We don't need no stinkin' checked luggage
June 4, 2011 1:54 PM   Subscribe

Looking for the perfect TSA-friendly laptop + overnight bag.

I want a single carry-on for quick overnight trips to professional conferences. My requirements in such a bag are:

* TSA-friendly. Ideally the laptop would be scannable in the bag without being taken out at all.
* Large enough to accommodate a 15.4" Macbook Pro, change of clothes, toiletries, cables, Kindle, phone, wallet for a light packer. (I'm definitely not hauling along bottles of shampoo, sneakers and extra pairs of jeans.)
* Small enough that it can fit under most airplane seats.
* Light, so probably not leather.
* Not a rolling bag.
...and here's the one that makes this *hard*:
* Stylish. Please god not all black, and no ballistics nylon kthxbai.
* Ideally the laptop compartment can unzip or unclip into a separate laptop sleeve, so I can bring it to my talks. I'm willing to wiggle on this if the bag looks good enough to bring along when I'm giving a talk.

You'd think there would be a huge market for this kind of bag. Apparently not so much!

Right now I'm using this eBags yoga bag. It is exactly the right size to fit the stuff I need it to. It is non-ideal because it doesn't have multiple pockets or laptop padding, so I'm a) worried I'll break my laptop, and b) getting through the TSA checkpoint is a huge pain in the neck requiring repacking my bag to get my laptop to fit in again. Plus it's kind of schlumpy looking.

I have seen this previous thread, but it's two years old and doesn't really cover bags with extra storage space.

My current front-runner is the Tom Bihn Checkpoint Flyer. It hits my marks from a functional point of view, but I really would prefer something less sporty and more polished. For reference, I love the look of these Zaum bags.

I'm looking to spend around $250, but if you know of the absolutely perfect bag and it's a little more, do bring it up.

Thank you, AskMe!
posted by Andrhia to Shopping (8 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
* TSA-friendly. Ideally the laptop would be scannable in the bag without being taken out at all.

This is not possible. The TSA insists that you take your laptop out of the bag and power it up. I assume to show that you have batteries and not explosives in it.
posted by Splunge at 3:20 PM on June 4, 2011

Splunge, this is not true as of 2008. The TSA says so itself.

Also, I travel several times a year with my laptop and have never, ever had to boot the thing up.
posted by Andrhia at 3:27 PM on June 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

I've used a "checkpoint friendly" bag as well, and I can confirm that in all the travel I've done, both Stateside and internationally, I've never had to boot my laptop.
posted by HopperFan at 3:33 PM on June 4, 2011

Okay. This past April I went from Kennedy in NYC to SeaTac. Every person at the checkpoint in NY was told to remove the laptop and boot it up. I was not aware of that TSA info. Apologies.
posted by Splunge at 4:26 PM on June 4, 2011

A couple good friends have the Checkpoint Flyer and LOVE it for the size (both how much fits in it, and the way the bag is small enough to fit nearly anywhere), organization, and how comfortable it is to carry. I'm also a Tom Bihn fan and also don't like the sporty look of a lot of their color combinations, so nearly all my Bihn bags are all-black, which looks quite polished. Especially on the more tailored bags like the Checkpoint Flyer.
posted by rhiannonstone at 4:51 PM on June 4, 2011

Another vote here for the Checkpoint Flyer!

I bought one at the beginning of the year and have taken it on several domestic and international trips already. It is very well-made and, coupled with their Absolute Shoulder Strap, it has been a great addition to my bag collection. I met Tom and toured his new factory last week while I was in Seattle, and I came away from the experience even more impressed with the products and with the company.

As you noted, the Tom Bihn aesthetic vibe is, uh, a little different than Zaum bags. ;) Having recently seen all the TB bags in person, I'd say that -- if you're dead-set against all black -- the steel/black looks polished and less sporty than the blue or the red.

To my way of thinking, "function" wins the rock-paper-scissors over "fashion" when it comes to carrying my auxiliary brain laptop.... and I think that most of Tom Bihn's stuff hits a sweet spot between ruggedness and polish, though I realize everyone has their own tastes. The ballistic nylon he uses in the Checkpoint is a different gauge/quality/weave than most of the stuff that's on the market -- and it has a smoother finish to it (in my experience, something that helps it slide into the overhead and under the seat more easily).

On the issue of removing the laptop at security:
As I recall, I was only asked to take my laptop out of the Checkpoint Flyer once (although I can't remember where) and send it through separately. FWIW -- I think that this has less to do with any TSA regulation as much as the mood of the people manning the checkpoint.

Hope this helps... and happy travels!
posted by Veritrope at 10:30 PM on June 4, 2011

I'm a big fan of Tom Bihn's products as well, and agree that as an alternative to black/black, the black/steel also looks quite polished -- the steel color is a bit...warmer? and less saturated than what you might expected based on the brighter colors.
posted by desuetude at 4:47 PM on June 5, 2011

OK, I've ordered the black/steel Checkpoint Flyer. Thanks, everyone!
posted by Andrhia at 11:37 AM on June 9, 2011

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