The world's most in-depth and scientific reviews of outdoor gear

The North Face Kaban Review

An easy-to-access and durable laptop backpack best suited for everyday work use.
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Price:  $130 List | $106.60 at Amazon
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Super durable, top-loading and functional storage, easy access.
Cons:  Not breathable or super-versatile.
Manufacturer:   The North Face
By Amber King ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  May 17, 2019
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70
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#6 of 11
  • Laptop Protection - 25% 6
  • Comfort - 20% 7
  • Storage - 15% 7
  • Ease of Use - 15% 7
  • Water resistance - 15% 7
  • Style - 10% 9

Our Verdict

The North Face Kaban is a newly released product that takes the durability of a haul bag and loads it into an everyday use pack. It can store any laptop up to 15 inches in size. It stands out for its functionality that makes loading up and finding things easy. While the ultra durable face fabric is waterproof, the zippers and seams are not. It's not the best for wet weather, with water leaking into the exterior pockets, but it will ultimately keep your laptop dry. We also thought this would have application as a hiking pack, but after hiking in Hawaii determined that The North Face Borealis is far more versatile (and less expensive).


Compare to Similar Products

Our Analysis and Test Results

The North Face Kaban is one of the most durable laptop options out there. Its top-loading construction makes it easy to get in and out of the bag. It provides functional storage that isn't over the top, with a separate laptop compartment accommodating a 15-inch laptop. It's perfect for everyday use to get to and from your favorite geek-out spot.

Performance Comparison


Testing the Kaban while traveling and exploring secret beaches in Hawaii. While this isn't the best for hiking  it sure can fit a lot inside and is ultra-durable.
Testing the Kaban while traveling and exploring secret beaches in Hawaii. While this isn't the best for hiking, it sure can fit a lot inside and is ultra-durable.

Laptop Protection


The Kaban offers an average level of protection in the form of its own self-contained pocket. The back of the pack has one big zippered pocket that is narrow in profile, perfect for a laptop up to 15 inches. The narrow profile prevents devices, including our 11-inch MacBook Air, from sliding around, keeping it in protective stasis.

The protective laptop compartment is separate from the rest  offering easy access. It's narrow enough that even our 11-inch MacBook Air didn't move around while throwing around the pack.
The protective laptop compartment is separate from the rest, offering easy access. It's narrow enough that even our 11-inch MacBook Air didn't move around while throwing around the pack.

Unfortunately, this pack does not offer a whole lot of cushioning under the laptop compartment or on the sides. The back panel is a pretty thin slice of foam, and if this backpack were to be dropped to the side, it's possible a computer might see some damage. We'd love to see an integrated suspension system with some padding along the sides for better protection. That said, we carried this on a trip where it banged around in the back of a car for over a week. During this time, our laptop was kept safe. While it's not an ideal design, it still provides sufficient protection, especially when the backpack is loaded up.

Comfort


This backpack offers a sufficient amount of comfort for all-day wear, but it's not our favorite. The pack is plush and cushioned, offering a nice fit, but unfortunately, it isn't super breathable. On a hike in Hawaii, while hiking to test this comfort element, we were sweating with little to no airflow. While it's not quite breathable, the material feels super soft against the skin and offers nice feeling there when it is not too hot.

The back panel is soft and comfortable  but thin and not so breathable.
The back panel is soft and comfortable, but thin and not so breathable.

For fit, the torso on the male's version is a bit longer and better for a regular to tall fit. There is a women's specific fit available as well. The straps are sewn right into the bag. They are constructed of a thinner continuous foam layer that isn't particularly special but fit nicely on the shoulders. They don't constrict or pinch. The straps are adjustable, and so is the included sternum strap. While it distributes weight well, it'd be better balanced if it included a hip belt, which it does not come with.

A look at the sternum strap that is ultra-adjustable. The straps are wide apart and quite comfortable on the skin.
A look at the sternum strap that is ultra-adjustable. The straps are wide apart and quite comfortable on the skin.

Storage


While this backpack is said to store 26L of stuff, we felt like there was so much more room than just that. From the back to the front, it has an independent laptop compartment, a huge top loading storage compartment, a large organizational compartment, and a smaller storage compartment accessed at the side of the bag.

A look at the plethora of storage options on this great laptop backpack.
A look at the plethora of storage options on this great laptop backpack.

The large storage compartment was sufficient to pack away shoes, a lunch, and more for a day out to work.

The large volume pocket is devoted to storing things of high volume  like shoes and a jacket. Even with those two things  there's still so much more room.
The large volume pocket is devoted to storing things of high volume, like shoes and a jacket. Even with those two things, there's still so much more room.

