My favorite laptop and gear bags for the road warrior

My favorite laptop and gear bags for the road warrior

Summary: WaterField Designs delivers the ultimate combination of gear bags and laptop bags for every day use

TOPICS: Laptops, Android, iPhone

I've been traveling a lot for work lately, and one thing that most travelers are familiar with is the need to pack a lot of stuff into as few bags as possible. With this in mind, I reached out to WaterField Designs with the specifications of what I tend to carry each day. If you're not familiar with WaterField Designs, they make bags for just about everything, and for just about every style and situation.

For this review I mentioned to WaterField Designs that I carry a laptop, laptop power cord cable, a variety of other cables, iPhone, iPad, Nexus 7, papers, pads, headphones (the EVERYMAN ones) and other miscellaneous electronics. Here's what they recommended:

I had previously reviewed the Smart Case for my MacBook Air 11-inch, and now that I travel with a 13-inch, I figured I should try that with the experience.

The first thing I noticed was that it seemed like I went from one traditional laptop bag, to a series of bags. This was actually a negative for me, initially, and I figured I'd probably just write the review and then send the bags back. Well, I couldn't have been more wrong. It's now been a couple of months and I can't think of going to any other bag.

What makes this bag work so well is the fact that it actually does have all of these bags. If I need an accessory or a cable, I simply unzip the bag, and then take out the Cableguy bag. It's all self-contained as a bag in a bag, so there are no miscellaneous pieces to gather in the laptop bag itself.

I mentioned above that I've been traveling a lot. One thing that I'm sure most people reading this article can relate to is the speed at which you want to be able to remove your laptop when going through airport security. In this instance, I have my laptop in the sleeve, so I just remove the sleeve, then slide the laptop out. It takes seconds and allows me to leave the rest of the laptop bag alone. I haven't tried to put the laptop through security in the sleeve, but the folks at WaterField Designs say that you can, so I might decide to give it a go on my next trip through security.

Below is a picture of my own configuration. As you can see, the bag within a bag concept keeps the laptop bag nice and tidy.


So far I only found two potential issues with the above setup. The first being the price. Since you can add and customize, it ends up getting up there in price. The package that I reviewed is $293, for example. However, since my last laptop bag lasted me more than four years, I'd say that it's not too bad. Also, I don't really count the price as a negative since it offers customization, which is a positive, and you can control the level of customization that you decide to do, which then allows you to control the overall cost.

The other issue I found is with the zipper on the side pocket. I'm afraid I'll lose items if I put them in there, so unfortunately, the pocket sits unused.

Otherwise, I have found my laptop bag combination to be the ultimate road warrior setup. I can pull items out while on the plane, or in line, or just about anywhere, and thanks to the plethora of compartments and its modular design, I can slot them in and out, without having to move things around inside of the bag.

You can browse and / or purchase all of the bags I mentioned above, and many more, at

Topics: Laptops, Android, iPhone

Joel Evans

About Joel Evans

With more than 15 years of mobile, Internet and wireless experience, Joel specializes in taking existing brands and technologies into the mobile and wireless space. Joel is currently the VP of Strategy Integration for Mobiquity, an enterprise-class mobile solutions provider.

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  • Sorry, I'll stick to my 30 dollar laptop case.

    Carries all the stuff you just said and I can pull out anything I need within ten seconds. Seems like a lot of money for nothing.
    • agree with aerowind

      There are so many more choices than that company. For a guy who seems to only buy that one company and write an article saying it's his favorite without any comparison is so lame. Reads like an advertisement rather than anything informational. Bogus to me.
  • Value vs cost

    Cost isn't everything. You need to consider cost *and* value.

    I bought a large Waterfield bag with accessories in 2003 and paid something like 300 USD for it all plus 25 USD for a new shoulder pad when the old one wore out. This bag is my daily commute bag, my carry-on luggage on flights and occasionally my overnight bag. It's with me in the car, on the train, on the bike. Total damage from being thrown around for almost a decade: the bottom corners have frayed a little bit, and the shoulder pad had to be replaced a few years ago. The bag is in much better condition than many cheap laptop bags are as new.

    Instead of buying this one bag, I could have bought a new 30-dollar case every nine months. In comparison, the Waterfield is:

    A) Stylish and classy. A 30-dollar laptop bag looks cheap, and makes the wearer look cheap.
    B) Subdued. It doesn't scream "Steal me! I contain a laptop!".
    C) Dependable. I trust this bag with electronics worth 2000 to 5000 USD on a daily basis.
    D) Environmentally friendly. I don't throw away a slightly broken cheap bag every nine months.
    E) Long-lived. Nine and a half years now, and no sign of giving up.

    The value I've got out of this bag is immeasurable, certainly much much more than 325 USD. When it eventually wears out, I'll buy another one from Waterfield... but perhaps in a more subdued color than electric blue. :)
  • Laptop bags are lame for travel, use a backpack.

    If you travel I guess you have not had to run to catch a flight on the other side of the airport and had to run to catch it? After the second time having this happen with those lame laptop case slamming on me as I ran I went looking for a backpack style. And looking at road warriors on planes etc the Swiss was certainly the predominate one. Got it for like $90 and never looked back to a lame laptop case.
    • Backpack?

      A backpack is not appropriate to the executive (suit, tie) in most businesses and is a huge disconnect.

      One other point; you said, "Got it for like $90..." Well, was it LIKE $90 or WAS IT $90? I can tell from your speech pattern it will be awhile before you need worry about the executive level (except reporting to it).
  • Waterfield

    I've been a Waterfield customer since 2005, nad have only had to replace their sleeve cases when buying new laptops because of size, never wear. Currently I have their sleeve case for the 11" MacBook Air, which I bought with my first 11" Air in 2010 and is still like new. I have the 15" sleeve case for the 15" MacBook Pro that I bought with my first unibody 15" in 2008, and which is also still like-new.

    I just bought the 15" Retina MacBook Pro and ordered the City Slicker for it, which should arrive today. Yes, these are expensive, but you definitely get what you pay for.
  • Still hunting for THE bag

    I am a recreational digital SLR photographer AND a roving IT consultant who works from customer sites, meeting locations, hotel rooms and airport gates. In my OFF time I want to explore on foot and capture images. I need a photo gear bag that is comfortable to carry AND keeps my lenses at the ready (back packs are out).

    Here's the rub - I travel light with a carry-on roller bag. On little regional aircraft, I have to give my bag to baggage handlers at plane side. That means I can't pack my notebook or camera gear in my roller bag. But I am only allowed ONE more carry-on. So it has to carry both camera and PC gear. I can put the PC in the roller bag once at my destination. So far, every bag is either an inch too tight, or way too big to use as a convenient at the ready photo bag at my destination.

    The Tamrac Zuma 5 messenger bag would do if:
    the main bag was a half-inch wider, front to back to accomodate the battery on my notebook without straining the zipper
    The front zipper pouch would expand another half-inch to hold the notebook charger without straining the zipper
    The flap had some more slack with a cinch clapse - right now I often can't latch the clapse
    There was a self-storing waist-belt to keep the bag from flopping while shooting or being carried.
    There were a couple straps on the bottom to carry a small tripod.
    Jim Johnson
  • Seriously, plenty of good bags at a better price ...

    I searched long and hard to find the bag I currently have. For each person it depends on their needs and priorities. Mine are light weight, small in size, travel-friendly, and easy access to all I want to carry. The Samsonite 14 Inch Xenon 2 Tech Locker is the ticket for me.