While this newest model shares the name with the older Bora line, it has several significant updates over previous models. The most notable of these is the pack's lighter weight and burlier weather resistance. The Bora's famous comfort factor is also better than ever. This model specifically replaces the older Altra line of packs, utilizing a similar design and several features, along with a few upgrades. The newest Bora features a vastly improved suspension that is among the most robust in the review. Improved foam padding in both the shoulder straps and the hip belt is top-notch. What sets the Bora AR apart from other models is its AC² fabric, which made it the most weather resistant in our fleet. The Bora is a great all-around backpacking pack with a full suite of features. It's one of the best overall packs, thanks to its high comfort level and excellent suspension system. Its downsides are that its weight is average and it has an expensive price tag. At $550, it's $200 more than any other pack we reviewed.
Arc'teryx Bora AR 63 Review
Compare prices at 3 resellers Pros: Comfortable padding, ergonomic shoulder strap design, robust suspension, extremely weather resistant
Cons: Expensive, average weight, not as many places as other models to lash/strap oddly shaped items on externally
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The new Bora AR is a top-notch pack with a dreamy suspension, cushy shoulder straps, and a marvelous pack design. Our testers love the attention to detail from the top lid, which is secure and easy to search through, to the flat bottom, which allows the pack to stand up on its own when we set it down. The Bora is by far the most weather resistant pack in our review, and it features several panels of waterproof fabric that are seam taped in more exposed areas. If you want a first-class pack that carries like a champion, and you're willing to spend more for a number of subtle but friendly features, the Bora might be the pack for you.
This pack is easily among the most comfortable models on the market. The foam used in the shoulder straps feels more like a memory foam mattress than your typical shoulder strap. At first, they feel overly soft. But after using it in the field extensively, we found that the foam seems to adjust to your body perfectly.
Your first concern might be that this soft feeling foam is going to pack out or won't be as supportive as your body might require. After several weeks of constant use, we have not noted the foam packing out at all. The older Arc'teryx Altra 65 featured similar foam that we used 150+ days with heavier loads before it started to pack out. We like the thickness upgrade with the new Bora over the older Altra.
The shape and general ergonomics of the shoulder straps are top notch and contour to our backs nicely. While our entire testing team thought the foam used on the shoulder straps is fantastic, we do like the slightly stiffer foam found on Gregory Baltoro 65 and Osprey Xenith 105 for monster loads (50+ pounds) marginally better. We feel no difference with more moderate loads (~40 pounds).
The waist belt features a similar, albeit marginally denser and thicker version of this foam that is dreamy to carry — even after long days. Our testing team loves the Bora's pivoting waist belt. While this feature may seem gimmicky at first, even our most skeptical testers were impressed when they used the Bora in the field, especially by how effectively this feature transferred the weight to our hips, helping the pack "flow" with us. All of our testers agreed that this is even more noticeable on scree, talus, or rough trails, but makes less of a difference on smoother paths.
We also like the newer version of Arc'teryx's RotoGlide pivoting waist belt. The new version is much more secure than the old one. With the Bora, the waist belt never came out while we were wearing it, but it sometimes popped off during breaks while we were sitting on our pack. While this was hardly a big deal, it seemed to always happen at the most inconvenient time and would always take 1-2 minutes to reattach properly. In the end, our entire testing team found the Bora to be one of the most comfortable packs in our review, along with the Gregory Baltoro 65 and Osprey Atmos AG 65.
This pack has an extremely robust suspension system, especially considering its volume. For support, the Bora uses a thermo-molded Tigris frame sheet in addition to aluminum stays. The Tigris frame sheet is visible from the outside and looks like carbon fiber. While the Tigris isn't carbon fiber, it is an incredibly stiff and light material that also protects the wearer's back from any oddly shaped items that might try to poke through the back.
In both our side-by-side tests and during real-world use, the Bora didn't give up anything in the way of suspension. It is as supportive as both the classic load hauling Osprey Xenith 105 and Gregory Baltoro 65, which also scored well. Following closely behind are the Gregory Paragon 68, Osprey Aether AG 60, and the Osprey Atmos 65 AG.
As we mentioned before, while it might appear gimmicky, the pivoting waist belt does a fantastic job of helping transfer the load from the pack to your waist. This is particularly evident on uneven or rough terrain.
Features and Ease of Use
This model is packed with a number of small features that make it easier to use. The bottom of the pack is flat, which lets the pack stand up by itself when set down on the ground. What impressed our review team is how weather resistant this pack is. We used it over a dozen days during the spring in Washington's Olympic rainforest and the North Cascades National Park and were impressed with how effectively it kept the interior contents of our pack dry.
Most models in our review are fine for light showers. However, in extended downpours, where other models would wet through, the Bora kept going strong. Arc'teryx uses their proprietary weatherproof AC² on much of the pack. We found the AC² fabric to be extremely durable and weather resistant and lucky for us, the fabric covers most of the pack, including the back of the pack and the lid. The black fabric is Tigris frame sheet and N630p-HT nylon.
