I’ve owned the Waterfield (sfbags.com) Cargo Laptop Bag (Medium) for about 8 months now, and feel that I can give quite a comprehensive review on it. Overall my impressions have been favourable, but I don’t think I’ve found my perfect laptop bag just yet. I will break this review down into the following categories: build quality, design, and everyday usage.
When it comes to build quality, Waterfield has done a great job. The materials used are excellent, and the bag is assembled equally as great. One of the things that led me to purchase this bag was the rave reviews that long time users gave it for how well it stood up to the test of time. Reports of 5 years of heavy use, yet still looking like it did on day one were very common. Although I have only owned this bag for 8 months, I can easily see how it would stand up very well to everyday wear and tear. The only things on my bag that are showing signs of wear, are the paragliding buckle, and the leather portion of the flap – however, I feel that this makes the bag actually look better.
When I comment on design, I always take the Steve Jobs approach, and speak not only to how something looks and feels, but on how it works. The Waterfield Cargo bag overall has a great design, but definitely has some areas that could be improved. Two things that I look for in a laptop bag is the ability to access the laptop without opening a large flap, and quick grab handles on top in addition to just a shoulder strap. The Waterfield Cargo bag offers both of these features. Another great feature of this bag is the bright yellow lining – this really does make a big difference in day-to-day use – it’s nice to look in and have some contrast when you’re looking for something. There is also an astonishing amount of room in these bags – they expand nicely without appearing to need any excess material that looks ugly when not using the bag at full capacity – which I often do not. When I travel, I tend to stuff a few extra items in my laptop bag, and this bag handles the extra cargo exceptionally well. The zippers are also extremely well constructed and have a solid and easy slide to them – they do not have oversized tracks – just regular sized, well-built zippers. Speaking of zippers, the angled zipper on the flap is a great idea – I really like this simple, well thought out touch. As for the paragliding buckle, I personally love the look and function of it and wouldn’t change it at all – I wish more laptop bag manufacturer’s would use unique buckling mechanisms as opposed the over-popular plastic squeeze clip kinds.
Although the bag is well designed – and it appears that Waterfield put thought into every pocket and feature built into the bag – it still falls short in a few areas. There is a pocket on the side of the bag, that is almost unusable – Waterfield calls it a cell phone pocket, but I don’t think it has been redesigned since about 1998 when phones like the Nokia 5190 were in style. The pocket is too narrow, too deep, and too tight to be of any real use with cell phones of today. I stuffed a plastic grocery bag in there, and that’s the only thing I can think to use that pocket for. The other odd design choice I found was the decision to put the quick access key strap on the left side of the bag (when looking at the front). I personally carry my laptop bag on my right shoulder (as I’m sure most right handed people would), this puts the quick access key strap at the back of my bag, making it pretty much useless for “quick access”. The other design mistake Waterfield made here, was that you have to entirely unzip the top zipper to get at the quick access key strap – it would have been 1000X more useful if they had put it on the other side.
Another thing that I think could be improved are the pockets – although there are a lot of them which is great for organization, I find some of them too deep. This is especially apparent on the narrower inside pockets – because if you drop something to the bottom, it’s tough to fit your hand in to fish it out. The bag also lacks dedicated pen pockets – I think this should be a given for laptop bags as it’s always important to have a pen available. This has led me to clip the pen on to the edge of just a random inside pocket, which often doesn’t keep my pens in place. One last comment on design that I must point out is the colour of my leather flap. I ordered the grey leather, because I’m not a fan of brown leather on my laptop bags. However, it is not very close to grey at all – it is much closer to a faded dark-ish brown. I was really hoping for something a lot “grey-er”.
As I mentioned above, I have been using this bag every day for the past 8 months. Overall, it is the best laptop bag that I have ever owned, and I would highly recommend this bag to anyone looking for a durable, stylish, spacious bag. I have learned that the outer flap is best used for light items such as keys, cables, etc. because if you put anything too heavy in there (a book, an iPad, etc.), it makes opening the flap to get at the pockets underneath a pain. I have also learned that the constant movement of walking with the bag will cause the zipper on the travel slot (for placing over a carry-on handle) to gradually drift open – not a big deal at all, but something I’ve noticed. The paraglider buckle is amazing – it’s definitely my favourite part of the bag – it opens and closes extremely easy, and is something I will be looking for in any future bags. And in case you don’t know, all Waterfield bags are made in San Francisco, which definitely adds to the appeal of the bag. It’s one of those bags, that when you’re travelling through the airports of New York, Chicago, etc. people that own a Waterfield bag, will strike up a conversation with you about it.
In conclusion, Waterfield makes some incredible products, and the Cargo laptop bag is certainly one of them. I will likely use this bag for another year or two before I stumble across another one that catches my eye – I’m hoping it will also be made by Waterfield – just an updated, more modernized design. Until then, I will happily use this bag daily. If you have any questions that I didn’t cover in this review about the Cargo laptop bag, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me via the contact form on this site, or via twitter.