Backpacks on Kickstarter are kind of like Beanie Babies in the 90s: there are way too many of ‘em, and most are crap, but every once in awhile, you find one that really does it for you. As a pack addict, I’m always chasing that elusive bag that fills every single role I could possibly think of. I want it to carry my delicate camera gear on a 6-hour day hike and to stand up to a 45-minute bike commute in pouring rain, but I also want it to look professional enough for the office and be capable of one-bagging a weekend trip to visit family. Unfortunately, the Boundary Prima System is not that bag, but let’s be honest—I’m never going to find that bag, and this one does lots of things fantastically well, but with some very real limitations.
Boundary Supply is relatively new player in the bag market. Although they were founded in 2015, this is their first product line. The team brings some experience from Bellroy and Gregory Mountain Products, as well as CoalaTree, an eco-conscious brand of adventure apparel that has launched several successful Kickstarters. This ethos of sustainable development is clear coming out of the gate. The Boundary Website and Kickstarter show both the versatility and durability of their pack, which hypothetically cuts down on waste created from buying multiple cheaply made bags that only last a year or two. They also publicize their bluesign® certified manufacturing processes, which makes sure that wastewater is purified, emissions are captured and filtered, and workers are treated fairly and humanely throughout the manufacturing process. Finally, they have a US-based repair center (Salt Lake City, Utah) that covers your bag for its entire life. Often the environmental impact of the outdoor industry is overlooked and for me, this sustainably-centered company’s practices were a big reason I decided to back their product.
The “base-system” of Boundary is the Prima System, which includes the main bag, a small expandable case called the Verge, and their Fieldspace laptop organizer. Although the bulk of this review is focused on the bag itself, I will briefly touch on these other accessories, which are included in the $219 (USD) price from their website.
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Quality and Comfort
When the pack finally landed at my office, the first thing that struck me is how good it looks. I chose the Mojave Tan model, which is really more of a walnut brown and the high quality of the materials as well as the urban/outdoor styling of the bag makes it blend in well in an office environment, but still look good on a bike or hiking some trails. The pack is incredibly comfortable on the shoulders with lots of room for adjustment, and a neat little hip-belt that can be removed and used as a shoulder strap on the Verge. The back panel has a sort of built in rigid insert that is covered in the same foam and mesh as the shoulder straps. Although this provides a bit of air, it’ll definitely sweat on a hot day.
Comfort is key here because this thing is a BEAST in the weight department. The pack itself comes in at 3.8 lbs., and the included accessories tip it over 5lbs before you even start carrying anything. This might not sound like a big deal when you’re only carrying a laptop and a water bottle, but if you’re hauling 1L of water, snacks, camera gear, etc. the additional weight is definitely noticeable.
The pack itself is made of 750 Nylon Denier with Hypalon base and accents. When combined with the external Storm Guard zippers, it’s basically as waterproof as you’d ever need it to be in an urban setting. Case in point, I got stuck in a freak storm on my bike on my way home—45 minutes later I was totally drenched but the inside of the bag (including my laptop, phone, and work clothes) were completely dry. While I wouldn’t recommend taking it pack rafting down the Colorado river, it certainly can hold up to pretty much anything you’ll encounter in the urban setting and short day-hikes.
Although the outside presents a tough exterior, the inside is soft and perfectly crafted to keep your delicate iPhone screens from cracking when you accidentally knock your pack off your desk—which totally didn’t happen to me several times. Both the top quick-access pocket on top and the laptop compartment are lined with NYWOOL which keeps your valuables protected and scratch-free.
The Boundary System is a family of products all tied to seamlessly integrate with the main pack, which is a 25L (expandable to 30L) top-loader that also has a center zipper, allowing the user to access items towards the bottom of the bag without removing things at the top. There’s also a side access zipper on the right, a bottle pouch on the left, and a separate laptop compartment in the back. One of the things I really love about this pack is how many different little openings, zippers, and compartments there are—it adds a huge amount of flexibility to your carry without cluttering the main compartment. I have to admit that while taking the photos for this pack I actually discovered a pocket behind the bottle pouch that I didn’t even know existed!
During testing, I took a weekend trip from New Orleans to San Diego using the Prima System as my only bag. My loadout included a camera, running gear, a laptop, clothes for 2 nights, and everything else I normally carry during the day. Although the Prima was comfortable, I didn’t really want to lug my entire life (and what felt like 450 lbs.) around the city. This led to another convenient feature of the system getting a short test—the Verge is able to detach from the inside of the pack and be carried as a messenger (really more of a man purse). Although there’s no room for a laptop, it is able to expand from 5 to 10L and easily carry my camera, sweatshirt, wallet, sunglasses, and some food in surprisingly comfortable sling. The Verge is also cross-marketed as a solo camera case, but the hook and loop dividers seem like an afterthought and I’ve actually substituted them for some peak designs ones, which are much better engineered.
