Timbuk 2’s $100 Q Backpack is a mid-sized bag that wraps up some of the company’s recent design innovations in a lightweight package. As long as you’re not trying to cram in a week’s worth of school books or hiking supplies, this is a decent offering from Timbuk 2, albeit with a couple of key drawbacks.
The Q features four main compartments: one for your laptop, another for general storage, an accessory area on the front of the bag, and a “smart power brick pocket.” The bag is pleasantly thin, weighs only 1.9 pounds, and comes in your choice of four color schemes based on a main color of blue, gunmetal gray, light brown, or black.
The laptop compartment—which is designed to fit a generic notebook up to 15 inches in size—is the first unique aspect of this bag. Timbuk 2 has used its clever Swing Around Access design, which means that instead of accessing your laptop by unzipping the top of the bag, the zipper runs vertically along one side of the bag. Timbuk 2 boasts that this design lets you swing your bag around from its left shoulder strap and whip out your notebook without having to take the bag completely off your shoulders. While testing the Q, I grew to like this easy-access design. Even though I’m not usually the type to pull out my MacBook Pro until I’m sitting down at my destination, I found that the side-opening design did indeed make it more convenient to remove my laptop while on the go.
On the other hand, I’m not a fan of Timbuk 2’s internal design choices for the laptop compartment itself. Instead of lining the bottom with proper padding to protect your laptop when setting the bag down, Timbuk 2 sews in a strange kind of padding “bumper” that flops around too much in the compartment. This padding might work for thicker Windows notebooks, but my MacBook Pro often slipped past this padded bumper, exposing the laptop to damage if I wasn’t careful when setting the bag down.
Another odd design choice is the strangely named “smart power brick” pocket, which runs at a slight diagonal across the bottom of the bag. This pocket certainly offers enough room to fit a power brick (or possibly a really thin rain jacket), keeping it separate from the rest of your stuff. But the pocket itself juts into the bottom area of the main storage compartment—anything you pile in the main area sits on top of whatever is in the smart power brick pocket. (Similarly, if the main compartment is packed full, it can be difficult to put your power brick into the smart power brick pocket.) The pocket is an interesting idea, and I found it to be especially useful for storing the aforementioned rain shell when commuting, but it could use some kind of external expansion or proper segregation from the bag’s other compartments.
I’m not one to suffer the inevitable tangling that occurs from tossing cables and trinkets together, so I like that Timbuk 2 was generous with pockets in the accessory area, which is protected by a zippered flap that you flip away horizontally. The accessory area is tall and wide enough to store an iPad in a pinch, and it also sports a fairly deep and loose horizontal pocket along the bottom.
The Q Backpack also features a small, zippered compartment on the outside of the accessory flap, as well as a much smaller zippered stash area on the lower back panel. If you’re a cyclist, there’s a loop on the bottom of the outward face of the bag for strapping a light.
Timbuk 2 made some unfortunate choices when tailoring the Q Backpack, but the company also combined a light, thin, mid-sized design with some clever tricks, leaving me with a conflicted opinion. I like the side-loading access and generous accessory pockets (especially from Timbuk 2 which, in the past, has been too stingy with pockets for my tastes), but the strange padding in the notebook compartment and the oddly designed “smart power brick” pocket don’t do the bag any favors. If you don’t think you’ll mind these quirks, then this can be a decent pack.