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Recommendations For A Good Laptop Bag? 824

Posted by timothy
from the 11-inches-of-heavy-padding dept.
YOU LIKEWISE FAIL IT writes "So, I was jogging to the bus stop this morning when suddenly - snap, the weight of the laptop on my shoulder vanished, and I heard the dull thud of my powerbook bag hitting the pavement at a wince-inducing speed. The laptop seems to be alright, but the bag (a WWDC giveaway) is completely knackered. Does anyone have any recommendations for a good, impact resistant laptop bag that won't come flying apart under stress? Perhaps it's not too late to guilt work into buying me one for a late Christmas present."
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Recommendations For A Good Laptop Bag?

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  • my preferences (Score:3, Interesting)

    by CAIMLAS (41445) on Tuesday December 23, 2003 @09:47PM (#7800037) Homepage
    (keep in mind that I have an IBM X30, currently - a fairly small (8.5"x9.5"x1") laptop)

    The store-bought solution:

    I'm a big fan of solid things that don't break. Thus, the item that fits the bill is a small aluminum briefcase. The briefcase I got was a bit big for what I need: 14x12x3 inches - a bit too big for my laptop (I foolishly didn't pay attention to what I was ordering). For a larger laptop it would work quite nicely - and in my case, it will fit the bill for a general carry-all, being as there's enough room for course books and a laptop side by side, as well as an envelope for things like pads of paper. There's also a sturdy synthetic fiber strap. It's maybe 3 or so pounds.

    Additionally, I saw an iBook (more in your line of interest, it appears) at the local ibook shop in a similar case - only it was about 1.5" deep, and seemably just big enough for an iBook. (This briefcase was what I was looking for; alas, I never found it online)

    Now, for the inventive geeky solution:

    Another option I've found that might work nicely is a nice homemade bag. buy some 1cm rubber foam (or some other sort of impact-insulative of your choice) and some canvas of your choice. grab an old packing box (ofthe cardboard variety) as well. Then, wrap the foam around the laptop and cut it so that it would be a fairly snug fit around all but one edge - so it would cover 5 of the 6 surfaces - and cut it appropriately; secure with duct tape. then take the cardboard and fold it to fit over the rubber foam, and duct tape it so it makes a nice little sleeve for the laptop. tape over the edge of the foam/cardboard to form a 'single' glove. I wrapped ductape all around the cardboard on mine, so as to provide water/liquid resistence. This alone makes a nice carrying device if you use a backpack or briefcase to carry things around, as it's quite protective (I wrapped a palm pilot pro in such a manner - minus the foam - years ago, and it's been used since then, with many an encounter with the ground. no such encounters with the laptop thus far).

    Then, if you're interested in actually having a 'laptop bag' take the canvas and stitch it together to form a fairly form-fitting sleeve for the cardboard/foam sleeve.

    I'd recommend getting a plastic-fiber strap of some sort and sowing each end to the bottom of this bag, securely - then stitch it up the sides so as to prevent your little laptop falling incident. if you need a shoulder pad, sheep hide/fleece works quite well - just wrap a piece of canvas around it and sow it up. Use a nylon strap from an old backpack w/ the clasps to provide a nice closeable pocket for the laptop. I put a smaller pouch on the outside of mine for the AC adapter and some cookies. :P The end result here is a nice, durable laptop bag that's inexpensive, looks nifty, and is washable.

    I've toyed with the idea of using tanned deer hide (quite soft and very strong) for a "professional" cover for my sheath. ;)
  • by SuperBanana (662181) on Tuesday December 23, 2003 @09:58PM (#7800113)
    They're relatively heavy-duty and not too bad-looking, although they could be better.

    Willow Design's case for the 17" PB was the only case I've actually bought for a laptop- and I'm pleased with it. It has a lot of padding with plastic protective panels on the outside under the fabric, reflective stripes on all sides save the back, and the "portrait" orientation is VERY nice for such a wide laptop(otherwise, you DO take people out on the subway with it).

    The handle on the case is padded and comfortable- the shoulder strap is padded and has sticky rubber on the inside so it won't slip.

    The bottom has riveted rubber feet, so it stands off the ground. The back pocket expands out two inches or so if you've got something bulky. The front compartment holds my cell phone, pens, power supply, and light paperwork- the pockets are stretch fabric and once something's in, its not going anywhere. The 'lid' has an ID pocket and a mesh zip bag(which currently contains the DVI->VGA, s-video, composite, and mini->rca adapters(basically, every adapter it came with and more.)

