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Lifewire / Zach Sweat
Great fit, excellent weight distribution
Good option for bikers with added features
Lightweight build with lots of space
Laptop compartment is cramped for bigger and thicker 15-inch laptops
No included rain cover or water resistance
Lacks organization for smaller gear, floating around freely
The North Face Pivoter proves that a no-frills approach to comfortable and simplistic backpacks stand the test of time despite lacking some accessories or options of more expensive alternatives.
The North Face has made backpacks since the 1960s, so they know a thing or two about creating quality gear for consumers. With their Pivoter backpack, The North Face proves once again that their background in backpacking and hiking equipment works well both on and off the trail. The Pivoter is another solid option for those on the hunt for their next laptop backpack, especially if you’re seeking something lightweight and simple.
The general vibe of the Pivoter is in line with most other North Face backpacks, fusing the style of the more rugged outdoors and hiking elements into the bag. While it looks like something you might see on a hiking trail, it’s toned down just enough to fit in whether you’re on the way to the gym or heading into the office. That said, there are a lot of funky color combinations for the Pivoter, including bright aqua blues and vivid reds and oranges, so you may want to avoid those for a professional setting.
While not chock-full of extra accessories or features, the Pivoter features a few reflectors for added visibility at night and a bike-light loop for those who commute via bicycle. Also on the outside of the bag are two water bottle pockets that are a great size. They’ll fit just about any bottle you want to carry, and it’s also perfect for carrying your coffee to work and a protein shake or water for your workout after. On the front of the pack is your typical small pocket with lots of small organizers for little things you need convenient access to.
With their Pivoter backpack, The North Face proves once again that their background in backpacking and hiking equipment works well both on and off the trail.
If you plan to use a backpack for both the office and the gym, you’ll want something that keeps your gross gym clothes away from your work stuff. The Pivoter does a great job of this thanks to the two large compartments, letting you stow your gym shoes, clothes, and towel separately from any electronics. The largest one rests against your back and holds the laptop compartment. The laptop sleeve here is just okay. It claims to hold up to a 15-inch laptop, but anything thicker than a MacBook will be tough or impossible to get in there.
The padding is also not great, and we’d be worried about any serious drops or bumps, especially compared to some competitors. Near the sleeve, you’ll find more small organizers for pens and other items, and a nice-sized pocket with a Velcro top that’s perfect at keeping books, documents or other sensitive paper products safe from becoming crushed.
Comfort is an area you’d expect a company like The North Face to excel in, and in this case, you’d be right. The mixture of hiking elements and commuter needs blends perfectly here. Thanks to the well-padded shoulder straps, vents to keep your back cool, and the added sternum straps, this backpack stays comfortable loaded to the brim, no matter how long your commute is. We tested the pack with a typical load you’d expect to carry while heading to the gym and office, and it never weighed us down or caused discomfort.
Thanks to the well-padded shoulder straps, vents to keep your back cool, and the added sternum straps, this backpack stays comfortable loaded to the brim, no matter how long your commute is.
The Pivoter is constructed from fairly durable polyester with quality zippers and materials throughout. While it might not be the most rugged pack on the market, it’ll easily hold up under normal day-to-day use. Thanks to The North Face’s lifetime warranty on all their backpacks, even if you run into some issues down the road, they’ll have your back.
One major thing to consider here is the lack of any water resistance or rain cover included. This is something that most competitors feature now, so it’s a little disappointing. You can, however, purchase a rain cover on The North Face’s website, but it comes with an added cost of $25.
The one gripe we have is that you’ll also need to get a rain cover for the Pivoter unless you plan to never get caught out in the weather.
Typically, you can find the Pivoter priced around the $60 to $80 range ($79 MSRP), making it a great option for a commuter bag that won’t break the bank. The competition for a laptop backpack like this is stiff these days, but there is definitely something to be said about The North Face’s longstanding quality and loyal customer base when making that decision. You also get their lifetime warranty, which is not something you’ll see around very much while comparing similar products.
The one gripe we have is that you’ll also need to get a rain cover for the Pivoter unless you plan to never get caught out in the weather. This additional $25 accessory pushes the bag into stiffer competition with similar bags around the $100 mark that may include extra features worth the jump.
The Pivoter has competition in the form of Patagonia’s Refugio Backpack. Similar in capacity (with a slight edge to the Refugio), style, looks, and price, these two packs might seem neck-in-neck, but the Refugio does have an advantage. It adds one key feature missing from the Pivoter—built-in water resistance without the need for additional accessories thanks to its polyurethane coating and finish. If you get caught in a downpour with your expensive laptop, it could just wind up saving you hundreds. Aside from that, the bag feels mostly the same with similar insides and organization. The warranties are also similar, so there’s no edge their either.
Want to take a look at some other options? Browse through our list of the best laptop backpacks on the market today.