Torn between the Borealis and Jester?
The Jester backpack and the Borealis are very popular and seemingly identical bags from the North Face.
The two models are very similar day packs; they are both well-made and share similar features and functions so much so that you may mistake one for the other.
However, they are not the same…
There are some vital differences that are worth knowing about in terms of construction, storage, and features before choosing.
So read on in this North Face Borealis vs Jester showdown to see which is right for your needs.
The North Face in a Snapshot
The North Face is an iconic brand that has been in the game of producing some of the finest outdoor products ranging from backpacks, to activewear and outdoor gears since 1966.
Founded by Douglas Tompkins and Susie Tompkins, they started by designing and making hiking wears and equipment for explorers.
50 years down the line, they have created an extensive line of clothing, outdoor equipment and footwear.
The North Face Borealis and The Jester are just a couple of the many amazing backpacks designed and manufactured by the brand.
In this North Face Borealis vs Jester comparison, I’ll detail the features these bags offer to help you determine which is right for you.
North Face Borealis vs Jester Technicals – Similarities & differences
In a hurry? Check the differences between the two models in the table below and get more details further down.
210 Cordura nylon mini-ripstop, 420D nylon, 600D polyester print, 1680D Ballistic nylon
600D polyester, 450D x 300D heather polyester, 600D geo emboss polyester, 1200D polyester
2 lbs / 28L
1.6 lbs /27.5 L
19.75 x 13.25 x 9.75 inches
18.13 x 11 x 8.25 inches
Laptop compartment size
4.7 out of 5
4.5 out of 5
Table of Contents
Design and quality
Since the North Face Jester and Borealis are alike, let’s start off with the similarities.
First of all, they both have simple design with exceptional build, and come in different colorway combinations that stand out from other plain bags on the market.
Designed to be versatile for a number of activities, the exterior feature a stitched North Face Logo on top, two side pockets, padded top handles for easy hauling, a loop to attach a bike light, and bungee cords.
To make it more interesting, both bags have a specific women’s version tailored to be more comfortable for females.
The Borealis is larger, sturdier, more expensive and has more features.
The Jester on the other hand is more budget friendly, practical, and offers great value for your investment.
Materials & Construction
Summary: All in all, the Borealis is tougher and more durable than the Jester.
The North Face Borealis and Jester bags are made from different materials.
The Jester uses a mix of recycled 600D polyester, 450D x 300D heather polyester, and 1200D polyester that limits the effects of daily abuse.
While the Borealis uses nylon materials, primarily 210 Cordura nylon mini-ripstop, 420D nylon, 600D polyester print, and 1680D Ballistic nylon that ensures it survives rigorous usage.
Although both are strong fabrics, nylon is generally stronger and can take a beating better when compared to polyester.
Another difference is in the zippers. The Borealis has YKK zippers while the Jester has SBS zippers. While SBS zippers aren’t terrible by any stretch, YKK zippers are the better of the two because they are really smooth, robust and known for superb quality.
On the plus side, both packs are water resistant and would keep your items dry provided you are not in the rain for a prolong period. If you are, or you are caught in a heavy downpour without a rain cover, water is likely to eventually seep through as these bags aren’t waterproof.
By the way, if you’re interested in waterproof backpacks from North Face, you can find that information in my article where I addressed the question as to whether North Face backpacks are waterproof.
Weight & Dimension
Next in the comparison of North Face Borealis vs Jester backpack, are differences associated with the dimensions and weight of the bags.
While both bags are compact and lightweight for everyday use, the Borealis is 2.12lbs with a 28L capacity, while the Jester is slimmer at just 1.6 lbs. at 27.5L capacity.
As you can see, the Borealis look is larger, has more capacity to take more stuff and thus is heavier than the Jester.
If you want a bag that’s compact and sweet, then you’d definitely want to go for the Jester. But if you want something a bit bigger, the Borealis is your guy.
Fit & Comfort
Summary: In the North Face Borealis vs Jester showdown, the Borealis goes a step further as far as fit and comfort is concerned.
When it comes to fit and comfort both the Borealis and the Jester are on the same page.
Featuring the North Face FlexVent suspension systems with injection molded shoulder straps, both backpacks are equally comfortable.
As far as the back panel goes, they have padded mesh back panels, which allows for great airflow to mitigate sweaty backs and painful shoulders.
The two bags also have sternum strap that comes with a whistle buckle for extra security and are endorsed by the American Chiropractic Association.
But the Borealis have some features that the Jester doesn’t.
Unlike the Jester, the Borealis includes a removable waist belt to help with weight distribution when stuffed.
Also, the Borealis includes compression straps on the side while the Jester does not. Compression straps are good to have because they allow you to cinch down the size of your pack especially when stuffed to the brim.
So in the North Face Borealis vs Jester comfort and fit contest, you could say that Borealis just edges it.
Storage & Organization
Summary: When it comes to organization, the Borealis is winning. It’s not just a little bigger but also has a separate laptop compartment and pockets for quick and easy access.
Both backpacks have a lot of useful pockets and compartments for you to organize and comfortably use this bag for hiking, school, college, work, commuting and even travel.
But aside being bigger, the Borealis offers more.
