I have the opportunity to review a ton of products here on ZDNet and while most are excellent and achieve ratings of 8/10 or higher, it is rare that I judge something to be perfect. However, WaterField Designs has achieved that with its newest backpack.
As a person who commutes about 40 miles each way to and from Seattle by walking, cycling, and riding on a train, my preferred gear bag is a backpack. According to Gary WaterField, there are more of his business customers using backpacks than messenger bags today so the company collected thousands of responses from fans to help create its newest Pro Executive Laptop Backpack and it is perfect.
A couple of months ago I took a day trip to San Franscisco for a briefing on a new phone and had an opportunity to visit the WaterField Designs office where I was able to chat with Gary, Heidi, and others about the company and its products. Gary asked me for some feedback on the Bolt Backpack I was wearing and I told him of a few things I would like to have added, such as dedicated slots for my pens and stylus. It turns out that Gary was collecting input from thousands of customers as his team designed the next backpack.
After traveling on a couple of business trips and commuting daily over the past several weeks, it is clear to me that the WaterField Designs Pro Executive Laptop Backpack gets everything right and is the best bag I have ever tested, for my needs. It has the perfect number of pockets, ample space, stands upright when set down, is very comfortable to wear and carry, has high quality zippers, contains the signature gold interior so you can find things in your bag, looks fabulous with the crimson leather accent, and is made here in the US.
The Pro Executive Laptop Backpack can be ordered now for $349 in four leather accent colors; black leather, chocolate leather, crimson leather, and grey leather. I was sent along a crimson leather one to test that perfectly matches the crimson CitySlicker case for my Nintendo Switch that I purchased after testing out the blue leather model.
Starting from the front and working towards the back straps, we find a prominent leather accent panel. One reason I chose the crimson model to test is the presence of this leather accent. It extends nearly the entire height of the backpack and the crimson leather has an excellent contrast to the black ballistic nylon that most of the backpack is constructed of. The WaterField Designs branding is etched into this accent panel.
The first pocket behind this leather accent panel is accessed through either side of the accent panel with zippers about six inches in length. These zippers are designed to let you access this central pocket through a sideways orientation so you can swing the backpack around on one strap and quickly get into this pocket without fully removing it from your back.
Next, we have the top center pocket that is located between the accent panel and red leather carrying handle. This is my most used pocket where I put in my transit card, earbuds, small notebook, and a pen. The pocket has a typical high quality zipper with that wonderful gold material lining so nothing gets left behind.
There are two large side pockets with zippers that start against the back and extend down nearly to the bottom of the front. The right side pocket has a couple of pen/stylus slots and another pocket composed of black mesh material. I have my Pixelbook Pen and a pencil in the slots with my passport in the larger pocket. The left side pocket has the same three pockets behind black mesh material with a lanyard to hang your keys. I actually attach my AirPods to this lanyard so I don't lose them. These side pockets are also large enough for water bottles.
Just behind the top access pocket and under the leather vertical handle you will find one of the large storage compartments. This gold-lined compartment has no internal pockets, but is about four inches and has been perfect for carrying my lunch to and from the office. I also used it on a couple day trips to carry a few essential clothes and toiletries. It is an excellent multi-purpose pocket that helps the backpack stay upright when you set it down.
The last pocket towards the back is designed to hold the Executive Folio, laptops, tablets, ebook readers, and other gear. There are two dividers in this compartment with the back one having a soft padded felt divider that makes it perfect for protecting your laptop. The dual zippers extend down to within just a few inches of the bottom so you can easily access your gear.
There is a slot on the back, with padding to protect your back, so you can slide the Pro Executive backpack onto your roller bag while traveling. The padded mesh straps are very comfortable and I find this backpack sits a bit lower on my back than the Bolt backpack, which means this backpack fits my body size a bit better too.
WaterField also sent along a 13-inch Executive Folio to test out in crimson leather. If you buy the Pro Executive backpack with the Executive Folio then the combination is $399, making the Folio $49 instead of the stand-alone $89 price.
The Executive Folio has a large leather accent panel on the front with a front zipper positioned above this accent panel. Inside the Folio you will find a large pocket on the left with a padded pocket on the right side. On top of the padded pocket is a pocket that works well for business cards next to three pen/stylus slots. I carry my Pixelbook, stylus, pen, business cards, and a pad of paper in this Executive Folio as I walk around the office and attend various meeting during the week. Two zippers keep the Executive Folio closed with the majority of the folio constructed of black ballastic nylon material.
I honestly cannot think of a single improvement I would make to this backpack for my daily commute, daily office work, and business travel. It has all the space I need while fitting comfortably on my back and weighing in at just under three pounds. It is extremly well constructed, looks stunning, and like all other WaterField Designs bags I have tested over the years it is likely to look and function the same for many years.