REVIEWED: Boundary Prima System modular travel backpack

Why have separate bags for the office, for travel and for photography? This brilliantly designed modular backpack that handles all three is a heavyweight option

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How many different bags and backpacks do you have? If you’re anything like TravGear, you’ve got one bag to take to work, one for short overnight trips, one for longer vacations, and another for photography gear. What if you could just have one bag that did everything? A modular bag that could be split apart and put back together in different ways depending on what activity you are doing, and what your destination was? Cue Boundary’s Prima System, a modular travel backpack with some seriously big ambitions.

Boundary Prima System: design

The concept of a modular travel bag is here built around three sections; the 22-litre capacity Prima Backpack – a Mojave Tan-colored tough canvas-look fabric backpack – a Verge Case for storing a large camera and a couple of lenses, and a Fieldspace slip for storing office essentials. There’s also a new fourth section available separately, the MK-1 Case, specifically for photographers. Let’s look at those three sections in turn (see our separate review of the MK-1).

Boundary Prima System: Prima Backpack exterior

Although it can be used as a regular backpack for all kinds of purposes, there’s something naturally outdoorsy about the Prima backpack. Firstly, it’s got a roll-up top, which is often found on bags purporting to be extremely waterproof (as this bag does). However, there are plenty of nice touches for urbanites. On the top of that roll-up lid is a pouch that holds a magnetically attached keyring and lots of room for accessories, and another magnetically closed soft pouch for storing sunglasses. When the roll-up top is rolled out, the whole bag opens right down the middle of its chest, just like a holdall or suitcase, making it easy to get at its contents.

Boundary Prima System: Prima Backpack interior

Accessed at the rear of the bag’s top is a laptop sleeve that can take a 17-inch laptop slightly suspended, while in the main compartment is a pouch that appears to be there to store a water bladder for hikes, though there’s nowhere to feed the tube to the wearer. That’s a missed opportunity. On one side of the main compartment is a U-shaped opening for extracting a camera, while on the other is an elasticated pocket for storing a 32 ounce water bottle. Presumably this is where a tripod can also be stored, though it’s a shame a choice has to be made. Naturally, there’s also a section to store a waterproof cover for the whole bag.

Boundary Prima System: Verge Case

On first look, the Verge Case looks to be too small for a DSLR camera and a couple of lenses, as the makers promise it has room for. However, on further investigation a zip around the bottom of the bag expands its capacity by a third. It’s lid has a couple of mesh pockets for storing SD cards and spare batteries, while in the bag itself some flaps drop-down to create a false floor that cuts the bag in half. The only problem is that the drop-down expandable area is lined with rather flimsy material, so it’s not terribly protective. If you do put a couple of lenses in here, be sure they’re already in a protective lens case. The Verge Case then slips into the side and three of the main Prima backpack, and poppers into position. It’s clever stuff, but it gets better; the waist belt for the main backpack can be extracted and used as a shoulder strap for the Verge Case. Ingenious!

Boundary Prima System: Fieldspace

We’re not convinced Fieldspace isn’t a module too far. It’s here to add an office dimension to the system; it’s an A4-sized insert able to carry papers, or an iPad, with two mesh pockets for storing cables and earphones, and some slots for putting pens and other accessories. Fieldspace then inserts into the main backpack, in front of the laptop, again via a nice magnetic buckle. Granted, without Fieldspace the PrimaBackpack does lack places to store small items, but having to extract it for use in an office does seem like over-thinking things.

Boundary Prima System: build quality

OK, here goes: the Boundary Prima System features the best craftsmanship and attention to detail we’ve ever seen in a backpack, but that comes with a downside. The bag uses magnetic auto-lock buckles, which are an absolute joy to use, and all zips are completely waterproof and hard wearing. The various modular parts use not only magnetic clasps to keep them in place, but also poppers, while the roll top enclosure fixes using delicious magnetic buckles. It’s also got a few loops and clasps for attaching other things. The only issue we have with all that is weight.

Boundary Prima System: conclusion

Despite all of that undeniable usability and versatility, the fact remains that the Boundary Prima System is heavy. Even when completely empty, the main Prima Backpack is heavy. Is the Prima System over-engineered? Perhaps so, and there are some features that could be abandoned. For example, the RFID-proof build surely has zero appeal to most outdoor types (it seems more like a selling point than something people actually need), so that might be something to think about on Prima System 2.0. As would the luggage pass-through, a feature that few people use and that may add some bulk. However, it’s the laptop section that could be soften-up a bit; yes, we want to protect our laptops, but it’s needlessly rigid.

That said, we applaud Boundary for designing such an interesting product, and also for ensuring its build quality is second-to-none. In our journey to find the perfect all-round travel bag, the Boundary Prima System has made a fascinating stop.

Price as reviewed: US$219.99

Buy the Boundary Prima System

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