The Tech - Online EditionMIT's oldest and largest
newspaper & the first
newspaper published
on the web
Boston Weather: 35.0°F | Fair

The Shopaholic Beaver (Get) Off My Back (Part 2 of 3)

By Elizabeth Zakszewski

Hello readers, and welcome back to the quest for the perfect everyday laptop backpack. In my last episode, I explored the High Sierra brand, which had good quality materials and features, but some poor size considerations. This week, we’ll look at the Samsonite brand.

I was first attracted to Samsonite laptop backpacks when I saw grad students in my lab this summer carrying them. They looked well-designed with extremely comfortable padding. I knew that Samsonite makes other good quality bags (suitcases, briefcase-messengers), and when I saw I could get one of their backpacks online for under $40, I had to check it out. There were lots of designs, but only two that would hold my large laptop. My rating scale in the various categories is 1–5 (1=worst, 5=best).

Samsonite “Typhoon”

This bag’s main feature is a removable laptop sleeve with its own little handles. A nice feature, I thought, since when you aren’t carrying your laptop you just take that part out and you’ve got a regular backpack. The only problem is the sleeve just barely fit my 17-inch laptop. It took some effort to zip up, and then when I put the filled sleeve in the backpack, it was a struggle to get the zipper of the main compartment closed. By the time I managed to pack my bag, I’d already missed a shuttle to work! And since the sleeve is thin material with thin padding, if your laptop is much smaller than mine, it wouldn’t be very well protected. The bag has two large compartments and one smaller one with minimal organization pockets inside. Then, it has this weird panel in front connected to the rest by buckled straps, whose purpose I was never able to figure out. The MP3 player pocket is in the back panel and therefore well-hidden, but was a little awkward against my back. It wasn’t too much of a problem though.

Aside from strange features, the bag looks pretty nice, black (or another color if you like) with reflective silver accents that add just enough variety. It features the comforts that I’d liked in my labmates’ bags, with a really cushy handle and super-mega-thick padded straps. I don’t know what they put in those straps, but it’s heavy duty almost to the point of making them feel awkward. This is not the bag for me.

Samsonite “Riptide”

This is a well-designed bag overall. It only comes in a sleek, all-black color, at least on http://www.ebags.com. The built-in laptop sleeve is easy enough to get my computer into, has a Velcro strap to secure it, and feels protective enough. The sleeve doesn’t go all the way down to the bottom, so if you drop the bag, your books will hit the ground before your computer. Aside from one main compartment, it has a slightly smaller middle compartment that’s perfect for paperbacks, planners, and other small objects that you don’t want floating around in a huge compartment but also don’t fit the front organizer compartment. The front organizer pocket also has just the right number of pockets.

The bag also features the same super-comfortable squishy handle as the Typhoon, and although the shoulder straps aren’t padded as heavily, they are still comfortable. My only complaints are minor: the side mesh pockets (on both this and the Typhoon) are narrow so it takes some effort to put in a water bottle, the shoulder straps are shaped so that they sit broadly on the shoulders (which felt a bit strange on me), and there is no convenient cell phone pocket on the shoulder strap. However, there is a strap to which a cell phone case can easily be attached.

Overall, I really liked that Riptide. The material isn’t the highest quality, but at the price, it’s good enough. Did I choose this to be my new backpack? You’ll have to tune in (or, um, open your paper) next time, when I review the rest of the bags I tried.