During last week's Christmas break, my wife and I spent a vacation in the Bahamas, drinking Bahama Mamas and Kaliks, eating conch salad and relaxing on gorgeous white sand beaches overlooking pure blue water while everyone else was freezing back home in New York. I know, you hate me already. But here's another reason to hate me -- I didn't have to pull my laptop out of the bag when I went through airport security.
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Unlike a vacation in the Bahamas, however, a TSA-certified laptop bag is a small luxury that just about any business traveler can afford. At $140.00, the Skooba Design Checkthrough was one of the first of the new breed of laptop travel bags to be certified by the TSA, and was tested against the same Rapiscan equipment that most airports use for screening.
Unlike a typical laptop bag, the Checkthrough has a hinged butterfly-like design (similar to a travel garment bag) which reveals a transparent plastic window that exposes the laptop to the scanning equipment. Simply zip open the bag to lay it flat on the conveyor belt with the window facing upwards, and you're good to go -- no more removing your laptop from the bag.
I had absolutely no problems with the bag at Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) -- I simply laid the bag flat on the conveyor, it went through the scanner, and I picked it up on the other side. You'll see in the video above, however, that the TSA does not like it when you take photographs and videos at security checkpoints, so I was unable to video the entire process. Take my word for it that it went through without any issues.
Also see: Skooba Design Checkthrough Bag GalleryHowever, on returning from the Bahamas, in Grand Bahama International Airport (FPO) the local Bahamian security still wanted me to take my laptop out of the bag. On the US customs side of the airport, where I had to go through a second screening, I didn't have such issues -- it just went right through like it did in Newark. So depending on what destination of the world you are heading back from, your mileage may vary.
As far as the bag design is concerned -- I was quite happy with the Checkthrough's rugged 1680 Denier ballistic nylon construction, and the laptop compartment fit my 15.4 inch Lenovo T60 quite nicely, along with ample space for a few magazines. However, I could see users with the thicker 17 inch laptops having some issues with this bag. There were certainly enough storage pockets and the bag was well organized, with a large and deep main compartment for cameras, chargers, cords and other gadgets, as well as a large external zippered compartment for wallets and ID and other papers, and two smaller zippered compartments for other items.
While I really liked the Skooba, there are other manufacturers with bags that have entered the market with checkpoint-friendly designs as well -- such as Mobile Edge, who has three separate Men's bag designs including a messenger style and backpack, value priced at $99 and made out 1680 denier ballistic nylon. Mobile Edge has five separate women's designs as well, including a snazzy "Onyx Croc" backpack and a hot pink suede briefcase.
Other manufacturers include CODi, Pathfinder, Targus, Briggs & Riley (with 24 separate designs), Incipio (multiple sizes for Macbooks), Samsonite, and Solo Tech (multiple designs, including one for 11" laptops).
Do you have a Checkpoint-friendly laptop bag yet? Talk Back and Let Me Know.