistle on it to keep you safe. The two extended mesh pockets can be used as water bottle storages or to store a cell phone. The pockets and compartments have secure and easy to use zippers.
This backpack has a 360-degree reflective bike-light loop which ensures that you are visible even during nigh or dark. The top handle of the backpack is padded for lifting. This backpack has a waist belt which is removable.
Another unique feature found in the Recon backpack is the stretchable front stash pocket that can be used to store items such as a helmet or a water bottle. Also, there are clip-on carabiners in the internal compartment of the Recon. You can use these to clip on your Nalgene or keychains.
Above we saw the specifications and features of both backpacks. They share a few common features such as design, the make, and organizing capabilities. Now we will look at the differences between the two.
The North Face surge
The North Face Recon
20 inches x 13.25 inches x -10.5 inches
19.25 inchesx 13 inches x 7 i –inches
3 pounds and 2.8 oz
2 pounds and 7.7 oz
500D nylon oxford slub, –420D -nylon and 210D –Cordura -nylon ripstop
600D polyster toile, 500D -nylon oxford slub, 420D -nylon, 210d Cordura nylon -ripstop, polyester jacquard -camo.
10.25 inches x 14 inches
11.5 inches x 17.75 inches
From the specifications above, you can see there are a few differences between these packs. First of all, the dimensions of the Surge backpack are greater than the Recon. Also, the volume of the surge backpack is higher when compared to the recon backpack. The North Face Surge also weighed more than Recon.
The volume of Surge backpack is a whopping 31 liters while the volume of the Recon backpack is 30 liters. The North Face Surge has more storage capacity compared to Recon. One liter may not seem like a big deal, but that liter can be the difference between packing enough food or water or not.
This feature is especially useful when you need to use your backpack for traveling or packing in your camping gear. In such situations, every liter of storage space counts. But if you are a student or a professional who needs a bit smaller backpack then The North Face Recon is a better option. It is just the right size.
We saw in the review that the Surge is the heavier of the two bags. So if you are looking for a lightweight backpack then the Recon is definitely the appropriate choice. It is lighter and still big enough to meet whatever requirements you might have.
While both the backpacks have several highly organized compartments and pockets, the Surge backpack definitely has the upper hand here as well. The Surge has 6 compartments in total, of which 2 are main compartments. While the Recon backpack has a total of 4 compartments and only one of them serves as the main compartment. Clearly, the surge backpack provides more storage organization and flexibility than the Recon backpack.
That is one thing that you need to keep in mind about these backpacks, especially if you are purchasing them for their organization flexibility and the number of compartments they have.
This is one round that the Recon backpack is going to win. When compared, the Surge backpack is a bit bulkier arguably due to the additional compartments and the Recon does not have as much bulk. So if you are looking for a backpack that is not very bulky and bloated looking, then The North Face Recon is the safer bet out of the two.
A daypack is defined as a small backpack or rucksack that has shoulder straps and is used to carry things. When compared, then the Recon backpack serves as a better daypack. It has the perfect volume to be a light and comfortable backpack. This is not to say that the Surge is not comfortable, but it is a bit heavy for everyday use and that makes it the less attractive options comparatively.
While the Surge has several compartments, the Recon has carabiners in its main compartment. That is a cool feature as now you can clip a Nalgene or headlamp on to it. The Recon backpack also has bandoliers that make storing items just a bit easier and quicker to access.
If you travel frequently, then The North Face Surge is a better choice compared to the Recon. This is because the Surge backpack is more TSA friendly out of the two. It’s TSA friendly design enables it to to be opened completely flat.
As we previously mentioned in this review, The North Face Surge has a laptop sleeve which is located in the back compartment and this compartment can be opened and laid flat. This just makes your life a lot easier when travelling and going through several TSA checks as you don’t have to go through the horrible experience of unpacking your entire backpack in hurry and then packing it back all the while you are in the middle of the airport TSA inspection line with people behind you telling you to hurry up. That is very stressful.
The Recon has a sweet feature that the Surge does not have. That feature is the stretchable pocket located in the front. It is a big pocket that can be utilized to store larger items such as a helmet or a jacket or maybe a hoodie.
Some backpacks have this option too, but those backpacks usually have front pocket having bungee cords. This is a bit disadvantageous as you are constantly fearful that the cords may break. But The North Face Recon solves this problem by trading the bungee cords for a stretchable pocket.
