The great white whale of backpacks is the one pack that fits any occasion. Buy a bag that's perfect for the daily commute and it probably won't fit all your camera gear. Buy a backpack big enough for a weekend getaway and it'll look like a deflated corpse of canvas on your way to the office. That's where the promise of modularity comes in.
What is it?
The Boundary Prima System is a backpack built around the idea of adaptability. It's centered around a 25 liter Prima Pack that expands to 30 liters; the Verge (no affiliation) Case camera bag that can be removed, expanded to 10 liters, and carried separately; and a removable Fieldspace sleeve for a slim modern laptop, tablet, or documents, and all your pens, dongles, and cables. The system is designed to overcome any boundary (get it!) by adapting to work, travel, and photography.
I've been testing Boundary for a few weeks under a variety of scenarios. I used it as my carry-on bag during a recent transatlantic flight to New York City. After checking in, Boundary became my daily subway commuter bag to and from the office. Once home, Boundary became my weekender bag, allowing me to tote a weekend's worth of gear to the beach before converting Boundary into a camera bag for a suprisingly comfortable 10 mile (about 16 km) hike.
Modular design is often a great idea that's let down by execution. I can't say that about the Boundary system. The decision to make both the camera bag and laptop sleeve removable creates a truly adaptable bag. In my testing I found myself successfully using the Verge Case as both an internal and external storage vehicle for my chunky DSLR camera, lenses, and accessories. (Bonus: The bag can be placed on the ground on its side without tipping over, allowing unfettered access to your cameras and lenses). I also find the Fieldspace sleeve to be an extraordinary organizer that gives my MacBook and dongles a permanent home that I move between the Boundary pack and other smaller bags (not made by Boundary) depending upon the occasion. I also really like the Mojave tan color and black accents of my prototype pack — it has a certain Indiana Jones chic to it that I enjoy.
Even when full of electronics I found the bag to be comfortable to wear even for long (10 mile) hikes through the rolling Dutch dunes. Oh, and the lavish use of seven smartly designed magnetic latches warms my heart. Any backpack company that's still using traditional two-handed flesh-pinching latches in 2017 should be ashamed of themselves.
There's nothing bad per se, but I always have a few gripes:
- I'd prefer a single magnetic latch to keep the top-loader closed when folded over. The two latches just slow things down.
- I lost the sternum strap on my prototype bag because the anchors slipped through the eyelets (Boundary says they'll use larger anchors on bags shipped to kickstarter backers).
- The pack doesn't hold its shape very well if you're only carrying a laptop back and forth to the office. Mind you, it's a 25+ liter bag so that's not unusual. But it's the reason I find myself using the Fieldspace sleeve in smaller bags on days I choose to work at the corner coffee shop, for example.
- From a feel and function standpoint, the Boundary system doesn't quite rise to the bar set by the Peak Design bags I've tested.
Should you buy it?
If you're looking for a modular, do-it-all 25 liter backpack that can expand to 30 liters (plus another 10 liters if you remove and carry the Verge Case camera bag separately) then I can recommend Boundary without exception for the Kickstarter price of $189. I can't say the same when the price hits the suggested retail price of $279.99. Not when Peak Design's 30 liter backpack lists for $289.95 (or $259.95 for the 20 liter version). Boundary is a very good $200 bag that I think many will be happy with for a very long time — it's just not Peak Design good.