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ATPM 10.11
November 2004



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Review: Waterfield Design Medium Cargo Suite Spot

by Christopher Turner,


Developer: Waterfield Design

Price: $219

Requirements: The size of the iBook or PowerBook will determine the size of the proper SleeveCase.

Trial: None

I have never hidden the fact that I am a backpack guy. I don’t ride a bike to and from the office, and I don’t deliver packages in the urban jungle, so messenger-style bags are lost on me. Neither am I a misanthropic, self-centered metrosexual obsessed with style above all else. I don’t wear a suit, so I don’t have to concern myself with having a professional-looking, briefcase-type bag. I am your run-of-the-mill suburbanite, driving my Honda SUV where I need to go, and I prefer to hike when driving won’t do. I am a backpack guy.

So it takes a really special kind of briefcase bag to make me switch, even if just for a while. The Medium Cargo, from Waterfield Designs, is such a bag.

I selected the Medium Cargo because I have a 12-inch PowerBook G4, and felt the Large Cargo was unnecessarily, well, large, as a bag for the PowerBook and accessories. The Medium Cargo measures 16 inches long, 3 inches deep, and 12 inches high, for those keeping score at home. Waterfield is even kind enough to offer a comparison of all the Cargo bags.

Also, Waterfield Design is currently running a promotion for the Medium Cargo called the Medium Cargo Suite Spot. For $219, you get not only the Medium Cargo bag, but also the SleeveCase of your choice (sizes 1-9, 11, and 15), and the Medium GearPouch. Priced separately, these items would cost you between $248 and $253, before shipping.

The first thing that struck me when I pulled the Medium Cargo out of the box was the airliner-style buckle for the front flap. It is certainly a unique feature, and makes your bag easily identifiable should you become separated from it. It also makes it very easy to get open the bag’s flap with one hand, which can come in handy at the airport or train terminal when you need to retrieve your identification, passport, or travel pass.


Front view of the Medium Cargo.

While the Medium Cargo is available in five colors (Blueball, Celeste, Lead, Peppercorn, and Taxi), I elected to go with basic black. However, even with that choice, Gary and company at Waterfield aren’t going to let you get away from color. All of the interior pockets on my black Medium Cargo were lined in an orangish-gold color, which the company says makes it easy to identify items placed therein quickly. I would have to agree; when there is a myriad of cables, smaller pouches, and other accessories, the bright color does make it easy to see what’s what.

The front flap has a large diagonal zipper on it that conceals a thin pocket. Actually, the entire flap is the pocket. It’s very handy for throwing your PowerBook’s flat power adapter and AC cable in, when you’re suddenly called to a meeting across town.

Undoing the airliner-style buckle and lifting the flap reveals a three-pocket system. In the front is the larger of the three, with a half-circle zipper that opens up to yet another orange-gold lined pocket that also contains a flap pocket. Behind the zippered space are two open pockets of equal size, which are larger in their capacity than they would first appear.


The three-pocket system, with the zippered compartment open, and a flyer for reference.

That is all that is under the flap. Sounds like an awfully small bag, doesn’t it? If that were indeed the case, the review would be nearly over.

Surprisingly, the main cargo area is not located under the flap, as one might expect from a bag of this type. Behind the spine of the front flap, in between the leather-wrapped carrying handles on the top of the bag, is a zipper that runs the length of the Cargo. This is main storage area. Like the other pockets, it has the Waterfield orange-gold lining. Herein the SleeveCase containing the PowerBook is deposited, along with whatever else I can fit. Normally, my RoadTools Podium CoolPad slides in alongside the SleeveCase. There’s plenty of room for other odds and ends, including the Medium GearPouch that is part of the Cargo Suite Spot package. My GearPouch holds my assorted RJ-11 and Ethernet cables, a couple of small FireWire cables, and my iPod’s AC adapter.


The main compartment, with the SleeveCase and GearPouch inside.

The GearPouch is rectangular in shape, with a zippered pocket on the front, and the zipper for the main compartment on top. The nature of its design lends itself well to cables and flat-like items, such as the aforementioned iPod AC adapter.

Finally, on the back side of the Cargo is a magazine pocket, which can be more generous than a first glance might allow. On one side of the Cargo is a mobile phone pocket, which my Sony Ericsson T616 slid in and out of effortlessly. The main strap for the bag is two inches wide, and quite comfortable on the shoulder, especially with the included shoulder pad.

All in all, the Medium Cargo is my ideal briefcase-style computer bag for light- to medium-duty use. I can easily see myself lugging it across the country for a few days, though for a week or longer stay, I would opt for a larger bag.

This review wouldn’t be complete without noting the included-with-the-suite SleeveCase. Many road warriors on the Net have noted their delectation with the SleeveCase. Some even use it as their only means of PowerBook transport. I can see why. The SleeveCase is padded, fits the PowerBook like a glove, and simply feels like the hefty, protective sort of covering case you want for your portable computer. You can even order your SleeveCase with a vertical orientation, if you are so inclined, though I wouldn’t recommend that with the Cargo bags. With the optional shoulder strap and Piggyback, you can have a PowerBook-hauling system without a large bag, as Maury McCown of RAILhead Design discovered. I have found that I like my SleeveCase so much, that I am using it in other bags, many of which came with their own sleeve for the PowerBook.


The SleeveCase and GearPouch.

I lamented to head Waterfield honcho Gary, via e-mail, that, after living with this fine piece of equipment, I wished his company made a backpack. Based on his reply, look for a review in these pages some time in the future. Fellow backpack folks, rejoice. In the mean time, you simply cannot go wrong with the Medium Cargo Suite Spot. I should note that the Suite Spot offer has been available for a few months now, so there’s no telling when Gary and the gang might decide to pull it. I am impressed with the build quality of all of the items in the Suite, and feel they will hold up for a good while, whether you are trekking across the country or just across town.

Reader Comments (1)

Gerry Leonidas · November 22, 2004 - 09:24 EST #1
I got one of the medium Cargo bags after years of all sorts of I've been using one of these for the last year and a half; daily ferrying a 15in tiBook, a Win notebook (each in a SleeveCase), an external battery, and all sorts of paraphernalia. I've also taken it on vacation with just one of the laptops and everything else you would not check in the hold; in all cases the bags performed admirably, and my shoulders were grateful.
I don't use all the smaller inside pockets, but the positioning of the inclined zipper for the outermost, and the capacity of the second pocket are masterful. The two deep, narrow pockets just under the main flap are perfect for things you want secure (like a passport or wallet) but need easy access to: even if you leave the flap open, the only was anyone can get to these is by yanking the whole bag off you. It is also notable that the models with colour panels do not look at all like computer bags, which is self-evidently a good thing.
Even if you think the initial price is steep, these are worth every single penny. For shoppers in Europe the $ exchange rate makes these even cheaper.

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