What's the toughest, most functional laptop backpack that weighs the least?
January 11, 2011 10:39 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for a hyper-light, functional laptop backpack. It needs to be tough but very light at the same time. I need your help to find a brand and model that fits this description!

I use a 15" Macbook Pro. My current backpack I bought in January of 09' in an Apple Store. It's made by Wenger. While I can't find this particular model online anymore, it's most similar to this one: http://www.wengerna.com/transit-15-computer-backpack-12396

At the Apple Store website, perhaps oddly, not a single Wenger backpack is even listed anymore... no idea why.

I love this current Wenger backpack I have. It's built to last and has an excellent set of pockets and zippers and I love the quick-access pocket near the top. Its biggest problem by far and the reason that I'm looking for a replacement is its weight. The damn thing is really heavy. It's heavy even when it's completely empty! Once I put in a book or two, my Macbook Pro, its charger and the rest of the stuff I usually carry around, it simply gets heavier than I'd like.

The idea, then, is to find something similar in terms of functionality... except with the factor of weight front and center as the most important feature.


I searched the site but found nothing that helps me answer this specific question.

Thanks in advance!
posted by drunknmunky to Travel & Transportation (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I swear by my crumpler. It perfectly fits your criteria. They have a wide range of designs - from LSD-triptastic to academic grey. There should be something for you there.
posted by MighstAllCruckingFighty at 10:47 AM on January 11, 2011

Check out Tom Bihn. Their bags are fan-tas-tic.
posted by bearwife at 10:50 AM on January 11, 2011

And specifically take a look at the widget("Laptop Bag Fit Guide") that tells you which bags are best for particular laptops. For you it looks like The Buzz is a good fit. It weighs 1.6 lb.
posted by bearwife at 10:58 AM on January 11, 2011

How do you use the bag? That's probably the biggest concern, since (while I totally hear you on the weight thing) good design might help alleviate those issues a bit.

I'm not saying this because they both have the little Swiss Army logo, but my Victorinox Big Ben bag still looks brand new after nearly four years. (I also have a 15" MBP.) Now, of course, the name and size might lead it to be even worse than your Wenger bag, but they certainly have others from which to choose. You might try the Calderas, Corno or Park -- make sure you check out the regular backpacks, not just the ones listed as "laptop-ready." For the first couple years, I used mine as a grad school commuting bag; now it's great for weekend trips when I want to carry my laptop and stuff in my other clothes and shoes.
posted by Madamina at 11:11 AM on January 11, 2011

This was on sale not too long ago; the Timbuk2 Maverick. I cleaned mine in my bathtub and it was able to hold up to full capacity with water, and not leak. So if waterproof floats your boat, I'd get something of that sort. I use it to transport my 15 inch MBP as well, and I was looking for a messenger bag with similar characteristics.

Anybody know of a good laptop divider sleeve other than the Tom Bihn Horizontal Freudian Slip? I've been thinking about making my own out of silicone car floor mats, but I think it would be difficult to add heavy duty snaps.
posted by JesseBikman at 2:07 PM on January 11, 2011

While this Built NY laptop backpack isn't the toughest by any means, it's tough once you have it on, I suppose. It'll certainly amazingly light. And waterproof.

My husband has it in black and also in the orange (more like a bright red). It looks a bit like a bullet proof vest from the back.

You need to pick the appropriate size for your body.
posted by Dragonness at 2:32 PM on January 11, 2011

Hi all!

Terribly sorry I never got back to share my feedback with you all. Just after posting this life got busy as hell and stayed that way for a while!

Thanks very much for your helpful posts. I did check out your suggestions and definitely like some of the ideas here. My problem is that with something like a backpack, I definitely want to try it out before I buy. Ordering a backpack online seems extremely unwise unless you've already seen it in person. I want to show up with all my stuff and then take my would-be new backpack and put all my crap inside to try how it all fits. That's the best test I can give it before making a final decision.

And that's where the problem lies. While it's only logical that most, if not all of you, suggest brands that are most easily available in the US, I don't live there anymore. I live in Switzerland, so my access to these brands is limited. Not sure where I could find them, though I could try to find "dealer locator" information for each of the brands/products suggested.

I'm not sure any of the suggestions fit my "hyper-light" criterion. I really mean as light as humanly possible without sacrificing stability and ruggedness.

Thanks again for taking the time to help me out!
posted by drunknmunky at 9:44 AM on February 14, 2011

I looked through your suggestions. My comments follow.

Crumpler: Some very stylish packs here, I must admit. In particular, I like the Nhil Heist for its very extraordinary design. The King Single and the Salary Sacrifice also look like solid contenders. Noted!

Interest: High.

Tom Bihn: Using the "Laptop Bag Fit Guide", I chose the Unibody Macbook Pro 15" and end up with the selection linked to here. From browsing the company website and getting an impression of the people behind Tom Bihn and also checking out pictures and feature descriptions, I got the impression that these people take a lot of pride in their work. The products seem to be of far-above-average-quality and extremely well finished. That's an excellent start.
The Buzz is too minimal and small for my purposes.
The Checkpoint Flyer is not a backpack.
And the rest are just laptop cases! Something's wrong here.. Tom Bihn can't have just a single backpack designed to fit a 15" MBP. Perhaps a Synapse?
While Tom Bihn's bags make a very positive impression on me quality-wise, they're simply not very good looking IMHO. Especially compared to what's coming below.

