Another Find-Me-A-Laptop-Bag, difficulty level: large laptop, not black.
June 28, 2016 7:22 AM   Subscribe

SonR got a new laptop for college when the old hand-me-down he had been using died. So, we're looking for a new sturdy bag. Most bags for 15" laptops don't fit. We've looked at office/business stores (OfficeMax/Staples/uni bookstore) and perused old Asks but most bags are too small or feel/look flimsy.

A HighSierra Swerve (what he's been using) is big enough for the laptop, but not for the rest of the stuff he carries -- textbook or two, binder, power brick, chillpad, water bottle, etc -- so he did the two bag carry for a term, and he's over that now.
  • Laptop is 15"x10.5"x1.2";
  • padded laptop compartment a must;
  • budget is $75US or less;
  • not black is preferred, but nothing too femme;
  • daily carry.
A backpack is preferred, although a good messenger bag with a top handle would be OK. Failure point on all his previous bags has been the handle attachment, so that needs to be sturdy!
posted by jlkr to Shopping (19 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Dakine makes some technical backpacks that can fit a 15" laptop. There are a few different kinds available. May be a bit higher than your current budget, but you could seek out the preferred model type at other stores to find a deal.
posted by lizbunny at 7:38 AM on June 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

Also higher than your budget (sorry), but:

I just got one of these PacSafe shoulder bags in the slate green color for my super thick 15" laptop. It doesn't fit in the "laptop" pocket (I think designers are probably all using Mac computers, so they don't realize that other laptops are different -- not good, designers), so I'll probably want to use a padded laptop sleeve or add padding at the bottom.

However, I love the bag, and I love that the straps are steel-reinforced, AND it has vertical pockets at _both ends_ so I can easily carry both a water bottle and an umbrella.

Since it's designed for anti-theft protection, the straps and connections are very very sturdy.

They keep selling out of this bag! This particular model won some kind of design award and people seem to be buying it up.

PS - The strap is comfortable on the shoulder.
posted by amtho at 7:40 AM on June 28, 2016

Check out Osprey bags. I have a Momentum 30 that would certainly carry all that stuff, and I'm fairly certain the laptop would fit based on some quick measurements I just did. That's a cycling commuter backpack, but I use it for everyday non-riding use; they have other models you may like more, but they're all equally built. They won't be cheap, IIRC mine was 2x your budget, but they're amazingly durable and even if you do manage to break it Osprey has a lifetime guarantee and will just replace it for you for free.
posted by Special Agent Dale Cooper at 7:40 AM on June 28, 2016

One other suggestion: I found a bag that I liked at Best Buy - much better selection than Staples. They had several in your price range. I'd suggest going there for sure.
posted by amtho at 7:42 AM on June 28, 2016

More on Osprey: here are their everyday bags. Looks like they're in the $100-$120 range, so more than your budget but IMO very worth it for the durability and guarantee, and they check all the other boxes. For what it's worth I now own three of their packs: the one I mentioned above and two backpacking packs. They're all wonderful.
posted by Special Agent Dale Cooper at 7:49 AM on June 28, 2016

I love my Timbuk2 bags. They are slightly spendier than what you are looking at, but if you find a model on their site that suits, then it's possible it will be on sale elsewhere. I think my current one is 4 years old and has survived being my work laptop bag, being stuffed full of crap for airplane rides, and every day life with someone who isn't necessarily super careful with my shit. No regrets. I had the Ram convertible bag from them (sadly not made anymore) that was fantastic for my larger laptop and was convertible from backpack to messenger configuration as well as the classic three-panel messenger that's been through it all with me. A++ will buy again if I need to.
posted by Medieval Maven at 7:54 AM on June 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

I cut a square of cardboard to the size of my laptop, and took it around to stores to test sizes.

I needed something in a hurry and bought a cheap Targus laptop bag made of what seems to be a knitted material backed with (or enclosing) foam. I thought it would be temporary, but I've still got it., and it's flown across the country a couple times. Not a thing I'm proud to own, but serviceable.

