I have always been a backpack guy, obviously I used one through school but even before leaving school I had a video camera to film skateboarding so I very quickly came to learn the difference between good and bad packs because I was usually carrying quite a lot of gear.
Most backpacks are fine for general day to day use, it’s only when you start carrying specific stuff and doing activities like cycling, hiking or rummaging around in the woods that genuinely good bags will rise above your flimsy Jansport.
For the last couple of months I’ve been using the Boreas Gear Larkin 18L Backpack, it’s a very lightweight pack that is surprisingly rich in features and details for such an unassuming bag. Here are some of my thoughts about it…
At 18 litres the Larkin is most definitely not a big backpack, it’s more suitable for short day trips in the great outdoors rather than longer adventures. I’m really into the shape of this bag, it reminds me of a Calippo because it’s kinda round at the top and tapers to point at the bottom. Because of this you do need to think about what you are putting in it because larger items won’t fit in the bottom, they need to be at the top.
Spare clothes, a camera, binoculars, food, drink and all manner of other stuff will fit comfortably in the main compartment, I have found the weight distribution to be excellent, sometimes I put a backpack on and just think ‘oh, no, this isn’t right at all‘ but that’s not the case here. Actually I’d go as far as to say that the Larkin is as comfortable as is possible. When there’s not much in it you can barely tell that it’s there and when full it doesn’t feel like it’s throwing you about the place if you’re moving around a lot.
It’ll carry all of your essentials and then some but don’t try to pick up a load of food from the shops on the way home because you’ll find yourself carrying a lot of it in your arms. The tapered design doesn’t lend itself very well many large hard items, a considerable amount of space will remain empty if you don’t fill the bottom with small things like tins and fruit etc. That said the few times I have found myself in a shop with it I’ve been surprised at how spacious the top of the pack is, just when I think nothing else will fit there always seems to be more room than there appears to be.
The main material used in the construction is ripstop nylon so it’s pretty tough and weather resistant though not completely waterproof, I more than happily take it out in the rain but probably wouldn’t with my laptop in it if it was torrential (not an issue because a 15″ Macbook Pro won’t fit in it anyway). I can see me still using this backpack many years from now.
There is a sizeable top pocket which is perfect for items that you need quick and easy access to, you can get a lot of knick-knacks in there and because it sits diagonally when you open it everything is right there in front of you, there’s no fumbling about blindly trying to get at your notebook.
There is a small pocket on each side of the pack. These are good for little bits and bobs like spare change, multi-tools and the like. They aren’t ripstop so there’s a small amount of stretch, you could stuff them if you like but I’ve not had a need to. They are handy and easily accessible when swinging the bag under your arm with one strap on your shoulder.
The sternum strap can be moved up and down and is also elasticated. The clip is really nice and a bit more jazzy than the standard kind most manufacturers use, it comes complete with a small whistle that I plan to use (instead of screaming like Ned Flanders) when I finally come face to face with a Finnish bear.
There’s also a similarly adjustable waist strap which I assumed was removable so I pulled it along the rail until it came off but have been unable to get it back on again. I don’t mind because I don’t use them anyway but maybe it’s best if you don’t remove yours if you plan on using it.
The webbing used on the sternum, waist and shoulder straps is a bit thinner than what you’ll be used to, this is something that I really love about the Larkin, it gives it a bit of a different feel from other bags.
The front of the shoulder straps are see through which makes a feature of the perforated EVA foam inside, this is pretty futuristic and matches the overall aesthetic of the pack.
The straps are quite wide, the amount and density of padding is bang on, not once have I found them to be uncomfortable. There are a couple of loops on both straps, an elasticated one on top of a more sturdy one, perfect for either your hydration tube or something else.
The back panel is also see through giving you a view of the horizontally ribbed EVA foam padding.
This design allows for good breathability and great comfort. The bag follows the contours of your back but manages to stop anything inside from poking into your back which is essential if you ask me.
I can’t emphasise enough just how comfortable the Boreas Larkin is, it really is a pleasure to use.
There are many daisy chain options hidden on the top pocket and near the bottom of backpack, some are straps, others loops.
Perfect for attaching a bike light and a million and one other things, I love that they are out of sight when not in use, it really adds to the sleek look of the backpack.
All of the zips feature a string pull with stiff plastic end, these are very easy and comfortable (it’s that word again) to use even with cold or gloved hands.
There zippers are not water-resistant hence my comment above but they are at least incredibly smooth, there are few things I hate more than wrestling with a zip!
The front panel of the Larkin is a great big open topped stretch pocket which is perfect for stuffing your jacket in when the going gets tough.
It doesn’t stretch a huge amount, when you try and pull at it you’d be hard pressed to notice but when you push your coat in it really does do a stellar job. It’s also good for squeezing a few more things in when you, inevitably, end up at a shop and run out of space in the main compartment.
There are compression straps on each side of the backpack which go through a hole in the stretch panel and are fixed in the centre of the pack underneath.
Inside the main compartment there is a small clip loop which is good for keys and other important things you don’t want a pickpocket squirrel to swipe.
The Boreas Larkin is hydration bladder compatible, I don’t use one but the sleeve is perfect for keeping papers separate from the rest of the stuff in there too.
There are dual ports for the hydration tube which can also be used for storing sticks and other long thin miscellaneous objects which you may need to fend off the bear when the whistle proves useless against a 500kg apex predator.
10/10 for comfort
Many understated features
Tapered design can be restrictive
Not fully ‘waterproof’
Not Made in the USA
In conclusion, I’m a huge fan of the 18L Boreas Larkin backpack, mainly due to how bloody comfortable this thing is to use! It’s extremely well designed and features some nice little details which make it special. I only wish that they were made in a small factory by the people who design them but hey ho, you can’t have everything.
“Boreas Gear is a small independent outdoor gear company located in the heart of San Francisco’s Mission District, since 2010, we’ve been designing award winning outdoor gear: beautiful, practical, hardwearing gear for people as passionate as we are about getting outdoors.”
The Larkin and many other Boreas Gear backpacks are available through Unity Cycleworks, a rider owned and operated independent shop based in the UK. Use the exclusive discount code: TFD10 to receive 10% off everything on their website, including bikes.
DISCLAIMER: I was given the backpack for review purposes, this has not influenced my opinion in any way.