Having the right outdoor gear and clothing is one of the most important factors in ensuring that, not only will your adventure (be it hiking, climbing, skiing or any other activity) be enjoyable, but that it will also be a safe one.
With safety being paramount, it’s no wonder that major brands in the market of outdoor clothing and gear have developed impressive designs that keep outdoor adventurers safe and comfortable when dealing with the elements.
However, practicality is also an essential aspect of going on a hike, for example, as you will have to carry things with you. Typically in a backpack. Which brings us to today’s topic.
Over the past years we have discussed a number of different brands that are renowned in the outdoor world, primarily focusing on the quality and performance of their jackets. Lately, we have been trying to explore more outdoor essentials and backpacks are today’s choice.
Let’s take a look at two of the most renowned brands out there, Osprey and The North Face, to see which one makes better backpacks for outdoor activities.
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A short history of the brand
Established in 1974, in California, Osprey is one of the brands regarded as being the best at making high quality packs that perform exceptionally.
This is not the first time we have looked at Osprey, but it is the first time we compare it to a brand that makes a variety of products, like The North Face.
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Osprey was founded by Mike Pfotenhauer and it went on to become a brand renowned for their innovative designs.
While the brand was established in 1974, their first high-performance design was launched in 1976, when they introduced a mesh panel to their packs, which helped them breathe better and make them a lot more comfortable for long wear.
Nearly 20 years later, they introduced the very first women-only design, the Isis backpack, and from there their designs made specifically for women took off.
Osprey is a brand with so many technologies and innovations that it requires a whole piece of itself to discuss them all, but we will touch on a few of them in the following section.
Materials and Manufacture
Quality backpacks require quality materials that will not just last long but can also withstand the elements. Nylon is the material that fulfills both of these conditions better than most other fabrics available, and it is the material that Osprey relies on for its designs.
However, to really make high-performance and highly functional backpacks, a couple of technologies and innovative developments must also be utilized and Osprey does just that.
The very first one we mention whenever discussing this brand is the custom molding hipbelt technology, that was specifically developed to make heavier loads easier to carry.
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They also rely on their AirScape™, AirSpeed™ and AntiGravity™ technologies, along with the StraightJacket™ suspension compression system, the ErgoPull™ hipbelt and a number of other details that help make their designs a lot more practical and comfortable to use.
Regarding manufacturing and design, their Design Studio is located in California, whereas their packs are primarily made in Vietnam.
This is a brand that strives to reduce the environmental impact of the manufacturing process and it does so by utilizing recyclable materials, evident in the Circuit backpack, as well as by ensuring that the finished product is highly durable and long-lasting.
Osprey Nebula Daypack
Check it out on Amazon.com (paid link)
The design we picked is the Nebula daypack, a nylon pack that comes with a mesh backpanel that is well-ventilated.
Despite being a daypack, it does not lack in either quality or performance, and it is a high quality backpack that wears comfortably and comes with several organizational pockets, which will help you keep everything where it should be and where they can be easily accessed.
This is a backpack with a TSA airport security-approved laptop sleeve, which is also padded to ensure that your device is kept safely and securely inside the bag. It is a unisex design and comes with a blinker light attachment as well.
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While the brand’s packs are definitely worth the price due to their quality, practicality and functionality, they are not the most affordable options on the market.
Some designs can cost upwards of $200, while the more affordable options range at nearly $100.
2. The North Face
A short history of the brand
While nowadays it is one of the biggest name brands regarding outdoor clothing and gear, it originally started out as a brand that made climbing and backpacking gear.
Back when the brand was founded, backpackers and climbers had very limited options, especially when it came to quality gear, and The North Face provided them with exactly what they required.
The North Face is one of the brands mostly renowned for its versatile designs, especially their technical wear, however, over the recent years, it has begun to develop clothing and apparel that cater to the everyday buyer, too, while still staying true to their conviction of making quality products that last long and wear comfortably.
Materials and Manufacture
We have discussed this topic in depth before, too, but today we will only focus on materials the brand uses for packs, as well as the products and technologies they rely on in this regard.
As with their jackets, The North Face rely on nylon and polyester to ensure the performance, durability and quality of their designs.
Their backpacks are also equipped with padded mesh back panels that help with breathability and a number of designs come with the FlexVent™ suspension system, which features a yoke built from shoulder straps that were injection-molded and result in a flexible system that is more comfortable to wear and helps carry heavier weights more easily.
As for the manufacturing process, The North Face relies on methods that ensure both the durability and quality of their products. This is not done to solely maintain the brand’s good reputation regarding their designs, but to also help reduce the impact that their manufacturing has on the environment.
The North Face is one of the brands that has made substantial efforts in this regard, as evidenced by the use of the PFC-free DWR products and a good deal of recycled materials as well.
The North Face Borealis Backpack
Of course we would feature Borealis as the brand’s popular design, as it is one of the highest-rated backpacks of The North Face.
This is a design that comes in both men’s and women’s versions, which are nearly identical in their composition, with the main difference being the fit, which is designed to fit comfortably on both men and women.
It is a 28L backpack, which comes with the FlexVent™ suspension system and a number of pockets, as well as two compartments, the largest of which features a 15″ protective laptop sleeve.
It is a backpack made of polyester and nylon, and, like all The North Face products, it comes with Lifetime Warranty.
Generally speaking, The North Face prices are not the most affordable ones, but its backpacks are a different story.
The less-technical designs go for around $80, whereas the ones that are made to withstand the elements and be carried for days on end, can go over $120.
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3. Which Brand is Better?
These two Californian brands are as similar as they are different, but which one of the two makes better backpacks?
Reviews and online discussions speak well of both brands regarding their backpacks and many side with either one or the other.
Starting with price, those who are looking to save a little will have better luck with The North Face backpacks as the ones by Osprey tend to be more expensive.
Regarding comfort, once again, they are both quite similar depending on which design you are looking at, but, in our opinion, Osprey’s reputation for making some of the best backpacks has not come out of nowhere, and it does make a difference in this regard, too.
When choosing a backpack, the way it fits will be the most important thing to look for. In general, Osprey backpacks are said to fit better on most people, whereas in the case of The North Face there are specific designs that are also a good fit on most.
The difference in warranty is another thing to consider. While The North Face does offer a Lifetime Warranty, Osprey’s All Mighty Guarantee, which offers free repairs regardless of when the pack was purchased, is hard to match.
So, which one is better?
In our opinion, depending on how a backpack will fit you and what you are looking for (number of pockets, compartments, reservoirs, etc.) the answer to that question will depend.
With that being said, if we were to choose, we would go with Osprey for their warranty and their reputation for practical and comfortable designs.