The Best Bag for Your 'Book (Part 1)

The Best Bag for Your 'Book (Part 1)

There are tons of basic black laptop bags out there - so we decided to skip those for the most part, concentrating instead on shoulder bags that lend the wearer a bit more style and just as much functionality. Coincidentally, most of our favorite bags in this category are all oriented vertically, making your notebook easier to grab. Plus, you don’t have to worry as much about bumping people with your bag in a crowd.


The STM Medium Alley probably isn’t going to draw many admiring looks on the subway - which is not to say it’s ugly. The Alley is a well-made and -engineered upright messenger with attractive lines and consummate functionality. At $59.95 (available for purchase at, it also offers amazing value. This bag feels good on, has an easy-grab handle that you can use even when the top flap is open, and nicely cushions a 15-inch MacBook Pro.


Both the be.ez LEvertigo Kakee and the Timbuk2 Medium Blogger are likely to pull in a few more stares. Be.ez, a French company, has designed a truly unique bag that’s highly functional too. Despite its gimmicky name (ditto the various colors, which are all spelled in kooky ways), the LEvertigo bag has a day-glo orange lining that’ll give you a jolt when you’re lagging and help you find your stuff much more easily. The huge Velcro “e” inside the top flap goes along with the gimmickry, but obviously serves the purpose of keeping the flap securely closed. The Blogger is one of Timbuk2’s more compact bags, yet it’s roomier than it looks, with plenty of compartments in addition to the corduroy-lined padded laptop slot.


This be.ez bag brought to you by the letter “e.”


If security is a concern, PacSafe was thinking of you when it designed the CourierSafe 100, which features a slash-proof strap that you can wrap around a table leg (or other hard-to-budge object) and lock to the bag with the built-in combo lock. A patented material called eXomesh also protects the laptop compartment, making it extremely tough for a blade-wielding wannabe thief to slash through your bag to get at your precious MacBook inside. It’s lightweight and holds most everything you’d need for a day at the office or an airplane flight.


Foil would-be ’Book snatchers with the CourierSafe 100’s built-in combo lock.


The Considerable Embarrassment from Crumpler isn’t embarrassing at all. You’d think, from its name, that it would be enormous, but it’s actually a reasonable size for anyone other than, say, Nicole Richie. Its light-colored lining makes finding all your odds and ends stashed in their various compartments a breeze, and the cushy, removable shoulder pad is a nice touch. The oversize Velcro patches under the front flap tend to catch on clothing, but your MacBook or MacBook Pro remains well protected.


Less roomy and with a completely different look, the Marware Sportfolio Deluxe for MacBook and MacBook Pro is going to appeal to surfers and scuba divers - and anyone who likes neoprene. We could live without the hokey graphics emblazoned on the front, but the squishy protection it affords your laptop is a huge plus. We also like the pass-through slot for headphones or earbuds. Another slim, lightweight option is Brenthaven’s MetroLite bag, which weighs a mere 2 pounds, 3 ounces and cushions your 15-inch MacBook Pro amazingly well. The front pocket holds essentials like a cell phone, keys, ID, and iPod, but that’s about it.


Looking for something more high end? The velvety leather of MacCase’s Premium Leather Shoulder Bag is supersoft, but we wish the bag design were hipper. If you need a lot of room, however, this bag’s got it, though there’s no separate compartment for your MacBook Pro, so get a sleeve. Even if the design appeals, you’ll need deep pockets to make it yours: This bag rings up at $199.95.


On the flip side of luxury is the MobileJuice Messenger Deck Bag, a water-resistant bag just right for people who have to carry their laptops out in the elements. Or, for that matter, anyone who works on a fishing boat. The bag is made of treated vinyl you could dunk in a puddle - but don’t try it with your MacBook inside. Even though it’s zippered (and all the zippers are rubberized), the notebook compartment isn’t watertight.


While we wanted to like Chrome’s Small Shuttle, the mini-me version of the company’s oh-so-distinctive Kevlar-coated Duma, it fell quite short of our expectations. The metal clasps on the front flap are excruciatingly difficult to open and close. The bag feels much too wide considering its low capacity. And the padding around the laptop envelope is minimal. The $120 price tag was the final straw.


Maybe we’re all thumbs, but we found the Shuttle’s metal fasteners clumsy to operate.






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I use a Domke J3 bag for my 13" Macbook with an Incase sleeve. Previously I carried a Dell laptop on a daily motorcycle commute in the J3. Lots of pockets and doubles as a camera bag with a velcro insert. Works for me.


Roger Dupuy

I wonder if the reviewers put a real notebook in, with some peripherals, an ipod, a folder, and some small nick knacks and THEN put the bag on the shoulder?

The straps are SO important for comfort. Nowadays they really skimp. They usually just have a 'car seat belt' with a slidey piece of junk that is 'interfacing' with your shoulder.

I have yet to find a well-thought of strap.

The closest one is the KEEN Alameda Computer Bag.
It's too heavy by itself, although it has many great features, BUT it has a broader strap. This broad strap is it. It is thin, but no matter where you have the strap on your shoulder you will not get that 'pinch' when you miss the padded part of the other bags.

I don't own stock in Keen. Nor do I work for them, they just have a bag that paid attention to the strap, which no one does and it really is a very important part of your portage system.



The selection of bags for this article was pretty broad, but how did you miss one of the best bag makers out there? Waterfield Designs ( is located in San Francisco and they make their bags in San Francisco too. Aren't you guys in San Francisco, how could you not know about this company? They make some of the best designed bags and their sleeves are the best in the industry.

I am a satisfied customer and recommend their laptop sleeves and gadget bags to everyone I know that is looking for a laptop sleeve.

This oversight makes me curious as to who and what you leave out of other reviews.

I don't have any affiliation to Waterfield Designs; other than being a very satisfied customer.



They may have missed WaterField, but thanks to your comment, I didn't. I've been comparing half a dozen or so bags for weeks and having no degree of success in narrowing them down to an actual purchase. In my endless search for reviews I came to this article and your comment. Now I have a Medium Cargo on the way. Thanks for the tip.



Sure, they are pricey. And you can only order them direct, so you can't see them in a store first. But I love my Waterfield bag. I have the large cargo, along with a fitted sleevecase for my laptop with a second strap and piggyback accessory bag when I don't need the larger bag. They're all impeccably made--not a stitch out of place, and amazing service, too. I finally gave in and ordered after I bumped into a guy at the Apple Store with a WF bag and he sang its praises: turned out his still new-looking bag was 5 years old and had been used and abused the whole time.


one more happy Waterfield customer

They're AWEOME! Quality, design, customer service...haven't seen anything like it elsewhere.

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