When I was in Chicago for MPU Live in March I took the opportunity to order a Waterfield Staad backpack to my hotel to bring back with me. I’d been intrigued by their bags for quite some time, but after seeing MacGenie with one of these at PodCon, and seeing MacSparky’s Sling bag at the same event, I was convinced I wanted the bag.

Let’s start with logistics: I realised only shortly before my trip that this would be a great time to get the bag, so I paid for premium shipping, contacted Gary through the contact address on their web page, and hoped for the best – and they delivered (with time to spare)! After collecting it from the Fedex in my hotel (still cheaper than international shipping I would note), I actually got my hands on it.

I picked the black ballistic with the chocolate leather, I’m a fan of the Indiana Jones look – but I like my bags to look pristine for as long as possible and knew the ballistic fabric would deliver that, however leather ages whatever you do – so the chocolate was an obvious choice to let me still see the wear on it! The inside of the flap is lined with smooth black leather, and this doesn’t mark easily so I suspect the completely black model wouldn’t have either.

Some background: I fly, a lot. I’m writing this review on my 5th flight this month, which happens to be my 3rd weekend on the road (or in the air) in a row. Next weekend I’m not going anywhere (at least that I know of), and then I’m off to WWDC which involves 4 flights. I fly carry on only whenever I can, because it’s cheaper, and it means I know my things will be with me when I land. However this means my backpack is restricted to some pretty small dimensions – unless I wanted to put everything in my backpack (which if you’ve queued in the immigration line at LAX before you will probably agree is not fun). So I need a small backpack, I also want to be able to get at everything pretty easily – without said items falling out of the bag if I open it up.

This bag is perfect for me as it has a laptop sleeve which fits my 13″ MacBook Air like it was made for it (it’s actually made for the 13″ MacBook Pro which is cuboid rather than wedge shaped), and another sleeve on the front of that for my 11″ iPad Pro in the smart folio with the Apple Pencil. On the inside of the bag at the top there are two vertical pockets which close with Velcro – I use one for my passport and one for my charger and USB C cables (to USB C and Lightning). On the front at the bottom you have two pockets as well – these are designed so that if you swing the bag up under your arm they face up (or completely down if you open the opposite side pocket), which is where my purse (American: wallet), AirPods, any medication I need, lip balm, tissues, etc., live. If I’m taking the bag to work my work ID/access card go in there too.

Everything else goes in the main compartment in front of my iPad Pro – this usually includes things like my Bose headphones in their case (I prefer to fly with the QC35s, but sometimes take the QC30s instead), Nintendo Switch, etc. Overfilling the bag isn’t an option because then the flap wouldn’t close – but this helps me limit what I’m carrying and I appreciate that.

I was impressed with this bag when I first got it in March, but 2 months later I can see it’s truly holding up as it ought to – it looks great, and it works. Because of the sleeves for my devices (which aren’t insanely large as they often are in bags) I can just slip my laptop and iPad in and out, the half zip on the front under the flap lets me get access to things inside if I need to, but keeps things securely in place. The clasp is very good too – it closes easily (unless you try to overstuff the bag), and it stays put. The fabric is also exactly wide enough that you can slip a pin on it for decoration without worrying about damage or impaired function. The bag also fits nicely on my frame – the Stout model is unsurprisingly larger, which is one reason why I didn’t order it (if I have space in a bag I will absolutely throw things in “just in case” and then end up regretting lugging said items around later) – and I’m 5’7″ as well as pretty slim. I’m also really pleased with the padding on the straps and the back of the bag (pictured below), they’re thick and comfortable, but not so thick that the bad becomes bulky.

The only thing that remains to be seen is if the iPad pocket will fit my iPad Pro with the Brydge keyboard attached – however that is something I’ll have to wait another week or so to try! I’m very pleased with my bag – and now I have to admit I’m very tempted to try out some of their other products like one of their cases for the Nintendo Switch!

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