Last Updated: June 3, 2021

The North Face Router Backpack Review: Commute & Travel

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North Face Router Backpack

The North Face Router is a great commuter and travel backpack. But, with three different compartments, with lots of pockets and attachment points, this is one of those backpacks that you can use for pretty much anything you want. View Latest Deal

The North Face Router is a versatile everyday and travel backpack. It has all the features you need in an everyday pack, and then a few more that you want in an awesome travel backpack. But that’s just the beginning.

When you scratch the surface, you’ll see that this pack is actually much more versatile than it appears. It’s one of those all-in-one bags that you can buy, and be set for backpacks for the next several years.

If that sounds good, you’ll love everything else you read in this detailed review. Scroll down to find out about all the awesome features of the Router backpack, and see if it’s just what you’re looking for!

Product Rating

88Overall Rating
Materials And Durability
10/10
Comfort
8/10
Storage And Organization
10/10
Versatility
8/10
Value for Money
8/10

Product Information

  • Dimensions: 21” x 13.75” x 8”
  • Weight: 3lbs 4.91oz
  • Laptop Sleeve Dimensions: 12.25” x 13.25”
  • Capacity: 35 liters
  • Compartments: 3 total; main compartment, laptop compartment, front compartment with organizer panel
  • Laptop Sleeve: TSA friendly laptop compartment fits 17” laptops; padded for shock absorption
  • Backpanel And Harness: FlexVent suspension system in backpanel and harness; thick foam padding and breathable mesh for ventilation
  • Pockets: 7 total (not including the organizer panel); 2 side pockets; 2 vertical zippered pockets; 1 fleece-lined external pocket; 1 inside main compartment; 1 inside front compartment
  • Compression Straps: 2 total, 1 on each side

Materials And Durability

The North Face Router, TNF Black, OS

The Router is a backpack designed for travel and daily commute. To be considered a good backpack for both those purposes, it needs to be made from very durable materials. Something that can handle daily wear and tear without showing any signs.

And to be a good travel backpack, it needs to be carry-on sized. So, before we start talking about the features of the pack, let’s see what you can expect from its size and materials.

The North Face Router backpack is made from 500D Cordura Nylon Matte Ripstop. This is a great material for backpacks, because it is very durable. It is pretty thick, and it has great tear-resistance – it will take a lot of effort to start seeing any rips in your backpack. Which is pretty important for an everyday backpack that you plan to wear often.

In addition to being sturdy, this material is also water-resistant without any additional coating. And that is pretty important, considering this is also a laptop backpack – if you’re carrying lots of electronics in your pack, you want it to be water-resistant.

Another thing worth mentioning is the actual size of the backpack. With a height of 21”, the Router will easily pass as a carry-on, which is pretty important for travel backpacks. In addition to that, the overall capacity of this pack is such that you can easily fit your in-transit must-haves inside it, and still have extra space in the pack.

As an everyday backpack, it has plenty of space for all your everyday necessities, in the three large compartments. Actually, there’s so much space in the pack that you’ll need to use those compression straps frequently, to ensure that you stay comfortable when the Router is not completely full.

And it is also an amazing travel backpack. The TSA-friendly laptop compartment is a must, and it allows you to just breeze through those checkpoints. You can easily fit all the in-transport necessities in this pack, and even clothing for a couple of days. Because of that, the Router is also a good choice for an overnight/weekend bag – the capacity is perfect for short trips, and it has so many different pockets that organizing your items will be effortless.

One downside to this backpack is that there are no size or color options. It is available only in Taupe Green, and only in the 35-liter size. However, this is actually one of the largest North Face backpacks – if you need all that extra space, I think you will really like it.

Comfort

The North Face Router Backpack Review

An everyday backpack needs to feel comfortable on your back, otherwise, you definitely won’t wear it every day. The good news is that the Router is a pretty comfortable backpack – it’s even endorsed by the ACA.

And you can see for yourself in this section.