Of course, it's black. Every damn thing is black. Pet peeve of mine.
posted by SemiSalt at 8:03 AM on June 28, 2016

Seconding Dakine as an affordable option. The Campus Large Backpack will fit up to a 15" laptop, comes in a lot of colorways, and is well under $75. Also, it has a sternum strap for longer walks. I bought the 20L Prom backpack a few years ago and while I wish it were bigger, it's been holding up very well.
posted by mlo at 8:36 AM on June 28, 2016

I love my Osprey bag that I got through, which was an experience that felt exactly like the first time I used Zappos, but for backpacks. (I ordered 4 bags with similar dimensions and picked the one that was most ergonomically comfortable, sent the others back with a free return.) That specific bag is out of your price range (as are any other Osprey packs that would fit his laptop), but agreeing with mlo that there are a lot of Dakine bags and other brands to choose from... in many many colors. Possible search results to page through.
posted by deludingmyself at 8:54 AM on June 28, 2016

So I thought the budget was going to make this pretty hard. First, don't buy a bag at Office Depot. Those bags look OK and they're built OK, but just OK. They'll die before long.

Timbuk2 has older styles on sale prices all the time. Which is a really good deal.

Timbuk2 Showdown Laptop Backpack - $54!! Which is a very good price. Fits a 15" apparently. (edit: the $54 is just the black and red I guess, there are other colours for $69 which is still a good price)

TerraCycle Showdown Laptop Backpack - made from recycled USPS mailbags! $64 from $109.

I basically recommend Timbuk2 every time someone posts a bag question but we have 2 of their backpacks and 2 of their messenger bags in my house and the durability and functionality have been great. I bought both my kids' backpacks just by getting whatever was on sale at the time.
posted by GuyZero at 9:08 AM on June 28, 2016

I carry my laptop and various other things daily. My main needs when looking for a bag was comfort, waterproof, stain (dirt) resistant, and able to fit EVERYTHING else I need.

After many years and trying everything from a purse for laptops to messenger style bags, I have decided a well-made backpack was the best solution.

I wear a dress to work every day so I also wanted a bag that was tidy looking.

Tom Bihn is a great bag company with various style selections for laptops. I would suggest you speak or e-mail a representative who could help you customize a bag to suit you best.

They're very nice, incredibly helpful and patient and you won't be sorry!

Oops, I forgot the budget! Sorry!
posted by Yellow at 9:23 AM on June 28, 2016

I'm on a budget, carry a lot of stuff around, and need a padded compartment for my laptop. I just ordered ThinkGeek's Bag of Holding. It hasn't arrived yet, so I can't give you a personal report, but it's on sale for $40 right now, and it seems like it will suit my needs. There are more expensive versions, and also a Backpack of Holding that might be worth a look.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 9:46 AM on June 28, 2016

I've been carrying this BRINCH bag from Amazon for a few months and absolutely love it. I can actually fit my laptop, assorted work files, plus enough clothing/makeup/etc. for an overnight business trip. It's super comfortable with padded straps and a padded back, and has way more space than it seems to on first glance. Plus it comes in nifty non-black colors (I have the bronze).
posted by tryniti at 10:26 AM on June 28, 2016

I have a SwissGear backpack which probably hits all your points, though I don't recall how much I paid for it or where I bought it. It has a generous cargo area, separate large laptop compartment, and the handle seems to be standing up well to everything I carry in it. It does have large areas of black, although there is another color on large parts of the pack as well.

One caveat though -- I only carry the backpack by the handle when it is zipped shut. I notice some people don't zip their backpacks all the way shut, and I think this would put a lot more stress on the handle.
posted by yohko at 1:45 PM on June 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

Nthing SwissGear, price moves around but right now it's just over $40.
posted by getawaysticks at 3:04 PM on June 28, 2016

Forgot to add - they have different colors of SwissGear. That's just the model I have.
posted by getawaysticks at 3:05 PM on June 28, 2016

Seconding Best Buy. They have a huge selection of laptop bags and laptop backpacks in stores so your son can check the compartments and try them out. I'm super particular about pockets/compartments and I've returned a few I've purchased online because they weren't what I thought they were. It's the best selection I've found in a brick and mortar in forever. And they price match, so if the bag he likes is cheaper on Amazon you can get it same day for the same price.
posted by good lorneing at 6:16 PM on June 28, 2016

I've used Tom Bihn bags over the years to fit various laptops. They are solid, well-padded, come in colors, made in Seattle, last forever.
posted by Chriswill44 at 7:01 AM on June 29, 2016

BestBuy is off the list for a lot of reasons -- we'd be much more likely to browse there and buy from Amazon, especially since he's between terms and doesn't need the bag right now.

I have a couple of TomBihn bags that I got as gifts, and while very nice and well worth the $$, they're just too far out of the budget.

He liked this SwissGear pack, so there's one of those on the way. We both rather liked the Timbuk2 bags, but he had concerns about losing things in the bottom of the one big compartment, so SwissGear it is.

Thanks all!
posted by jlkr at 2:30 PM on June 29, 2016

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