Founded in 2010, Boreas Gear is a relatively new company as far as outdoor gear goes these days. Since their inception, they’ve pumped out a constant stream of new, innovative packs and gear for everything from cycling, to traveling, to backpacking. One of their most interesting designs is the Bootlegger; a swappable pack system based around their ever comfortable Super-Tramp suspension system, which we’ll touch on shortly.
Boreas now offers a few different pre-configured Bootlegger setups, but this one is the original Bootlegger Modular System, and it still goes by such. Since there are essentially three separate packs here, let’s dive right into them.
The Hopper is the flagship of the Bootlegger system and I found myself using it almost exclusively. At a generous 28L, it sports a large main compartment with a few different organization options and two sets of compression straps. The front panel is made entirely of a two-way stretch material that seems equally light and durable. Both the top and bottom of the packs are made of a more durable nylon that adds a bit of weather resistance.
Boreas says the top pocket of the Hopper is waterproof, but I would wager it’s more likely solidly weatherproof given that there’s a zipper. Though if you need waterproofing, we’ll talk about that in a little bit. Either way, this weatherproof compartment makes a great place to keep electronics or anything else you need to keep dry unless you plan on scuba diving with it.
One of my favorite things about this pack ended up being the two stretchy front pouches. They’re simple, but they offer quite a bit of room for quick access items like a water bottle, med kit, or a tool roll. In the picture above I have both a med-kit and a small organizer and you can hardly tell. The two-way stretch fabric used all around this bag really helps compartments fit more than you think they could.
Another thing to point out is the signature Boreas daisy-chains that are hidden away until necessary, keeping them from snagging and giving the pack some cleaner lines. I can’t say I’ve used them, but I can see them being useful and I appreciate them being added to the pack.
The main compartment is mostly a black hole, save for a small zippered mesh compartment and the bladder sleeve which also acts as a decent (unpadded) laptop compartment for urban use. I’m carrying both the Torpedo and Scrimshaw, the other packs in the system, folded up in the sleeve in this photograph, and I can still comfortably fit a hydration bladder if I needed to. Every time I’ve used this pack I’ve been pleasantly surprised how much I’ve been able to shove into it, comfortably, thanks to the two-way stretch panel.
The Torpedo is a decent 13L hydration sleeve but I never found myself using it. If I needed something larger, the Hopper was a better bet, and if I needed something similar or smaller, my typical Osprey or Camelbak hydration pack was more useful. The main problem lies in the otherwise awesome Super-Tramp suspension. They’re awkward when used together, leaving you with the sense that you’re towing a kayak with a tug boat. It’s overkill for the size and otherwise light weight (9oz) of the pack. Though one thing’s for sure; it’ll carry a lot of water. The sleeve fits a 100L bladder and you can easily fit an extra bladder in the main compartment if that’s your thing.
The top pocket is generously sized and has more than enough room to fit whatever items you may need when using a pack this size. However, unlike the Hopper, this top pocket is not fully weatherpoof. Hydration ports are cut into both sides of the pack, for whichever side you prefer.
Like the Hopper, the inside is a black hole with a hydration sleeve, which is perfectly adequate. It’s also made of the same two-way stretch material, really letting you stuff it to it’s limit, which also won’t be a problem for the overbuild suspension.
If I had to offer a suggestion for the future of the Torpedo; maybe give it it’s own set of light straps that don’t interfere with the suspension. This would allow it to be used, comfortably, as a packable, light hydration sleeve, with the ability to throw it on the suspension when you needed to load it up.
The Scrimshaw is the hidden gem of the set. At 30L it’s fully seam-taped and waterproof. If I closed it full of air I could probably float down a river in it. And the kicker is that it folds up nice and small to fit in either of the other packs, giving you an easy waterproof option if you find yourself stuck out in the rain.
The magnetic closer helps with keeping this roll-top bag completely waterproof and easy to manage. As you can see in this photograph, the golden panels are quite reflective, for cycling, commuting, or hiking with a friend into the evening. The Hopper sports the same reflective paint.
The best use of the Scrimshaw, as I hinted at above, is swapping it onto the frame and dropping your Hopper in when the rain starts. This is really the killer feature of this system, in my opinion. You’re not getting a simple pack cover, or a waterpoof bag with floppy straps. You’re getting a fully waterpoof pack that you can throw right on your current suspension in under a minute and continue on your way.
Even a fully loaded Hopper gets easily eaten up by the Scrimshaw with room to spare.
The Super-Tramp Suspension
Now we can get to the base of the system; The Super-Tramp Suspension. It’s comfortable, breathable, and intuitive, but suffers slightly from some unfortunate design decisions. Since the pack tries to be ultralight, the straps used around the pack are a little too slim for my taste. At half an inch on average, it’s especially noticeable at critical points like the load lifters and the bottom strap attachment points. While I didn’t feel they were an issue during my use, I could see them not holding up over time as well.
One thing that was an active problem was the waist belt. I would say that it’s better than nothing, but I’m not sure that’s true. It’s slim enough that it easily digs into your body during movement and I found myself more often than not just tucking it between the pack and the suspension. The Super-Tramp suspension on one of the newer modular offerings from Boreas, the Aperture 38, comes with a fully padded and stowable hip-belt, which I would have really preferred to see here.
Swapping the provided packs is simple, straightforward, and quick. I’ve heard people complain about swapping packs, but it was never an issue for me. You can see where the Super-Tramp inserts itself into the top lip and bottom stays of the Hopper. The top attachment is enforced with a buckle which also serves as a tensioner for the suspension.
The aluminum stays of the Super-Tramp fit into the small, lower pockets on each of the individual bags.
I think I’ll be keeping this system for a while as it’s a really nice jack-of-all-trades setup. The Hopper did it’s job, and well, on a recent day hike, and has done just as well walking to the office or carrying my haul at the market. Is this for everyone? Absolutely not. If you’re not going to primarily use this is a daypack for hiking I would say to look elsewhere; master-of-none and all that.
One thing I’d really like to see from Boreas going forward are more modular pieces for the system. As of now, you can only purchase entire systems, suspension and all. If I had my way, I’d be able to purchase every modular Boreas offering on its own. There are some cool offerings in the Aperture and Orion Bootlegger systems, but I’m not going to buy the entire setup just to check them out. I’m sure there’s a reason for this, financial or otherwise, but I think they’re really missing out by not offering the packs on their own.
All in all, the Boreas Bootlegger is a really unique pack setup for light day hiking with some killer features you’re not going to find anywhere else.