Hands-on Gear Review

The North Face Surge II Transit Review

By: Andy Wellman ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Feb 8, 2015
Price:  $130 List
Pros:  Versatile as a laptop carrier or daypack, lots of storage room
Cons:  Not very stylish, could have better protection for laptop
Manufacturer:   The North Face
76
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Laptop Protection - 25% 7
  • Comfort - 20% 7
  • Storage - 15% 9
  • Versatility - 15% 9
  • Style - 15% 6
  • Water resistance - 10% 8
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Our Verdict

Discontinued - 2016
The Surge II Transit is discontinued and is no longer available. Check out our full Laptop Backpack Review for more available options.

The North Face Surge II Transit is a versatile laptop backpack that has tons of room and multiple compartments to store and carry anything you may want with you, while still being designed specifically for the purpose of carrying one or more laptops with you daily. It is similar to The North Face Recon except that it is larger, has a different carrying system for laptops, and has a slightly less versatile set of features on the outside of the pack. It is also the only backpack in our review that is large enough to carry a 17 inch laptop, although its extra large laptop sleeve is therefore a bit large for a 15 inch screen. Overall, it was the second highest rated backpack in our review and one we would highly recommend to just about anyone.


Our Analysis and Test Results

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The bag in our review that is most similar to The North Face Surge II Transit is The North Face Recon, which won our Editors' Choice Award. However, the Surge II Transit finished second, and comes highly recommended by our testers. It is about three liters larger than the Recon, with more pockets and compartments. We thought it was slightly less versatile and slightly less comfortable than the Recon, mostly because of its larger size and fewer external pockets. It was easily one of the most water resistant backpacks we tested, although we have to say that we weren't huge fans of its style, but be your own judge.

Performance Comparison


This pack can hold lots of things  getting it done at the coffeeshop.
This pack can hold lots of things, getting it done at the coffeeshop.

Laptop Protection


Two different sized pockets with securing straps are great features.
Two different sized pockets with securing straps are great features.
The North Face Surge II Transit was also the second-best backpack we tried for laptop protection. Access to the separate laptop compartment is via an over-the-top zipper. There are two laptop pockets in this compartment, each with a securing strap on top, which we liked. The larger pocket was much too large for our 15 inch MacBook Pro, meaning it is prone to sliding side to side and potentially taking a shot from the sides near the zippers, where there is much less padding. The North Face claims this pack will fit most 17 inch laptops, but unfortunately, we didn't have a 17 inch machine to test this. The smaller pocket fit our 11 inch MacBook Air perfectly, a rarity in this test, but we think it may be too large for tablets. There is great padding everywhere except the sides near the zippers, and we loved how the back plate padding stretched way down below the bottom of the laptop pockets so there is no chance of hitting them on the ground.

The laptop compartment on the Surge folds all the way open for ease in airport security.
The laptop compartment on the Surge folds all the way open for ease in airport security.

Comfort


This model was one of the most comfortable backpacks that we tested, although in our opinion there were a few that just felt better. The single factor that led to it getting a 7 out of possible 10 when it comes to comfort is that the back plate is really large and flat, which keeps it from sitting as comfortably against the back as the Recon or Osprey Flapjack. It does, however, come with sternum and waist straps that help to secure the load.

The foam back and flat shoulder straps make the pack very comfortable  but it is large.
The foam back and flat shoulder straps make the pack very comfortable, but it is large.

Organization & Storage


The North Face Surge II Transit has a ton of storage room, and at 32 liters, is one of the very largest packs that we tested.

Lots of storage and organizational options  this is the front of three compartments.
Lots of storage and organizational options, this is the front of three compartments.

No problem carrying everything you need in this large pack.
No problem carrying everything you need in this large pack.

Style


Style is subjective, so take our advice with a grain of salt. That said, our expert panel of fashionistas thought this was one of the least stylish packs, on par with the Dakine Campus 33.

This pack is large and can hold lots of stuff.
This pack is large and can hold lots of stuff.

Water Resistance


The Surge II Transit was easily one of the most water resistant packs in our test. Nothing on the inside had even a drop of water on it, which certainly couldn't be said for most of the packs we tested. It comes with a durable water resistant (DWR) coating applied, and does a great job of shedding water that hits it. Unfortunately, the zippers are not that well protected from the elements.

The pack has either water resistant zipper or cover flaps  and has a good DWR coating applied.
The pack has either water resistant zipper or cover flaps, and has a good DWR coating applied.

Best Applications


The Surge II Transit is a versatile pack designed to carry and protect your laptop. From school to work to trips, this pack is suitable for all-around use. Its size and assortment of pockets make it a decent pack in a pinch for use in the outdoors.

Value


The MSRP for this pack is $130, which is on the high end of things in our review. While we think this is the second best pack we reviewed, we can't help but point out that our favorite pack rings up for $30 less. If you love this style of pack, but money is a concern, go with the Recon.

Conclusion


Large, versatile, with tons of features and pockets for organization of all of your various accessories, The North Face Surge II Transit is a fantastic pack. We found it to be one of the highest performing in every category that we measured for, and overall it was our second favorite in the review. This pack can carry what you need wherever you would like to go, and will do a good job of protecting your laptop as you go. Perhaps the best feature that differentiates it from the rest is how well it holds and protects a smaller 11-inch laptop, something that almost none of the other packs do well. It is also the only pack we tested to hold a 17-inch laptop, although this meant that a 15-inch laptop was a little loose in its large sleeve.

Andy Wellman

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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews


Most recent review: January 15, 2016
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:  
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  • 5
 (5.0)
Average Customer Rating:  
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  • 5
 (5.0)

100% of 2 reviewers recommend it
 
Rating Distribution
3 Total Ratings
5 star: 100%  (3)
4 star: 0%  (0)
3 star: 0%  (0)
2 star: 0%  (0)
1 star: 0%  (0)
Backpacker

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
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   Oct 7, 2015 - 09:38am
jay-ar · Backpacker · laoag city

one of the best laptop backpacks and i just love it.



Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.

Hiker

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   Jan 15, 2016 - 04:51pm
Ramoose · Hiker · Windsor, CT

I got the teal coloured one for high school. It's my first year and I have a lot of stuff to carry around campus. I absolutely love TNF backpacks and this one is definitely my favourite. I use it not only to carry my every day school supplies but also use it on weekend hikes and canoe trips. It's a great versatile pack.



Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.


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