Boundary Supply Prima System backpack review
There is something about a good backpack that doesnt make you miss home, keeps your life organized, and makes traveling less of a pain. For those who haven't used a great bag let me tell you there is a personal bond made with a great bag similar to the bond one makes with their smartphone. This bag becomes an extension of ones life. If you have your bag you have everything you need, piece of mind. Once you start using a good backpack your life changes.
So, when it came to buying a new backpack I searched high and low across the internet and came back with a few options. I needed a bag that could be used for one bag travel, could satisfy my work needs, and would last a lifetime. One of the options I came across was the Boundary Supply Prima System.
What struck me about the Prima System was its good looks. It had that old canvas style backpack with the two leather straps look, but the Prima System replaces all those organic materials with high quality synthetic and metal components. The bag looks like a modern adventure bag.
It’s not all about looks. The materials of the bag feel amazing. Everything from the 420 Hypalon bottom and details to the 500D nylon kodra shell. This bag feels like it can survive an atomic blast. You need to touch this bag to truly know what Im talking about.
On top of the materials feeling great they are weather resistant. The weather resistant shell combined with the aquagaurd ykk zippers will keep rain out like when waiting an hour to enter Norte-Dame on a rainy Paris evening. This is not something I would rely on in a storm but can have peace of mind when out in a light drizzle for a couple of hours.
There are a lot of details to the pack that makes it feel premium and thoughtful. This focus on details tells me Boundary Supply was paying close attention to every aspect of this bag.
From the buckles to the lid top, all are so satisfying to operate and thoughtfully designed. The main access of the bag is through the top which is sealed with the top part of the bag folding over and being secured by fidlock buckles. The fidlock buckles are a pleasure to use and can easily be unbuckled or buckled with little effort. Taking them off is as easy as lifting the pull string and putting them on simply requires putting one end next to the other and letting the magnets do the rest. They’re called fidlocks because you will be fiddling with them constantly to pass the time and not because Fidlock is the name of the company which makes them.
The outside the pack has an abundance of features which I will quickly list; sturnum strap, lash straps on the bottom, bike light attachment on back and left shoulder strap, flap top for access to main compartment, side access for camera cube, quick access pocket, expandable water bottle holder on the side, secret zipper pocket behind the water bottle holder, a hiddable lash strap above the water bottle pocket, zipper to document and laptop compartment, load lifter adjustment straps, side handle, well padded top handle, and pass through area for luggage handle.
Of course a backpack is nothing unless it feels good on your back. The shoulder straps are very thick and have load lifter straps built into them. The back padding is pronounced and is made of a breathable foam covered in mesh. Closer inspection reveals that the mesh has no backside and is only attached to the hard back panel around the sides. This allows air to flow between the backpack and back panel and then through the mesh and foam. Additionally, the back padding carve out a way for air to flow freely and does an excellent job of keeping my back cool. I am happy to say the bag is very comfortable.
I think what really sold me on this bag, or at least had a profound impact, was the bluesign certification. For those who dont know Bluesign is a system for creating products out of environmentally safe and responsible materials. This includes the materials, processes of making the bag, and the waste that comes along with making the product.
In todays environmentally declining world I truly believe this is a win above all other backpack manufacturers. If I were to give this bag a rating system it would automatically get an extra 1/10 point just for coming from such environmentally friendly position. Of course, this bag is still made out of what is essentially plastic, but this is the type of bag you buy for a lifetime especially with that lifetime warranty that comes with it.
3 part system
Before I talk about the inside I would like to talk about why this bag is called the Prima “System”. There are 4 components to this bag; the bag itself, the waist strap, the camera cube, and the Field Notes sleeve. These components can be taken on or off so that that backpack can better fit to ones liking. Boundary also sells other components that can attach to the bag but I have yet to use them. Unfortunately, I was less impressed with these accessories.
While this is touted as a camera backpack I can not speak much to this epithet. The camera case, also known as the Verge Case by Boundary Supply, ended up being too big for my camera. My camera and lenses falls deep into the case and yet I can only hold my camera with lens and an extra lens max. This makes it bigger than the camera cube insert I am currently using without it being able to hold much more. The Verge Case might be better suited for those who have bigger cameras.
The case itself is nice. It is well padded, expandable, and has internal and external accessory pockets. Boundary advertises that the waist strap can be used as a strap for the verge case to convert it into a sling or waist pack. Everything even down to the buttons that hold the case to the backpack can be clipped into other buttons on the verge case shows how well thought out these components are.
When attached to the backpack the Verge Case dangles partly up the backpack leaving dead space below. When using the backpack as strictly a camera bag I am fine with this implementation, but if I want to use this bag to travel and as a photography bag I cannot use the quick access pocket and have a large packing cube inside. I wish when the Verge Case installed so that it sat at the bottom of the bag allowing stuff to be thrown on top. This is the biggest reason I dont often use the Verge Case.