Interest: Low.

Timbuk2: I love the company profile here. They've got humor and they mean business. Choice quotes:

"We make durable bags that are tough as Hell and built to last. So while our competition is piling up in landfills, we stay on your back, hugging you for a lifetime. Tales of Timbuk2 bags outlasting jobs, lovers, pets, and train wrecks are not uncommon. These stories give us the confidence to guarantee our bags will last a lifetime."

"The word "backpack" was coined around 1910 when some pioneer dude shot a bison or a deer and needed a way to get that sh*t home. If you ask us, that’s about the last time someone thought carrying a pack was cool. Wait no longer friends…"

Not for everyone... but I like this kind of down-to-earth language and their style in general. Having said that, the Swig Lightweight Xpac Backpack and the H.A.L. are my favorite models of theirs. They also have the best looking Messenger style bags I've seen yet.

I like their entire web presence. Timbuk2's "soul" jibes with me.

Last comment: I absolutely LOVE the idea of the "sling-around" design. Removing only one arm, swinging the backpack around by about 90 degrees on the other shoulder and being able to access most of the backpack's contents? Brilliant. I often need to get something out or put something in my packpack while walking... taking the pack off your back entirely for this is anything but convenient. This feature is a huge winner.

Interest: Very high.

Built NY: I only looked at one product here: the ingeniously named "Large Laptop Backpack". Here are some good pictures along with customer reviews.
The design of this thing is so new and fresh that I couldn't help but be intrigued. A backpack that looks like you're wearing a bulletproof west on your back? Tell me more.
It's built from very light materials and, because it hugs your body so tightly apparently distributes the weight very pleasantly. Those characteristics fit what I set out to find like a glove. Some further reading led me to conclude that because of this design, this pack is just too small. After a laptop and a book or two, I get the impression (from customer reviews and images) that this thing would be stuffed full. Its selection of pockets is also poor in direct comparison with some other products on this list.

Interest: None.

SEIZ: I'd be surprised if any one here had ever heard of this company. I never had until today. Ironically, I clicked some ad-link on the previously linked Amazon page for the Built pack.

These guys make exactly two backpacks, and even then the second is only an upgraded variation of the first. But it looks pretty damn awesome IMHO. It's visually appealing and seems to just be loaded with smart features and compartments. I'm not sure why, but it took a very short amount of time for me to get convinced that I want this pack. I was already on the final stages of the order process and when an additional VISA credit card check popped up asking me to provide my 11 digit credit card account number that's printed on the top of CC statements. Since I'm not home right now, I couldn't complete the order. So I kept looking.

Even though this is obviously a new and extremely specialized company, I fell for the design. Looks good, looks extremely well constructed and finished (judging by the high-res photos and the 3D dingus) AND it's made from super light materials. They claim it weighs less than a Macbook Air at 1.1kg. Color me impressed. They also have a 30-day return policy so I figured I have nothing to lose. An added bonus is that these guys are based in Germany and the creation of this backpack was a combined effort of German and Swiss designers/engineers... meaning it's easy for me to order and receive it quickly.

Notice the attention to detail regarding this specific example: the "Tidy Strap System". You'll find it near the bottom on the features page. I've never seen anybody do that before. It's a detail, to be sure, but isn't it nice to see someone innovate in something as seemingly unimportant as this? I don't question that a backpack will look better on you if the longer parts of your straps aren't freely flailing around in the air beside you.
Don't get me wrong. This feature itself won't break or make my purchase decision. But the demonstration of their attention to detail through this feature might. Smart move, Seiz.

Interest: Piqued.

Knomo: I remembered that I had seen some other product by this company at a DataQuest store (a Swiss specialized Apple reseller with retail stores) and decided to look up their website and see what else they have.
Quite obviously, this company is all about design and visual appearance. Just about all their products look absolutely gorgeous. The backpack I linked to is the one I'd pick of the bunch. It's got good capacity and appears to be manufactured with extremely high quality standards. In my eyes, the appearance of this blows everything else on this list away. Their messenger bags and other products also look impressively beautiful. This probably is due in no small part to employing highly talented photographers for their product shots...

What I don't know is whether the Austin stacks up against the others functionally. Its prettiness is blinding, no doubt. It certainly doesn't appear to be as feature-laden as some other packs on this list, but it's definitely not lacking in compartments and pockets either.

I'm intrigued but have a hard time comparing it to the others.

Interest: Very high.

And that's what I have so far. This turned out ridiculously long and became longer as I went on. You can easily tell by comparing the length of my comment on Crumpler and the comments on the packs at the end.

But that's that. I'd understand if nobody bothered to read this much... if nothing else, this will serve as my personal "purchase decision sheet" going forward.

If you read this far, I'm sorry for stealing so much of your time!
posted by drunknmunky at 6:10 PM on February 14, 2011 [2 favorites]

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