Hands-on Gear Review

Arc'teryx Bora AR 61 Review

Price:  $549 List | $549.00 at REI
Compare prices at 4 resellers
Pros:  Multiple adjustments for incredible fit precision, sleek design, attention to detail, spacious, comfortable
Cons:  Complicated adjustment options, expensive
Bottom line:  The Bora AR 61 is a high-end pack that combines comfort and adjustability with a sleek, spacious design.
Editors' Rating:   
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Measured Weight (pounds) (medium):  4.94 lb
Volumes Available (liters):  49, 61
Sizes Available:  Regular, Tall
Manufacturer:   Arc'teryx

Our Verdict

In 2017, Arc'teryx dropped the Altra name, transforming the product line in the Bora AR. The Bora AR 61 has a sleeker look, a slimmer, less bulbous profile. It also weighs a few ounces more than the Altra 62. The redesigned hip belt now features RotoGlide technology, which is intended to reduce chafing and improve balance and comfort. One very significant change is the price tag. This new pack will cost you a pretty penny at $549, a hundred dollar increase on its predecessor and the most expensive model in this review. That said, the Bora is an incredibly comfortable pack, and if you want to take the leap, this contender will not disappoint. Its simplicity and durability are the two most striking features, in addition to its unique suspension system.



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Our Analysis and Test Results

Review by:
Jane Jackson

Last Updated:
Friday
November 3, 2017

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The Arc'teryx Bora AR 61 is an incredibly adjustable and comfortable pack. The pack is futuristic in its design, with thoughtfully designed storage and a range of adjustment options. It has exceptional padding in the hip belt and shoulder straps and is the most expensive model in this review, much like its predecessor, the Altra. As one of our reviewers said after a trip in the Bora, "I'd rather have the pack on than off!"

Testing out the Bora's compatibility with a climbing rope in the High Sierra.
Testing out the Bora's compatibility with a climbing rope in the High Sierra.

Performance Comparison


A close second to the Osprey Aura AG 65 in all of our rating metrics, the Bora was a contender for our Editors' Choice award. The Bora is an amazing and unique pack but fell a few short points behind the Aura.

Comfort


In general, the Bora is an extremely comfortable pack, so much so that it earned the only 10 out of 10 in the comfort metric. Its waist belt and shoulder straps are made of a solid chunk of foam that provides lots of padding. For a few testers, especially those with smaller frames didn't like the way the hip belt or shoulder straps sat quite as much as those with a larger build did; this is due to the width and bulk of the straps. The back paneling is also not for everyone. This Thermo-molded Tegris framesheet is bulky, and if the pack is too large for you, the paneling could rub or get in the way more than it helps. For a pack with narrower shoulder straps, we'd recommend the Thule Versant 60 or the Lowe Alpine Manaslu.

The thick foam waistband on the Bora is one of the most comfortable waist belts we tested. This photo also shows the thin mesh hip pockets that were  unfortunately  a bit too small to actually be useful.
The thick foam waistband on the Bora is one of the most comfortable waist belts we tested. This photo also shows the thin mesh hip pockets that were, unfortunately, a bit too small to actually be useful.

Weight


Though this pack's claimed weight is 4 pounds 14 ounces (4.94 on our scale), it carries surprisingly light. Despite its incredibly durable fabric and solid back panel, the pack felt comparable in weight to the Mountain Hardwear Ozonic, since it carries so well. We were surprised by how light this pack feels when it is on. It is on the heavier end of the spectrum out of the packs in this review, but it feels as light as the Osprey Aura 65 AG. Both of these backs are burly and provide lots of support while remaining light on the back.

Our testers wore the Bora on a 10-day trip in Yosemite's northern backcountry.
Our testers wore the Bora on a 10-day trip in Yosemite's northern backcountry.

Suspension


Like the Gregory Deva 60, the Bora utilizes a hip stabilizing design that allows the backpack to remain stable in the shoulders while hinging with hip motion. Arc'teryx has a centralized hinging system, while the Gregory Deva has a de-centralized system on each side. In the newest version of the Deva, the shoulder straps also pivot independently for even more weight distribution, whereas the Bora rotates side to side and up and down in the hips only.