The waist strap is well padded, but when attached to the backpack the padding does not extend far enough to grab a decent section of hip. The straps are still pretty comfortable as the nylon webbing is wide enough to bear the weight of the pack comfortably. I keep the straps attached and stored behind the pack for whenever I need them.
Lastly the Field Notes Sleeve, a tablet, document, pen, pencil, and accessory sleeve, is something I use but mostly because this backpack does not have as many pockets as I am used to. Here I keep my pens, pencils, erasers, and anything I might need for work. It is an interesting accessory as I can roll up into a cafe and just remove the field notes and have everything I need to start working.
With all the accessories I feel like this backpack offers a lot for the money and comes in at a lower price than some of these other kickstarter backpacks. Since the accessories are removable they never get in your way, and they leave you with a well-built bag without a crazy amount of flare.
update: I finally found out what the two hidden buckles, one behind the back panel and one above the water bottle sleeve under a flap, are for. They are used to attach the verge case to the outside of the bag. This will be great for packing out my bag and still be able to carry my camera gear. The internal verge case implementation was not so great and I dont think I made that entirely clear in this review. It works as intended and because of that I never complained about it, but how and where it attaches to the bag were poor design decisions.
A big selling points on this backpack is the expandable internal storage. I am a big proprietor of one bag travel so to have a backpack small enough for daily use but big enough for travel was a big pro for me. This backpack is rated at 25 liters but expandable to 30 which makes it a great bag for my needs.
The main compartment is accessed through the top, roll top like, opening, but running down the middle of the pack is a zipper which allows a duffel like access to the pack. This makes it easy to pack cloths and yet have easy access to items on top.
The bag seems to tapper at the top making the top opening smaller than the rest of the bag. This can make it difficult to get bigger items in and out of the top or to find things. This has not been a big issue for me.
Internally is a mesh pouch, a zippered pocket, and a large elastic pouch. Attached to the side quick access pocket is a RFID blocking pocket which can also be accessed internally. I enjoy the simplicity of these pockets. I use the zippered pocket for first aid type items, the mesh pocket for my bicycle gloves, and the elastic pouch for to separate clothing like hats or scarfs. The mesh and large elastic pocket can easily be accessed by reaching in through the top without looking making this great for quick access items. It is nice having these pockets to separate items in the large cavernous main compartment.
Behind the main storage pouch is a zippered pocket which includes a laptop sleeve covered in what Boundary calls Nywool, a soft and very nice feeling material, and a document pocket where the field notes case clips into. The laptop sleeve is suspended about a half an inch off the bottom and is well padded. These pockets do not fit much and if I was a student I would need to use the main compartment for text books and binders. Since all I need for work is my Ipad and some folders, this pocket provides me with amble storage. When traveling i keep my iPad in the laptop sleeve and my Nintendo Switch in the document sleeve.
On the side of the bag where the Verge Case would connect to is a side quick access pocket. Because I do not use the verge case this pocket directly accesses the main storage compartment.
Lastly, the quick access pocket, located on the top flap of the backpack, encompasses a large pocket and inside the pocket an additional magnetically closing pouch lined with Nywool. I keep my charger, wired headphones, and micro fiber cloth in the smaller magnetic Nywool pocket and my dual usb charger, lightning, and usb c cables in the larger compartment. The included, and nicely made, key ring attaches on the inside of this pocket. I love a good quick access pocket and this dual compartment access pocket is a nice touch.
What must be understood is this pocket interferes with the closing of the main compartment if both are full. When unfolded the main compartment looks big but it can only really be filled up to where the quick access pocket starts. This is not a big deal as its still large enough for me to store clothing for a week long winter trip.
update: This update is because after watching Boundary’s video on the bag I found some new features that I never knew existed. I dont use the pocket behind the water bottle sleeve because any object that I put in there, even a thin business card holder, will prevent my large Nalgene from entering the sleeve. There is a hole/slit insid exits into the water bottle sleeve that is meant for a charging cable. This is so you can have an external battery in the pocket and pull the cable through the slit for charging your devices on the go.
What is not seen
Spec wise this bag fits all my needs. It is a great work, travel, and edc bag. Let me retract any negative thing I said about this bag up to this point as it can be dismissed because of what this bag offers. But, there is one big glaring negative to this bag that is not so obviously seen and is felt every time you use the bag. This bag is heavy.
Picking it up you might not notice the weight, but start adding items to the bag and you quickly feel it. Fortunately, not so much on your back since this has excellent padding and straps, but its felt mostly when picking it up through the well padded top handle. Even when lightly filled I am surprised how much force is required to pick this pack up.
Unpacked, without any accessories, the bag comes in at a massive 2.8-3.5 pounds or 1.3-1.6 kg depending on whom you ask. I dont have a scale to accurately measure but the pack feels that heavy. The Prima system weighs more than my hiking backpack that is double the volume. Add the Accessories and this pack easily passes 5lb or 2.3 kg!