Front fleece-lined pocket
The Borealis has a front pocket to keep a sunglasses or phone without having to worry about scratches while the Jester does not.
Both the Jester and Borealis have this really awesome front organizer compartment with pockets that can store pens and other small items.
The difference I can find here is the Borealis has a top slip pocket in the organizer to hold a tablet while the Jester doesn’t have much room to fit a tablet.
Perhaps, the biggest difference between these two bags is where you can find the laptop storage.
The Jester has a padded sleeve inside the main compartment where you can put your laptop while the Borealis has a separate laptop compartment located behind the main compartment.
Both designed to fit a 15-inch laptop, the Borealis however can take a thicker laptop since it has more space and an entire compartment to itself.
Side mesh pockets
The Borealis pockets are soft and stretchy while the Jester’s are not stretchy at all, except for the elastic band on the top.
So, you’ll find that when you place a bottle inside the Borealis, the entire pocket will stretch and hold the bottle in place. The side pockets in the Jester rely on the elastic band on top to hold the bottle which means it won’t accommodate bigger bottles like the Borealis.
Elastic bungee systems
The front of the bag features a bungee cord system meant for lashing external gear on. However, the Jester can’t take the weight of heavy times like a yoga mat while the Borealis can accommodate larger items and is easier to use.
This is the largest compartment with a big empty space for putting binders, notebooks, jumpers, lunch boxes, or any important gear you need to carry along.
As stated, the Jester is smaller but not so much that you’d find it annoying. It has a simplified organization and is more than big enough for daily use but the Borealis is bigger.
The Jester Backpack is the cheapest pack in the everyday carry lineup offered by The North Face.
Compared to the Borealis backpack, the Jester is cheaper but with equally amazing features.
At $48.30 and $89, you’ll be paying a bit more for the Borealis.
When it comes to the matter of warranty, there is no North Face Borealis vs Jester contest since they both come with the same type of warranty – a lifetime warranty.
This is great because whichever bag suits you best, you can be assured that your bag is likely to serve you for many years to come.
But if there are defects in the manufacturing or workmanship of the bag, you have a warranty that covers the entire life of the product. North Face also offers repair or replacement if repairs can’t be done.
Note that the warranty does not cover damage caused by accident, normal wear and tear, abuse of the backpack, or the natural breakdown of colors and materials over extended time and use.
The North Face Borealis vs Jester: The Winner
As you can tell, both the Jester and Borealis share a lot of the same features. But there are unique features as well.
The Jester summary:
- The Jester really does cut corners to accommodate its lower price.
- The Jester is lighter, budget friendly, and smaller.
- Despite being about the same size, you don’t get a waist belt nor compression straps.
- The bungee system on the front is also smaller and you’re missing fleece-lined pockets and a pocket for a full-sized tablet.
- There’s no separate laptop compartment in the Jester backpack
If you can live without those features and want to spend less on a backpack, then I’d advise you go with the North Face Jester.
The Borealis summary:
- The Borealis has a separate and dedicated laptop compartment that can fit a laptop not too slim or one you want well protected from scratches.
- It has a fleeced line pocket in front, a better organizer and a better side stretch pockets for your water bottle.
- The Borealis is heavier and bigger with more features.
- Has side compression straps and removable waist belt for a better wearing experience.
- More expensive but worth the extra money? I advise you go for it if you can afford it.
Overall, when it comes to organization, comfort and construction, the Borealis is the winner. It’s not just a little bigger but also much more functional with features.
Alternative: The Jester and Borealis Backpack – Women’s Version
The Borealis and Jester backpacks both have models tailored specially for women.
The major difference is that the straps are contoured to specifically fit a woman’s frame.
They both feature a shortened back panel and slim profile for a better fit.
The Women’s Jester is lighter at 1.4 lbs. with a 27-liter capacity, and comes in 5 exciting color varieties.
The Women’s Borealis comes at 27 Liters and 2 lbs, and offers 2 exciting color varieties!
That said, they both have all the great features seen in the men/unisex version, as detailed by in this North Face Jester vs Borealis Backpack review.
Final Thought – North Face Borealis vs Jester: Which is Right for You?
Having arrived at the closing of this North Face Borealis vs Jester comparison, we’re left with one question: which is better?
As you can tell, these two backpacks are actually quite similar and are well made, so you honestly can’t go wrong with either one.
If I had to pick one, I would pick the Borealis, because it has more features, more storage and is more durable. And I really like the fact that it has a separated and well protected laptop compartment.
On the other hand, someone in need of a smaller backpack that’s also budget friendly will naturally opt for the Jester.
Although it lacks a few of the comfort features of the Borealis like waist belt and compression straps as well as some pockets and compartments, it saves you lots of weight and can be easy to navigate with on a busy road.
I hope this North Face Borealis vs Jester comparison has helped shine some light on which is the better backpack for you.
This article is not sponsored in any way by any company. These backpacks have been independently selected by myself and my team. And the only thing I receive is a small commission from our affiliate program if you buy any of them through the links and buttons on this page. It doesn’t cost you a penny. But it really helps me out as this money goes to paying for maintaining the website, editing software, my time, team and everything else that goes into preparing this post.