    As for looks- it's navy colored(and available in many other colors), so that's a drastic step over most everything else. I selected it because: a)it was compact b)it had a lot of pockets c)it was specifically fit for the 17". I've been very pleased with it, and I'm a very tough customer. About the only thing I'm going to do is apply outdoor-grade scotchguard(which I strongly recommend on ANY case, but do it OUTSIDE, it's NASTY stuff to breathe!)

    For each powerbook model, they have basically 3 or so levels for how big a case you want. "just a case", "case with pockets for stuff" and "case with pockets for the kitchen sink". They also have models for regular PC laptops- I think they somewhat build-to-order.

    The bags also carry a lifetime warranty. It came with a hand-signed letter by Nigel Peck(sp?), the owner of WD, stating as such. The online ordering was handled flawlessly.

  • This is the one (Score:3, Interesting)

    by peeko (168788) on Tuesday December 23, 2003 @10:08PM (#7800177)
    This is what you're looking for:
    http://www.highergroundgear.com/

    Absolute best laptop case I've seen. Hands down.
  • by xeno (2667) on Tuesday December 23, 2003 @11:58PM (#7800690)
    As the topic is carrying a laptop while engaging in physical activities beyond merely walking, I offer a cautionary tale, and a product opinion:

    A laptop bag with a shoulder strap will tend to shift as you move, which is alright while walking, but intolerable on a bicycle or motorcycle. Because of this, I purchased a triangular shoulder bag -- the kind with a single large padded strap over the right shoulder, and a small side strap on the left to prevent the bag from shifting. Several laptop bag makers offer [ebags.com] this style [ebags.com] of bag.

    It worked great until I was hit by a car while on my bike, and landed on top of the bag. The resulting tension concentrated on the single strap of the bag and broke my collarbone in two places (at the edges of the wide strap). I now have a 7" scar, a nice metal plate, and 8 screws in my collarbone to help me remember the event. No more shoulder-bags for me, and most laptop backpacks are uncomfortable (the strap presses on the bolt-heads).

    I now use a Mountainsmith [mountainsmith.com] lumbar pack (a slightly more dignified version of a giant fannypack). This offers all of the no-shifting benefits of the backpack, without much risk of additional upper body injury if I feel the need to fling myself in front of a car again. As an added bonus the pack offers a small degree of back protection. The "Passage" model is/was designed for a 15" laptop + almost 2" of papers, has both a briefcase-style handle and shoulder strap that stows away. When I'm on the motorcycle, I use both the waist and shoulder strap, just in case one fails. I'd hate to see $2500 of equipment go skittering down the road without me. The Passage bag is very well made, has held up perfectly for more than a year, and provided adequate protection for the laptop in a few minors bumps/drops. It's available here [altrec.com], here [ebags.com], and some other places [google.com].

    Jon

    (Oh, and yes, the laptop survived the accident above -- inside an Otterbox [otterbox.com].)
  • Targus or Brenthaven (Score:3, Interesting)

    by v1 (525388) on Wednesday December 24, 2003 @12:13AM (#7800756) Homepage Journal
    My previous laptop I kept in a Targus with air suspension, and my current laptop is in a Brenthaven. I think I prefer the Targus... it's cheaper, lighter, and has the air suspension which has to be the best protection I've seen so far. The Brenthaven happened to be the only one at the time that would fit a 15" tibook so I had to switch at the time. For its credit, the Brenthaven's exterior is tougher, making it more immune to scratches and cuts that mar the Targus's thin leather covering. The Brenthaven also has a more comfortable (better padded) shoulder strap.

    When will laptop makers design in some sort of way to transport CDs? I take my DVDs with me, and there never seems to be a good place to stick a CD wallet in laptop bags. I've been making do with binding together pages from a large CD wallet and hanging them in the Brenthaven's folding file area.
  • Re:Targus (Score:5, Interesting)

    by tonywong (96839) on Wednesday December 24, 2003 @01:20AM (#7801011) Homepage
    I'll second that targus recommendation.

    I had an executive series for my powerbook in 93. In 95 I was carrying about 80 pounds of change for my bar when the handle tore a bit from the main partition of the bag. I never bothered to call them about it until 97, when they said send it in and we'll take a look at it to see if we can repair it or replace it.