While we’re on the subject of accessories we might as well touch on the Fieldspace, which is by far my favorite laptop sleeve I have ever used. Basically, a folder-style pouch that’s big enough for my Microsoft Surface as well as a few pens, charger, and battery pack. It clicks into place in the laptop compartment with a clever little magnetic hook that keeps it off the bottom of the bag, and magnetic closures allow access to the laptop without removing the folder. Although I haven’t been using the Prima system every day, I have completely replaced my old laptop sleeve and don’t see myself going back anytime soon.
Back to the pack as a whole—you can’t mention the Prima without talking about the buckles. The all-metal fidlock closures on the front of the bag definitely add to the weight, but DAMN are they fun to play with. Same thing goes for the magnetic closure system on the sternum strap, which I found myself constantly opening and closing anytime I was standing around with wearing the bag. Add this to the high-quality storm guard YKK zippers covering the outside of the pack and the classy Hypalon pulls and you’re looking at a package that will keep water out, keep your gear in, and keep your girlfriend REALLY annoyed with the sound of those fidlock closures.
A few reviews so far have called out a problem with Quality Control Processes, stating that parts of their packs were uneven or not consistent. At this point, I haven’t seen any of these problems with my pack.
If I had to make one minor change to the design of the pack it would be to add a stretchy bottle pocket instead of the 750 Nylon one. I alternate between carrying a 40oz and a 20oz water bottle and neither of them stays put if the bag is turned sideways. It’s a minor complaint, but definitely worth considering for v2.0.
- The bag looks fantastic.
- The Fieldspace organizer is now coming with me even when I don’t use the Prima System
- The suspension is comfortable despite the weight of the bag and works well for cycling as well as walking.
- The mesh and zippered pockets on the inside of the main compartment are surprisingly roomy and useful for stashing things that you might need to grab quickly.
- The solid construction and water-resistance of this bag make me feel comfortable carrying delicate electronics and camera gear on wet days.
- Fidlock Buckles. ‘nuff said.
- The quick access pocket is too small to fit my keys, wallet, and phone at the same time. It’s a good concept, but needs some flushing out, re-design, or expansion.
- The included magnetic keychain is relatively limited in its uses to being stashed in the quick access compartment.
- The weight is still an issue for me, but not a deal-breaker. If they could knock a few grams off the pack by cutting the bulky fabric where it isn’t needed it would just be some icing on the cake.
- External bottle pouch would benefit from more stretch.
- The compression strap above the bottle holder uses a metal hook and fabric loop to give the option of storing something tall like a tripod in the bottle pocket. Unfortunately, the compression strap keeps coming off, even when tightened all the way. This may be a placement issue, but could easily be solved by using a different method of attachment.
Overall, the Boundary Prima System is probably the best thing I’ve backed on Kickstarter to date. They’ve already begun to expand their offerings on their website and it looks like their new stuff will be as innovative and interesting as the Prima. For me, it doesn’t quite check enough boxes to be the Perfect Pack, but the modularity, high quality, and adaptability of the bag will keep it in my EDC and commute rotation for the foreseeable future.
Note: like many Kickstarters, the Boundary had a few hiccups along the road to production, specifically with the delivery timeline. The bag was originally promised to arrive by early December, but Calvin and the team were very straightforward when they realized they wouldn’t meet this deadline. At the time, they offered a guaranteed delivery before Christmas for an extra $25. Unfortunately, this fell through as well. Eventually, when the order DID arrive, I was without approximately $100 of accessories that were also purchased. I was unable to receive a satisfactory update (or even really a concrete reply other than “we’re working on it”) until March 4th, and then only after I had sent multiple emails, reached out over many social media platforms, commented on Kickstarter, and tried to send a carrier pigeon (nobody has seen that pigeon since, so we won’t blame them for that one). Overall, I am obviously very happy with the product, but up until this point, customer service has been sub-par. When I finally received a reply in March, it was from Calvin, the CEO—he promised that they are making strides to improve this, and I believe him. I’ve already been refunded the additional money I paid for faster shipping and my accessories have arrived. I hope to see Boundary grow as a company and will be closely watching their new Kickstarter.
The Boundary Prima System was bought via the kickstarter for private use and review purposes, the content of this review was not shared with Boundary Supply before publishing. Our reviews are unbiased and never modified to keep a brand happy.