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This past year I have been searching high and low for the perfect camera meets travel backpack. As a travel photographer, I wanted something that would not only hold all my camera gear, but also had enough room for a laptop, tablet, clothes and anything else you might need when travelling. And of course, since I am a girl, I wanted to find a camera bag for women that ins’t too big and wouldn’t look like a gigantic brick. It was not easy to find, as most backpacks are either strictly made for photography, meaning that they only have room for bodies, lenses, maybe a flash or two and some filters and nothing else, or they are only geared towards backpackers, which means there are no compartments for photography gear whatsoever.

Just as I was about to give up and scream at the world “please, for the love of all that is holy, make a backpack that offers both!” I walked across a Mountainsmith rep in New York and was instantly in love. Not with the rep of course, but with one of the bags the company sold: the Mountainsmith Borealis Camera Bag.

No, they do not pay me, this review comes from my heart. I seriously love the Mountainsmith Borealis backpack so darn much and I wanted to show you what I think is the best camera backpack for travel photographers on the market.

Mountainsmith Borealis Review: on a hike to Moraine Lake

Here I am wearing the Mountainsmith Borealis bag on a hike to Moraine Lake.

Who should use the Mountainsmith Borealis Backpack?

Both men and women:
I talked about how I wanted to find a backpack that wouldn’t look absurdly oversized on my small frame, but that doesn’t mean that the Mountainsmith Borealis is only a camera bag for girls. I think the backpack is really gender neutral in colour as well as shape and is definitely suited for both men and women. My photographer boyfriend is actually expressing his immense jealously over my great find on a weekly basis. While it is big – there is no denying that – it doesn’t come off as absurdly oversized, which is absolutely perfect for me.

Photographers who travel, hike, ski and do all kinds of outdoorsy stuff:
It’s really annoying that most camera bags that are sold these days only offer room for camera gear without any extra compartments for all the other stuff you need. I mean, that works for some people, but for those of us that regularly travel, want to go on hiking trips, or go skiing, it’s just not an option. I want to be able to bring more than just my camera gear!

I still have my suitcase, but my new Mountaingear Borealis bag has enough room that I can go on several day long trips without needing an extra bag. It also holds everything you need on a plane journey: from your fragile camera gear that definitely needs to be carry-on, to changes of clothes, a laptop AND a tablet and all those other little things. It is like a wizard’s endless pit of a bag.

The backpack has three top compartments: the one at the back has a divider and can hold a laptop and a tablet, and the other two can hold all the rest.

The backpack has three top compartments: the one at the back has a divider and can hold a laptop and a tablet, and the other two are a bottomless pit for the rest of your stuff.

How much camera gear fits into the Mountainsmith Borealis?

It was really important to me to find a backpack that would hold a 70-200 lens, a body and a few smaller lenses plus hard drives, cables, filters, batteries, memory cards and the tripod. I don’t have an excessive amount of gear, since as a travel photographer I travel constantly and have to pack everything around with me wherever I go, but the Mountaingear Borealis fits my 70-200 lens, a body, a 18-50mm a 50mm and a 10-20 super-wide in the bottom part of the bag. I keep all the cables and accessories and anything extra in the many pouches.

The Mountainsmith Camera Bag fully loaded with a 70-200mm lens, a body with a 10-20mm super wide, a 50mm and a 18-50mm lens. Plus I put two hard drives and some cables in that bottom compartment as well.

The Mountainsmith Camera Bag fully loaded with a 70-200mm lens, a body with a 10-20mm super-wide, a 50mm and a 18-50mm lens. Plus, I put two hard drives and some cables in that bottom compartment as well.

How comfortable is it on long journeys?

Another thing I was looking for in my new bag was comfort, as my old bag often gave me terrible back pain whenever I wore it for longer periods of time. I’ve had the Mountainsmith Borealis for a few weeks now and I have tried and tested it on several hour long hikes and shoots.

The wide, padded waist belt takes all the weight off the shoulders and I can say, that I barely feel it even if it is fully loaded with all my heavy electronics. It also has load lifter suspensions on the shoulder straps, side compressions straps for more stabilization and a really comfortable foam back that let’s all the heat escape and doesn’t leave you with huge sweat stains. All in all, it is an incredibly comfortable and well ventilated bag.

What are some other specs?

The bag holds 25 liters, weighs 2.21kg, is water resistant and also has a removable rain cover. The tripod attaches to the side and can be inserted into the pouch, which has a zipper on the bottom and it doesn’t get in the way of getting the camera gear out. The colour, called Anvil Grey, is also perfect for outdoor activity, as it doesn’t show dirt at all, isn’t flashy and doesn’t show much wear and tear.

Front view of the Mountainsmith Borealis Camera Backpack with a tripod attached.

Front view of the Mountainsmith Borealis Camera Backpack with a tripod attached.

Is there anything I’m not happy about?

While I have tried to come up with some disadvantages of the bag for a balanced review, I can barely think of anything I dislike. But here are some things to consider: the size of the bag is big and might be too hulking for people looking for something smaller. Equally, if you have A LOT of camera gear, it might not fit everything as it has all this space dedicated to accessories, clothes and all the extra things you need.

Shut up and take my money! How much does the bag cost and where can I buy it?

The Mountainsmith Borealis Camera Backpack costs $209.95 and you can buy the backpack here for example.

The Mountainsmith Borealis Camera Backpack: The Best Bag for Travel Photographers
Value for Price92%
Style (Fabric, Colour, Size)95%
The Positives
  • Great camera backpack for photographers who travel and want to bring along more than just the camera gear
  • Very comfortable on long journeys
  • Fits everything you need - camera gear, clothes, accessories, laptop, tablet...
The Negatives
  • Might not fit all of the camera gear for photographers with a lot of equipment
96%Overall Score

About The Author

Tiffany is a Swiss travel writer, digital nomad, and photographer, who, after a fateful journey through Africa, has decided to get her passport renewed, sell all her junk, and live out of a suitcase in various corners of the world, as well as share the experiences with other travel enthusiasts. This blog is intended to inspire you to pack your bags, leave everything behind for a while, and make you go discover the world. Check her out on .

4 Responses

  1. Mark Madaus

    Thanks for the review, Tiffany. I have been looking for something similar to avoid having to take two bags – a camera backpack and carry-on – for weekend trips. Sounds like a great bag.

  2. Adam

    Thanks for the great in depth review. Have you checked out the FStop Loka? My current favorite camera backpack. Really well designed and really comfy.

    • Tiffany

      I did and I love the colour. Definitely another great backpack that offers room for the camera equipment and extra stuff, plus it looks amazing 🙂


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