The organizational compartment has a plethora of zip-up pockets perfect for electronics, pencils, papers, and books. The smaller compartment at the front is also a good place for a charger and could fit a smaller tablet. This compartment isn't the most protective so we wouldn't recommend storing any fragile items there.

A look at the front pocket that isn't large enough for a normal sized tablet  but could fit small electronics or quick-access items.
A look at the front pocket that isn't large enough for a normal sized tablet, but could fit small electronics or quick-access items.

Unfortunately, it does not have any small quick access compartments on the outside, but we found the top of the middle organizational compartment sufficient to get to items like keys and a wallet quickly. It also comes with two water bottle holders that didn't work that well when completely full.

We had to work hard to get this coffee cup in! Inside the pack are soft items. Had we filled it with textbooks  this non-expandable water bottle holder would be deemed ineffective.
We had to work hard to get this coffee cup in! Inside the pack are soft items. Had we filled it with textbooks, this non-expandable water bottle holder would be deemed ineffective.

Ease of Use


We love how easy it is to access everything in this pack. Getting to your laptop is simple because it's in its own zippered compartment. Therefore you don't have to rifle through your stuff to get to it. The larger storage compartment opens from the top and offers a wide access point, making it easy to see and grab things quickly. Even though this doesn't zip all the way down the side, it's relatively simple to get to things.

Big zippers and separate pockets to access your laptop make this very easy to use.
Big zippers and separate pockets to access your laptop make this very easy to use.

The organizational compartment is thoughtfully constructed. The top part of it has pockets to place keys, a cell phone, or item that you might grab quickly. You can zip the entire pocket down the length of the pack to better access your things, including what might be stored in the mesh and zippered pockets inside.

A look at all the organizational properties of this pack.
A look at all the organizational properties of this pack.

The only issue we found was unzipping the storage compartment. Sometimes, it would get stuck, forcing us to hold the fabric to open it up. Also, you can't actually use the water bottle holders easily when the entire pack is completely loaded, which we didn't appreciate. The bottle would commonly pop out of the pocket when the pack was full.

A fun little harness that will pull up your computer. While it's an interesting feature  we hardly found it useful.
A fun little harness that will pull up your computer. While it's an interesting feature, we hardly found it useful.

Another cool feature is the "ejector handle" in the laptop compartment. You pull this up and the harness integrated into the pocket pulls up the laptop for easy access. Though this is a cool feature, we rarely used it.

Water Resistance


The exterior fabric is constructed of the same ultra-durable material used on The North Face's haul bags that are designed to be scraped up cliffs. While this material is waterproof, water still gets into zippers and seams, causing leakage in super wet weather and during our shower tests.

On a particularly wet day in Hawaii. Luckily we didn't have anything too important inside!
On a particularly wet day in Hawaii. Luckily we didn't have anything too important inside!

While hiking in Kauai during a rainstorm, most of our stuff stayed dry except all the items along the zipper seam. During our shower tests, we saw the same trend, with the bag not being 100% watertight. The main compartment had a pool of water with the laptop compartment seeing water in the bottom. While it will stand up in light rain, it's not a waterproof pack and is simply water resistant.

In our shower tests  we see some leakage at the seams  the zippers  and the bottom of the pack. Ultimately  the pack kept the laptop compartment mostly dry  but this is not a waterproof bag.
In our shower tests, we see some leakage at the seams, the zippers, and the bottom of the pack. Ultimately, the pack kept the laptop compartment mostly dry, but this is not a waterproof bag.

Style


We really like the continuous and sleek design of this pack. After all, it's the style that caught our eye and interest in the first place. It comes with many different color and pattern options. We like the grey, but sadly it does stain easily.

Sleek and cute. This backpack is quite stylish with many different color options.
Sleek and cute. This backpack is quite stylish with many different color options.

Best Applications


This is a great laptop backpack for commuting to and from school or work. It offers a ton of storage to take with you whatever you might need for the day. It's not the best to double as a hiker or a bike commuter, but it'll have you looking pretty cool on the street.

While this isn't the best pack for hiking  we found it useful while exploring beaches on short trails in the jungle. It's also great for your regular commute to and from school or work.
While this isn't the best pack for hiking, we found it useful while exploring beaches on short trails in the jungle. It's also great for your regular commute to and from school or work.

Value


Retailing for $129, its price tag is about average. It offers great performance for its function and isn't the most expensive out there. We'd say it's of good value. Also, the super durable fabric seems like it will last for many years to come.

Conclusion


The North Face Kaban has just been released by the North Face. It stands out for its ultra durable protection with an independent computer pocket. It's super easy to use and offers ample storage. It lacks versatility because it doesn't distribute weight as well as other options, nor is it the most breathable. However, it's a great backpack for going to and from school or work, and we also like its style!


Amber King