Hands-on: Ogio Commuter backpack improves mass transit commuting

It can be annoying fighting bulky backpacks for space on crowded buses and trains, but Ogio has a backpack that makes the experience better while also providing pockets for all your gear.
Written by Matthew Miller, Contributing Writer
Hands-on: Ogio Commuter backpack improves mass transit commuting
Image: ZDNet/CBSi

My daily commute to Seattle includes a two hour round trip Sounder train ride and a 1.5 mile walk so having a functional backpack is important to me. I have tested many different models, but think the new Ogio Commuter may be optimized for my exact commute profile.

People who commute on crowded trains and buses often carry backpacks and many of these end up being quite bulky so that crowded spaces become even more limiting. The Ogio Commuter is a bit unusual and when I first pulled it out of the box I thought it would be too awkward to use. The Commuter is long and skinny (compared to traditionally squatty looking backpacks), but it turns out that this is perfect for those on crowded buses and trains.

I carry my Surface Pro 3, iPad Mini, a couple phones, extra battery packs, cables, wallet, business cards, pens, pocket knife, gum, and other small items in my backpack. While the Commuter is long and skinny (five inches deep), it has pockets for an iPad Mini, iPad, phones, and a laptop. These well-designed pockets keep things from resting on each other and from moving around.

The main compartment is water resistant to protect your laptop if it is raining out. It has an upper flap that folds over the other pockets and in the seam there is a zipper to access the large compartment. The gear here rests against your back.

Image: ZDNet/CBSi

The next pocket in is quite large and is where I put my lunch when I take it to work, especially since the bottom has more room as other gear presses against the top of this compartment when those compartments are loaded up. My iPad Mini goes in the next pocket with my wallet, cards, and spare battery pack in the next pocket (the one located furthest to the back).

There are two large strips of Velcro backing on the outside of this last pocket that run down the bag. The large flap that provides access to the laptop compartment rests on this backing with Velcro and keeps things fairly secure. There are two latches to secure the flap even better, but I personally rarely use the latches since I go in and out of my back quite a bit. You can also roll the top flap and secure it if you want quick access to the back compartments without messing with the upper flap.

Near the bottom of the back you will find a pocket designed for phones that has subdivision inside. There are two durable zippers to access this pocket and I tend to throw a phone or two in there with some other smaller items.

Image: ZDNet/CBSi

The bottom of the Commuter is made of a glossy waterproof abrasion resistant material so you don't have to worry about setting your bag down on something nasty on the bus or train.

The straps are adjustable and very comfortable with a chest strap if you want to carry and distribute a heavy load. The bag itself is quite light at 2.2 pounds, yet made of attractive material that gives it a professional look. I thoroughly enjoyed carrying the backpack as it sat nice and high while the load was well balanced on my upper back.

The minimal depth of this backpack was great for placing the pack under my knees against the train seat while allowing my heels to rest very close to the seat so myself and others had ample leg room. I also liked that I was able to easy place the loaded Commuter in the overhead luggage rack that is not tall enough to fit most backpacks.

A couple of times the train was very loaded and I had to stand. The Commuter's depth again let me stand close to others without consuming too much space.

The Commuter is well designed for those using mass transit, but isn't really a bag for those who fly a lot since it doesn't open up as a checkpoint-friendly bag and getting your laptop out does require you to open the flap and unzip the compartment.

The Ogio Commuter is available for $100 in black or olive. I was sent the black, with gray highlights, to evaluate. There is yellow lining inside many of the compartments and under the large main flap.

Editorial standards