The North Face Router backpack has the FlexVent suspension system and backpanel. FlexVent is one of their newer technologies, which ensures that you stay comfortable even when you’re carrying the pack for prolonged periods of time.

The backpanel is heavily padded so that the contents of the pack won’t poke you in the back. This is especially useful because the laptop is in the compartment that’s touching your back, and with little padding, it would feel stiff and uncomfortable.

The backpanel consists of spaced-out foam ridges, which are covered with breathable mesh. This allows the air to circulate between the ridges and ensures that you won’t sweat as much with the Router on your shoulders. And the mesh allows your back to breathe, ensuring that you stay cool (and dry) through your adventures.

But, the lower part of the backpanel is not covered with mesh, so there’s a chance that you will sweat in that area.

Shoulder Straps

The North Face Router Backpack Review

The FlexVent suspension system also includes shoulder straps. They are ergonomically shaped so that they really follow the contours of your body. And they feature the same materials as the backpanel – thick padding and breathable mesh.

To ensure your carrying comfort, you will need to adjust the shoulder straps properly. You should tighten them until there is no space between the backpanel and your back, to ensure proper weight distribution.  Both straps are adjustable, so this should be fairly easy to do.

Endorsed By The ACA

If you have any doubts about the comfort of the backpack, then the ACA endorsement should wipe them all away.

The American Chiropractic Association only endorses products that are high quality, and which are guaranteed to be comfortable and supportive on your back. In fact, most North Face packs are endorsed by the ACA, so pretty much any one of them is a good option if comfort is your primary concern.

The Router sports a lumbar panel and a spine channel on the backpanel, for maximum support and carrying comfort. That, in addition to the FlexVent suspension system, ensures that you will be comfortable and pain-free whenever you’re wearing this backpack.

Sternum Strap

This backpack is equipped with an adjustable sternum strap like you would expect. It keeps the shoulder straps in place and ensures that you stay comfortable while you’re walking around with some 40lbs on your back.

The sternum strap also helps transfer the load away from your shoulders, so I recommend you use it as often as you can. Plus, this is a necessity if you’re going to engage in any sporty activities that require you to move around a lot.

One thing that is really cool about the sternum strap is that it doubles as an emergency whistle. So, if you’re ever in a situation where you need to draw attention to yourself rather quickly, the Router allows you to do that in just a few seconds.

The Hipbelt

The Router backpack features a pretty basic hipbelt in the form of a thin webbing strap. A hipbelt is important in larger backpacks because it helps transfer the weight of the pack away from your shoulders and onto your hips – the largest muscles in your body.

The North Face Router Backpack Review

This ensures that your back and shoulders don’t feel sore when you’re carrying 30lbs+ on them for hours at a time. The hipbelt is removable, but you shouldn’t take it off when your backpack is at full capacity.

I’m not really impressed by the hipbelt of the Router backpack. It’s very thin, and it’s not exactly too comfortable. I prefer to see padded hipbelts that actually hug your hips because they are much more comfortable on your body. But, considering that the capacity of the Router is not too big, I guess the webbing strap will do.

Haul Handles

The North Face Router Backpack Review

The Router features two haul handles, which is pretty great for a travel backpack. There’s one on the top that’s pretty standard for any backpack, but there’s also an additional haul handle on the front of the backpack.

This allows you to pick it up quickly and easily – great when going through TSA checkpoints and you just want to be as quick as possible.

Both haul handles are sewn into the backpack, so they are very sturdy and can handle a lot of weight. They are also padded so that they feel comfortable in your hand.

Storage And Organization

The North Face Router Backpack Review

The Router backpack is an everyday/travel backpack. A common feature of such backpacks is a great organization, meaning lots of pockets, multiple compartments, and attachment points.

In this section, you can see exactly which organizational features this backpack has.

The Main Compartment

The Router backpack features a front-loading main compartment. It’s just in between the laptop and the front compartments, and it’s very spacious. You can fit all your everyday necessities inside it, thanks to the generous capacity.

