Ok, so we might be a little late for “Back to school”, but these backpacks are perfectly suited for school, work, or even traveling, when you need to carry the essentials (which almost always includes a laptop or tablet). And we had good intentions, since we hatched this comparison at the height of summer. It just takes a while to round up gear, convince our friends to give up their regular backpacks for a few days, and then grill them mercilessly after. Oh, selection criteria was simple: The ability to carry at least a 15″ laptop, some compartments for staying organized, and low-key styling. The last is important, as certain brands seem to scream “There’s a laptop inside, steal me!”, which is what we’d like to avoid.
First up is the Everki Glide. Rated for laptops up to 17.3 inches, its basic black would be completely understated if not for a bit of pop from the orange trim. That allows it to blend in equally as well on campus, at the office, or on vacation.
The Glide is designed for bigger laptops, and bigger people as well, it would seem. While it fit smaller testers, it still accommodates the 6 foot, 200+ guys across the shoulders. Its orange lining was certainly appreciated, as it made some items somewhat easier to find, especially compared to what a black lining would have been like. Organization was excellent, with the laptop and tablet/reader pockets sufficiently padded, and easily accessible. Additional protection comes from a strap that snugs your laptop down a bit, and reinforced corners in the pack itself, which helps guard against the inevitable bumps. A combination of different sized pockets in the front compartment accommodate writing instruments, business cards/ID, and miscellaneous items like card readers, thumb drives, and a compact digital camera. Inside the main compartment, a larger zippered mesh pocket holds items you want to stow securely, but locate quickly.
We really like the Glide. It seems well thought out, the construction shows plenty of attention to detail, and it’s comfortable to wear. The straps have loops in the bottom for quick adjustment, provide the right amount of padding for the weight capacity of a backpack this size, and you’ll even find a handy zippered pocket on the left one for stashing small items like extra cash. While some might prefer an external side pocket for a water bottle, the very front has a stretch panel that can handle a bottle or two, just not as conveniently as if they were mounted on the side. The Everki website lists an MSRP of $99.99, but we found several of their retail partners offering them for a bit less.
Timbuk2 shouldn’t need any introduction. They’ve been in business for more than 20 years, and have expanded their line from messenger bags to backpacks and all sorts of other cool products for carrying your essentials on and off a bicycle. We noticed the Timbuk2 Jones in carbon had that same classy look, right down to the orange trim, and realized that it would be another good choice for someone looking for a backpack that’s low-key, but packs a bit of style.
Like most Timbuk2 products, their website lists sizing that is pretty specific to Apple products, but that doesn’t mean that Windows and Android users are left out. They specifically mention the 15″ MacBook, but a 15.6″ laptop fit just as easily, and you can can fit your tablet or reader in the iPad pocket too. We tried both, and the police didn’t show up, so we figure it’s as much a way of presenting a standard as it is speaking directly to their target demographic. For a pack that’s 19.7 inches tall and 6.7 inches deep, the straps are sufficiently padded, unless you’re filling the whole thing up with 30 liters of brick. A laptop, tablet, binder, and the usual pens, pencils, and other school or office necessities fit nicely, and there’s even an external side pocket for your water bottle.
Laptops and tablets were held securely, and there’s still room for a charger plus lunch, or at least some snacks. Interior organization wasn’t quite as handy on the Jones as it was on the Glide, but the front zipper allows the panel to open enough that you can easily get to everything inside. That lack of multiple interior pockets within the large compartments keeps the weight down, and allows for a pretty low profile. It’s a fair trade off, unless you’re carrying a lot of little items. Our smaller (and younger) testers gravitated to this pack, and it’s obvious that the minimalist design resonates well with them. Timbuk2 seems to have found that balance of creating a “must have” brand without losing any street cred, and that’s not easy. Props to them.
Overall, Timbuk2 has done a great job of meeting the holy trifecta of style, utility, and price with the Jones. It’s currently on sale at Timbuk2.com for $59.25, (down from $79), and is available in five color combinations. And of course, Timbuk2 stands behind their products with a lifetime warranty against defects in materials or workmanship, making that price even more attractive.
Either of these backpacks is a winner, it’s up to you to decide which better suits your needs.