The simple design of the Bora makes it easy to both pack and access gear. The large outer pocket is roomy enough for water bottles  clothes  and snacks.
The simple design of the Bora makes it easy to both pack and access gear. The large outer pocket is roomy enough for water bottles, clothes, and snacks.

Backpacks with a fluid design and a single frame panel, like the Osprey Aura AG 65 and the Osprey Ariel seem to be most comfortable in regards to distributing the weight across the shoulders and hips. In the case of the Bora, much like with the REI Co-op Traverse 65, the suspension system works better with more weight in the pack. An ideal setting for the Bora is in challenging terrain with a heavy pack, where stabilization is more crucial. Overall, we did not experience the featured suspension system to outmatch the suspension of other backpacks in a significant way.

OGL Measured Volume Bottom Line:
Total Volume = 75 L
Main Bag = 50 L
Pockets = 15 L
Lid = 10 L

Ease of Use


One of the best aspects of the Bora is its simplicity. It is easy to use, easy to adjust, and super comfortable right off the bat. There are tons of different options for adjustability in the shoulder straps, with the GridLock shoulder strap design that adjusts vertically and horizontally for different widths and heights.

The waist belt is not super adjustable, but it is a straightforward panel of comfortable foam, so it doesn't require much. It also slides up and down, to accommodate different torso lengths. The body of the pack is straightforward to use since there are only three compartments — the brain, an outside pocket, and the main body. We liked the simplicity, but if you are looking for a pack with more pockets and organizational components, our first choices would be the Thule Versant 60 or the Osprey Aura AG 65.

Features


Regarding design, the Bora gets the highest of marks. The pack is sleek, with enough pockets to keep you organized, but not too many to become confusing. This top loading pack is super spacious inside and has a sneaky side zipper for access to the middle of the pack without having to unpack everything from the top. The outside pocket is large enough to store extra clothes or gear but doesn't add bulk to the pack itself. We also liked how large the brain was — it can store tons of smaller items without feeling overstuffed. No pack comes close to the Bora as far as features go, but this sleek pack comes at a high price. For a more reasonably priced pack with a great design, the Thule Versant 60 comes closest to the Bora in this metric.

We loved the roomy lid on the Bora that seemed to fit more than most other lids in this review.
We loved the roomy lid on the Bora that seemed to fit more than most other lids in this review.

Best Application


This highly technical, durable pack is designed for the expert backpacker going out for 7 to 10 days. We took this pack on a 10-day backpacking trip through the north side of Yosemite National Park that included climbing a few technical peaks. The Bora did well-carrying plenty of food, as well as ropes and climbing gear for this trip. The pivoting hip belt and the ample padding in the hips and shoulders made the pack super comfortable, even in this rugged terrain. This pack is a long-term investment for backpackers planning for long trips carrying heavy loads.

Value


As the most expensive backpack in our women's specific backpacking review, the Bora is a good value for the experienced backpacker looking to invest in a well-versed backpack that will endure many years and many conditions. It is hard to justify spending so much on a pack, but if you were to invest a pack to last the rest of your life, the Bora would not be a bad option.

The Bora is one of those packs that has a larger capacity than claimed. Our measured volume was almost 75 liters  while the manufacturer claims it's only a 60 liter pack.
The Bora is one of those packs that has a larger capacity than claimed. Our measured volume was almost 75 liters, while the manufacturer claims it's only a 60 liter pack.

Conclusion


The Arc'teryx Bora is a well-padded and comfortable women's specific backpacking backpack that offers a multitude of fitting adjustments. While it is expensive and very spacious, it has technical details in design and features that will appeal to the experienced backpacker. This pack is the Lamborghini of backpacking packs and the price reflects the attention to detail that went into designing it.

Jane Jackson

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Most recent review: November 3, 2017
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