Laptop Bags Made in U.S.A.

Giving in to the spirit of the Independence Day holiday weekend let’s take a look at laptop bags made in the USA. Have a safe and happy July 4th!

Battle Lake Outdoors Laptop Commuter Briefcase
Battle Lake Outdoors of Minnesota makes a wide variety of purpose-built Cordura Nylon bags for emergency responders, hunters, and sportsman just to name a few. Calling on the phone you might reach the owner or one of the employees sewing bags in the shop. They make and sell many products and their prices are very, very reasonable. You’ll find the Laptop Briefcase listed under “Shoulder Bags, Briefcases, and Totes”. Measuring 14″ tall, 18″ wide, and 6″ deep this briefcase is “made in the U.S.A. of American materials” comes in black and sells from Battle Lake’s website for $64.95.

Our Laptop Computer Briefcase provides great protection for your take-along computer as well as keeping all of your other daily needs organized. The separate laptop compartment is protected by high-density 3/8″ foam. A separate, front compartment is provides plenty of room for extras. Two zippered, flat pockets help organize the small stuff. The 2-1/2″ wide, non-slip, padded shoulder strap and palm wrap on the handles make it easy to tote along.

Waterfield Designs
Proudly based and manufacturing a variety of laptop bags in San Francisco, California is Waterfield Designs. Started in the late 80′s; if you call them on the phone there is a great chance that Gary Waterfield himself will answer. If you send an email message; Gary will respond. If you talk to Gary (really anyone there); you’ll get a great bag as these folks are passionate about listening to their customers; and designing and building great products (bags, specialized cases, sleeves, and equipment pouches). At first glance they look like they cater to an mostly Apple crowd (see the Racer-X and HardCase) but their products fit just about any Windows PC (see the Cargo or Cozmo) or Netbook. Waterfield products come in black and many great color combinations. They also use and integrate different materials such as canvas, suede, and leather often with ballistic Nylon. The thought that goes into the bags doesn’t stop there; they laos have a long list of accessories such as straps and pouches. Rather than a laptop size lookup that you’ll find on other sites; you’re asked for the make and model of computer when you submit an order. Prices for most bags range from $150.00 USD up to below $300.00 for their most expensive products.

Bailey Works Digital Super Pro
Bailey Works of Portsmouth, New Hampshire sells big waterproof Cordura laptop messenger bags “Handmade by American Grownups”. Like true messenger bags when you open these up you see one big compartment. Their bags comes in two sizes with an integrated sleeve that should fit most computers and a cell phone pouch on the shoulder strap. The size chart lists the bags dimensions, weight, and volume. Bag size in 12 oz. standard beer can capacity is thrown in for good measure (all year round; not just for the holidays!). You know that Bailey is for real as they charge you $10 if you DON’T WANT a reflective strip sewn on messenger flap. Prices run from $219.00 USD through $229.00.

Tom Bihn
Their (or should I say his) tag line says it all.

Tom Bihn. Tough and Sophisticated Laptop Bags, Messenger Bags, Briefcases, and Backpacks. Made in Seattle.

Tom Bihn bags are designed with travel as a purpose and are all designed by the well traveled Tom Bihn. Tom’s been designing bags for over 30 years and his company logo features a airplane (a Farman F—121 Jabiru airplane to be exact). These bags were all designed for airline travel to fit under the seat in front of you or in an overhead bin. Case in point is the Tom Bihn CheckPoint Flyer (list $220.00 USD without shoulder strap), a well designed US TSA approved checkpoint friendly briefcase. This ballistic Nylon bag has been designed and constructed out of non-metallic materials so that you can lay the computer flat on the belt of an x-ray machine and avoid having to remove your computer from the bag. Lots of thought went into the layout of the internal and external pockets – the product page describes how different devices can fit into and be accessed from various products. Lots of thought go into those product descriptions. Bihn features a long list of accessories and offers a standard and the Absolute (comfort) shoulder strap.

Drifter Laptop Briefcase, Backpack, & Sleeve
The Drifter story is that this Ohio based company started in the parachute rigging business back in the late 70′s. Given their parachute heritage you’d expect that their sewing and seams are well constructed. Drifter bags are made out of Cordura Plus; so they are extremely durable and UV resistant Nylon bags. Monogramming is available. Their briefcase ($69.00 USD list) and laptop backpack ($85.00 list) are a little on the small size so check your computers measurements before ordering.

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Things found in a laptop bag…

OK. So I was doing some late spring cleaning recently and literally emptied my current laptop bag. This is a new list of things found in a laptop bag that you might want to think about picking up soon.

