Note: This comparison is of the 2019 versions of both the North Face Jester and Borealis. For a comparison of updated models please visit our newest Borealis vs Jester comparison.
The North Face Jester and Borealis are great choices if you are looking for a versatile daypack for daily use and travel. But what’s the difference? And is the Borealis worth the higher price?
Not long ago we did a North Face Recon vs Borealis comparison where we explored the critical differences between those two popular backpacks. Here we do a similar North Face Jester vs Borealis hands-on comparison and take a closer look at materials, pockets and more to find out which is the better choice.
The North Face Jester
The North Face Borealis
|19.5″ H x 13.5″ W x 8″ D
|19.5″ H x 14.5″ W x 8″ D
|28 Liters (Mens)
27 Liters (Womens)
|15″ laptop sleeve in main compartment
|Seperate 15″ laptop compartment
|Fleece Lined Pocket
|Check the latest price on Amazon
|Check the latest price on Amazon
Men’s vs Women’s North Face Backpacks
We used the women’s versions of both the Jester and Borealis for this backpack comparison. If you are looking to purchase a men’s North Face backpack please note this comparison will still apply.
Key differences between men’s and women’s North Face backpacks:
- Men’s North Face backpacks have larger back panels and wider shoulder straps to accommodate broader shoulders. This is the biggest difference.
- The men’s version of the North Face Borealis has a 28 liter carrying capacity while the women’s version is 27 liters. Both the men’s and women’s version of the Jester are 28 liters.
- The men’s version of the Borealis has a wider front elastic bungee system and includes daisy chains. The women’s Borealis does not include daisy chains.
- All pockets and compartments are exactly the same in both the men’s and women’s version.
The north face jester vs borealis Side-By-Side
Carrying Capacity and Size
Let’s begin by taking a closer look at the size and capacity of both the North Face Jester and Borealis. We were surprised to find that both backpacks are actually near identical in size despite the different measurements posted on the official North Face product pages.
Both men’s versions of the backpack have an identical 28-liter carrying capacity (while the women’s Borealis has a smaller 27 liter capacity).
The measurements on the official North Face website aren’t always accurate so we went ahead and measured these two backpacks ourselves. Both the Jester and Borealis are near-identical in terms of measurements with the Borealis being slightly larger.
Materials and Construction Comparison
Although the materials used on each backpack depends on the color, the North Face Borealis uses a mix of nylon materials while the Jester uses polyester.
At first glance, you won’t see much of a difference between the two backpacks but upon closer inspection you’ll notice that the materials on the Borealis look and feel much nicer than the polyester used on the Jester.
Another construction difference worth noting is that the Borealis uses YKK zippers while the Jester uses cheaper SBS zippers. YKK is a Japanese brand known for their smooth, durable and high quality zippers. While SBS is a newer Chinese zipper brand that has yet to establish a similar reputation. Many backpack brands use SBS zipper because they are cheaper yet still offer a good quality zipper.
Pocket and Compartment Comparison
Some of the biggest differences between the Jester and Borealis is with their pockets and compartments with the most striking difference being in the laptop storage.
The North Face Jester places its laptop storage in the form of a padded sleeve inside the main compartment while the Borealis features a separate padded laptop compartment that can be found against the back panel.
Both backpacks can accommodate a laptop up to 15-inches but the Borealis backpack compartment has more room since it spans the entire width and height of the backpack. The Borealis also has more depth than the Jester’s single sleeve and can accommodate a thicker laptop.
A similarity that both the Jester and Borealis share is the front organizer compartment. Both backpacks include small slip pockets for things like pens, a phone and other small items. Where they differ however is that the Borealis includes a small fleece lined pocket for a phone or glasses while the Jester does not.
The Borealis also has a larger slip pocket to accommodate a tablet. Although the Jester features a similar slip pocket, it does not provide enough room to store a full sized iPad. You might be able to get away with using this pocket to store a small 8-inch tablet but it’s clear that the Jester was not designed with tablet storage in mind.
On the front of the Borealis you will also find a separate fleece-lined pocket for quick access to a phone or sunglasses. Unfortunately the Jester does not include any fleece-lined pockets and phone or sunglasses storage will have to be regulated to another part of the backpack.
