By Daniel Rasmus on Mon, 09/03/2012
As back-to-school shopping transforms into the reality of the school room, I have a couple more backpacks that arrived that may sway your last minute shopping, but only if you are looking for straight backpacks, not iPacks. I include these because some of the backpacks made with tablets in mind seem to think that people aren’t going to put their tablets in other cases. I know very few people who take their iPad out naked, and many of the iPad enabled pockets get cramped quickly if you’ve chosen a keyboard case or a more rugged case like on from Otterbox or Griffin.
So I offer two Victorinox Altmont 2.0 backpacks. The first up is the Vertical-Zip Laptop Backpack designed for 17” laptops with plenty of room left over for an iPad or other accessories. The key feature of the $99 backpack is its sweater-ready front zip pocket. No digging around. Whatever you choose to put in that front zipped-compartment will be easily available. If you are traveling, though, keep an eye on valuables because that zipper can easily be pulled down and its contents emptied before ou can say “Don’t! That’s mine.”
The rear padded laptop compartment holds up to a 17" laptop. Interior kit-pockets include a full-length zippered mesh pocket, dual open pockets with pen slots and a key fob. The key fob is contained in a padded pocket. If they remove the fob they could easily bill that pock are being made for a tablet, but with the fob in, careless use would result in scratches to whatever its placed in that pocket. I’ve tested it with an iPad housed in a basic case it fits well. (My configuration included a Belkin Snap Shield and the Apple Smart Cover. Those two accessories would probably protect the iPad adequately, even if they were co-located with keys, a USB stick or a flashlight.)
Exterior organization includes multi-purpose zip-away stretch side pockets designed for a water bottle or umbrella, and the aforementioned zipped front compartment. The compression-molded back panel and compression-molded, adjustable shoulder straps are sturdy and well padded. I didn’t travel with these bags, so I don’t know how they straps hold up to the ones with elastic weight distribution systems and other innovative features. They are, however, much better than your average back-to-school-wear.
The Versatek™ main body fabric with abrasion-resistant 1680D nylon base makes for a backpack that last well beyond a single school year. It only comes in three colors, but they are all basic, with red being my favorite. Unlike backpacks with characters on them, this bag won’t become obsolete with the demise of fads or canceled television shows.
The Vertical-Zip’s companion, the basic Laptop Backpack is smaller and less expensive, at $59.99; probably closer in price to other back-to-school choices. The interior of the Laptop Backpack sports a flapover pocket perfect for phone (or better, a graphic calculator), pen slots, small electronics pocket and storage pockets. The exterior offers two zippered front pockets(neither perfect for quick access to a sweater or hoodie) and multi-purpose stretch side pockets ideal for water bottles and umbrellas. The padded back panel and adjustable shoulder straps are on the more basic side, with neither breathable mesh or compression-molded durability, however the Versatek™ main body fabric with abrasion-resistant 1680D nylon base look like they would hold up well to the rigors of school and travel.
Both of these bags are good, all-around backpacks. They won’t win the style wars, but they may well live on into college where they will fit in perfectly (College students looking for lasting gear backpacks should short list these). Both are made of stern stuff, as one would expect from the company that makes Swiss Army Knives—and they both come with a lifetime warranty on manufacturing defects.
My one complaint on both of these backpacks is the rather free-form approach to carrying the laptop. Many other manufacturers suspend, strap-in, flap over or otherwise confine the laptop. I would like to see Victorinox make securing a laptop their next design priority.
If you really need an iPad or tablet pocket, look at the $119.99 Altmont 2.0 Dual-Compartment Laptop Backpack, which I have not yet had the opportunity to review.
Vertical-Zip Laptop Backpack