The waist belt features two stretchy mesh pockets. Unlike all the other models we tested, these pockets aren't zippered but are tight enough to ensure that we never lose anything. They are perfect for small snacks or a normal sized point-and-shoot camera. There is also a side-access zipper on one side of the pack. While this zippered access point isn't huge, it is more than appropriate for the volume of this pack.
Our review team loves the kangaroo style pocket, with every tester utilizing this feature each time they put on the pack. This particular pocket sticks out from the pack (like a cargo pocket) so that it's easy to access when full. What really set this feature apart from other models is that it's covered by a waterproof material, features a watertight zipper, and is fully seamed taped, making it waterproof. We loved that we could keep clothing layers close by (in this pocket) without fearing that they'll get wet.
The Bora is hydration bladder compatible and features two snug side pockets for water bottles. These pockets function classically when using one-liter bottles. We appreciated the small zippered pocket with a key holder on the inside of the pack. This pocket is great for car keys or other items we don't want to lose and helps us stay a little more organized when we left the primary lid behind.
The design of the Bora's lid allows you to fully load and access the top pocket even when the pack is stuffed to the brim. All of our testers found that having the zipper in the center of the lid pocket made it more accessible. Other models offer a side zipper on the lid, which isn't nearly as easy to use.
We also like having the secondary zippered pocket underneath the lid. This helped us organize, as the lid is easy to remove. The Bora scored really well for this metric. Models on par with the Bora for this metric include the Gregory Baltoro 65 and Gregory Paragon 68.
A Note on the Bora AR 63's Volume
We found that the Bora's 63-liter volume felt a little smaller than other 60-liter models, like the Osprey Aether 60 or The North Face Banchee 65. The difference is not significant but is noticeable.
This pack is five pounds even, which is slightly heavier than average overall and one of the view reasons this pack didn't win our Editors Choice award.
The Bora is a lighter than the Gregory Baltoro 65 (5 lbs 3 oz), which has a comparable amount of features, support, and comfort. The Bora is lighter and handles heavier loads better than the feature-rich Osprey Aether AG 60 (5 lbs 2 oz).
There are lighter packs that are nearly as comfortable when carrying lighter loads, like the Atmos AG 65 (4 lbs 8 oz), the Gregory Paragon 68 (3 lbs 15 oz), or The North Face Banchee 65 (3 lbs 10 oz). While these packs are comparable in performance when carrying moderate loads, the Bora 63 excels when our pack weights exceed 40 to 45 lbs. It also offers superior durability and far better weather resistance.
Adjustability and Fit
The Bora features one of the best adjustment systems we've ever tested. It is extremely effective at fine-tuning the fit. Arc'teryx calls this the gridlock system, which allows the shoulder straps to be tailor fit to the wearer both vertically and laterally, depending on a user's body type. Our review staff loved this system for how effectively the pack is able to adjust to all of our testers.
The Bora offers a comparable amount of vertical adjustment to the Osprey Aether and the Osprey Atmos 65 (3.5-4" of adjustment), but more than the Gregory Baltoro 65, which only features two pivoting shoulder straps points. The Bora also features horizontal adjustment that moves the shoulder straps outward or inward, something that few other contenders do.
The Arc'teryx Bora AR 63 is a rad all-around backpacking pack. Its extremely weather resistant design make it a particularly good option for soggy or extended trips in the Pacific Northwest, British Columbia, or Alaska. Its comfort, durability, and super-robust suspension mean it could be at home anywhere from overnights to extended trips. Its pivoting waist belt is great for backpacking and general mountaineering. For technical climbing, it's just so-so, as the frame is a little stiff and the waist belt a little bulky. But that's what makes it comfortable for more general applications. Due to this pack's weather-resistance, we do think it's a solid option for extended multi-day ski tours.
At $550, this pack is the most expensive pack we tested. While we hardly consider it a bargain, we do think the Bora AR 63 offers decent value. It brings several unique features to the table, along with top-notch comfort and suspension. That said, its $550 price tag is double most of the other packs in this review. We don't think it's twice as good as several of the other models we tested.
This is undeniably an incredible pack. It has some of the nicest padding and foam of any pack on the market, coupled with excellent ergonomics in its shoulder straps, and a frame that is near as burly as it gets. Many of its features are top-notch, and it's the most weather resistant pack in our review. The pack's primary downside is its cost. At $550, it's double the price of many of the other contenders in our review, and while it's one of our favorites, we don't necessarily think it's twice as good as other models in the review.
But if you are willing to spend the $550 to have the best of the best (or find it on sale), the Bora's suspension and comfort are undeniably impressive. The pack's weather resistance will be appreciated by folks who frequent wet climates, while its pivoting RotoGlide waist belt keeps your hips grateful, even if you think it's a gimmicky feature before you use it.
— Ian Nicholson