New MBP i5. A good, rugged laptop backpack for heavy travel?

Discussion in 'MacBook Pro' started by MBPnoob, Sep 20, 2010.

  1. MBPnoob macrumors regular

    Sep 19, 2010

    I'm very pleased and excited about my new MBP i5 2.4, 15 inch. It was quite an upgrade from my P4 Compaq laptop with CD-ROM! :p

    I want to keep my MBP as clean and as sexy as I can with heavy travel.

    I already have good praises for Incase laptop backpacks, but I haven't used one in several years. Before I take the plunge, I want to make sure I'm getting high quality. Thanks guys. Glad to be part of the :apple: party :eek:
  2. ReallyBigFeet macrumors 68030


    Apr 15, 2010
    I travel, at minimum, 100K miles per year and work primarily on dirty construction sites. However, I also spend considerable time in board rooms making presentations to my clients. I provide that context as everyones' needs are unique but this is mine. I need heavy-duty protection for my gear, but it also has to look somewhat decent and not like crap or funky geek-ware when I'm making a multi-million dollar proposal in a board room to a bunch of stodgy bankers and brokers.

    First off...rule out leather. While the look and feel of leather is great, its just too heavy and in almost every case I've found the look of leather is ALL you get out of these backpacks. They spend so little time on protecting the laptop.

    Secondly, you need to consider your packing style. I've found two kinds of travelers....dumpers and filers. If you are a dumper, that means you basically open up the bag and just start cramming stuff inside of there. Filers use the various compartments offered to their fullest, often even going as far as using small zippered storage cubes to further compartmentalize cords and connectors. I'm a Filer...I find it suits my OCD nature and it further allows me to quickly pack/re-pack for a trip as needed, re-configuring to fit my needs. For example, all my presentation gear (connection cables, laser pointer, etc.) are kept in one little storage cube and that only goes with me when I know I'm giving presentations. Some people just prefer dumping and for them, an expandable pack or at least one with a large gusseted central compartment is necessary. Figure out your style and you can greatly hone in on the right bag for you accordingly.

    For my money and durability, I have found the cases from Briggs and Riley to be almost impossible to beat. Heavy-duty ballistic nylon with extremely dense weaves, really good backpack padding protection since the sleeve is "suspended" inside the backpack frame. The only issues I've had with them is that you have to pack carefully as they aren't designed as "dumping" bags. You need to learn to pack in an organized fashion. A good B&R will set you back $200 on eBags but they are worth it.

    My secondary choice is the opposite end of the spectrum. Go grab just about any bag from Swiss Army/Victorinox/Wenger. You can get them on sale for $50-$75 easily on Amazon or at local department stores and they are really well made for budget backpacks. Most of the backpacks in this line put the laptop compartment at the back of the case, so that the back padding (by the straps) doubles as backpack padding. Thats important for someone who is on the move a lot and actually wears the backpack as a backpack.

    Shop carefully and carry your laptop with you when you shop if at all possible, or buy from a reputable dealer like eBags who will easily let you return goods. One thing you have to be careful about with the 15" MBP (or any laptop) is to ensure that NONE of the edges of the laptop are butting up against uncushioned seams/zippers in the backpack while riding in the sleeve. The single easiest way to break a laptop is to have the bag tumble off the seat while sudden braking in a car, or to have someone shove their bag against your laptop bag when it is stored in the overhead aircraft compartment, or even if it just tumbles off to top of your luggage or the TSA table when going through security. If the laptop is not COMPLETELY surrounded by cushioning, that exposed edge will almost always hit the ground and do serious damage to the device. The laptop is usually the heaviest thing in the bag and gravity always takes over. Trust me....I've done this. For that reason, I also recommend a secondary neoprene sleeve for travel and/or a hardshell case such as those from Speck. I currently have a Speck satin on my 15" MBP and keep it in a neoprene case when its inside of my backpack. For what you pay, its a small investment in longevity of your laptop.

    I've had (and destroyed or sold) bags from Ogio, Incase, Booq (Booq's are terrible construction IMHO), Brookhaven and Tumi. I've spent from $50-$450 on backpacks over the years. For my money, the above two are the only ones left that I can heartily recommend and have the miles to back that up.

