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Hands-on Gear Review

The North Face Recon Review

Day Pack

Click to enlarge
Price:   Varies from $79 - $99 online  —  Compare at 7 sellers
Pros:  Stowable waist belt, convenient organizational pockets, iPhone compatible pocket, padded laptop pocket, comes in 9 colors
Cons:  Not very breathable back panel, heavy, not as conducive to outdoor use
Editors' Rating:     
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Manufacturer:   The North Face


Why do you need a daypack? If you are looking for an all-around pack to bring with you to work, on trips, and on short hikes, then the North Face Recon is a decent selection. With its laptop sleeve that also functions as a hydration bladder sleeve, including a cleverly placed hose port, and its meshy outer stow pocket, this pack can transition between sport use and around town use. It is comparable to the Patagonia Refugio, which has very similar organizational features and carry options, though the Recon is slightly more expensive. If you are looking for something less expensive that can double as a hiking pack and a travel bag, the REI Trail is comparable and less pricey. If you want the most comfortable, ventilated, and versatile pack we tried, check out the Osprey Talon 22, though it does not hold or protect a laptop as well as this pack.

New Update Version - May 2016
The North Face has updated this pack and is offering it in a variety of colors. Keep reading to find out more!

RELATED: Our complete review of day packs

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Analysis and Hands-on Test Findings

Review by:
McKenzie Long
Senior Review Editor

Last Updated:
May 20, 2015

The New Version of The North Face Recon vs. The Older Version

According to The North Face, there are a few differences between the latest version that they're offering and the version that we reviewed.

"The shoulder straps have FlexVent "injection molded straps and the back panel has Airmesh with Spine Channel and a PE sheet for extra back support. The front of the pack has a large, front mesh drop pocket, as well as a small front stash pocket. The list price remains $99."

-The North Face

Below you will find a photo of the latest version on the left (shown in TNF Red/Asphalt Grey), with the older version (that we reviewed) pictured right.
Click to enlargeClick to enlarge 

Hands-On Review

As an around town, everyday daypack, the Recon is a functional choice. Overall we prefer the Patagonia Refugio for this type of use, but the Recon does have a waist belt, which we appreciate.

Performance Comparison

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The North Face Recon loaded with a 15-inch laptop and notebooks in the main compartment, a water bottle in the side pocket, and a jacket stuffed in the front mesh pocket.


The Recon is stocked with organizational features ideal for a school or work bag. The front compartment has pen holders, a phone pocket, and separate zippered pockets to make organizing things such as your wallet, tickets, and notepads convenient. The front of the pack has a meshy pocket to stash damp extra layers, and there are 2 meshy water bottle pockets along the side.The main compartment has a padded pocket that fits a 15 inch laptop, but just barely. A 17 inch laptop will not fit. This pocket also doubles as a hydration bladder sleeve, with a hose port exiting the pack in the center.

Click to enlarge
Like the similarly featured Patagonia Refugio, The North Face Recon has a bladder hose port located in the center, so the hose can go over either shoulder while hiking.

The main feature that distinguishes this pack from the similar Patagonia Refugio is that the Recon has a waist belt while the Refugio does not. This belt is thin with small padded wings on the side, and can be tucked behind the back sheet of the pack when not in use.


This pack is very similar in features and intended use as the Patagonia Refugio, however the Refugio is lighter by almost a pound while the Recon has one liter more volume. Weighing 2 pounds, 10 ounces, this pack is not for the light and fast hiker, but rather for the traveler who wants a sturdy pack with convenient features.


The back panel on the Recon is more supportive than most of the other packs we reviewed due to an added PE sheet, but it is one of the least breathable. It also has a rather thin waist belt, which is nice for stowing it away when not in use, but makes carrying a heavy load less comfortable than some of the packs like the Osprey Talon, which have thick, padded waist belts.


Though the Recon has a hydration bladder compartment, it is not the most ideal for outdoor use. Its organizational features target this pack more for travel and around town use than for outdoor applications.


With ballistics nylon fabric covering the heavy use area along the bottom, this pack is tough, and would withstand some abuse. This added durability also adds weight, but for a travel pack it is a relief not to have to worry about busting a seam. The zipper on the main compartment is extra beefy, which is wonderful. It is easy to zip, and removes all doubts of zipper failure.

Ease of Use

Our editors love that this pack fits a laptop, (though a 15 inch laptop is a fairly tight fit, and a 17 inch will not work) and love that in the middle compartment there is a phone specific pocket for the iPhone. These easy to use features make this pack ideal for traveling when you need to carry all your important items at once.

Best Application

This pack is most ideally suited to travel, around town use, and light hiking.


For $99, the Recon is rather expensive for a travel/work specific daypack. Other packs with more versatile features for outdoor use, such as the Osprey Talon 22 cost the same amount, and the similarly featured Patagonia Refugio only costs $85. If you are looking for a durable, easy to organize bag for traveling, the Recon would do the job, but the Refugio would be a less expensive and equally desirable option.

Other Versions

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Recon - Women's
  • Womens Specific version of the Recon pack
  • Equally great and versatile pack
  • Good water resistance
  • $100 - good value for a great daypack

Click to enlarge
Youth Recon Squash Backpack
  • Kids version of the Recon
  • half the size of the adult pack
  • Great kids bag for hiking, school or travel
  • $50

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Recon Charged
  • Standard 28L Recon pack with integrated battery pack
  • Contains lap top pocket and USB charging abilities
  • Equal to 3.5 lap top battery charges
  • $200
McKenzie Long

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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews

Most recent review: August 31, 2016
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:   
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Average Customer Rating:   
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100% of 1 reviewers recommend it
Rating Distribution
2 Total Ratings
5 star: 50%  (1)
4 star: 0%  (0)
3 star: 0%  (0)
2 star: 50%  (1)
1 star: 0%  (0)
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   Aug 31, 2016 - 10:56pm
johnnysmash · Backpacker
Although it wouldn't have been my first choice, I picked up an old-style Recon from an REI garage sale 10 years ago when I needed a daypack for working on a trail crew. Ten years - and more than a dozen field seasons - later, my trusty pack is giving up the ghost.

I probably wouldn't use this pack for a short day hike - it's pretty large and heavy for that. But I've used this pack to carry 40+ pounds of gear reasonably comfortably. My favorite features are the water bottle holders and the various straps on the outside. Using a combination of these, you can strap pretty much anything to the pack. I've hung a gallon of water off each side. I've stuck two hundred pinflags, flag down, in a water bottle holster and strapped them in. I've strapped a 20lb wooden beam across the front. This pack is a surprising workhorse and when it finally dies I'll probably replace it with the same.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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