While both the backpacks are fleece lined, there are a few differences. The North Face Surge has a softer internal material when compared to Recon backpack.
Which is important if you are going for rougher outdoor activities. The Surge might be easier to tear than the Recon backpack.
The price is always a factor that has to be considered when buying a backpack. The North Face Surge has a price of $ 129 (Check out the latest rates here!) while The North Face Recon costs $99. (Check out the latest rates here!)
If you want a cheaper but a good quality backpack then Recon is what you are looking for. But if money is not a problem for you and you don’t mind the extra bulk then go for The North Face Surge.
Here is just a glance of all the differences we found between the Surge backpack and the Recon backpack.
The North Face Surge
The North Face Recon
6; 2 main compartments
4; 1 main compartment
Stretchable front pocket
Although different, there are quite a few similarities between the two packs. They are both highly organized and useful if you like to travel mess-free. They have one size that fits all and averts any pickpocketing problems. The compartments are relatively spacious and easy to unzip.
Both the backpacks have a laptop sleeve that is extremely useful and provides enough protection to the electronic devices as the sleeves are padded and also lined with fleece material for added security.
They both have shoulder straps which are removable. They both also have sternum straps which are padded and allows extra stability when moving with the backpacks. The sternum straps have another nice little feature.
It has a whistle on it and this ensures extra safety. So if you are stuck in a sticky situation, bad neighborhood or generally feel threatened, then you can blow the whistle and attract people towards you.
Both the backpacks are very comfortable to carry. This comfort is due to the fact that the back panel as well as the shoulder straps, both are padded. The weight of the backpacks along with all the items inside them is distributed equally.
This makes sure that your shoulders have equal weight and none of them are taking the majority of the brunt. The back panel supports the back and does not put too much pressure on it.
Although the Surge and the Recon are a fantastic choice, there are several alternatives available for a person who needs the perfect day pack.The North Face Borealis is a great option for those who require an even smaller backpack. The Borealis backpack is 28 liters and has a capacity of carrying a laptop that is 15 inches.
Another great option is The North Face Jester which is again 28 liters in volume and also has a laptop sleeve. This backpack is a great option to carry on short hikes as well as in the city. It has a large pocket which is crisscrossed with bungee cords. This compartment is similar in function to the front stretch pocket in The North Face Recon. But as we discussed in the review that the bungee cords are not very stretchable and have only so much flexibility.
Another option is The North Face Isabella backpack. This is specially designed for women and is 21 liters. It has a tablet and a laptop sleeve as well.
There are various means available through which you can buy these backpacks. The most obvious one is that you can directly buy them from the official The North Face website. Other e-commerce sites such as Amazon, eBay or similar sites sell these backpacks too.
If you have a The North Face basecamp in your state or city, then you can pay them a visit and purchase your backpack directly from there.
So the million dollar question, which is the better of the two? Well, that answer is highly variable depending on your specifications, requirements, and uses. If you are someone who likes to travel light, then the Recon is for you. If you need more storage capacity then we recommend the Surge.
Personally, if I had to choose, my choice will be The North Face Surge. I love organization. The sight of seeing all my stuff packed in an orderly fashion makes me giddy. With the Surge backpack, I get that organizational flexibility.
Also, I carry a lot of stuff with me. At any given moment I can have several books, a few binders and a water bottle with me. So I need a backpack that can efficiently carry all of the items I need.
Another reason I liked the Surge backpack is because of its travel and TSA friendly design. I like how the main compartment can be easily unzipped and laid flat. Like mentioned before in this review, this feature just makes life that much easier.
But that is just my opinion. Every person uses their backpack differently and for different purposes. If you are going on a short hike then The North Face Surge will not be a practical option. The unnecessary weight will just slow you down and tire you faster. So in that case, the Recon is a better option.
No matter what you choose, both these backpacks are durable and an excellent choice for a daypack. They give you your money’s worth and there are very few things to complain about with these backpacks. They are comfortable to carry and use, highly compartmentalized, and just do what they are supposed to do. So no matter what you choose, you should be satisfied with it.
So that is all for our comparison review of The North Face Surge vs The North Face Recon. We hope we made your choice easier and less frustrating. Keep calm and adventure on!
Sam Hardy is an outdoor enthusiast with a penchant for survival prepping. He writes about the great outdoors and his favorite equipment here.