The last pockets to compare are the side pockets that can be used for water bottles or umbrellas. Here is where the difference between the Jester’s use of polyester and the Borealis’ use of nylon becomes very apparent.
The side pockets on the Borealis are made out of a soft and stretchy mesh that hugs whatever is placed inside the pocket. This makes holding water bottles very secure and when the side pockets are not in use they snap back into place to hug the backpack’s body.
The side pockets on the Jester are made out of a rougher polyester mesh that isn’t stretchy at all. The only thing keeping your water bottle in place is an elastic band on top. One con we can think of is that the Jester will have trouble accommodating larger water bottles since the mesh is one size and does not stretch.
When it comes to Jester vs Borealis pocket placement it’s a clear win for the Borealis. Not only does it include more carry options but small details like the fleece lined pockets and stretch nylon side pockets give the Borealis an edge as a daily use backpack.
Elastic Bungee System
One common feature between the Jester and Borealis is the elastic bungee system that allows you to attach oversized items to the front of each backpack. We found that the bungee system on the Jester to be smaller and more restrictive than the one on the Borealis.
This is due to the bungee on the Jester taking up less area space on the front of the backpack causing items to not be as secure when attached. The Jester also has a choke point at the bottom of the bungee that restricts the size of items you can attach to the bungee. The elastic bungee system on the Borealis is not only larger but much easier to use.
Jester vs Borealis: Similar Features
The North Face Jester and Borealis share a few key features that you have come to expect from North Face backpacks. One of these features is the FlexVent Suspension System and injection molded shoulder straps. Both backpacks share a similar shoulder straps design and feel about the same when worn.
The North Face also equips both the Jester and Borealis with padded mesh back panels. In the women’s versions you will see a different back panel design on the Borealis. But the men’s versions of the Borealis and Jester share the same back panel design.
Missing Features on the Jester
One comfort and fit feature that is missing on the Jester is the removable waist belt. Waist belts help redistribute the backpack’s weight from your shoulders to your hip and can come in handy when the backpack is full of heavy items.
And finally, the Borealis includes side compression straps that are completely missing on the Jester. Compression straps are always a good feature to have as they allow you to control the depth of your backpack when it’s not full.
It’s the omission of small features like a waist belt and compression straps that can account for the Jester’s cheaper price. Along with the cheaper materials and zippers, it can be argued that the Jester nothing more than a stripped down Borealis. You get many of the same features but sacrifice the small details that are common in the North Face’s premium line of backpacks.
Which Backpack is Better?
The North Face Jester
The North Face Borealis
Choose the North Face Jester if… you are on a budget and are looking for an entry level North Face backpack. The Jester is essentially a stripped down Borealis and you will get a lot of the same features for a lower price. They both have integrated elastic bungee systems, a great organizer compartment and are about the same size. If you can live without features like compression straps and a dedicated laptop compartment then the Borealis is a good choice.
Choose the North Face Borealis if… you want the premium backpack experience The North Face is known for. Premium materials and small features such as a hip belt, fleece lined pockets and a larger elastic bungee system will give you a better carry experience. And let’s not forget the separate laptop compartment that is perfect for anyone with an expensive laptop or a laptop that isn’t super thin. You’ll get more room and more laptop protection with the North Face Borealis.
People also want to know
Which is better borealis or Jester?
Although both the Jester and Borealis have a similar main compartment capacity, the Borealis is the larger of the two and has a bigger footprint. You can expect the Borealis to be wider and stick out more from the bottom when worn. In comparison, the Jester offers a slimmer fit that doesn’t stick out as much.
Is the Jester or Borealis backpack bigger?
Both packs are very close in size and volume, with the Jester checking in at 18.75 x 14 x 7 inches and 26L, and the Borealis a little bit more narrow at 18.75 x 12.5 x 8 inches, and a touch less volume at 25L.
What’s the difference between The North Face backpacks?
Men’s North Face backpacks have larger back panels and wider shoulder straps to accommodate broader shoulders. This is the biggest difference. The men’s version of the North Face Borealis has a 28 liter carrying capacity while the women’s version
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