 

One of the smartest people I know who have made the transition from paper to electrons is Phil Baker. His blog “From Concept to Consumer” is part of my regular reading. Phil wrote a great article last month looking at luggage warranties. Now he didn’t cover all the brands that we’d like to see. He also had some help from the folks at Briggs & Riley; a company that really does completely stand by their product and offer one of the best warranties in the business. This article really adds much needed detail if you are considering a purchase and the “lifetime warranty” is going to be worth the cost.

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Getting you bag under…

With many US airlines now charging fees for checked baggage; more and more people are trying to carry more and more luggage on to flights. American Public Media ‘s Marketplace show on National Public Radio had a great story about the problem and one industry groups proposed solution. One thing I never do and never recommend is checking your computer bag with your computer inside. In fact if I am taking a flight that involves travel on a regional carrier or i know I’ll be on a smaller plane I make sure to bring along a good laptop sleeve in the event that I have no choice but to check my bag.Bag under airplane seat

A great reference for airline carry on bag allowances is at the Luggage Online merchant site.

If you travel often and want to place your computer under the seat keep in mind that back packs and briefcases usually open from the top and side so that you can get things back into your bag while it is still under the seat. Messenger bags and those with a flap over the zipper make it that harder to get items in and out while that bag is under the seat. Remember that no matter what you bag is going to be laying with one side down on the floor. Something that I’ve run into several times was a wet floor; and then a wet bag at the end of the flight. I used to place the airline provided blanket under my bag (because you never know where those blankets have been or the last time they were cleaned).

 

Brenthaven Pro / Duo 15

The Brenthaven Duo (also sold as the Brenthaven Pro) is a black backpack style laptop bag. The Pro’s dimensions are 18” H x 14” W x 8” D (40” around). This bag is constructed out of heavyweight ballistic Nylon outside and satin-like nylon inside. Exterior is black and the interior is black or gun metal grey and this bag comes in that one color scheme. The fabric doesn’t show dirt or dust and wears very well. Overall the bag is very well constructed. All seams are tight. An insert section in the laptop compartment can be removed for cleaning. Otherwise clean up is hand wash with mild soap and hang dry.

Brenthaven is one of a handful of luggage companies that offers a lifetime warranty on their products. Included with the product are a product warranty card and registration mailer. If you lose that they included the companies’ 800 phone number on a tag inside the bag. Quite frankly given the construction that went into this bag I think it will be hard to ever have to use the that warranty. It is extremely well made.

The Pro features five pockets: a large lockable, top load laptop pocket; a large top load document pocket with divider; a wide and thin pencil or ID pocket at the top of the front; a good sized front pocket with additional pockets inside; and a wide equipment pocket near base.

As a backpack the Pro features very well padded mesh back and non-removable, well-padded, adjustable shoulder straps. There is a large comfortable handle on the top of the bag. The zippers are all large and clear of any fabric overhang or coverage. The Pro also features a fabric loop on the side of the bag for luggage tag or carabineer. There is a small Brenthaven tag on the side of the laptop pockets and a small Brenthaven fabric tag on the shoulder strap. The front pocket has another Brenthaven fabric tab with the manufacturers phone number and cleaning instructions on the back. Also the gunmetal colored satin-like fabric on the insides of the pockets bears the manufacturers names and logo.

Impressions

The Pro is available everywhere. Brenthaven sells it’s products through many stores and channels. Amazon and eBags pricing are probably the lowest priced stores as they buy in large quantities.

This is a big looking bag that is easy to wear. Given the construction and protection offered when loaded this bag is not light. The backpack straps and mesh back make this bag very comfortable to wear. While not waterproof; nothing inside got wet after walking with this loaded backpack for several blocks in the rain.

The patent pending “Core Protect” system is a great feature. The foam inserts around the laptop compartment can be adjusted to accommodate different sized laptops. Our Mac Book Pro 15” was very well protected in this bag. The laptop compartment features a lockable zipper.

This bag can stand when being loaded. Laptop is easy to get in and out. The bag was hard to overload. When that document section and the front pocket is too full the zippers won’t close.

The Pro fits well on or behind the seat in the car. Laying it back side down this bag didn’t roll around the trunk of the car. This bag fits easily in airline overhead storage and likely fit well under the seat in front of you. The top loading compartments are handy for getting items in and out when under the seat.

Upside

Upside is that this is probably the best man’s backpack style computer bag on the market today. It offers great construction and protection for a very reasonable price.

Downside

There were a couple of downside points here. First off is that this bag only comes in one color scheme. One color scheme seems to be the Brenthaven way. Some people are not going to like black and gunmetal for very long. Another issue is that this bag is very popular. I have attended meetings where three or four people in the room have this same bag. I had a NY Yankees patch sewn to the bag to tell mine apart. Lesson learned is that it would be difficult if not impossible to get this bag embroidered unless it came from the manufacturer during construction. It would be nice if the manufacturer designed in some way to easily customize your own bag.

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