Our Arc’Teryx Bora 65 Backpacks are 2 of the best things we’ve purchased. Despite the miles on them they’ve come through everything with flying colours. Arc’Teryx has provided us with some great products. They are located in Vancouver, Canada and produce very high quality gear that they completely stand behind. Over the years we’ve had 3 backpacks (Bora 80 and 2 Bora 65’s), 4 Gore-Tex jackets (1 15-year-old and 3 newish Theta ARs) and 2 hooded Atom LT insulated jackets from them. Their stuff isn’t cheap but it performs incredibly well, making them a perfect example of the phrase “you get what you pay for”.
Their solid construction means they more than pay for themselves in the long run due to their longevity. My 15-year-old Theta AR jacket still looks good and once washed with the correct DWR detergents still performs well. There’s just some things that have failed with so many years of use such as the snow skirt drawstring glue failing and pocket liners delaminating, likely from always holding my keys. The packs have been abused by airlines while going around the world several times. After a recent pressure wash to remove sea salt, they still look great and have given us zero issues after 15+ years of use. Helen returned her original, 2-year-old Arc’Teryx Theta AR because of some bubbling in one small spot on the fabric. They sent her a brand new jacket no questions asked.
Mountain Equipment Coop (MEC) allowed me to return my original Arc’Teryx Bora 80 simply because I found it was too big after a couple of backpacking trips. It could literally carry me. 🙂 MEC, in Canada, is another great company we like to give our business to due to their fantastic product support and very knowledgeable staff.
The lids on the Arc’Teryx Bora 65’s are detachable and make for great day-packs. Here’s a pic of me with my Arc’Teryx jacket and pack lid that held enough stuff for an overnight stop in San Francisco. Very convenient.
The cheap mec.ca duffel bags (seen in the pics above) have probably added years to our packs lifespans. Once inside there are no straps to catch and the thick ballistic nylon handles any baggage handler wear and tear. The duffels also hold our massive MEC Kelvin 5.0 sleeping pads that turn the hardest SE Asian “bed” into pure comfort. While flying, the mattress slides inside the duffel with the backpacks. Once we arrive at our destination we strap them to the side of our packs. The duffels then get stuffed in the pack bottom compartments as protective padding. On the way home from our annual Thailand trips we (Helen) usually stop to shop in either Bangkok (typically) or Chiang Mai. We have had no problem stuffing lots of stuff around our packs inside the duffel bags for the flights home.
So for our Thailand and camping trips these bags have been great, however for longer term travelling they have downsides. They must always be checked, which means the potential for hopefully temporary loss and having to wait at baggage carousels. The baggage carousel wait is fine when your stuff comes out early. However when it doesn’t, the fear of lost luggage slowly builds. Over the years we’ve had lost luggage twice. It sure puts a downer on what is otherwise a great experience. We’ve been fortunate that it was found both times. In certain scenarios that could be a major hassle and might even need rearranging of travel plans.
Since the packs are fairly big you have to watch you don’t bash people around you. Getting jammed in tight spots like transit turnstiles is an indicator it’s too big. Also, since the packs have so much room they encourage taking stuff you really don’t need making them heavier. Going forward we think a backpack that maximizes carry-on allowances is definitely the way to go. We plan to do a dry run on our upcoming 2016 Thailand trip. That means smaller sleeping pads, pillows and no fins and snorkels, just masks so you don’t have to worry about getting a leaky dud on an otherwise amazing snorkel trip.
I’d love to hear from any long-term travelers out there about what packs you chose and why.