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ATPM 9.12
December 2003





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Review: Megalopolis Backpack

by Chris Lawson,


Developer: Boblbee

Price: $189

I hate walking everywhere. Cycling is so much faster, and anything that lets me slap the snooze button one more time before I get up in the morning is a good thing in my book. Unfortunately, commuting by bicycle or motorcycle is not without its dangers. Aside from the obvious personal safety risks, it is quite important to ensure the safety of any items you might be carrying with you. Anyone who has ever dropped a laptop computer, even one in a carrying case, can attest to the damage that can be done by even a moderate impact.



That’s why, when I got my TiBook last year, I immediately began searching for a backpack (read: case that straps securely in place and out of the way) that would allow me to carry it on a bicycle, and occasionally a motorcycle, without the risk of severe damage in the event of a crash. I wanted something that could also double up as my main laptop case. Enter the $189 Boblbee Megalopolis, an ABS-and-nylon hard-shell backpack, which fits a 15" PowerBook or smaller laptop perfectly.

The Megalopolis comes in a range of colors, all of which are very “hip” and showy, meaning you won’t blend into a crowd wearing this pack unless the crowd is watching the X-Games. A chrome finish—yes, chrome is actually available as a color—costs an extra $20. I got mine for $119 on sale from a local outdoor equipment retailer, proving that it pays to shop around for the best deal.

The design of this pack is at least partly functional. The shape claims to offer lumbar support and superior weight distribution, an endeavor aided by the inclusion of a chest strap and (supposedly included, but absent from my unit) waist belt. The Megalopolis also includes a very useful external cell phone pocket that clips onto the shoulder strap, and a waterproof “rain fly” that can be quickly thrown over the pack to protect its contents from the elements. While the pack doesn’t advertise the presence of a laptop computer, it is unusual enough that it might still attract the attention of potential thieves.


Outside with PowerBook

Boblbee claims the Megalopolis “accommodates all major laptops.” In reality, if your laptop is significantly thicker than a TiBook, good luck. The 14" by 10" by 2" maximum dimensions are somewhat generous in the thickness department. There’s no way, for example, that the retaining straps inside the pack would accommodate my Wall Street PowerBook G3. However, with a “shell” case (like the Brain Cell), any laptop that physically fits into the opening will be well-protected, albeit at the expense of a great deal of the internal storage volume.



There are plenty of pockets inside the pack, including six that are almost perfect for CD jewel cases and one large, flat zipped pocket that would hold a file folder or two quite nicely. The single external zipped pocket, on top of the flap, is plastic-lined and should prove to be nearly weatherproof, making it ideal for carrying your PDA or calculator and a writing utensil or two, or other small accessories that would be easily lost in the depths of the larger internal pockets.


Inside with PowerBook

Although a hard-shell pack is probably unnecessary for ferrying the laptop in the back seat of the car, I have no problems tossing my TiBook, CoolPad, various AC adapters and a large pair of headphones into the bag for vacations. If I’m going to class, I can take out the AC adapters for my cell phone and iPod and throw in two or three notebooks or binders instead. I can then hop on either bike (motorized or not) and I’m off with all the essentials.



One of the most interesting, though probably little-used, features of the Megalopolis is its multiple external mounting points. Nylon straps on top of the pack allow for the attachment of anything up to the size of a bed roll, and with a few dollars’ worth of hardware and some ingenuity, a great deal of “stuff” can be strapped on near the waist of the pack, in the lumbar indentation area. Boblbee’s Web site (which leaves something to be desired, unfortunately) shows a number of users engaging in extreme sporting activities with such items as skateboards, snowboards, skis, and mountain climbing gear strapped to their packs.



Like Tom Bihn’s ID messenger bag, the Megalopolis is lacking in one major area: internal cargo volume. The Megalopolis won’t work as a “take-your-office-with-you” backpack, though if you’re in this demographic you probably don’t have a two-wheeled commute to work, nor would you associate yourself with the “extreme” image Boblbee tries to present.



Compared to a Zero Halliburton or Pelican case, the Megalopolis is cheaper, wearable, and in general much more versatile. For two-wheeled commuters, students who tend to toss bags around, or for the chronically paranoid, the Megalopolis bag offers peace of mind and value found in few other products.

Reader Comments (16)

Matt Kelley · June 1, 2005 - 15:46 EST #1
I am starting law school this summer and I need a bag for my two wheeled commute. I need it to carry at least a few books, but I will have a locker at school. Do I need to get the Axio Hybrid, which I don't really like the looks of and overall size or can I get by with this pack. Gonna put a 15 inch powerbook in it as well
Chris Lawson (ATPM Staff) · June 1, 2005 - 22:41 EST #2
The Megalopolis isn't very roomy.

The Hybrid isn't very protective, IMO, and it's awfully expensive for what it is.

The Swift isn't very roomy either, but it's roomier than the Megalopolis by just a little bit.

The Fuse is roomier than the Swift, but is stupidly laid out inside and the hard shell is very flexible.

I'm using the Swift right now, but depending on the size of your legal tomes, it might be a bit on the small side. Two average textbooks plus a computer is probably the limit for the Swift.

