Boundary Errant backpack review: irresistible at $100July 25, 2018
Love, we’re all searching for it. Some from the warm embrace of another human being, others from the companionship of a filthy dog. But for many, it’s a backpack. A bag we can take anywhere in any situation. An everyday bag that will support us without judgement in all our endeavors, be it work or play, business trips or weekend getaways. It’s a mythical muse that must watch over our laptops and drones with the same finesse applied to our sweaty shorts and avocados. A backpack that feels right at home under an airline seat, or on your back when riding a bike. That’s the bag Utah-based Boundary set out to build with its new Errant backpack available on Kickstarter right now for $100, with an expected retail price of $150. And you know what? For many, the search ends right here.
The Errant bag has a capacity of 24 liters, putting it near the upper end of what I consider to be the sweet spot (20 to 25 liters) for this category of everyday backpacks. It’s neither too big, nor too small for my six-foot frame (same for my wife, who stands five feet, five inches). The bag’s a dramatic improvement over the rather frumpy Prima backpack system that Boundary debuted last year.
I’ve been testing a few prototype iterations of the Errant pack. The first had a laughable design flaw whereby a zipper blocked one of the clasps. Fortunately, it was quickly solved and I was sent a newer sample. It’s this near-final bag that I’ve been testing for the last few weeks. I’ve taken the backpack on a two-day business flight to London, numerous overnighters to the beach, and several outings to the gym, supermarket, and cafes. It’s the only bag I’ve used for all my hauls and it’s held up very well.
The Errant pack performed exceptionally as a carry-on for my overnight trip to London. It deftly held my laptop, battery pack, cables, and dongles as well as my snacks, toiletries, reading materials, and a change of clothes. Packing the bag was easy thanks to the clamshell design that lets the bag split open for full access to the entirety of the interior. But it was in-flight that the bag really excelled. After takeoff, I stood the bag up so that the top was level with my seat cushion. In that position, I could comfortably access everything I needed for the duration of the flight without ever having to contort my body or move the bag. Opening the top zipper gave me direct access to my laptop and another zippered stretch-mesh pocket where I kept my AirPods and accessories. I could also reach into the main compartment to grab snacks and to snake my charging cable out to my phone without having to open the top flap.
The bag performed equally well at the gym and beyond. There’s an expandable side pocket for water bottles, although my elongated bottle was always at risk of falling out because the elastic band wasn’t tight enough (a fatter bottle would have been fine). Boundary says the final bag will have gusseting at the bottom to accommodate smaller bottles. Taller bottles, umbrellas, and tripods can be secured with a hidden lash strap. After my workout, the large water- and odor-resistant zippered compartment at the base of the bag was perfect for my sweaty towel and clothes. I could then stuff all my groceries through the big flap on top and into the main compartment for my bicycle ride home.
Errant can also be used with a variety of modular inserts from Boundary. These include the $45 CB-1 Photo Insert and larger $60 MK-2 Photo Case for your SLR camera or drone gear. Boundary offers other inserts, too, like the Port Kit to hold all your vital accessories. If you own a drone or fancy yourself a professional photographer then maybe you’ll find these to be worthwhile purchases. But for most, the added bulk, weight, and cost are probably unnecessary, and you can always buy them later.
There are many small reasons I liked the Errant, all of which add up to a really great experience:
- Comfortable to wear no matter the load I tested.
- The air flow created by the corrugated backing really helped keep my back dry from sweat even when hauling loads in 90-degree city heat.
- All the tie-downs can be tucked out of sight or removed for a clean, tight look.
- Looks great with oodles of thoughtful design touches (I’ve seen both the black and tan in person).
- Feels durable and built using sustainable processes.
- The “commuter pocket” on the side is very handy after mastering the pro-backpacker move of releasing the right arm and swinging the bag forward on the left shoulder.
I also have a few minor complaints. First, the rigid corrugated rear panel jabbed me in the back whenever I inserted anything thicker than a passport in the hidden security pocket. My wife also complained that it pressed uncomfortably against her bra strap, even when the security pocket was empty. Boundary says the final backpack that ships in September will use a softer material that “will feel less pointy.”
My next complaint is also minor, but I’m going to blow it way out of proportion with a lengthy rant in the hope that no bag maker repeats the same mistake again. Ready?
The two magnetic fasteners on the underside of the Errant’s top flap are infuriating. These Fidlock snaps are the exact same mechanisms deployed in exactly the same way that ruined my experience with a Timbuk2 backpack last year. In theory, the magnets should guide the male snaps up the channels and into the female clasps, allowing the top flap to be closed quickly without even looking. But in everyday usage, the “invisible” clasps are finicky as hell, especially when the bag is only lightly loaded (which is most of the time). As a result, it usually requires two hands and sometimes several attempts to close the flap. This is absurd when you consider that superior one-handed magnetic fasteners can be found on Peak Design’s bags. Hell, even Fidlock makes one. Fortunately, Boundary mitigates the issue in two ways: the top flap can also be closed with a zipper, and you can always bypass the flap by opening the laptop compartment so long as you don’t have one of the camera modules attached (which I rarely did in daily use). Having said that, you’ll still want those Fidlock snaps clasped to keep the flap in place in inclement weather (the top zipper isn’t taped) and to give the backpack a clean and tidy look.
To be clear, that magnetic flap mechanism isn’t a deal-breaker, unless you’re the type that smashes things when they can’t get a regular USB plug to insert correctly after the first and second attempts. The clasps are also easier to align when the bag is full, especially if you’re using the rigid CB-1 Photo Insert which stiffens the upper circumference of the bag. And, for what it’s worth, Boundary says that a few tweaks to the final backpack “drastically increases the user’s ability to slap it closed.” I highly doubt they can fix a blind clasp that’s so fundamentally flawed with just a few tweaks, but we’ll see what they come up with.
Boundary doesn’t hold the brand awareness of, say, Peak Design, Timbuk2, or Icon, so let me attest to the very good build quality and thoughtful design exhibited throughout the company’s range of backpacks and accessories. Yes, buying a Boundary bag is definitely taking the road less traveled. But in all likelihood, you won’t be disappointed by your Errant ways.
If you’ve ever balked at the idea of spending $260 on Peak Design’s Everyday backpack, then I can wholeheartedly recommend the Errant bag from Boundary Supply, especially for $100 (without the modular accessories, which most won’t need) if you snatch an early bird deal.