The Arc'Teryx Bora AR 63 is famously comfortable and weather resistant. It features an epic suspension that is among the most robust in this review. The foam padding in both the shoulder straps and the hip belt is top-notch. Its AC² fabric makes it easily the most weather resistant in our fleet. This model is a great all-around backpacking pack with a full suite of features and is one of the best overall thanks to its high comfort level and excellent suspension system. We do caution that you will pay handsomely for its comfort, but if the investment doesn't scare you away, this pack is worth a careful look.
Arc'teryx Bora AR 63 Review
Compare prices at 3 resellers Pros: Spectacular suspension, comfortable padding, ergonomic shoulder strap design, extremely weather resistant
Cons: Expensive, heavier, few convenience features
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Arc'Teryx Bora AR 63 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. It 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 several subtle but friendly features, this is the one.
This pack is top-tier for its comfort and suspension.
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 top-notch and contour to our backs nicely. While 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.
We also like the newer version of Arc'teryx's RotoGlide pivoting waist belt. The latest 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 correctly. In the end, our entire testing team found the Bora to be one of the most comfortable packs in our review.
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. 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.
We love the pivoting waist belt. It seems gimmicky at first, but testing shows 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.
Features and Ease of Use
This model has several 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 North Cascades National Park and are impressed with how effectively it kept the interior contents of our pack dry.
Most models in our review can withstand light showers. However, in extended downpours, where others would soak through, the Bora AR 63 kept going strong. Arc'teryx uses a proprietary weatherproof AC² on much of the pack. We also found the AC² fabric to be extremely durable. The black material 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 lost anything. They are perfect for small snacks or an average-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 sets this feature apart from other models is its waterproof material covering, it features a watertight zipper, and is thoroughly seamed taped.
The Bora AR 63 is hydration bladder compatible and features two snug side pockets for water 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 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.
We also like having the secondary zippered pocket underneath the lid. This pocket helped us organize, as the lid is easy to remove.
This pack weighs in at 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 important to you, 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.
At $550, this pack is the most expensive one that we tested, by a lot. While we hardly consider it a bargain, we do think the Bora AR 63 offers decent value if you run your packs rugged. 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, and it's hard to say that it is twice as good any other model.
This model 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 top-notch, and it's the most weather resistant pack in our review. If you are willing to spend the $550 to have one of the best, this pack's suspension and comfort are undeniably impressive.
— Ian Nicholson