Monday, July 6, 2009

My new Booq Bag...

So I recently acquired a new laptop which of course means I needed (wanted?) a new laptop bag. Yeah, I could have just got a new sleeve for one of my older bags, but they never fit perfectly, and a $100 investment to protect a $1500 device is never a bad thing. That said, finances are ... okay but tight, and $100 investment this time, had to mean a $100 investment, and not something that was "about $100" which is Alycin-speak for $175.

I always head over to SF Bags, Tom Bihn and Timbuk2 and work my way down. They are three of the best laptop bag designers, have been at it for years, and really have things down pat. SF Bags was a bit out of my price range, and Tom Bihn just didn't have exactly what I was looking for. Timbuk2 almost got a sale with the large discount on the Timbuk2 Mink Blogger, but I just didn't want a backpack style bag for my laptop. Really nice fabric, very roomy interior though, and for $97.50, a steal for a quality bag from Timbuk2.

So I made my way through the usuals - Incase, Kensington, Brenthaven, Targus and other brands. Just to common, plain and boring. It'd be like buying a BMW 3 series, and the low end 325 at that - sure, it's a luxury brand, but you now have something that seemingly everybody has.

So I found my way to Booq - another higher end maker of bags with a series of bags custom tailored to the exact size of the MacBook Pro line. Arriving tomorrow (and just discontinued - I got lucky), I picked up the Taipan Slimcase Small, in Brown.

Booq, as you can see has left a lot of room for your gear. What's nice is it's only 13x10x3 and weighs 1.2lb - not bad for such a voluminous bag. Not pictured in the left, of course, is a MacBook Pro.

Rather than giving you a pocket with room for a sleeve (or room for jiggling laptops), they gave a separate compartment. Pictured on the right is that pocket, perfectly sized for the MacBook Pro, with a supremely padded compartment, and a separate zipper. Not only that, it's a YKK zipper, a premium zipper brand that's so notable it's worth mentioning by name! (Disclosure: I had never heard of YKK before hand, but it seems to be quite notable).

It also features a water resistant exterior, and Booq's terralinq system, which is a metal serial number embedded in the bag which is registered with them. They will help a good Samaritan find you and return your lost bag, on the off chance that you both leave your bag somewhere and it finds it's way to a good Samaritan.

Did it meet the $100 criteria? You betcha, at a svelte $69.95, less a 10% discount, plus $8 FedEx shipping.

Kindle and Bags...

I've had a Kindle for quite a number of months now. Two, actually, if you count the one that was accidentally left on the roof of my car while I was loading Rebekah into it, and I was halfway down the highway before realizing what I had done. If you've recently lost your office to a second child and are an avid reader, the Kindle is a fantastic device. Not only are the books cheaper, but the E-Ink screen really is "as good as paper" and very soothing on your eyes. Lastly, I can store a thousand books or so in the palm of my hand - important when you are giving away all of your bookcases but still like to buy 3-4 books a month.

The best case I found was from SF Bags, whom I've been a customer of for years - if you want to talk to a knowledable and friendly designer, go to or shoot Gary an email ([email protected]). Weighing a svelte 7 ounces, SF Bags also sells Kindle cases, although if you have the Amazon case with the locking latch, it fits just fine in the bag. Also fitting in easily is the Kindle charger and USB cable, a pair of headphones and a pocket light for reading in the dark, with plenty of room to spare.

As you can see, it's fairly stylish and available in half a dozen colors. Their slip cases and sleeve cases are great (and matching) as well - but I prefer the Amazon leather case, as you can read the Kindle without removing it from a sleeve. There's an optional shoulder strap (highly recommended) and the whole setup will set you back $54, which is a good deal when you consider that Amazon will charge you $199 to replace a Kindle you've broken by dropping.

One of the tenets of SF Bags is that everything they sell has several different available configurations. If you want to go lighter, you can skip the travel case, and just grab a sleeve case. It's extremely well padded, certainly better than any case Amazon will sell you. I've used the laptop versions of their sleeve cases, and they fit to a tee - you don't pick small, medium or large, you buy a sleeve for your device and it "just fits." It's $10 cheaper than the travel case, but currently available just in one color. Like the travel case, you can add a shoulder strap for $5 more.

If you buy the sleeve case, and later wish to carry all of your gear - no problem, just add their piggyback case which attaches to the same loops that the shoulder strap does. Didn't get a shoulder strap? Other than the cost of shipping, they will add shoulder loops and a strap to any bag you bought for no extra cost other than the original cost of the shoulder strap, in this case, $5. The piggyback adds a bit of storage for your chargers, cables and other accessories, but runs $22. If you think you want to carry that stuff, you are probably best off getting a travel case and either using your existing Kindle case, or adding a $27 slip case available in matching colors.

The cost functionality will be about the same, but the piggyback is a bit of a kludge - the slip case and travel case will look quite a bit more stylish and elegant.

So how good is the bag? Well, everything I've ever had from SF Bags is sturdy, well padded, dirt resistant, and absolutely made for the device I was purchasing for. Years later the bags look brand new. If not for the baby on the way, I would certainly have bought the Muzetto for my MacBook Pro, along with a custom designed sleeve case, but alas, that would be up near $300, which would have gotten me a good six months on the couch. By all means, however, if you are looking for a high end laptop bag, consider any of these three by SF Bags:

The Cozmo: Starting out at $169, I actually still have my original Cozmo from my first Apple laptop. It's a beautiful bag, with a hard bottom which means it can sit upright. The interior lining is gorgeous, and easy to find dropped items against. Throw in a gear pouch (or two) and you have yourself a fine looking, lightweight bag.

The Cargo: I'm not a huge fan of messenger style bags, but I still almost bought this one, and it's by far the nicest looking one I've seen. Right down to the buckle, everything is elegantly designed. The buckle is a standard airline buckle, and for a few bucks more they have the easy to latch impossible to accidentally open paragliding buckle (both pictured on the right).

The Muzetto: Need I say anything, or should the following two pictures suffice to tell the story of the Muzetto, also known as the nicest looking bag I've ever seen: