Product Review | The North Face Access Backpack

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Once a brand favoured by middle-aged campers, The North Face has established itself as a streetwear staple through constant features in rap videos and multiple collabs with streetwear-giant Supreme .

I picked up their 22L Access backpack from a Canadian outlet as I had been carrying all my tech in a flimsy Herschel bag for too long. With an RRP of £220 or $249 USD the Access is pricey, but you can find it much cheaper if you shop around, and I figured it would be worth the investment to avoid wrecking my laptop, phone, camera, and lenses.

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Functionality

Pros

Strikingly solid and durable, the backpack has a steel frame and sculpted foam body, which combine to maintain its shape, protect your tech, and stand up unsupported. The best feature of the frame is the opening mechanism for the main pocket - lift the clasp and the top springs open. It’s a lot faster and more satisfying than a traditional zip or clip design.

Inside the bag are snug pouches specifically designed to safely house your phone, tablet, and laptop, all with ejector pull-tabs for ease of access. Whilst not advertised as water-resistant, the polyester/nylon combo kept my contents dry from heavy rainfall, and all the zips are waterproof.

The shoulder straps can be stabilised by a discreet, adjustable chest strap. The option to also raise and lower the position of the strap is a nice bonus and is particularly helpful when ascending buildings.

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Cons

Due to all the fortifications, it’s heavier than a traditional ‘soft’ backpack, and its inflexibility can pose a challenge when squeezing through tight spaces.

I can’t really blame The North Face for this one as they don’t set out to make parkour gear, but the zips jingle, which isn’t great if you’re stealthily scaling a building for a midnight photoshoot.

If I’m taking my DSLR, I can either fit a spare pair of parkour shoes OR a hoodie in the main pouch. This can be remedied by the 28L version of the pack, but its even bulkier, heavier, and will burn a bigger hole in your pocket.

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Aesthetics

They killed it. Mostly.

Subtle black-on-black prints, a clean silhouette, high-quality materials and slick bespoke touches give the pack a premium feel and nigh-unrivalled finish. I have only two criticisms:

1 - The sides have a strange zig-zag stripe pattern which feels out of place with the otherwise minimalist design. Fortunately, these stripes are nearly the same colour as the main pack, making them hard to notice unless they catch the light.

2 - The inner lining of my pack is somewhere between yellow and green. I understand wanting to have a high-contrast interior, but the same could have been achieved using a less garish, neutral colour. Or just, you know, more black. Other colour combinations exist, but are harder to find.

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Overall

This is certainly one of the best parkour backpacks if you regularly take a good amount of tech with you when you hit the streets. If you just want a good quality, stylish backpack to go with the rest of your parkour gear, The North Face has other, cheaper options with a similar aesthetic.

It's not perfect, but I would certainly recommend this pack for its innovative features, functionality, and overall sleek design. It’s the Tesla of the backpack world.