Incase’s $80 Compact Backpack is a slim version of the company’s Nylon Backpack. The company has removed a few storage options and slimmed down others to create a bag that has few competitors for the title of “Most Likely to Show Up on Apple Retail Store Shelves.”
The model I tested is a member of Incase’s traditional Nylon Collection, so it’s built with the company’s familiar nylon construction and aesthetic. Incase has recently branched out in the color department, though, offering the bag in nine different color combinations. Our sample had a taupe exterior with a nicely contrasting dark blue for the lining and accents. That includes the faux fur Incase uses to add a bit of protection polish to the laptop compartment.
Making good on its name, the Compact Backpack eschews the dual-compartment design of its big brother in favor of a single zippered compartment that houses just about everything: a padded MacBook sleeve that fits up to a 15-inch MacBook Pro, an iPad slip pocket, space for a couple books and magazines, and several accessory pockets. However, the Compact Backpack is really less than one inch slimmer than the Nylon Backpack, so it still offers quite a bit of space in that single compartment.
The bag’s padded shoulder straps and back panel make for a comfortable all-day ride. But in its effort to keep the bag compact, I think Incase skimped a bit too much when it comes to internal accessory pockets. I like to bring a handful of accessories such as a USB dock cable, an iPad connection kit, a Mophie Juice Pack, a few pens, and a couple of other assorted items, and I had to resort to sticking some of these items the pocket on the front of the bag. And speaking of the pen pockets, I found it strange that they were too shallow for regular pens to be properly secured.
Another complain I have about the Compact Backpack—and, really, all of Incase’s recent backpacks—is that the iPad sleeve, which is located inside the main compartment on the outside of the MacBook sleeve, is not much more than a very thin sheet of nylon. Incase pitches this pocket as a “slip pocket for iPad”, but it doesn’t fit an iPad very snugly, and it doesn’t offer much protection. I’m not the type to lug a lot of heavy textbooks around anymore, but the pocket just doesn’t instill a lot of confidence when it comes to protecting an up-to-$830 piece of glass and aluminum from the typical bumps and jostling of day-to-day adventures.
Still, I found that Incase’s Compact Backpack largely fulfills its purpose in comfort and style, albeit with a notably Jonathan Ive-ian focus on minimalism. If you don’t need to carry a lot of extras and aren’t bothered by the slim protection afforded your iPad, the Incase Compact Backpack is a good choice with enough color options to stand out in a crowd.