Like the platypus or a cronut, Boreas's Excelsior 30 backpack refuses to fit neatly into a single category. It aspires to be more than just a commuter backpack or dayhike gear; it just wants to help you carry stuff, no matter where you are.
In keeping with Boreas' roots in outdoor equipment, the pack aesthetically leans toward a hiking backpack, with its muted green-and-yellow shell and padded straps, but that doesn't keep it from working equally well in the wild or on the streets. And it's built tough for a lightweight pack, with a body of heavy-duty 420D nylon that resists abrasions. After more than a month of everyday use, we saw no wear on the exterior.
When we tested it on day hikes in North Carolina, the slim 20-inch wide pack straps snuggly to our body and sat comfortably between our shoulders to allow free movement of our arms, which comes in handy when we needed to clear brush blocking the trail. That freedom of movement also came in handy when we needed to push our way onto a shuttle bus.
With a spacious 30 liters of capacity and plenty of compartments to secure stuff, we were able to fill the Excelsior 30 with a 15-inch laptop in the padded laptop sleeve, and a portable Bluetooth speaker, a tablet, a notebook, and the requisite power supplies and pens needed to work on the go in the main compartment – all without loosening the side compression straps that keep the pack's profile slim. On another occasion, we packed in a picnic lunch for three, slipped water bottles into the side holders, and clipped a bowl and another water bottle onto some of the seven gear loops (which hide away when unneeded) for a little outdoor adventure.
The Excelsior even excelled in inclement weather, keeping our gear – including a laptop – dry after getting caught in a five-minute spring shower without an umbrella. That's real versatility: the ability to handle the unexpected.
Days tested: 37
Where tested: Commuting, biking around town, and on hikes in North Carolina
Conditions encountered: Sun and rain
Nitpick: The waterproof pouch on the front could use a way to seal it shut.