The North Face Borealis Mini Backpack Review

The North Face Borealis Mini Backpack is a capable small bag for fans of the style, though the side pockets struggle to hold travel water bottles.

Our Verdict

7.6 /10
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  • Harness system comfortable for long-term use
  • Spacious interior for a mini backpack
  • Extremely cushy carry handle


  • Shoulder straps twist easily
  • Side pockets too small for travel water bottles
  • Slower to access while wearing
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Technical Details

99 %

Carry-on Compliance

View 143/145 Airlines

71 %

Like the Look

Polled on Instagram

  • Capacity


  • Weight (oz)

    12 oz (340.2 g)

  • Dimensions

    8.65 in x 4.15 in x 13.5 in (22 x 10.5 x 34.3 cm)

  • Notable Materials

    Recycled Nylon, Ripstop, Recycled Polyester, PFC-free DWR Coating, YKK Zippers, Duraflex Hardware

  • Manufacturing Country


  • Warranty Information

    Return & Warranty Policy

Buying Options

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Full Review

When you don’t need to carry a lot, you have options. You can swing a sling or a waist pack or go the mini backpack route. The latter has the benefit of weighing less than a traditional pack with the ability to stay on your back without slipping forward as a sling or tote could.

The North Face Borealis Mini Backpack Outdoor 2
The North Face Borealis Mini Backpack | Is this style right for you?

If you’re a fan of The North Face Borealis line, whether it’s the backpack, sling, or tote, you’ll be familiar with the bungee cords and adventurous vibe. Is it worth completing your collection with The North Face Borealis Mini Backpack? Let’s find out!

External Components

Like its larger sibling, The North Face Borealis Backpack, the primary design feature of The North Face Borealis Mini Backpack is the bungee cord parading down its front. While it comes in handy for locking down packable jackets or travel shoes on the bigger bag, the bungee is shorter, so there are fewer use cases where it comes in handy on the Mini Backpack. If you need to use it, though, there’s a toggle at the bottom to adjust the fit so you can be sure it holds your gear tightly.

The North Face Borealis Mini Backpack Carabiner
The North Face Borealis Mini Backpack | Lock gear in place and clip small accessories to the bag’s front.

However, unlike the larger backpack, the Mini has two daisy chains—with three attachment points each—framing the bungee system. We find it handy on the smaller bag to clip hand sanitizer, a tiny flashlight, a carabiner to hold a hat, or fun keychains to add personality.

The North Face Borealis Mini Backpack Brand
The North Face Borealis Mini Backpack | The Burnt Coral Metallic stands out from TNF Black.

We’re testing the TNF Black Heather—Burnt Coral Metallic colorway, a 300D heathered recycled polyester with a non-PFC durable water-repellent finish. We can attest to its ability to keep your gear dry in a spring shower. At the time of this review, there are nine available colorways, with the heathered options sporting the 300D recycled polyester, the solid choices a 210D recycled nylon ripstop, and the one print made with 600D recycled polyester. No matter which you choose, each includes the non-PFC durable water-repellent finish.

The North Face Borealis Mini Backpack Zipper Pull
The North Face Borealis Mini Backpack | The molded zipper pulls are easy to grab.

The YKK zipper heads on the colorway we’re testing are the same burnt coral as the embroidered The North Face logo centered near the top of the bag and the “Borealis Mini” name stitched on the front of the bag, at the bottom. The zipper pulls, however, have cords looped through them, and the main compartment zippers also include flexible plastic pulls with The North Face imprinted on them. Their loop shape makes them easy to grab with a finger, and we had no issues with any of the zippers on the bag.

There are also Duraflex hardware slides on the shoulder straps and a few loops of reflective webbing on the shoulder straps, the side of the bag, and the top of each daisy chain, in case you’re walking in a dark space.

The North Face Borealis Mini Backpack Carry Handle
The North Face Borealis Mini Backpack | It has a beefy carry handle for such a small bag.

For a 10L backpack, the carry handle is quite cushiony and robust, with the same depth of padding as the shoulder straps. The shape of the shoulder straps is similar to those on a larger backpack, contouring inward for a good fit. The padding ends a couple of inches from the top of the bag, and the straps are simple webbing from that point to promote flexibility. While we appreciate that doing so allows the straps to widen around broader shoulders, it also causes them to twist around quite easily, so we find that the second strap we put on usually ends up with the underside facing out, especially when you’re wearing a coat or puffer vest, but it’s something to watch out for.

The North Face Borealis Mini Backpack Back Pad
The North Face Borealis Mini Backpack | The back panel is lined with breathable fabric and includes an air channel.

The undersides of the shoulder straps and most of the padded back panel are a breathable fabric that’s quite soft to the touch and should wick away sweat like workout gear. There’s also a horizontal air channel about two-thirds of the way down the pack to promote air movement.

Fit Notes

The North Face Borealis Mini Backpack Side By Side
Left: Kristyne Defever, Height: 5’5” (165 cm), Torso: 17’ (43 cm) | Right: Eric Hergenreder, Height: 6’0” (183 cm), Torso: 18.5” (47 cm)

The Borealis bag line is casual and adventurous, and the Mini Backpack’s aesthetic is no different. From the bungee cords to the daisy chain and small side pockets, it’s a bag that’s great for short trips exploring the outdoors, sporting events, festivals, and urban areas. As with many The North Face bags, we get a lot of compliments on the design style. And since it’s not as small as some mini backpacks, some users may feel better about toting it around, although the petite style still isn’t for everyone.