Hope that helps, and don't hesitate to post a follow-up or e-mail me directly if you need further clarification.

Jason Tselentis · June 24, 2005 - 02:52 EST #3
Chris, as a Seattle laptop hauler in need of a pack, I love your reviews. Very fun, down to earth, and informative. They are helping shape my perspective on the many products out there. Thanks.
Chris Lawson (ATPM Staff) · June 24, 2005 - 09:32 EST #4
Thanks for the kind words, Jason. Glad I could help.

Jason · June 24, 2005 - 12:48 EST #5
And about this pack, seriously... how much can it hold. Give me a list of all you can pack in there. How much room is left after stuffing a laptop in there?
Chris Lawson (ATPM Staff) · June 24, 2005 - 13:08 EST #6
Well, when I used to pack it to the gills with computer gear for trips, I could get the following in there:

15" TiBook
External hard disk
AC adapters for all of the above, plus cell phone charger
Headphones (Grado SR-80, fairly large cans)
A CD wallet containing about 10-15 OS CDs and miscellaneous other stuff
RoadTools' Podium CoolPad
TI-86 graphing calculator
Miscellaneous bits and pieces in the top pocket

It's fairly roomy, but if I had to pack it like I used to pack my backpack in high school and college -- where I didn't have to take a computer with me every day -- I never would have been able to fit it all in. I mentioned this in the Axio review, but I'll say it again: none of these hard-shell packs are big enough. What the world needs is a hard-shell pack the size of my old Eddie Bauer day pack.

matthew m. barnes · February 2, 2006 - 15:32 EST #7
i just bought the Megalopolis Executive in the Matte Black color. however, i'm noticing that it will easily scratch. is this going to get really bad? are the sport models better? or is it just because i went with the Matte Color instead of a shinier one?
Chris Lawson (ATPM Staff) · February 8, 2006 - 00:02 EST #8
Matthew --

It might be a matte vs. shiny issue, yes. Mine has a few scuffs on it but nothing particularly bad, and I used it regularly for about two years.

The nice thing about the shiny packs -- and I mentioned this in a comment on the Axio review too -- is that you can buff scratches out much like you'd do on a car. I would imagine the matte finish probably wouldn't respond well to that treatment, at least if you wanted it to stay matte.

Queena Deschene · July 5, 2006 - 21:35 EST #9
A super awesome feature about the Boblbee was the CE certified back protector feature. So if you fall, you might suffer less injuries than any other hard shell backpack.
Val · December 30, 2006 - 00:18 EST #10
Re: Queena

CE cert is dandy and all but the reality of backpack design in general is the increased chance of head snapback which may lead to spinal injuries.
eric fraser · January 31, 2007 - 22:06 EST #11
I love the fact that it fits IAA luggage restrictions, when my company ships me somewhere fast, it's me, my Tibook, the boblbee and that's that. I added a strap that allows me to carry it on one shoulder and to the that at conferences I can still carry stuff in it by my side as opposed to on my back.
the best pack for urban commute I ever had, thank god Tibooks fit well, in fact I waited to buy the right laptop.
E. A. H. · February 13, 2007 - 01:01 EST #12
You mentioned the external mounting points, could they be used to strap down a full face motorcycle helmet? Maybe using a bungie net?
Thank you.
Tibor Kranjc · March 6, 2007 - 15:20 EST #13
Hy Chris, great reviews. I'm deciding between the swift and megalopolis. I noticed a comment of a user that dropped the swift and the laptop was severely damaged. Does the Megalopolis have a harder shell? And does the color on the swift still get on your clothes after you wash it with warm watter? And how does the pack for a laptop work with the swift since it's not as high as the one on Megalopolis? Does the cover on the Megalopolis have any drawbacks since it's just a rain cloth?

Nathan Wren · May 21, 2007 - 19:53 EST #14
I noticed that you said that you got it for 119.00 at a local shop. where is that place? and do they have a website?
alex · March 25, 2008 - 17:52 EST #15
Just got back from a bicycle touring holiday. I rode with this bag on - the padding at the back was 'fresh' enough to keep it away from my back, for the most part. Having the weight on my person instead of in panniers meant that my bike still handled like it always did - it wasn't tail-heavy like tourers with overloaded panniers are. There's also a wind/drag issue with panniers that you avoid with a compact bag like this.

I managed to carry:
* a two-man tent, fly, poles
* 3/4 length sleeping mat
* sleeping bag, albeit a super compact one, which tucked nicely into the nook at the bottom
* water bottle
* a small but significant amount of random crap to keep my bird-like attention span occupied at camp

With the bag splayed open \/ instead of compact || ... it can fit in a bit more.

What I'm digging though is now I'm back in town, it's coping with my X31 (admittedly a subnotebook) and other commuting chores just fine.

Now for the external speakers - love those mounts ;)
Chris Long · July 18, 2016 - 07:46 EST #16
WOW!!.. I've just come across this site and the Boblbee site after pulling mine out of the cupboard.
I bought this, the same color blue that you have here, in 1997 at Sigraph.. It's still as awesome now as it was when I bought it. Even the elastic is still good.

I would recommend this pack to anyone.. Now I know they are still around, I'm going to get hold of some accessories.

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