First Impressions

Wow. The Mountainsmith Borealis AT camera backpack is a beast. In fact, it might just be the largest 26 liter pack I’ve ever seen. No judgment here, just stating a fact. Side-by-side, the Borealis AT simply dwarfs my trusty 30 liter REI Traverse thanks to its size and multitude of camera-hauling features. Is that size and weight worth it? Read on to find out.


According to the Mountainsmith website, the Borealis AT represents the company’s most technical camera backpack. It brims with lash points, pockets, compression straps and more, surrounding the exterior of the pack. The Borealis AT includes so many, I found it hard to keep track. Here’s my quick synopsis of the product’s features.

Let’s start with lash points. On the exterior, the company located seven of them for attaching lens cases, trekking poles, and other gear that won’t fit into the interior of the pack. On the pocket front, Mountainsmith provides at least eight different storage options. All are lined with Mountainsmith’s signature yellow lining, making things very easy to see. There’s a padded laptop sleeve capable of swallowing a 17-inch notebook and protecting it from damage with a water-resistant zipper (my 13-inch Macbook Air fit just fine).

Weight: 5 lbs 11 oz
Capacity: 1586 cu in/26 l
Materials: 450 denier recycled PET body fabric, 840 denier ballistic nylon reinforcements, 210 denier yellow polyester lining

A main storage compartment fronts the laptop sleeve. It’s large enough for a jacket, sweatshirt and other essentials, and includes a zippered, see-through pocket for flat items. A smaller accessory pocket also sits on the exterior and includes sleeves for pens, a lanyard for keys, and another smaller, see-through pocket. Finally, another zippered pocket is located on the waist belt and a mesh pocket for a water bottle.

Moving onto some camera-specific features, the Mountainsmith Borealis AT boasts one of the best camera storage areas I’ve seen. Cleverly designed to tilt out from the bottom of the pack is the main camera storage pocket. The unit is padded and removable. It can be custom-configured with repositionable hook-and-loop dividers to hold multiple camera bodies, lenses, flashes and other gear. The way I figure it, you could fit upwards of half a dozen lenses and a single body in the Borealis AT. On the exterior of that pocket, Mountainsmith locates a flip-out tripod mount. Very well done.
And if that were not enough, the Borealis also includes a built-in rain cover.


The Borealis AT uses an aluminum reinforcing rod around the exterior pack rear for stability. The back and shoulder straps are nicely padded. The straps include load-lifters and a sternum strap for comfort and stability. The waist belt is also nicely padded making it easy to carry heavier loads.

Final Verdict

It’s a beast and a beauty. The Mountainsmith Borealis AT delivers a ton of technical features for hauling mulitple bodies, lenses and much, much more. The tilt-out camera pocket is the most cleverly designed storage facility I’ve seen. If you want a rugged, top-of-the-line backpack for hauling large amounts of photo equipment into the backcountry or elsewhere, the Mountainsmith Borealis AT is the ticket. Recommended.

Thanks for reading another outdoor gear review from GearGuide. And thanks to Mountainsmith and Ingrid Niehaus PR for providing product for this review.