One thing I’ve learned from my obsession with computing backpacks is that it’s very hard to find a one-size-fits-all pack. I don’t mean that in the sense of physical size, but rather in the sense of task accomplishment. A pack that works for hauling around everything you need on a vacation or long-term business trip might not be ideally suited for your casual, everyday treks to the office, and vice versa.
For instance, I still love my Tom Bihn Brain Bag, mainly because when I do go on a week-long trip, I know I can stuff everything I’ll possibly need in it, and still have room in the bag. The Brain Bag degrades nicely for smaller cargo use, but some folks may still find it too cumbersome. Enter the Incase Rip-Stop Backpack.
The Rip-Stop Backpack, so named due to its rip-stop nylon material, is an outstanding everyday pack. It can handle any size portable Mac you can throw at it, from the 12-inch iBook all the way through the big boy, the 17-inch MacBook Pro. The laptop compartment is fake fur-lined to protect the beautiful lines of your ’Book. The laptop space was quite accommodating of my 12-inch PowerBook in its SleeveCase.
Packed and ready to roll. Yes, I’m re-reading Snow Crash.
Incase, a maker of some very nice iPod cases, didn’t forget the Mac’s favorite accessory, either. There’s a dedicated iPod compartment up top, with a slot to thread the headphone cable through, and this is also fur-lined. As you would expect, any size iPod will fit in the compartment. While I’ve always delighted in such spaces for storage, I’ve never used them as they are intended. For one, I hardly go any place where I’ll be in transit long enough to listen to tunes from the iPod stored in my backpack. Two, my Type A, control-freak personality would want some means of controlling the iPod from within the pack, and very few bags allow that. Still, those users who don’t fall into either of those categories can rest easy in knowing that Incase has sweat the iPod details for the Rip-Stop Backpack.
Top of the bag, showing the entry to the compartments, including the one for the iPod. The luggage tag is not included.
Inside the rest of the pack is plenty of storage space for books, magazines, and your assorted computing sundries. There’s even a “secret,” zippered pocket in the front compartment, ideal for storing documents or items you don’t want easily visible when opening the pack. I found that if I packed my usual vacation load into the Rip-Stop, it took it all, but it was a strain. It was a little uncomfortable getting certain items out during the flight, but nothing in the form of a deal-breaker. I was definitely pushing the limits of the bag, and most users would not stuff the Backpack as much as I did. My normal, everyday load would not constitute nearly as many items, and the Rip-Stop excels in that area.
The two main compartments.
The straps of the Backpack are padded and comfortable on the shoulders. I made good use of the chest and waist straps while hauling through two airports. Not only did these help stabilize the Rip-Stop for better balance, but they also take more of the load off of one’s shoulders. (That’s just good ergonomics, and all backpack users should utilize chest and waist straps, if available.) All of the straps were easy to adjust, even while standing in the middle of the aisle of a 737. (Somehow the left shoulder strap had gotten very loose during the flight, and needed to be tightened as I put it on to deplane.) The carrying handle on the top is very comfortable, and doesn’t feel like it’s going to rip out on you at any time, as some pack handles do.
The bottom of the Backpack is semi-formed, so as to offer stability when one sets it down. I say semi-formed, because right out of the shipping box, it was slightly compressed, and it took filling the bag with gear for a few days to stretch the material out. However, for the base to keep your pack upright, the pack itself must be properly balanced. I noticed that when I took my PowerBook out of the rear laptop compartment, but still had all of my other gear in the front portions of the bag, the pack would tip over on to its front.
The Rip-Stop Backpack is currently available only in a green/tan/black color combination, with no word from Incase when the all-black version, like the one I have, will be available again. The Rip-Stop is one of those packs that just feels solid. It feels, looks, and is well-made, and it is not going to let you down.