The Mobile Edge ScanFast Backpack, $99.00, pictured above at the Delta Crown Club at Newark Liberty International Airport B Terminal, is the ideal travel accessory for anyone who does a lot of flying. Click here to see my Mobile Edge ScanFast Backpack gallery.
As many of you know, I make my living as a traveling systems architect and infrastructure expert. Approximately four days out of the week I am typically on the road and flying all over the United States, doing work for my employer, IBM. Since the September 2001 attacks, travel has become a tremendous hassle for anyone who makes their living this way, so naturally anything that actually makes my life easier in the course of doing business travel is a godsend.
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When the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) relaxed its screening rules in 2008 to allow for travel bag designs that permit the scanning of laptops without having to remove them, I was thrilled. Anyone who travels frequently knows that the security screening process slows you down and potentially could damage your computer due to mishandling (or could even cause you to lose your laptop on the line due to the distraction of having to remove your computer, your shoes and other items). I recently evaluated one of the first TSA-approved bag designs, the $149.00 Skooba Checkthrough, and I thought it was a very good initial entry into the security-enhanced laptop bag market.
While indeed the Skooba is an excellent traditional laptop bag design, and is quite durable and easy to use, it's not my ideal form factor. I'm more of a backpack type of guy. Right now, there aren't many manufacturers making TSA-approved laptop backpacks. One of those few is Mobile Edge, who was nice enough to send me their latest men's ScanFast backpack. It should be noted that not only is Mobile Edge one of the few companies doing backpacks, but they are also the only one I know of doing ladies TSA-approved designs as well.
The $99.00 Mobile Edge ScanFast backpack looks like your typical laptop backpack, and is constructed out of durable 1680 Denier Ballistic Nylon. Where it differs from regular backpack designs is that the section which holds the laptop "Butterflies" open, so that it can be directly scanned on the conveyor belt. Once the bag is scanned and rolls out the other side of the Rapiscan unit, you pick it up, zip the butterfly compartment back up, and you're on your way again.
While the TSA cannot endorse specific products, it should be noted that the ScanFast backpack was chosen by the government's airport security administration as the "demo" unit in order to train its own staff on the new approved bag designs. So if you use a Mobile Edge, you can be assured that the TSA employees themselves will recognize the design and are unlikely to hassle you and force you to remove your laptop.
I've been lucky enough to have been using the ScanFast backpack for three weeks -- traveling to Orlando on vacation, and back and forth twice to Atlanta for work -- and I can say that the bag holds up very well and I like using it. It's got a ton of storage space in it and it's very comfortable to carry. At $99, it's definitely a no-brainer purchase for anyone who does a large amount of business travel. However, I have a couple of suggestions for Mobile Edge's designers for when they put out the 2.0 version of this bag.
1) Offer it in something other than black, like maybe a grey/black two tone or or a dark green and brown design. That makes it easier to spot on the conveyor belt and in overhead compartments on aircraft.
2) The interior of the pockets are black. Most consumer electronics accessories and cords and such are also black. This can be a problem when you are trying to reach down into the pockets and find something. So perhaps make the liner a contrasting color, such as grey or silver, so that cords and chargers are easier to find.
3) The flush side of the butterfly compartment doesn't have any netting or pouch that would permit other items besides the laptop to be secured in it. As the butterfly compartment has a good amount of extra space in it, it would be good to put a large internal zippered pouch there for other items. In addition to securing the laptop, I found myself using the butterfly compartment for shoving in sandwiches, bags of snacks, baseball caps, and even spare changes of clothing such as T-shirts and underwear.
Other than these minor issues, I'm really happy with this bag, and I'm glad there's finally a moderately-priced durable laptop backpack that fits the TSA screening requirements. It should be noted that Mobile Edge indicated to me that they would be willing to work with large companies on volume discounts who would be looking to outfit their employees with with this bag and other Mobile Edge ScanFast designs, perhaps with a company logo on it.
Do you have any experience with TSA-approved laptop bags? Do you find they improve your security screening experience? Talk Back and Let Me Know.