Gregory Border 35 Review
While we think the main compartment could be improved, the comfortable carry and thoughtful design make the Gregory Border 35 a great travel companion.
- Comfortable carry
- Perfect size for one-bag travel
- Good amount of pockets for organization
- Organization panel inside of main compartment is difficult to access
- Difficult to squeeze larger bottles inside water bottle pocket
- Swishy material may bother some people
2.49 lb (1.1 kg)
20.25 in x 12.75 in x 11 in (51.4 x 32.4 x 27.9 cm)
Nylon, Polyester, EVA Foam, YKK Zippers, Duraflex Hardware
Laptop Compartment Size
Once upon a time, it was difficult to find a one-bag travel pack that would hold everything you need—tech, clothes, snacks, and anything in between—while you tour the urban metropolises of the world.
These days, it’s difficult to find the right one-bag travel backpack for you amidst all of the options. Not only do you have to look at all the new companies and Kickstarter darlings, but brands that used to focus on the outdoors have started to dip their toes into the world of urban travel.
One such brand is Utah-based, Gregory (also called Gregory Mountain Products). The Gregory Border 35L backpack is a solid option for urban one-bag travel. While it’s also available in 18L and 25L sizes, we’ve really liked the 35L one. It’s large enough to hold all of your stuff, but it won’t get too heavy…unless you plan to stuff it full of rocks and sandbags. But then that’s on you.
Anyway—let’s check out all this pack has to offer.
Materials & Aesthetic
The Gregory Border 35 is a little more outdoorsy than other urban travel backpacks on the market, but it’s still low-key enough not to call attention to itself. At the time of this review, it’s available in Indigo Blue and Pixel Black—both are subdued colorways that won’t get too dirty or be too noticeable while traveling. Of course, we’ve been rocking the black, which we think looks particularly sleek.
It’s constructed of 210D high-density nylon and 420D high-density nylon on the pack bottom, which heightens that tech/outdoorsy vibe. It’s a little swishy too—you may not mind a little swishness on your backpack or you may cringe every time you read the word swishy. Obviously, if you fall into the latter camp, you’ll probably want to check out a different pack.
As far as branding is concerned, you definitely won’t forget that your pack’s from Gregory. That said, while you can find the Gregory name or logo on various places around the pack, they never dominate the overall design.
Overall, we’re digging the look of the Gregory Border 35, but our Instagram audience doesn’t seem to be on the same page. Only 42% of you are excited about its aesthetic. (If you want to participate in future aesthetic polls make sure to check us on Instagram.)
Finishing off the materials, you’ll find YKK zippers—#8 RC zippers on the exterior—and Duraflex hardware. We usually have good experiences with these brands, so you shouldn’t worry about your zipper breaking or buckle snapping while trekking through the forests of Thailand or touring the streets of Tokyo.
Let’s start with what’s arguably one of the most important components of a backpack—its harness system. It seems like the folks at Gregory have put a lot of thoughtful energy behind the one on the Border 35—it’s definitely comfortable to carry, even when fully loaded out.
The backpack straps are anchored a little bit lower on the pack and have a nice contour to them, following the natural curves of your body. They’re also padded. The sternum strap is adjustable along a rail, meaning you can situate it in the exact place you want it. The pack also has load lifters to pull the pack closer to your body, helping to mitigate the overall load.
And the back panel is great—no surprise coming from a company with an outdoorsy background. It features thick padding, breathable mesh, and multiple air channels. You can never fully avoid the dreaded swamp back with a backpack, but this one should keep sweat to a minimum.
All of that said, there aren’t any elastic strap keepers to be found. If you are familiar with us here at Pack Hacker then you’ll know that we’re all about that #DangleFreeExperience. So, yeah, we’re disappointed by all the dangling that’s going on. But this isn’t a deal-breaker.
The back panel also has a luggage passthrough, so if you ever travel with roller luggage, you’ll be good to go.
There are three handles on this thing—one on the top, one on the bottom, and one on the side. Not all backpack handles are created equal and these ones are particularly nice. They’re well-padded, well-positioned, and easy to, well, handle, They’re great for grabbing your pack from beneath the seat in front of you or from the overhead bin. The side handle also allows you to carry this thing briefcase style if ever the need arises.
You’ll also find a bunch of different lash points on the Border 35’s exterior for attaching a light, carabiner, good luck charm, or whatever else you like to carry externally.
The zipper pulls are super easy to grab and work, though they’re large enough that they may get caught on things. We think the tradeoff is worth it.
