One of my most popular reviews here at RMK was the 2015 North Face Surge backpack. I decided to write up another review of a North Face pack that has some of the same features but a much different look.
This review was made possible by Andrew Sporrer from Ace-Outside who was nice enough to send the pack over for review. Check out his blog for some gear reviews and other outdoor related pieces.
In addition, this review was a combination review by Kameron Strunk and myself.
Fabric: 900d polyester, PVC coating
Size and Weight: 25.5 liters, 2 lbs weight, 17” laptop sleeve
Laptop Sleeve is 10.5” x 13.25” x 1” *** (This refers to the Fleece sleeve inside the Laptop compartment, the compartment itself can hold a 17” or larger laptop)***
Main Compartment is 20” x 12.5” x 6”
D-door Exec Compartment with Tablet Sleeve
Quick Access Accessories Compartment
Obviously, it's North Face, the forerunners of backpacking and some of the first to use rip-stop nylon and other military grade materials in their rugged lightweight pack designs, heck they did rugged better than the U.S. Military to the point that they took over some of the military’s contracts for tents and survival gear. Anyway enough about that, the Kaban is made of 500d Cordura, 420d Nylon, 900d polyester, PVC coating, 1680 Ballistic Nylon; The definition of lightweight, water-resistant, and rugged. The final feature that sold me was the simplistic design, 4 pockets one of which is the laptop compartment and 2 bottle holders. - KS
Layout & Design:
Perhaps the best part of the pack is it’s to the point construction, too often the hybrid packs of today try to incorporate elements of all the different pack types and end up falling short of doing anything well. What I mean is they try to incorporate elements of EDC, Travel, Backing, and or Hiking and don’t deliver in any of the categories. This is where the Kaban shines, at 25.5 L it’s too small to backpack but makes it a great fit for hiking when coupled with the Flex-Vent suspension and sternum strap. The Cordura and PVC coating make it at home in any element. The lie-flat laptop compartment and TSA friendly design makes airport security and travel a breeze. The top load main compartment and D-door front compartment make it excellent for EDC. This is by far the best multi-function pack I’ve used thus far. - KS
Now on to the review. First off, the Kaban comes in at a very reasonable price of around $100-$120 on Amazon right now. For all of the features the Kaban packs in, along with the build quality that price is completely justified. The Kaban comes in many different colors however, I opted for the all Black version to help keep the pack low profile as I will be using it to carry my tech/EDC which includes my laptop, DSLR, hard drives, and other not so cheap pieces of my kit. The pack is on the average size with a compacity of 25.5L. I find that right around 25L is the ideal size for any of my EDC packs.
"Best Laptop Sleeve On A Pack"
The main reason why I loved the NF Surge so much was the ability to carry my laptop while making me feel reassured nothing was going to happen to my work machine. The laptop pocket on the Kaban is the exact same and hands down my favorite laptop sleeve of any pack I have used to date. The laptop compartment lays completely flat to help zip through airport security and help with super easy access. North Face claims the sleeve can hold up to a 17-inch laptop however, the fit is snug with my 13 Macbook pro so in order to fit a larger laptop, the user must put the laptop into the compartment instead of the fleece sleeve.
Pictured below is a 15-inch laptop outside the fleece sleeve.
The inside of the laptop sleeve is lined with a light fleece to make sure your machine stays scratch free. The best feature on the laptop sleeve is easily the suspended bottom allowing you to set or "drop" down your backpack while knowing your laptop will never be there to break the fall.
"Top Grab N Go Pocket"
The top pocket on the Kaban is great for all your grab and go items like keys, wallet, phone, headphones and whatever you need quick easy access to. With the PVC coated Nylon you should not have to worry about anything getting wet or damaged.
"Flex-Vent Back Panel And Shoulder Straps"
The Kaban uses the same shoulder straps and back panel design as the Surge, this is a good thing. The Flex-Vent back panel gives plenty of padding for heavy loads while still giving some ventilation. The shoulder straps are also super padded while staying thin and easy to adjust. The straps come with an included sternum strap to help keep the load secured and close to your chest.
The main compartment on the Kaban is accessed by a top loading zippered lid and has enough room for all the daily essentials. The compartment is great for books as it keeps everything completely upright with the structure of the pack. The bottom of the pack is also built in a way that the Kaban can stand alone without falling over which is awesome.
"Dual Bottle Pockets"
The main compartment is completely naked and simple. This would be a bad thing without the side water bottle pockets and the front admin pocket. On either side of the Kaban there are stretch bottle pockets which can surprisingly hold my 40oz Hydroflask with no problems. To me, a true EDC or school pack is not complete without external bottle pockets so I can carry and access both my water and super juice (Coffee) with ease.
"Fully Loaded Admin Pocket"
On the very front of the pack sits the "Admin" pocket. This pocket is great for storing all of your pens, pencils, business cards, hard drives, external chargers, and even has a padded fleece lined tablet sleeve. I loved seeing the tablet sleeve in this pocket and not stuffed into the back of the back right next to the laptop sleeve. It makes pulling out your tablet effortless and gives a little extra peace of mind when carrying the pack with a bunch of books in the main comparment.
- While using the pack Kameron sitting at 6'1 almost maxed out the straps
- Main compartment and get full quick
Overall, the Kaban by The North Face is a completely loaded EDC or School pack that can handle a full days loadout with ease. The cost of the pack is easily justified with all of the top-tier features on the pack and the warranty North Face is known for.