I've been on a quest over the last decade to find a laptop backpack that offers comfort, style, durability, and function. I’ve gone through a dozen laptop backpacks over the years, from Timbuk2 to Kenneth Cole to North Face to Encase to Hurley and a handful of others. Usually something drove me to make a change – not enough compartments, no water bottle holder, durability issues, etc. Then last year I was introduced to the Bolt backpack by WaterField Designs and have been extremely happy with it.
This year-long test has put the backpack through the ringer, literally traveling over 100,000 miles with me, across the world, lugging all of my electronics, personal items, and valuables. From the rainy streets of London, to the windy October weather in Chicago, snowy Maine, and tropical shores – this backpack has seen a lot of different conditions and has held up without a flaw. Not to mention, it has handled the intense, everyday sun of Las Vegas pretty well too.
The Bolt Backpack by WaterField Designs
The Bolt backpack comes in a few different canvas and leather colors and the design is well thought out. It offers two top zippers allowing easy access via the top of the pack; one positioned over the laptop to easily slide it out, the other opens up to the main compartment.
Most backpacks are blackholes for your stuff, so having these two access points is really useful. The front offers three pockets as well which offers lots of usable storage. The pack is the perfect size for travel as it fits under the seats of just about every airplane, large and small. But before you get onto your plane, train or bus, the backpack has your traveling comfort in mind as it offers a sleeve to hook your backpack onto your carry-on suitcase so that they can move as one, saving your back and shoulders. The full leather bottom makes it more durable for when you have to place it on the floor.
It offers two water bottle holders which comes in handy when you have more than one drink, or if you like to carry a travel size umbrella in one, like I do. The top handle is made of reinforced leather allowing you to pull the bag out of tight spots with ease. And each zipper comes with a leather strap to aid with closure. This is the one and only issue I ever had with the bag, as I broke one of the leather pull straps trying to cram too much into the laptop compartment. Finally the pack offers extra padding to save your shoulders and back when you have a heavily loaded backpack. You'll be thankful for this.
The interior has a number of unique spaces to store your electronics, cords, and valuables. Starting with the laptop sleeve, you can store up to a 15 inch MacBook Pro with ease. I sometimes carry two laptops in there when I'm traveling with my family. Just in front of the laptop sleeve, you'll find a slightly smaller second sleeve for a Kindle, iPad or other smaller device – or use it for some of your important documents that you want easy access to. It's a deep pocket so you can use if for a number of things.
Like most backpacks, you've got a large space to store your other things. In my case it's usually my cords and chargers, some tea and snacks. That said, I have also used this backpack for overnight trips, so it's large enough for a day's worth of clothes and your laptop if you want to travel light. On the top, along the front edge of the bag, you'll find two small pockets for quick access to smaller things as well as a special key holder so you can find your keys at anytime. The interior of this bag is very well thought out so you don't lose everything into one larger space which is a problem with most backpacks I've used.
Features of the Bolt Backpack:
- Two padded compartments — one for laptop, one for tablet —both easily accessible through a separate waterproof zipper for easy access at airport security
- Additional waterproof zipper to access main compartment contents
- Spacious, gold-lined interior
- Two open-topped, interior hand pockets for storing chargers, cords, pens, etc.
- Two exterior side pockets for water bottle or other quick-access items
- Front zippered pocket with rain-guard flap for stashing sensitive documents
- Two additional front pockets with leather tabs and magnetic closures
- Anti-sweat mesh cushion also slides over rolling suitcase handle for breezing through airports
- Ergonomically-designed straps distribute weight evenly
- Thick, leather covered bottom provides structure and enhances water-resistance and longevity
- Leather-lined, comfortable grab handle
WaterField Designs is a San Francisco-based company founded by Gary Waterfield in 1998. They make their products in San Francisco and focus on the process and design to create uniquely thought-out, well crafted bags and carries. Aside from the the Bolt backpack they make several other bags, carriers, and wallets for your devices and travel needs.
Pros and Cons
- Amazing quality and craftsmanship
- Two zippers on top for easy access
- Luggage sleeve for sitting on carry-on rolling bag securely
- Padded back for comfort
- Lots of inside pockets and compartments
- Dual bottle carries
- Overall size fits under just about every airplane seat comfortably
- Made in America
- One zipper on laptop sleeve rather then dual zipper
- Leather zipper straps may wear out or break if you try to cram things in
Should you buy the Bolt backpack by WaterField Designs? Yes, if you're looking for a backpack I would strongly recommend this one. The Bolt Backpack offers the perfect combination of durability, well thought-out function, and style. This product is also made in America with care, and it shows. If you're not in the market for a backpack for yourself, this will make a great gift for that special someone.
Where to buy: Waterfield Designs
Editor's Note: WaterField Designs provided a Bolt Backpack for review for this article.