    Well, they replaced it with a brand new unit that had more advanced features in the 4 years that I owned it. For free I might add. They really honoured the lifetime warranty. Too bad the ex took it with her when we broke up. :(
  • use a military bag (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Miriku chan (168612) on Wednesday December 24, 2003 @01:36AM (#7801058) Homepage
    i use a military issue bag from a military surplus store, it's big enough to carry my 12" sony plus much accessories and other gear, and after ripping up a few bags before this, i can tell you that this one is built to last.

    plus those stores are fun as heck anyways.

  • Re:A backpack! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by subk (551165) <drumhed.gmail@com> on Wednesday December 24, 2003 @02:11AM (#7801153)
    Skateboarder's backpacks made by Etnies and the like are awesome. They have tons of little pockets for cables, they are often padded, and are always _absolutely_ indestructable.

    I payed $50 bucks for one from Etnies, and honestly I can't see using anything else for a laptop now.

  • by King_TJ (85913) on Wednesday December 24, 2003 @04:38AM (#7801591) Journal
    I've been recommending Targus bags for years. Pretty much everything they make is good quality. (Well, I'd probably avoid their most basic nylon bag for a nice laptop, but it's just the thing, at $29 or so, to carry around an old "beater" laptop in.)

    The "Universal Air" is a good option.... Under $100 and lots of padding.

    What really impressed me with Targus was their willingness to honor their claimed "lifetime warranty". I had a bag that was years old and obviously well worn. The strap finally tore off on one side, and the zipper broke. Targus let me send it in, and they actually re-sewed all the torn stitching and replaced the worn inner panels with new ones, and returned it for free within a couple weeks.
  • by Lord Grey (463613) * on Wednesday December 24, 2003 @07:45AM (#7801915)
    I've had the same Tumi for several years now and can certainly vouche for it's durability. While expensive, my case has lasted through several friends' purchases of cheaper laptop bags. I suspect that we're about even on the total amount spent.

    Tumi sells a lot of different bags made with different material and with different features. Their "Fusion Z" material, which is what my case is made of, is simply amazing. It's extremely durable -- my bag doesn't even have a worn spot on it yet -- and it's self healing in the event of punctures.

    More directed to the original post, the case also has a suspension system for the laptop. The computer sits in a sling, a few inches off the bottom of the case, and the sling is made out of stretchable material. So if you drop the whole bag, your computer never really even hits the ground. Very, very cool. I looked at Tumi's web site and I believe that this feature is called "SafeCase" but I'm not sure.

  • Timbuk2 + Targus (Score:2, Interesting)

    by jzellis (177099) on Wednesday December 24, 2003 @09:51AM (#7802275) Homepage
    I use the Timbuk2 "Bolo" bag, which is the largest bag made in the world ever. It's 27" Top W x 14.5" H x 9" D x 20" Bottom W (from the site) and I use it to usually carry the following:

    12" PowerBook
    DigiDesign MBox USB audio interface
    M-Audio Oxygen 8 25-key MIDI controller
    iPod
    Koss "can" headphones
    Moleskine 12" notebook (non-digital variety)
    12V power inverter (about 6" x 1.5")
    Maxtor 250GB external FireWire hard drive
    A whole lot of audio, FireWire, USB and assorted cables and power adapters
    Cell phone

    I keep the 12" PowerBook, iPod and their respective power adapters in a Targus laptop sleeve with shoulder strap, which is nice -- I can whip the laptop out if I need it and leave all the rest at home or in a hotel room for mobility. Timbuk2 now makes a laptop sleeve, I notice -- which I'll be ordering.

    And in case you're wondering, I keep the Spyderco Civilian razor sharp knife that protects all of these items from thieves in the gun coat of my pocket. The Timbuk2's heavy duty latches make me feel pretty safe, too -- as does the chest strap, which keeps everything close.

    I've carried this thing all around the country and even underground in storm drains (don't ask; check the Slashdot archives and you might find the story) and it's absolutely perfect. I can't recommend it highly enough.
  • by good soldier svejk (571730) on Thursday December 25, 2003 @02:43AM (#7806980)
    Actually, my wife used to be the Director of Marketing at Eastpack. Not sure if this is still true, but they made LL Bean's bags back then. Not that my opinion is biased. They were a horrible company to work for, especially after the buyout. But they made good bags. We've got a pile of seconds in the basement.

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