Arc'teryx Bora AR 63 Review
Cons: Expensive, heavier, few convenience features
Our Analysis and Test Results
As per usual, Arc'Teryx brings the quality. The fabrics, clean lines, high tech features, and comfort are all things you should expect from Arc'Teryx. But that also comes at a steep price. However, if you can get past the expense, this pack has some really useful and well-executed features that put it a notch above in a few ways.
Suspension and Comfort
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.
After several weeks of constant use, the foam continues to be as contouring and supportive as ever. The shape and general ergonomics of the shoulder straps are well done and fit to our backs perfectly. Our entire testing team thought the foam used on the shoulder straps is fantastic.
The waist belt features a similar, albeit marginally denser and thicker version of this foam.
Another great aspect of the suspension is the RotoGlide pivoting waist belt. Our very 1st impression was that it felt unstable and awkward, but after testing it feels quite natural in the way that it transfers weight incredibly well, allowing the pack "flow" with us like no other. All of our testers agreed that this is even more noticeable on scree, talus, or generally gnarly trails. In the end, our entire testing team found the Bora to be one of the most comfortable packs in our grouping.
This pack has an extremely robust suspension system, especially considering its volume. For support, the Bora AR 63 uses a thermo-molded Tigris frame sheet in addition to aluminum stays that can be reshaped for a better fit if needed. We didn't feel the need to adjust our stays and found the contour straight from the factory was perfect. The frame sheet is visible from the outside and looks like carbon fiber (it's not). But it is a stiff and light material that also protects the wearer's back from any oddly shaped items that might try to poke through the pack.
Features and Ease of Use
This model has several novel features that make it easier to use. The bottom of the pack is flat, which allows the pack to stand up on its own when set down on the ground. We are also impressed by how weather resistant this pack is. We used it over a dozen days during the spring in Washington's Olympic rainforest and North Cascades National Park and are impressed with how well it kept the interior contents of our pack dry.
Most models in our review can withstand light precipitation for a short period of time. But, in extended rain, where others would soak through, the Bora kept going strong. Arc'teryx uses a proprietary waterproof AC² fabric on much of the pack. We also found the AC² fabric to be extremely bombproof and confidence-inspiring.
The waist belt features two stretchy mesh pockets. Unlike all the other models we tested, these pockets aren't zippered but instead are made with a stretchy mesh tight up against the waistbelt. They are tight enough to ensure that anything inside will stay put and not fall out. They are perfect for small snacks or an average-sized point-and-shoot camera, but the standard zippered hip belt pockets found on other packs tend to be larger, more versatile, and more user friendly. 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.
The kangaroo style pocket was a feature our testers loved. This particular pocket isn't stretchy like many others but because it sticks out from the pack like a cargo pocket, it's easy to access items inside when full. What sets this feature apart from other models is its waterproof material covering, watertight zipper, and taped seams.
The Bora AR 63 is hydration bladder compatible and features two snug side pockets for water bottles. Nalgene bottles seem to be the optimal size. 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 helped us stay organized when we left the primary lid behind.
The design of the lid allows you to fully load and access the top pocket even when the pack is full to the brim. All of our testers found that having the zipper in the center of the lid pocket made it more accessible and kept things from falling out.
We also like having the secondary zippered pocket underneath the lid. This pocket helped us keep well organized.
This pack weighs in at a hair over five pounds, which is heavier than average, and one of the few reasons this pack doesn't come out on the very top. The added comfort you get with the foam on this pack can offset the added weight somewhat, but if a low pack weight is something you require, there are lighter (and cheaper) options that carry heavy loads well.
Adjustability and Fit
This pack 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 can adjust. It offers right around 4 inches of adjustment in the torso length.
While most manufacturers have moved to a redirected waistbelt strap, making tightening more intuitive, Arc'Teryx keeps the old style buckles. Not a problem but worth noting.
This pack is the most expensive one in our roundup, by far. While we hardly consider it a bargain, we do think the Bora AR 63 could offer you a decent value if you run your packs ragged. It brings several unique features to the table, along with top-notch comfort and suspension. That said, its price tag is double most of the other packs in this review, and it's hard to say that it is twice as good any other model.
This is undeniably an incredible pack. It has some of the nicest padding and foam of any model 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 first-class, and it's easily the most weather-resistant backpack in our test. If you are willing to spend the extra cash it takes to have one of the best, this pack's suspension and comfort are undeniably impressive and worth a closer look.
— Ian Nicholson