Choosing a laptop backpack

As I considered my previous backpack too heavy, I decided to go looking for a new one – the challenge being that there are countless possibilities. My list of requirements was relatively short:

  • Space for a 15.6″ laptop, power supply, lunchbox, and water bottle
  • One large multi-functional compartment
  • Some internal organization for small stuff like pens and business cards
  • Blue colour
  • Lightweight

Here are the options that I considered:

  • Rab Depot 22L: Clean looks, waterproof, a bit heavy at 1,000g.
  • Lowe Alpine Halo 25L: Nice modern looks, tablet compartment, waterproof, very heavy at 1,260g.
  • Deuter Giga: Large main compartment, looks a bit bland, not much organization, a bit heavy at 980g.
  • Thule Chasm 26: Nice modern looks, waterproof, a bit heavy at 980g.
  • Thule Subterra 23: Nice clean looks, tablet compartment, good internal organization. Water bottle pockets with zipper and sunglasses compartment. A bit heavy at 1,000g.
  • Thule EnRoute 23: Tablet compartment, side pockets with zipper, little internal organization. A bit heavy at 980g.
  • The North Face Fall Line: A bit heavy at 1,049g.
  • Fjällräven Ulvö 23: Looks a bit bland, waterproof, little internal organization. Lightweight at 650g.
  • Osprey Arcane Large Day: Clean looks, tablet compartment, lightweight at 600g.
  • XD Design Bobby Soft: Clean looks, water repellent, lightweight at 620g. No external water bottle pockets.
  • VauDe Petimir II: Relatively lightweight at 815g, but three large zippers and hence a relatively small main compartment.
  • Lowe Alpine Edge 22/18: Very lightweight, but practically no internal organization.
  • Fjällraven Raven 20: Lightweight at 650g, school backpack looks.
  • Bellroy Transit Workpack: Clean looks, hidden side compartments, relatively lightweight at 850g. Rather expensive.

The Thule Subterra 23 looked very attractive, but I eventually focussed upon the lightweight backpacks at around 600g. The Lowe Alpine Edge models were out due to their lack of internal organization. The Osprey was my favourite for some time, but I finally decided to go with the XD Design Bobby Soft as I found it on sale for a good price.

The Bobby Soft has several interesting features:

  • There are two zippers – depending on which you close, the volume is 13l or 16l.
  • The zippers are not readily visible when the backpack is worn, and can be locked together.
  • There’s a built-in USB cable to connect your phone to a powerbank carried inside the backpack.
  • It has an RFID-protected compartment at the back.
  • There’s a small compartment in the strap that is suitable e.g. for your public transport card.
  • It has a strap for placing around the handle of a wheeled suitcase/trolley.

There’s not a crazy amount of internal organization – two smaller pockets and a larger zippered pocket. But it is enough for my daily needs. I would consider a tech pouch like something from the LowePro GearUp range if you want to carry more cables and stuff. The laptop sleeve easily holds my HP Omen 15. When expanded to 16l, I have no trouble fitting laptop, second screen, power supply, mouse, lunchbox, and water bottle. While it’s no longer lightweight at that point, the light weight is very welcome when carrying only laptop and mouse.

The lack of external water bottle pockets limits its usability as daypack and may be a dealbreaker for some. For me it’s not an issue as I never used them on my LowePro backpack, and we use a Deuter Vista Skip as very lightweight and compact daypack.

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