Recommend a light, safe laptop bag
May 13, 2008 8:41 AM   Subscribe

Help me choose a light laptop bag, comfortable to wear, with good protection for my 14" widescreen.

Hey. I’m looking for a recommendation for a laptop backpack.

I don’t plan on carrying much in it - just my laptop (a 14” widescreen thinkpad), powersupply, maybe occasionally a book or two. So I don’t need anything huge.

Here’s what I think I’m looking for (though you’re welcome to tell me I’m wrong, and should want something else)

- I like backpacks better than messenger-style bags - I feel like the better-distributed weight makes a big difference.

- Light - under, say, 2.5 lbs, though even lighter is even better. I want it to be, you know, not heavy when I carry it around. (Or will a 3.5 better-constructed bag magically *feel* lighter because of construction, padding, whatever?)

- Comfortable to carry for a while.

- Laptop doesn’t slide around in the bag,

- Reasonably good protection for bumps and jostles, if, say, I leave the bag in the milk-crate in back of my bike rather than wearing it, protecting the laptop both from external bumps, and other stuff in the bag.

- A bit weatherproof would be helpful, but not super-critical

I don’t care too much what the bag looks like. I’d rather not pay a ton, but if there’s a super-awesome bag, I don’t mind spending a bit more. I’m a not-small man, if that’s a variable.

Is there anything else I should be thinking about/looking for?

Bonus points if there’s somewhere I can actually see the bag (in Toronto) before buying it.

Thanks thanks for suggestions!
posted by ManInSuit to Computers & Internet (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
My favorite company is Timbuk2. Take a look at their custom bag creator. Top Notch quality:
posted by Murray M at 8:46 AM on May 13, 2008

Murray - What do you like about Timbuk 2? Is there a specific model you would recommend for what I'm looking for?
posted by ManInSuit at 8:51 AM on May 13, 2008

I recommend Tom Bihn. I have a 17" MacBook Pro, and that thing feels safe as houses.
posted by mephron at 8:51 AM on May 13, 2008

I am a not-small person. While I generally prefer messenger bags to backpacks, I have been using a Briggs & Riley @work backpack for a couple of years and am extremely happy with it in terms of protection, features, and most especially comfort. B&R warrants the bag forever, which is more than I can say for the help I got from Kensington when my last bag broke down.

Having said that, I suspect my bag is a little less lightweight and minimalist than you'd want. B&R seems to offer a couple of other backpacks that look slightly lighter, but I don't have personal experience with them.

I don't know where you could look at one in your area, but I did see one being sold in an Apple store. If you have such a thing near you it might be a good place to see if you like it (as well as to see other options -- the stores all tend to have a small luggage section).
posted by majick at 8:51 AM on May 13, 2008

I have the Hacker backpack from Timbuck2. I like it. Very sturdy and well built, pretty lightweight (website says it's 2.9 lbs, but I couldn't imagine having it lighter and still padded for protection). Also, it's not huge and bulky with a bunch of side pouches and whatnot. With the straps tightened, it closes really flat.

One upside/downside is the big rubberized flap that pulls securely over the top. It's very tough and completely waterproofs it. But it also makes it a bit of a pain to access stuff quickly. So if you're outside a lot, it's great... I got caught in a pretty heavy rain once and it worked perfectly. But usually I'm indoors/in a cab/in an airport, and it's not super fast for accessing the inside.

I got it at a retail store for about $120. The Briggs and Riley there was far more expensive... Not knocking it, but it didn't seem to be all that much better for the price difference.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 9:01 AM on May 13, 2008

I'm looking at the Timbuk 2 site - the bags look nice. I'm trying to see if I can find a place in Toronto where I can acutally see the bags. This seems like the sort of thing you want to actually see before buying.

I guess there's going to be a bit of a trade-off between padding/safety and weight.
posted by ManInSuit at 9:11 AM on May 13, 2008

Check out Waterfield. American made.
posted by snowjoe at 9:17 AM on May 13, 2008

Take a look at the Keen Burnside Computer Pack. The only issue would be the side entry for the main compartment, some people like it and some people find it awkward.
posted by needled at 9:37 AM on May 13, 2008

Tom Bihn. Check out a vertical Brain Cell for your protective needs, it clips into the Brain Bag or the Smart Alec. Or just go to the laptop bags page and check out your options.

Their factory and store is in Seattle. Their staff is awesome about answering questions. The bags are well-designed and tough. With splash-proof zippers.

No affiliation, I'm just a really happy customer of theirs.
posted by desuetude at 9:39 AM on May 13, 2008

Thanks. These all sound like great suggestions. Does anyone know - is there a pack that's really light *and* protectst the laptop well, or is that a dream?

Now, I really want to find a place in Toronto where I could check out some of these bags...
posted by ManInSuit at 9:44 AM on May 13, 2008

I have one from Booq that is nice and protective.
posted by rhizome at 9:58 AM on May 13, 2008

I recommend these every time - Crumpler bags are light, well padded and very very durable. Try to ignore their 'wacky' site design and marketing language.
posted by Happy Dave at 9:58 AM on May 13, 2008

The Tom Bihn The Buzz is a lightweight sling pack. I have one and love it. It is relatively small, fits close to your back, and great for commuting. And I can use one hand to put it on my back while I'm walking.
posted by Taken Outtacontext at 11:07 AM on May 13, 2008

ManinSuit, the Brain Cell by itself ranges from only 14 oz to 1 lb. It's not got enough room to carry much of anything else (there are a couple of mesh pockets, though.) The Smart Alec that I referenced above is 1 lb 13 oz. The duo would give you pretty bulletproof protection with less than 3 lbs of bag-weight.
posted by desuetude at 11:17 AM on May 13, 2008

I carry the Dakine Jewel backpack, which is the "girls" version of the Dakine Duel. In black, it doesn't look like a girl's pack, it's just a bit smaller than the Duel. Anyway, I am able to carry my 15" HP laptop in it. It's comfortable for several hours (for example, at the airport) but extended wear, more than 6 hours, got a bit painful. The laptop sleeve loads from the side, which I like.
posted by cabingirl at 12:00 PM on May 13, 2008

I have this Blurr Shuttle bag and really like it. It fits my 14" laptop, power cord, and a little more. There's a better photo of it here.
posted by picklebird at 1:22 PM on May 13, 2008

I love my Waterfield bag. Before I had the full-on bag, I just had a sleeve that I stuck in my backpack. That was much more versatile for me. I was able to find a cheap, comfortable Jansport backpack on sale for $20.
posted by radioamy at 2:07 PM on May 13, 2008

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