The North Face Overhaul lost its Editors' Choice award this year but still earns a Top Pick for Business Travel. The Overhaul is very well made and subtle in appearance; it looks a lot like a nicer version of the backpack we carried on our school campus. This pack has a separate zippered pocket for shoes or toiletries to keep them from soiling your clothing in the main compartment. The laptop sleeve can be splayed open at the X-Ray to make airport security a breeze, and there is an expansion zipper that allows you to cram even more stuff into this bag; just be warned that it will be too be to be a carry-on. Luckily, the shoulder straps and hip belt tuck securely into the back panel so this backpack is also conveyor-belt-ready.
The North Face Overhaul 40 Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Versatile, durable, comfortable, intuitive
Cons: Small hip belt, not best for long distances with heavy loads
Manufacturer: The North Face
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Overhaul looks like the backpack we used in school, but it is so much more. The organization and features make it an intuitive and functional travel backpack.
The Overhaul 40 is a very comfortable travel pack. It looks like a regular backpack you might have had in school but features a small hip belt and excellent padding. The shape and organization scheme of the pack also keeps the weight close to your body which helps improve the carrying comfort of the pack. In our comfort test, we carried up to 30 pounds of luggage with relative ease. The stow-away hip belt is pretty tiny, but it does provide just enough padding in the right spot to help improve comfort with heavier or bulkier loads. However, if you plan to be walking for miles with your travel backpack, you may want to check out the Osprey Farpoint 55.
The back panel of the Overhaul is nicely padded and ventilated, as well as the shoulder straps. It also has load lifter straps to bring the top of the backpack closer to your body, a feature we love on almost all backpacks.
The shape of the backpack also tapers at the bottom, similar to some technical climbing packs. This design improves the balance of the bag and helps it move with you.
The Overhaul excels for its thoughtful suite of features. We really liked all the pockets, and we had space for office supplies, shoes, laptops, tablets, clothing, and travel documents. The bag's organizational scheme ensures that the important things are easy to access—for example, it's a breeze to remove your laptop for the TSA security screening.
The shoulder straps and hip belt can also be stuffed into the back panel which is excellent if you need to check the bag last minute. This is not the easiest process, stuffing the straps away, but it works well in a pinch.
We love the separate shoe pocket; it keeps our dirty and smelly footwear quarantined from our clothing. This pocket also doubles as an excellent spot for toiletries if you don't have a second pair of shoes with you. The laptop sleeve is well padded and zips open so wide you can lay it flat on the X-Ray conveyor belt without taking it out of the backpack at all, and the sleeve is fleece lined, which is a nice touch.
The next compartment forward is the large, main compartment. It is not that big but holds a change of clothing at least. There are more pockets for socks or extra cords, and another sleeve for documents or magazines. This sleeve has padding on the back so it could also be useful for a tablet. If you're taking a little more stuff than usual, you can open the expansion zipper which gives you a little more volume but be mindful that this may make the bag too big to be a carry-on.
In the front of the bag is a zippered compartment with a bunch of pockets for a variety of uses. This pocket was big enough to hold a book we wanted to access easily, office supplies, and accessories for our electronics. There is another fleece-lined sleeve which would be a good place for a small tablet.
The closest rival for thoughtful features was the Patagonia Headway MLC, but the Overhaul won overall because of its outstanding backpack comfort. We like the separate zippered shoe compartment at the bottom of the backpack. This keeps dirty, smelly shoes away from your nice, clean clothing, books, and electronics. The elastic pouches on the sides of the backpack are relatively small, but useful for stashing random items picked up in transit, or useful things you want to quickly access such as a small water bottle or umbrella.
The Overhaul also has sturdy handles on the top and side of the pack, making it easy to toss into a vehicle or pull out of the overhead bin on the airplane. It is nice to be able to grab this pack and go from virtually any angle. And last but certainly not least, we liked the little zippered sleeve in the back panel, this gave us a little extra confidence that our passport or travel documents would be secure in transit.
Packing & Accessibility
The Overhaul opens like a traditional backpack used for school, except for the laptop sleeve which splays open to lay flat on the X-Ray conveyor belt. This makes it very intuitive to pack, and easy to access. It does not make it easy to keep your clothing wrinkle-free, however.
The compartment is structured enough to keep documents and folders nicely organized. This is in contrast to the Minaal Carry On which does not keep documents and folders quite as neat but is easier to pack clothing into. The outermost compartment is bigger than it looks; often we were able to sneak a book into that compartment for easy access on the plane.
The shoe compartment is useful for a variety of items; it is an excellent pocket for keeping dirty things quarantined, or potentially leaking items (like shampoo bottles) separated from our clothing. This bottom pocket is also useful for containing odd shaped items. We often travel with our rock shoes, chalk bag, and maybe our harness, so this pocket is a great spot to stash those odd shaped, smelly, and chalky items.
The Overhaul is made of durable nylon. The components are well made, and the shape of the pack ensures there is never too much strain on the zippers when packing (or over-packing, which we often do).
The shoulder straps and hip belt stow into the back panel in case you need to check this bag for any reason. This ensures those straps won't get ripped off on the conveyor belts, improving the pack's overall durability features.
Weight & Capacity
The Overhaul is not the most lightweight travel backpack. The extra padding on the back panel, the durable design, and the extra features, such as expansion zipper and fleece lining, all come at a cost to weight.
The packing method is a little more reminiscent of a book bag or school backpack, which also makes it a little more difficult to pack than some other excellent travel backpacks like the Osprey Porter or the Patagonia Headway MLC. Both of these open wide almost like a suitcase, making them very easy to pack.
We do appreciate the expansion zipper on the Overhaul; however, this makes the pack too large to be a carry-on, so expect to be tucking in the shoulder straps and hip belt and sending it on the conveyor belt.
The Overhaul is one of the most versatile in this review. It is stylish and looks like a backpack that we would take to school/university or the office. It works easily for international business travel and looks professional enough for it as well. The pack is also durable enough for outdoor use, such as hiking; however, it is on the heavier side due to all the extra travel features, so we think it is best suited to urban travel and suburban adventures.
The Overhaul is a moderately priced travel backpack. For the versatility and quality of workmanship, this backpack is a great value at $159.
The North Face Overhaul 40 is an excellent travel backpack. It is great for the casual business traveler who doesn't need to look formal but prefers a subtle, dressed up appearance. The Overhaul hauls your electronics with ease and makes it easy to get through airport security. It is also useful as a backpack for daily use, making this a versatile travel backpack for the urban and suburban traveler or longer distance commuter.
— Lyra Pierotti