A week before Christmas a thief broke into my car and stole my backpack full of mobile gear. I then started looking for a replacement backpack with the lesson learned to never leave anything of value in my car again. After looking around for something functional, durable, and attractive I discovered the WaterField Designs Staad BackPack and was sent one to test out. After a few weeks of use, it is clear to me that this backpack is well worth the $329 price tag.
The first thing many people think when they see a backpack at $329 is that the price is too high. I understand that there are many high quality fabric backpacks available in the $100 price range, but I have to say that every WaterField Designs bag I have tried looks almost new many years down the road where other backpacks I have used all fell apart in various ways. Like premium purses that women carry for years, my backpack travels with me every single day and serves an essential function. If I can buy one that last me for 10 years or more while looking fantastic then it is easy to justify the $329 price.
I also think it is worth noting that WaterField Designs bags are designed and manufactured right here in the US, actually in San Francisco. As a US veteran and patriotic American, I try to support companies that create things here in the US and am willing to spend some extra money for such endeavors.
The Staad BackPack comes in two sizes, Slim ($319) and Stout ($329). I was sent a Stout model that fits laptops up to 15 inches while giving you a bit more length, width, and depth. The Stout model is 0.4 pounds heavier as well. ZDNet’s Jason O’Grady tested out the Slim version of the Staad BackPack and selected it for his 2013 Gift Guide.
You have two choices in body material, waxed canvas or black ballistic. I was sent the brown waxed canvas model to test out.
You also have three choices for the leather flap color, including black leather, chocolate leather, and grizzly leather. WaterField Designs sent along the black leather one. You can flip through photos on their site to see each of these color and material combinations and choose what you like the best. I also think the black ballistic body with chocolate leather looks good, but after having tested their I am a fan of their waxed canvas material.
When you first open the box and pull out the Staad BackPack you will likely first be drawn to the large leather flap. It feels fantastic, is supple, and well-stitched. The leather flap is composed of two large pieces so you will find leather on both sides of the flap.
The closure mechanism is unlike anything I have seen before and is slick. I understand it is a WWII-era buckle and love it! The buckle is composed of three main pieces; a large piece with a slot in it (attached to the bottom of the flap) that fits over a post piece with a large slot in it (attached to the outside of the front of the backpack) with a smaller pointed piece of plastic (attached a little further up the top flap) that fits into the post slot when the large slotted piece is placed over the post. It is a bit tough to describe, but is pretty awesome. You can open the bag with a single hand by simply pulling up on the smaller pointed piece and lifting. Securing it takes two hands, but is carried out in a second.
Now that the flap is open, let’s take a walk around the front of the Staad Backpack. You will find one large zipper right down the center that extends just over halfway down the front. This is designed to give you easier access to the largest main compartment, but doesn’t have to be zipped to access other parts of the bag.
To the left and right side you will find large angled, zippered compartments for storing items. These are designed so that you can swing the Staad around with one shoulder strap on and access the pocket without fully removing the backpack. I placed my wallet and extra phone in one with my keys and earbuds in the other. The zippers on this bag are pretty incredible too. They are heavy duty zippers with small pull cords and have a rugged foundation piece. My WaterField Designs zippers have never failed me and I have been using their bags for years.
Looking into the main compartment, you will find two pockets on the back side of the angled outer pockets that are secured with Velcro strips. These are great pockets for pens, business cards, floss, pills, cables, and more. I actually would like to have seen a couple pen silos inside here, but not everyone is perfect.
There is a key lanyard with securing clip in the left side of the main compartment, secured near the top. The main compartment is actually quite impressive and very deceiving. You can read about my travel experiences below in the functionality section.
To the back of the main compartment, accessed from the top of the bag, is a slot with padding on one side that is perfect for a tablet. I slide my iPad Mini with Retina display in here.
The last compartment in the bag is against the back of the Staad and is designed to hold your laptop, up to 15 inches in size. It is padded on the front with rigid lining being found on both the front and the back to fully protect your laptop in the bag.
Looking at the back of the Staad we find that most of it is covered with padded weave material for comfort on your back. The two wide straps are lined with this padded material on the underside and waxed canvas on the upper side that matches the main body material. Both straps are adjustable and there is no center chest strap. I rarely use these chest straps and actually find the Staad to be extremely comfortable while staying in place with just these two straps and its tapered compartment design.
Above the shoulder straps and large leather front flap you will find a heavy duty carry handle with leather grip. With the Staad fully loaded, the leather carry strap is very convenient for lifting the bag up and into position for mounting on your back.
The signature gold wear material is used inside all compartments of the bag. WaterField Designs believes that this offers instant visibility to your contents and I fully agree with that statement. Black is terrible inside compartments and on other bags I have actually left items behind because I couldn’t see what was inside. The gold also looks pretty slick.
Many backpacks I have tried have either been too large or didn’t fit quite right. The Staad BackPack has the right mix of size, comfort, and looks. When my wife first saw it she said it looked way too small to actually hold all my mobile gear. She was quite surprised when she saw me pack up everything I needed for a two day trip to Alaska right in the Staad. You can see photos of the packed up bag and then a shot of nearly everything on the bed after I took it all out. Actually, I forgot to empty the two inside pockets with my business cards, floss, pen, and other gear.
The Staad BackPack is extremely comfortable bag and the two straps let me carry a light or full load with no issues at all. It carries everything I need for my daily commute, including a Chromebook, iPad Mini, a couple phones, keys, wallet, magazine, and much more.
The backpack looks fantastic with the mix of leather and waxed canvas. I wore it in the rain a couple of times and saw no change in the finish of the bag. The stitching looks great and the material of the bag is top notch.
To summarize the WaterField Designs Staad BackPack features and my experiences, here are my pros and cons.
The WaterField Designs Staad BackPack is available now for $329 from the WaterField Designs store. All bags are made to order and usually ship within five days.
There are number of premium quality leather laptop backpacks available, ranging in price from $150 to more than $400. These include backpacks from Tumi, Piel, Claire Chase, Royce Leather, and more.
The Stout version of the Staad BackPack is 16 inches x 14.25 inches x 1.5-5.5 inches and weighs in at 2.8 lbs. There are five internal compartments and two zippered pockets.
The WaterField Designs Staad BackPack is stunning. Like most bags from WaterField Designs, the photos on the website don’t really do it justice and the bags all are much more impressive in person. I was blown away by how comfortable the Staad was, especially when carrying a heavy load.
The tapered design makes it seem like the Staad won’t hold much, but you will be surprised how capable it really is. I am ready to fork over the $329 for the bag and think the black leather flap with brown waxed canvas may actually be my favorite color scheme. The Staad is made in the US and I doubt you will find a bag made with such care and quality as this. If you want a backpack for the long term, then seriously consider one from WaterField Designs.