Review: The North Face Surge II Charged Daypack

The North Face has been making mountaineering and hiking gear for years, so you’d think its product designers would know their way around a backpack, right? Well, they do — provided the backpack in question is aimed at folks headed into the wilderness.

But The North Face’s new Surge II Charged Daypack is meant for carrying a laptop instead of a pair of crampons; it can simultaneously protect and charge USB-powered hardware, thanks to a built-in battery pack. Unfortunately, if the time I spent with the Surge II is any indication, the company’s approach to the charge-while-you-schlep concept could use some tinkering.

It can hold 41 liters’ worth of stuff, more than enough space for overnight trip. Or, if you were headed into work, you could fit your lunch, attaché, gym clothes and your laptop and tablet. Its wide, well-padded straps mitigate weight well. No matter what I stuffed into the Surge II Charged Daypack over the week that I tested it, I never felt like the straps were digging into my shoulders.

On the outside of the bag, you’ll find a couple of horizontal stash pockets, a water bottle pocket and a zippered pocket that’s about the right size for a sunglasses case. For the safety-first set, there’s a reinforced loop near the base for a rear bike light, and the chest strap buckle doubles as a rescue whistle.

The Surge II Charged Daypack’s roomy interior is subdivided into three main sections: a laptop/tablet compartment, a central carry-all area, and an compartment full of a gazillion small pockets that also contains the aforementioned removable battery pack (more on that in a bit).

The bag’s laptop compartment can accommodate computers up to 17 inches. In the front of the laptop compartment, there’s an extra smaller sleeve which I found could hold a Nexus 10 tablet snugly. Sounds good right? Well, it would be, if there were adequate padding to protect your hardware from getting knocked around on your commute, or dinged by the rest of the crap in your bag.

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