If you’re looking at this pack for travel, you’ll be glad to know that you can easily fit a couple of days’ worth of clothes inside this compartment. And if you’re thinking of getting this pack for school, you’ll find that you can easily fit your books and notebooks here.

This compartment is designed for all the larger and bulkier items you want to carry around; you will see that you have quite a lot of space for all your smaller necessities in the front compartment of the pack.

In addition to that, you also get a medium-sized zippered pocket inside the main compartment. Perfect for any smaller items that would otherwise wind up at the very bottom of these compartments.

TSA Friendly Laptop Compartment

The Router backpack has a TSA-friendly laptop compartment, which is pretty much a must for a good travel backpack. The compartment lies flat when unzipped and allows you to get through TSA checkpoints very fast. So, this is not only very convenient for travel, but it also ensures that your laptop is easily accessible at all times.

The laptop compartment can fit a 17” laptop, which is pretty great. Most similar backpacks can only fit a 15” laptop – if you’re looking for something larger, the Router is an awesome choice.

The North Face Router Backpack Review

In addition to that, this compartment is padded for great shock absorption. In case you drop your backpack accidentally, your laptop should not feel a thing. And the sleeve in this compartment where you actually put the laptop is lined with fleece.

That’s great because it further protects your computer, but also because it ensures the laptop won’t slip out when you unzip this compartment at the TSA checkpoint.

The Front Compartment

The Router features a zippered front compartment with an organizer panel. If it’s important for you that a backpack allows you to organize your smaller items, you will love this compartment.

Let’s start with its most important feature – the fleece-lined tablet sleeve. It is large enough to fit a basic iPad (or any 10-11” tablet), but it won’t be able to fit anything larger. This will be an issue if you travel with a larger tablet since you will need to squeeze it either in the main compartment or in the laptop compartment. And there are no pockets large enough for a 12-13” tablet in the backpack.

There’s also a fleece-lined media pocket in this compartment. It’s just the right size for your phone, and it can actually fit most of the newer huge smartphones. But I honestly think that it’s not such a useful feature – don’t most of us carry our phone in our pants pockets? Or our hands?

The North Face Router Backpack Review

Anyway, it’s just a fleece-lined slip pocket – you don’t actually have to use it for your phone. There’s also another one of these pockets right next to the tablet sleeve, but it is very narrow. You can fit a snack inside it, and honestly not much else.

Then there’s also the zippered pocket on the organizer panel. It’s pretty wide and deep – a great size for your passport and plane/train tickets.

The organizer panel also features three more slip pockets. One is right next to the media pocket, and there are two more below. The lower slip pockets are made from mesh, and they’re great for your cables, earphones, jewelry, and any similar small items you would want to keep organized.

You also get a couple of stretchy pen holders on the side – pretty useful if you want to use this backpack for school/work.

The North Face Router Backpack Review

The last pocket inside this compartment is the zippered mesh pocket. It’s not on the organizer panel, but rather on the cover of the compartment. This pocket is bigger than all the other zip pockets in the front compartment – the perfect size for all your cables and chargers. And because it is made from mesh, you can easily see everything inside it and grab what you need quickly.

Stretch Side Pockets

The backpack is equipped with two stretch pockets on the sides. They are made from Teksever fabric, which is durable, stretchy, and easily hides the contents of these pockets.

The North Face Router Backpack Review

These are actually called water bottle pockets, so it’s pretty obvious what they are designed for. However, you can actually use them for lots of other items – even some bulkier items that you don’t want to pack in the other compartments.

A tripod is the first thing that comes to mind – with the compression straps above the stretch pockets, you can safely secure a tripod inside one of them. This not only gives you more space inside the main compartments but also makes any items in the side pockets much more easily accessible.

Vertical Zippered Pockets

The North Face Router Backpack Review

The front panel of the backpack features two vertical zippered pockets, one of which is lined with fleece. They don’t have a huge capacity, but they are rather useful for any items you want to have handy. Or anything you want to keep separate from the items inside the other compartments. Perfect for train or plane tickets, maps, city passes, and similar travel necessities.