I started to look over the bag to see why it was so heavy and I started to think about all the metal hardware and thick materials. Did the sternum strap need to have so much metal and be attached in such a unique way? Would plastic buckles reduce the cost and weight? Did the field space need to be a separate item? I could dive into a rabbit hole of questioning the materials but where does it end? Eventually you will start stripping away what makes this bag so great. Its a fine line that is not for me to walk.
The best part of an expandable backpack is you can load it up for travel and when you get to the hotel you can unload what you need and use it as a day pack. As far as storage goes this pack is big and feels like its around the 25-30 liter space. Packing is made easy with the long zipper that runs the length of the bag.
On my recent trip I was able to load a large Amazonbasics packing cube, my camera cube, a small bare minimum toiletry kit, iPad pro with smart keyboard case, and a few knickknacks like medicine and charging cables. This completely filled up the pack to the top, with the buckles at full extension, but I did have room around the camera cube, space in the document pocket, and in front of the packing cube since it was only filled %90 of the way. This setup provided me with cloths for at least a winter week (which is about 2-3 summer weeks) without washing.
I found difficulty in accessing the bag through the top compartment while walking or standing without putting down the pack. It required me to hold the bag up with one hand and simultaneously use the other hand to hold the flap and reach into the dark cavernous hole to retrieve my item. I would have loved a grab flap (not a handle because I feel like that would get in the way) on the inside of the bag towards the top to hold the bag up and open.
I often found I was extending and contracting the buckles when I would have the pack loaded out or when using it as a day pack. When the buckles are fully extended there is little to grab onto. In this instance a pull tab at the end of the buckle straps would have been more ergonomic. I might do a quick mod and add either key rings or paracord loops. This is not a big deal and just an observation.
With the large packing cube packed out I could not fit the verge case which is a shame since I would be taking this pack hiking and would have loved to use the quick access pocket for my camera. However, there are multiple attachment points on the outside of the bag so If I needed to I could attach pouches externally such as the verge case or a shoe bag. The versatility of the pack makes it a great travel bag that is big enough for long trips.
This backpack fits my needs as a traveler and is a great edc bag. There is so much more I did not talk about like the hidden buckles to turn the pack into a shoulder bag or that the back panel is lined with hard plastic to better keep its shape. This is a well thought out backpack.
In my opinion the weight is the only true negative of the Prima System, but with the excellent shoulder straps and the included waist strap the weight is not a big issue when donned. Everything else about the bag is great. The materials are amazing to touch, every pocket or buckle has such attention to detail, and the bluesign stamp is refreshing to see. For someone looking for a new backpack the Boundary Supply Prima System should be considered.
If you have any questions about the bag leave a comment or if you would like more information check out the Boundary website using the link below.
Does not stand up straight but hypalon provides enough friction to keep bag rested against wall
Verge case could be implemented better
Hypalon scratches easily
Not many first order pockets
Attention to detail
I mentioned in the review that this bag felt it could survive an atomic blast and after three months that opinion has not changed. Three months of EDC, one bag travels, and even using it while exploring a cave, this bag does not show any signs of wear. I stated the Hypalon accents scratch easily, and at the time I expected the Hypalon would get a warn out aesthetic, but instead it obtained a warn in look like the beginnings of a fine leather bag.
The bags shoulder straps have become less stiff and feel better on the shoulders. This is a very comfertable bag. My shoulders get hot but my back less so. The back ventilation is exquisite. I can truthfully say that the back ventilation is the best I have ever used on a backpack.
I have taken this bag in all conditions and I can say water has never seeped into the bag.
The flap and small opening at the top can get annoying sometimes. My flap is somewhat heavy because of the cables, headphones, and charger I keep in it. This makes the flap want to close while I am accessing the bag through the top. Trying to access the inside while standing is a chore and pulling out anything large from small top opening is not very comfortable.
Except for these minor complaints I have nothing bad to say about this bag. I can even say I love it more than I did during my initial review.
The bag is holding up very very well except for the bottom of the bag and some scratches on the fidlock buckles. There seems to be a significant amount of wear on the Hypalon and a nylon strip that sits at the bottom of the back rest. This is not too concerning since it looks like normal wear, but I will be keeping my eye on these areas. Only time well tell if small holes form from that wear.
Iv switched to the boundary supply camera cube so that I can utilize the quick access feature. While I still feel like the camera cube integration is a poor design, the camera cube itself and the bag are extremely well designed. I bought this bag to be a camera bag so using the specific made camera cube is necessary.
I having been playing with the field notes and trying to see if its worth the weight to incorporate into my EDC. As of right now I clip a pencil and pen to the sides of the laptop and field notes divider. I would love to use the extra pockets on the field notes but it does not fit into my set up well enough to warrent its weight.
These updates are to see how the bag holds up in the long term so there is going to be quite a few negatives. That being said the bag is still a joy to use. Besides the bottom of the bag and the wear on the Hypalon, the bag is holding up well.