Finally, there’s a stretchy mesh water bottle pocket. It’s your classic water bottle pocket—in a good way—but it’s not very large. It will fit most water bottles—we’ve been testing it with a 26oz Yeti Rambler—but it can be tricky to get it in there when the pack’s fully loaded out.
You can also treat this pocket as a second quick-grab one for keys, snacks, etc. if you’re not the water drinking type. Just be sure not to put anything too important here as it may be pickpocketed and/or fall out.
Inside the Pack
This pack has a ton of stuff going on internally, which we’ve appreciated during testing. The various pockets stay out of your way when not in use, but are handy when you need them.
Starting with the front, vertical compartment. Usually, when packs have a vertical pocket, all of your stuff ends up in a jumbled pile at the bottom of it. That may still be the case here, but this compartment does have a zippered security pocket inside of it, so you can at least compartmentalize it a little bit. You can also be sure that whatever you toss inside the zippered pocket won’t get lost (as long as you zip it up!).
Next up, there are two quick-grab pockets situated on the top of the pack. The first and smaller one could be our favorite pocket on this thing as it features a delectably soft and stretchy interior fabric. It’s a great spot for your phone, sunglasses, crystals, diamond rings, etc, since the soft fabric won’t be abrasive against your delicate items.
The second quick grab pocket is much bigger. It’s a good spot for those larger items you want easy access to, like a rain shell or packable jacket. We refer to this compartment as the “snack pocket” because it’s a solid place to keep all of your tasty treats, so you don’t have to spend your life savings on airport food.
Behind that is the laptop/tech compartment. Unlike a number of laptop compartments on travel backpacks, this one opens up all the way around clamshell-style—you can easily access what you’ve got inside. On one side, you have the laptop sleeve. It’s well-designed with thick padding and a false bottom.
We always love laptop sleeves that feature a false bottom as it ensures your laptop won’t slam against the ground whenever you drop your backpack. It’s particularly important if you’re as clumsy as some of us here at Pack Hacker.
On the other side, there’s a sleeve for a tablet, notebook, coloring book, or other flat items. Above that is a zippered pocket for tech accessories—headphones, an extra battery, and it’s even large enough for a bulky MacBook charger. One great thing about this pocket is that it sits above the laptop sleeve on the opposite side—meaning they won’t get in the way of one another. The compartment will close nicely no matter how much stuff you put inside the zippered pocket.
And now it’s time for the moment you have been waiting for. That’s right—the main compartment. This one also opens up in a full clamshell style.
The top flap is one giant zippered mesh pocket that has a good amount of depth to it. We like that it’s mesh, so you can see what you’ve got going on inside. And the depth means that you should be able to shove a lot of clothes here—either organized in packing cubes or free and wild.
On the other side, there’s an admin panel that’s kind of…puzzling. Let us explain. The admin panel has four pen/pencil/stylus slots, a zippered pocket, a mesh pocket, and a key clip. That’s all good and well, but if you want to put packing cubes, clothes, or other items here, this panel is going to be difficult to access. The only way this panel works is if you leave this spot empty—or just have a few things at the bottom—except for the pens, notebooks, keys, and whatever else you’ve organized in the various pockets.
That’s obviously what the folks at Gregory want you to do—at least, according to their marketing photos. If you’re super minimalist or only plan to take this pack on short trips, this will be no problem. But if you’re traveling for a long period of time, you’ll probably need this space for more clothes—which makes the admin panel moot.
Let’s say you need a pen to fill out customs forms. You won’t want to have to open up the main compartment, dig behind your packing cubes, and grab your pen. You’d just want to grab it as quickly as possible.
All that to say, we haven’t used much of the organization here. It didn’t get in our way at all either, but it seems mostly pointless. It probably would’ve made more sense for this organization to go inside the front, vertical compartment. But, hey, we don’t design backpacks.
Durability & Testing
A couple of us here at Pack Hacker have been testing the Gregory Border 35 travel backpack for a few weeks around Detroit, Michigan. And it’s been a joy to test. We like all the different pockets and organization—except for the panel inside the main compartment. And that harness system means it’s super comfortable to carry.
As far as durability is concerned, we have nothing to report. The craftsmanship is top-notch, the materials are solid, and Gregory is a reputable brand. All that means this pack should keep up with the wildest of your adventures.
- Great harness system with lots of padding
- Multiple quick-grab pockets of different sizes
- Lots of internal organization
Not sure why the folks at Gregory included an organization panel inside of the main compartment. Who is it for?
This pack has been super comfortable to carry. Nothing to report durability-wise.