For example, if you’re a fan of the versatility of a sling and the ability to wear it on your front or back like some of our team members, carrying the same gear in a pack that only resides on your back may not be your thing. If, however, you appreciate the ability to have more in a small bag but want to carry the weight over two shoulders instead of just one as you would a sling pack, this mini backpack may be your jam.

Because it’s only 10L, it’s pretty comfortable to carry for longer periods. After all, it’s hard to overload something that small, and because it’s the little sibling of the Borealis Backpack, it has many of the same creature comforts as that bag.

Inside The Mini Backpack

Even though this is a mini backpack, there’s still quite a bit to chat about before we get to the main compartment.

To begin with, The North Face calls out “two durable, external water bottle pockets” on either side of the bag, and, don’t get us wrong—there are pockets on each side. However, they are only about 3.5 inches wide. The pocket on the left can stretch open about another half an inch thanks to a flexible mesh gusset topped with stiff elastic, and you can slide a thin disposable water bottle in here. Still, no matter how hard we try, we cannot fit any size travel water bottle inside.

The North Face Borealis Mini Backpack Water Bottle
The North Face Borealis Mini Backpack | Only small disposable bottles fit in this pocket.

The pocket on the right doesn’t have any extra stretch and, instead, includes a short piece of fabric enveloping the top. Even the thinnest of bottles is too wide for this pocket. Instead, it’s the right size and shape for a pack of travel tissues or a minimalist wallet, although we prefer using the former because it’s somewhat tricky to wriggle gear in and out of this pocket, so it’s not something we want to do often.

The North Face Borealis Mini Backpack Side Pocket 2
The North Face Borealis Mini Backpack | This pocket is too tiny for any bottle.

Besides, there are better places to put your wallet, such as in the spacious front pocket. You access this pocket using the horizontal zipper above the top bungee cord. It’s concealed with a fabric welt to keep water from getting through the zipper, yet the flap doesn’t get in the way of opening and closing the pocket.

The North Face Borealis Mini Backpack Front Pocket
The North Face Borealis Mini Backpack | You can access gear quickly in the front pocket.

The pocket spans the entire height of the bag, although the 4 inches above the zipper isn’t as easy to use. However, it provides depth for the pocket if you pack it full of snack bars, your phone, wallet, and AirPods. We like that it’s easy to see inside this area since there’s no additional organization. Anything you toss inside will slide to the bottom. Of course, since that’s less than 8 inches from the zipper, it’s not hard to slide your hand in if you need to grab your gum.

The main compartment is likewise quite spacious. While the Borealis Mini Backpack doesn’t look like it can hold 10L worth of gear in its miniature footprint, the added capacity may come from the bag’s ability to bulge out.

The North Face Borealis Mini Backpack Mesh Pocket
The North Face Borealis Mini Backpack | Store tiny gear and keys in this mesh pocket.

There are additional organizational features here we find handy for everyday use. Against the front panel is a large mesh pocket for tiny travel accessories or toiletries that includes a key clip on a short leash. We like that you can zip the pocket and leave the clip hanging out since it’s located at the end of the zipper, though it’s just as easy to pull it out each time you need it. Although the ribbon leash isn’t very long, it’s a great place to connect your car keys when heading out on vacation to know precisely where to find them when heading home.

The North Face Borealis Mini Backpack iPad
The North Face Borealis Mini Backpack | A lightly padded sleeve holds a tablet or e-reader.

Against the back panel is a lightly padded pocket that’s the right size for an e-reader or tablet. It even has a false bottom to protect your device if your bag falls. We look for that in laptop bags, and it’s a nice feature to find even in a smaller backpack.

The North Face Borealis Mini Backpack Main
The North Face Borealis Mini Backpack | You can fit a lot of gear in here.

And there’s still about 4 inches of depth to fill in the main compartment, which is quite a bit of space when considering that the bottom of the Borealis Backpack measures 6 inches deep. It allows you to carry any combination of a Nintendo Switch, book, hat, gloves, or even a slim hoodie when heading out. Or, you can slide a Hydro Flask water bottle in here since it won’t fit in the exterior “bottle” pockets.

However you pack it, whether you like this bag probably depends more on how you feel about mini backpacks in general. If you prefer a backpack-style package when you need to bring less, we think you’ll like packing this for day trips to the amusement park, exploring a new city, and coffee with friends. And if you don’t like mini backpacks? Then we’re amazed you made it this far. Thanks for reading!

Usage Timeline

Initial Usage

Condition: Excellent

  • Digging the Burnt Coral Metallic on the TNF Black Heather colorway
  • Excited to see what we can fit in here
  • Side pockets seem very small for bottles
2 Weeks of Use

Condition: Excellent

  • Only slender disposable bottles fit in left side pocket
  • Durable water repellant keeps gear dry
  • Appreciate the protection for a tablet in the padded sleeve
By Kristyne Defever
Created April 21, 2023 • Updated May 25, 2023
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