Published on March 6th, 2011 | by Greg0
Brooks-Range Duffel and Leatherbay Backpack
Not all bags are created equal- and that’s a good thing, since you’ll want many a different bag for various occasions. We’ve tried many laptop bags, special ones for the iPad and other tablets, and of course plenty of backpacks and daypacks and even fannypacks. Our reviews have covered a variety of manufacturers, and today we bring two new ones to the table- Brooks-Range and Leatherbay.
We’ll start with the less expensive option- the Brooks-Range Medium Duffel Bag. As they say, “it’s not your average duffel bag”- this one is built to last and offers some nifty options. There are the usual handles on the sides and the top, but we liked the ability to pull out shoulder straps and even backpack straps for hauling larger loads. Of course, a full duffel bag can weigh quite a lot, but when balanced well, the backpack straps work surprisingly well without too much strain. The bag itself is lighter than some we’ve tried but still a bit weighty, and though not totally weather-proof, managed a run in the rain without much moisture making it into the contents. The coating is waterproof and easy to clean and the zippers are well concealed, meaning that you have to try hard to let water in.
We were impressed by the construction in other ways as well- the zipper held up to some decent abuse, and we packed the bag with non-breakables and dropped it about ten feet with no ruptures or punctures. One seam showed a bit of fraying, but that was about it. It’s available in any color you like, as they say, so long as it’s black. And there are four sizes total, up to an XL. When totally full, it was too large to check as a carry-on unfortunately, but some repacking and maneuvering made it work. The interior is lined, there are some nice internal compartments, and it unzips to unveil a very spacious main section. The backpacks straps were padded but still a bit awkward. For the reasonable price of $120 depending on the size, it’s altogether a good package that we now rely on for our heavy lifting. Available directly from the manufacturer.
If leather is more your style, check out the Leatherbay Laptop Leather Backpack. This is an attractive and professional laptop case, quite a bit better looking than most but not as awkward as a briefcase or shoulder-strap model. We liked the soft edges and nice stitching- this is an executive-quality bag but with a bit of a San Francisco edge… as it’s a backpack after all. It feels a bit weird- not as much as a leather messenger would perhaps, but slightly odd. You can also carry it vertically, but not easily, and we found the weight a bit off and unbalanced when loaded. Also, those with laptops larger than 15.5 inches are out of luck- that’s the maximum screen size this version will allow.
The bag’s laptop compartment is well-cushioned, and we appreciated the sizable extra zippered pocket, perfect for use when flying to carry your reading materials and such. But the drink holders on the outside took away from the look a bit, and also weren’t large enough to fit our bigger drinks. The chocolate color was nice, it wore well and was much better than most browns or tans. But the warranty wasn’t extensive (or even clear on their site) and at $300, it’s a bit pricey- we didn’t feel it quite was worth pricepoint. But the leather is incredibly soft and supple, and it is a fairly unique item that got us some looks and held up well to sun, rain, and some heavy loads.