- Buyer's Guide
PolarPro Boreal 50L Backpack Review
Most people in the photography world know PolarPro for their filters. But recently, they have been branching into other areas to expand the brand. I love their filters, so I wanted to check out the PolarPro Boreal 50L Backpack to see what they were bringing to the table in other areas. The bag’s layout looked interesting, with enough room to carry my usual kit, a sleeve for a 16″ laptop, and a roll top to allow for more storage when needed. The main compartment is deep enough to hold larger camera bodies and lenses, making it appealing for those who are not running small mirrorless setups. But can the pack take a beating and be comfortable when fully loaded on long hikes? Let’s take a look.
Who It Suits
This bag could be a good fit for you if you carry large lenses, large camera bodies, or have a cinema setup. You can pack quite a bit inside. For my use, I was carrying:
1 – Lumix GH5II (with Cage) and small Lens
1 – Lumix S5II Body (with Cage) with a 35mm, a 24-70mm & a 70-200
1 – DJI Air 2s with controller, 2 extra batteries
1 – GoPro HERO10
With all this, I still had room for the PolarPro 7L Tech Pouch and another pouch. As there is no removable camera cube, this is a bag for someone looking for a dedicated camera pack. If you like a bag with sling access to the camera compartment, then this bag has that feature for you.
Who It Doesn’t
If you are looking for a camera bag for a small mirrorless camera or a day hike, this would not be the bag to pick up. It is a large pack with a lot of excess space if you have a small kit. Also, with the size of this pack, I would not recommend it if you are someone with a small frame.
The overall space within the pack and the layout of the pocketing in the Boreal is nice. There is no specific admin panel, but this takes over that space if you get the 7L pouch. The main compartment is 30L and is permanently a camera space, meaning there is no removable camera cube. This space is about 6 inches deep, which is excellent if you need the space.
The fabric on the Boreal is 600D Polyester and coated with DWR, so you can be out in a good amount of water and not have any issues with moisture getting inside. The top drop pocket and laptop pocket zippers are weatherproof YKK for the important items to stay dry.
One of my favorite parts about this bag is the padding and ventilation on the back panel and shoulder straps. With thicker padding that has excellent breathability, the pack feels comfortable even in hot weather. As with all packs, there will still be some hot spots, but the Boreal did very well while I was in Moab.
The hip belt holds the weight reasonably well, gives good support when fully packed out, and includes a pocket on either side. I love pocketing on my hip belts to store snacks for quick access when hiking. The water bottle pockets are a lightweight mesh large enough to hold a Nalgene or other 32oz style bottles. There is no spot for a hydration bladder, so having bottle pockets that can hold a large bottle or a larger tripod is nice.
Several solid grab handles are on the pack’s sides, bottom, and top. These were nice when fully packed to load and unload the pack into the truck.
The top of the Boreal 50L has a 15L roll-top compartment with zipper access to the camera compartment. I like roll-tops on camera bags to stash rain shells or other gear.
The Not So Good
As with all bags, a few things could be improved. The body of the bag feels loose. What I mean by this is it is very easy to pack the bag out wider than it zips. Which in turn can create issues with the dividers not staying in place. While not a deal-breaker, I did have a few times where this created issues with the dividers moving and gear sliding.
My other issue was with the zipper on the back panel. It starts inside the straps and then moves to the outside. If you start at the top and pull them down towards the bottom, the webbing stops you before completing the full zip. Again, not a deal-breaker, but it can be frustrating.
I had issues with the face fabric on the bag. While the pack stood up to the testing with no tears, holes, or significant issues, the face of the bag did see some issues with the coating getting nicks and marks. I am not one who cares about my bags looking perfect, as I believe that gear is meant to be used. But for some, this might be a deal-breaker. I wasn’t a fan of the sling access pocket. It is under one of the water bottle pockets, making it harder to access and use.
Overall, this bag carries well fully packed. The harness system is well-built and comfortable, carrying all the gear I need for my work. With a bit of support for the frame of the bag, this could easily be one of my top bags, but that issue with the main compartment needing to hold shape and pulling the dividers away was something that I found frustrating. The pack held up well to all types of weather and was tossed in the back of a truck and saw some abrasion against rocks without tearing. The Boreal 50L is an excellent start for PolarPro to enter the bag space, and I am excited to see what they do in the future.