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

By Elizabeth Zakszewski

Now for the last in my brave series exploring the world of laptop backpacks in search of perfection (I like to make my projects sound elegant). To review, I’ve discussed some packs by High Sierra that are comfortable but heavy-duty and often overloaded with features, and I also looked at some from Samsonite that were comfy and cheaper, but hit-or-miss on usability. Today’s models are offered by brands other than those (remember, 1 = worst 5 = best).

Jansport “Air Clipse”

Jansport is the brand I always used as a kid because the bags are built to last. I thought this model, which came in their new “sprucey-spruce” (I love pretty greens!), would be a good buy. However, it is much smaller than it seems from online descriptions, and I discovered too late that my laptop would not fit. I liked the idea of having two pockets one on top of the other in the front to keep little things separate and still have enough room for them, but there weren’t any other good features, like side pockets or a padded handle. The straps were only moderately padded, but that probably wouldn’t be a problem since you wouldn’t be able to fit anything really heavy, anyway. If you choose this one, expect a small, basic bag that comes in pretty colors. A larger, better version with more features is the “Firewire”, but I didn’t want to pay upwards of $70.

Pacific Design “Action II Backpack XL”

With it’s sleek black and dark silver coloring, this bag is also very nice-looking. It fits a laptop and more (books fit too but it gets a little cramped) and has lots of pockets inside, so if you like to bring lots of electronic accessories when you travel, you can keep them all really well-organized. The side pockets are zippered, so that while they are awkward for holding water bottles (my favorite use), you could store other stuff instead. It has a nicely padded handle, straps, and back panel to keep me comfortable at least on short walks, however I didn’t like the material, which was thick and rather stiff. This makes a great backpack for airplane travel, but doesn’t work so well as an everyday school bag.

Adidas “Compression Backpack”

I’d never known that Adidas made laptop backpacks until I came across this one, so even though I was skeptical, I still tried it. Finally, a backpack that could fit my computer and school stuff without being so enormous it made me look like I was readying for a hike across the Andes! EBags ( only offered it in black and white, not my favorite color scheme but also not bad. I’ve seen the same model around campus in a pretty blue color. The design on the front resembles π (nerdy and cute!). The handle is cushioned, the back has a little bit of padding (wish there were more), and the straps have that suspension system that High Sierra used (with the elastic), which took the tension off my shoulders. The laptop sleeve doesn’t have an annoying strap across the top (which tends to get in the way when you take the computer in or out), but does have elastic sides to hold your computer is snugly no matter what its size. Also, there’s an mp3 player pocket inside and those mesh water bottle pockets on the sides that I always like. The design has the front compartment almost separate from the main one, attached by mesh sides and adjustable buckles on top, so that I can store my hat (or other things I want easy access to) in the space between without having to deal with extra zippers.

I ended up keeping this model, and I use it every day. If you want to explore any of these backpacks further (that is, if you’re as anal-retentive a shopper as I am), I recommend because it has tons of pictures of lots of bags. Let me know what I should review next!