    Like anything else, however, personal preference prevails.
  3. MBPnoob thread starter macrumors regular

    Sep 19, 2010
  4. FuNGi macrumors 65816


    Feb 26, 2010
    I travel a bit, by plane, bus, and train with my 15" unibody MBP. As a piece of mind I use a Pelican 1080 hardback case. It is absolutely the smallest pelican case you can get that will provide water and dustproof protection for your MBP.

    Also, you need not even open it during airport security checks - just slide it through then put it on the floor under the seat in front of you on the plane. Put your foot on it and have your front neighbor drop their drink without worry.

    The main drawback is no cords or files fit inside. But, its small enough to slip inside other bags that can also hold your other stuff.
  5. MBPnoob thread starter macrumors regular

    Sep 19, 2010

    Thank you for the input. One thing that bothers me is taking my laptop out of the case for security. With my old Compaq P4, no one would ever dream about taking it and running. With the Apple, it might be a different story. I've had shoes, jackets, sunglasses, etc. stolen because the xray scanner feeds faster then the metal detector line.
  6. ReallyBigFeet macrumors 68030


    Apr 15, 2010
    B&R and most other made-for-business-travel backpacks now implement a "TSA Speedthru" type of design. This means you can send the whole backpack, laptop still inside, through the security scanners without ever having to take your laptop out. In addition to making life easier on you, this may also be worth considering if you are concerned about theft. If people can't see what you have to steal, most will move to the next target.

    Example attached (this is my current B&R backpack).

    Also forgot to mention....they have one of the few "no questions asked" warranties I've actually found in the industry. Even Tumi, at twice the price, gave me hassles about broken straps. B&R just shipped me a new one when I had a problem with one of the zippers. Really good at standing behind their product, regardless of where you bought it.

    Attached Files:

  7. Jaro65 macrumors 68040


    Mar 27, 2009
    Seattle, WA
    Why not get a nice sleeve for your MBP? Try
    This way you can keep it covered while it goes through the scanner. Also, I am pretty happy with my booq bag. They have a whole slew to choose from:
  8. SESpy macrumors regular


    Mar 13, 2010
  9. ReallyBigFeet macrumors 68030


    Apr 15, 2010
    [Regarding BBP Bags Industries backpack]

    Granted, it appears that they were reviewing the bag from the perspective of shoving a 17" MBP in there. Those are monster laptops and its tough to find any bag to carry them in comfortably, let alone protect them from harm during transit.

    But there are a couple of pictures in here that absolutely point out the biggest flaw in most backpacks....the padded internal sleeve/compartments gives a false sense of security as it protects only 1/2 to 2/3 of the laptop, leaving two remaining corners completely unpadded. Drop the bag or let it get kicked over, and you can end up with a dead laptop.

    Example 1:
    Look at the top middle of the bag, left side of photo. You can clearly see the edge of the laptop pushing against the ballistic nylon. That corner has almost zero protection. It feels protected and is when you carry it on your back. But let it slide off a chair or seat and it will likely fall right on that exposed edge and bust the laptop.


    Example 2:
    Photo showing laptop in the 'protected' sleeve compartment. Again, you can clearly see that the top 1/3 of the laptop, two corners, are totally unprotected.

    Good thing they put a hard shell over that laptop because that case offers very little protection for a $2500 MBP.

    The protective compartment of whatever bag you buy should completely encase the laptop, all four corners, front and back included. If you zip it up with laptop inside and can feel any hard surfaces of the encased laptop whatsoever, your laptop is poorly protected and likely not protected at all in case of bag drop or fall, even from a modest height.

    This is why its so important to test-fit the laptop INSIDE the bag prior to purchase.

    The only bags I've seen that adequately address this issue without needing a secondary sleeve or extra padding material are the Briggs and Riley and Tumi bags that use suspended sleeves and a padded bungee strap that holds the laptop in the sleeve. 360-degree padding is a must or you are only kidding yourself about protecting your computer.

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