Just keep in mind that these are actually two pockets – they don’t merge into one in the middle. This means you can’t use them to put away jackets or hoodies, and you can’t really put anything bulky inside them.

Fleece-Lined Sunglasses Pocket

The North Face Router Backpack Review

Just above the face haul handle, there’s a fleece-lined pocket. It’s designed to be a sunglasses pocket – the fleece keeps them safe and ensures that they won’t get accidentally scratched.

Fleece-lined pockets are also great for your smaller electronics, and pretty much all items that you want to ensure are protected when you’re not using them. However, due to the position of the pocket, I wouldn’t really dare put my cell phone inside it. Especially if you’re roaming around the streets of an unknown city.

Side Compression Straps

The Router is equipped with two side compression straps. They are adjustable, which allows you to easily cinch in the backpack whenever it’s not at full capacity.

This is very important because it makes the backpack much easier to carry on your shoulders. Plus, it helps a bit when you’re traveling – tighten up the backpack as much as you can, to ensure it will fit easily into the overhead compartment of an airplane.

The North Face Router Backpack Review

In addition to that, the compression straps add some versatility to the pack. They allow you to put some longer items in the side pockets and secure them in place with the compression straps.

The compression straps go over the laptop and the main compartments, so they also act as a safety feature. If you make sure that the zipper pullers are below the straps. There’s no way someone could open up one of those compartments without you noticing.

Versatility

The Router is already versatile – it’s both an everyday and a travel backpack. But could you use it for other adventures — say take it on a hike? Or bring it along when you go camping?

The answer is yes. And the features you read about in this section explain why.

Bike Light Loop

The North Face Router Backpack Review

The Router features a 360-degree reflective bike-light loop on the front of the backpack. This is a feature that is commonly seen on biking backpacks, as it allows you to attach an LED light to the pack.

This helps you stay visible in the dark, and it’s actually a really useful feature if you tend to ride your bike often. The loop is at the bottom of the front panel, and it will not interfere with any of your other gear.

Shoulder Strap Webbing

The North Face Router Backpack Review

The Router has a couple of spots where you can attach bulkier gear. There are two webbing loops, one on each shoulder strap, which you can use for pretty much anything you want if you have a carabiner.

However, this isn’t really a comfortable option, since whatever you attach here will bump you in the chest while you’re walking around. So, avoid using these attachment points for really heavy gear and anything that could actually hurt you. Instead, you can get a bit creative and attach that to the very front of the backpack.

Front Haul Handle

The front haul handle is actually a pretty versatile part of the backpack. Sure, it’s a handle, but you can also use it for attaching bulky gear with a carabiner. Or you can use it to stash away your jacket or hoodie – just pull it through the haul handle, and it should stay in place.

This is the perfect sport for any gear that is really heavy or bulky, as it won’t bother you while you’re moving around with the Router on your back. And, because the handle is very sturdy, it can hold items that are pretty heavy without any issues.

Space For Trekking Poles

Even though the Router doesn’t have attachment points specifically for trekking poles, that doesn’t mean that there’s no space on it for them – you just have to get a little creative.

On the Router, you could easily store them in one of the stretch side pockets. They are big enough that you can the poles inside them, and thanks to the compression straps, the poles will stay in place. This is actually similar to what you see on some proper hiking backpacks (usually by Osprey), and it is a system that works.

Versatility Of Use

I think it is safe to say that the Router is a very versatile backpack. It has a lot of different pockets – both external and internal – and that is one of the crucial features of a versatile pack.

You can use those pockets for whatever you like, regardless of what they’re called or intended for. And for me, that’s one of the main things that makes a backpack versatile. It means that you can use it for whatever purpose you want, and organize the items you need at that time in a way that suits you best.

And the Router allows that. It makes a great travel backpack, because of its carry-on size and TSA-friendly laptop compartment.

