I bought the Surge II about a month ago, and so far it has been excellent. I was searching for the hugest backpack I could find that would still look nice, and this one has worked out perfectly. It fits all of school stuff, which usually consists of 2 large textbooks, 5 smaller books, 4 notebooks, my 13" Mac in a case, food, water bottle, keys, money, first aid kit, stress ball, extra socks, etc. The middle pocket has a really convenient pen/pencil/marker organizer, and I really like the nice little small pocket at the top for my phone and chapstick. Even though it's heavy with all that stuff, it doesn't hurt to carry around all day. It's pretty much the best backpack ever.
As a college student, I hate having to look for sturdy bags at discount stores - none of them last, none of them are designed for having to carry your books on your back for 12 hour days. This one is. The quality is typical North Face - outstanding. They've thought of everything - there's a laptop compartment, beau coup book room in another section, and a third section that's compartmentalized for pens, phone, etc. The sternum strap is adjustable; important for a female. The back is ventilated and padded, and the shoulder straps are heavy-duty. I am incredibly pleased with this bag.
I mainly picked out this bag because of the dedicated laptop compartment, the daisy chain to clip on a bunch of gear, and the easily-accessible, lined top pocket. I also appreciate the fact that they put a stretchy, zippered compartment on the side of the bag where another bottle holder would normally be found. I mean, how often are you really carrying around two bottles? I don't see myself using the waist straps and I like the fact that they can be tucked away behind the back panel padding. Tons of storage on the inside and has cushioning on the bottom of the laptop compartment to absorb any shock when you drop your bag on the ground. Very well designed!
First off, this pack has lots of pockets. The one closest to your back can hold up to a 17 inch laptop and a 15 inch with ease. The second (the largest) pocket holds a down jacket, plus a rain jacket and a multitude of items. The third pocket, though not as large, is equally as important, carrying a GPS, Compass, map, etc. One pocket on the bottom holds an ultralite jacket or rain cover, the water bottle pockets hold water bottles plus non-important items. This pack is built like a tank. The high denier materials are bomber and withstand sil-nylon tearing branches, loose pencils on the inside poking at the exterior and such things.
It easily fits my Dell Studio XPS 16 in the laptop compartment. There is another large pocket which can hold several books at a time. There is also a rather large pocket that is divided which is good for holding small electronics and pens and pencils and other smaller items. I also have used it in the Adirondacks. I climbed up 4 of the high peaks and had no problems whatsoever. But, one is that there is no designated hole for the hose of a hydration bladder, not a big deal. The other is that the water bottle holders do not hold the wide-mouth 32 oz Nalgene bottles. I use it almost everyday and it seems very durable and reliable and I would highly recommend it!