Review: Skooba Design Laptop Weekender V.3 laptop duffel
If you’re reading these words, there’s an excellent chance that when you travel, you truck along not only clothes and very small containers filled with shampoo and toothpaste, but also a fair collection of gadgets (and the accessories necessary to power and connect them). This often leads to toting multiple carry-ons: one containing personal items that you place in the overhead bin, and another—the “gadget bag”—that gets shoved under the seat in front of you. Skooba Design makes a reasonable case for carrying it all in one bag with its $180 Laptop Weekender V.3.
The mission of this collapsible nylon duffel, which measures 18 inches long by 12 inches tall by 11 inches across, is implied by its name. Small enough to fit in an overhead bin, the Laptop Weekender is capacious enough to hold a few days of clothes as well as most of the gadgets you’re likely to take on a road trip: a 15-inch (or, of course, smaller) laptop, a mobile phone, an iPad, power adapters, and cables.
The easiest way to grasp the design of this bag is to view it as two storage systems. The inside main compartment is for your clothes and personal items; the outside pockets are for your gear.
The inside is, as mentioned, large enough to hold a couple of pairs of pants, three or four t-shirts, a long weekend’s worth of unmentionables and socks, a not-terribly-bulky sweater or hoodie, a pair of shoes, and a ditty bag. There are two pockets inside large enough to hold one toe-down shoe each.
The outside has one pocket on each side. The one that bears the company logo) is for accessories like cables, your mobile phone, a portable hard drive, and a small notebook. Inside this pocket, making it easier to keep loose cables under control is a zippered, mesh compartment.
Flip the bag around to the other side and you find the pocket for holding your laptop. This pocket is better padded and carries what the company terms Bumper Bars. These are strips of additional padding that protect the sides and bottom of the laptop. This padding is particularly helpful on the bottom, where a laptop might take a nasty shot if you drop the bag. Included with my bag was a hunk of gray foam that might have been intended to keep the bag rigid during shipment. I’ve elected to leave that foam in the laptop compartment to provide even more protection as I’d feel better knowing that my MacBook Air has the extra layer.
Moving to the ends of the bag, on one end you find a simple pocket that runs the height of the bag. You might use this to store the hardback book you intend to read during your flight. The other end has a padded compartment designed for an iPad. Unzip this compartment and you find two interior pockets. Closest to the inside of the bag is the iPad's pouch, which is nicely padded on each side and has a Velcro strap over the top that prevents the iPad from slipping out. On the inner surface of the pocket, across from your iPad, is a zippered, mesh pocket you could use for storing your iPad’s charger and a couple of cables.
The Weekender includes a padded carrying handle as well as a detachable padded shoulder strap. On the outside of the laptop pocket is a trolley strap—a stitched flap you can use to secure the bag to a larger rolling suitcase’s retractable handle. On each end are nylon handles you can use to lift the bag out of an overhead bin or from the trunk of a car.
The construction of the Laptop Weekender is solid. The zippers are robust, and the handles are large enough to easily grasp. The material is also rugged and Skooba didn’t skimp on the hardware or stitching. On the other hand, though the company makes a biggish deal about its patented Superbungee shoulder strap, I didn’t find it more or less comfortable than any other reasonably well-padded shoulder strap I’ve used.
To test the Weekender I took the bag on a couple of trips. The first, it served as a heavily loaded tech bag for a week away with the family. As it was a working vacation, I hauled along a couple of laptops (one went inside the main storage area and the other in the dedicated laptop compartment), an Apple TV, two iPads, a couple of iPods, my iPhone, a dozen DVDs, and enough cables to strap down a rambunctious horse. Overall I found it easy to find the stuff I wanted without a lot of digging through the compartments.
I also used the Weekender as my only bag on a four day car-camping trip. This trip was far less tech-centric, so the bag’s compartments were filled with activity-appropriate items: muddy shoes, thick socks, matches, a flashlight, a lantern, a hatchet, a water bottle, a wool sweater, and s’mores fixings. The bag stood up to some fairly rough treatment and, again, I appreciated the ability to organize my stuff in the bag’s many pockets.
Overall I found the Laptop Weekender V.3 to work exactly as advertised. I’m a bit paranoid about my gear, so prefer more padding rather than less—particularly with delicate items like a MacBook Air and iPad. Given that, I might have cushioned the laptop pocket a bit more had I designed the bag, but the foam insert has alleviated what may be an unreasonable fear. The inside iPad pocket seems appropriately padded. While $180 may seem a little steep for a bag this size, its flexibility and solid construction will make it a good choice for many weekend tech travelers.