It also makes an awesome everyday pack, because it has a lot of pockets, it’s comfortable to wear and it can fit everything you would need on a daily basis.

But who’s to say that you can’t wear it on a hike or on a camping trip? You will still be comfortable, and you have enough pockets and compartments that you can fit most of the hiking equipment you need.  

So, if you’re just looking for a backpack that’s good for lots of different purposes, I think you will be happy with the North Face Router.

Value For Money

The North Face Router, TNF Black, OS

Whether or not a backpack is worth your money is a very individual thing. It depends on a few different things, which differ from pack to pack.

With the Router, the questions you need to ask yourself are how often are you going to use it, and what do you want to use it for?

The Router is designed to be a very versatile backpack. It can be used for school, work, travel, daily commute, and even for some outdoor activities. And if that is how you plan to use the backpack, then I think it’s worth every penny without a doubt.

Here’s the thing – you could easily spend hundreds of dollars buying backpacks for different purposes. The Router is a replacement for all of those – even though it’s not exactly cheap, it’s still much cheaper to buy just one backpack than three different ones.

In addition to that, the actual value you get out of this backpack also depends on your budget. If you’re okay with the Router’s price, then it will be much easier for you to get your money’s worth out of this North Face pack. But if you’re on a really tight budget and you find this pack to be expensive, then getting your money’s worth won’t be that easy.

Especially because this backpack doesn’t come with lots of accessories. And that is one downside – it’s easier to talk about value for money when you’re getting $100 worth of equipment and accessories with a backpack. That is not the case with the Router; you’re only getting the pack and nothing else.

And because of that, the value of this pack is very individual. But, for someone who needs a really versatile backpack, this is without a doubt one of the best things they could buy. They will be able to use it for several years, thanks to the pack’s sturdy build. And because of the amazing organizational features and the overall versatility of the pack, they won’t even need another bag for a really long time.

Overall, if your definition of value for money is getting a backpack and lots of smaller bits and pieces, then you won’t get your money’s worth with the Router. But if you are happy to get value out of it by wearing it nearly every day for years to come, then it’s definitely going to be worth it for you.

The North Face Router: Final Impressions

The North Face is a brand known for its high-quality products. Their backpacks are no exception – all of them are very well made, and most of them are endorsed by the American Chiropractic Association. The Router backpack is no exception here – with the FlexVent suspension system and thick padding in both the harness and the backpanel, it is going to be one of the most comfortable backpacks you ever wear.

But that’s not the only reason I love this pack. I’m actually much more impressed by how versatile it is. With three different compartments, a myriad of pockets, and a couple of attachment points, this is one of those backpacks that you can use for pretty much anything you want.

The TSA-friendly laptop compartment and the carry-on size make this your perfect travel companion. The different compartments, pockets, and most importantly the organizer panel in the front-most compartment, make this an amazing option for the everyday commute. You have plenty of space for your daily gear, and you can organize all of it however you like.

All the different attachment points and the versatility of some of the pockets of the pack allow you to take the Router into the woods and not worry about a thing. The backpack is even water-resistant without a rain cover or any additional coating, thanks to the sturdy Nylon it is made of.

The North Face Router, TNF Black, OS
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The North Face Router, TNF Black, OS
  • LARGE BACKPACK. Our largest pack, The Router, has a 40 liter capacity, water-repellency and can fit laptops up to 17". It also has a sought-after endorsement from the American Chiropractic Association (ACA).
  • FLEX VENT TECHNOLOGY. The FlexVent suspension system, certified by the ACA, features a flexible yoke built from custom injection-molded and shoulder straps, a padded mesh back and a lumbar panel for comfortable, ventilated support.

Overall, if you’re looking for an all-in-one backpack, I think you will truly love the Router. Head over to Amazon to see the price, and order it while you still can – it’s sold out completely on The North Face’s official site.

But if you’re not that impressed by this pack, don’t worry. I have some other backpacks in mind, which you might like a lot more than this one. Check out our related posts to see detailed reviews of those packs!