The Perfect Gadget Bag

Like most technology nerds, I have been on a lifelong quest to find the perfect messenger/gadget bag.  For me, it needs the following features:

  • large enough for everything I want to carry, but no larger
  • high durability
  • lots of pockets and organizers
  • convenient access to everything I use often
  • no Velcro (it’s loud, and it wears out)
  • a large water bottle holder
  • an aesthetic that doesn’t look like a purse (even if I use it as one)

I’ve tried bags from Maxpedition, Tom Binh, REI, and several other manufacturers.  Many of them have come close – but none of them have checked off every single box, until now.  After some research I found the Tablet Messenger V.3 by Skooba Design.  Combined with my Surface Pro (reviewed here) as my primary mobile computer, it is the perfect bag!

Here’s the photo from the Skooba website that persuaded me to by the bag:

Skooba Tablet Messenger v.3 - Stock Photo

source: skoobadesign.com

 

I like the classic, messenger look of the bag, and the one that arrived look exactly like the picture on the Skooba website.  At 14″L x 11″H x 3″D (manufacturer’s measurements), it’s smaller than it appears in the photos, but that’s exactly what I wanted.

I liked the bag from the moment I opened the box.  It’s surprisingly light (25 oz according to the website), yet the ballistic nylon feels extremely durable.  The stitching feels strong, and the build quality is excellent.  The strap is replaceable, but I can’t think of a reason why I would.  It’s durable, no-slip, and very comfortable.   Overall the Tablet Messenger V.3 has the feel of solid, reliable craftsmanship that I expect from a bag I will carry – and abuse – on a daily basis.

I liked the bag so much that I immediately glued on my favorite Firefly patches so that I’d be able to spot it as mine from a distance and, well, because I’m a nerd and I think they look cool.  My map bag that I carried in the Army had unit and rank patches on it, but I don’t think they would have looked right on the Skooba bag.  The patches from Wash’s jacket seemed just right.

I then crammed all of my everyday stuff into the bag, pleasantly surprised to find that there really were enough pouches and organizational pockets for everything I wanted to carry.  I was even more pleasantly surprised to see that – even with everything I could think of in the bag – its slim profile did not change.  One of my chief complaints with small messengers is that they get distended and bulky when I put all my gadgets in them.

Here’s my bag completely full.   Note that I still haven’t removed the excess glue from the patches.  If only Skooba provided “patch application” as a service!

Skooba Tablet Messenger v.3 - with Firefly Patches

My Bag, Firefly Patches Optional

The water bottle in the photo above is a 500 mL / .5 L Camelbak.  I think a 750 would fit equally well, but my 1000 mL / 1L was just a bit too large.  I wouldn’t mind if they made this pocket just a hair larger, but I think it will already accommodate a more narrow 1L bottle.

One quick note about the closure.  As I mentioned above, I don’t like Velcro.  It’s noisy and inconvenient, and often hard to line up properly.  The Skooba bag uses an innovative magnetic closure that automatically locks when the flap drops down.  To open it, simply give it a twist.

Skooba Tablet Messenger v.3 - Magnetic Closure

Magnetic Closure – closed

Skooba Tablet Messenger v.3 - Closure

Magnetic Closure – open

If you’re in a hurry, there’s also a partially-hidden zipper across the top that will give you quick access to your ultrabook or tablet.

Here are some more views of the fully-loaded bag.  In keeping with the theme of the patches, I put the Firefly: A Celebration coffee table book next to it.  The book is 8.5″ x 10.8″ x 1.6″.  Here’s what the full bag looks like:

Skooba Tablet Messenger v.3 - Full and Closed

Fully Packed

Skooba Tablet Messenger v.3 - Full, Side View

Full – from the side (no water bottle)

Skooba Tablet Messenger v.3 - Full, from the Top

Full – from the top (no water bottle)

I can’t reiterate enough how much I love the profile of this bag.  It’s full of everything I need on a daily basis, but it’s not over-stuffed.  Nor is it too large and cavernous.  It’s just right.

One of the reasons for the slim profile is how well-organized everything is.  Here’s the computer compartment:

Bag Open - Top

The Main Compartment

The Surface Pro is on the left, inserted vertically.  To its side is the power supply (a small but laptop-sized power brick), which stays perfectly contained in its net pouch.  The netbook/tablet compartment fits the Surface Pro quite well.  It has plenty of padding, and holds the computer snugly.  The only Velcro in the bag is the small tab over the top that secures the slate in place.  That suits me just fine.

The interior of the bag is a bright blue that provides plenty of contrast if you’re looking for small items you may have dropped in there.  In the picture above I have a large, hardbound book and a 7″ Kindle Fire HD.

The gadget compartment on the front shows the same level of clean design and attention to detail as the main section:

Skooba Tablet Messenger v.3 - Organizer Compartment

Organizer Compartment

I’m not sure how to describe this, other than to simply say “it’s perfect!”  Too often, the pouches and pockets in the organizer section of a bag are just randomly sewn, with no attention to the actual purposes they might serve.  This bag, however, was either made by fellow nerds or in consultation with a focus group full of my tribe.  There are three mesh pockets – small, medium, and large – each of which perfectly accommodates gizmos of varying sizes.  Likewise the nylon pouches are large enough to actually hold things in a usable fashion.  The thumb drive compartment is a bit tight, but that’s my only quibble.

Here’s a zoomed-out view of the entire bag, fully loaded:

Skooba Tablet Messenger v.3 - Open view (full)

Everything in its place

So just how much stuff did I cram into this slim, highly portable, 14″-wide messenger bag?  Here’s the full inventory:

Skooba Tablet Messenger v.3 - Contents

Here’s what I mean by “full”

The bag contains:

  • Microsoft Surface Pro with Type Cover
  • 7″ Kindle Fire HD in a Verso case (that looks like a composition book)
  • An over-sized (10.1 x 6.9 x 1) hardcover book
  • An iPhone 4 (a Samsung S4 should fit here as well)
  • A 1TB external drive
  • Two USB thumb drives
  • A Surface Pro digitizer pen
  • Two writing pens
  • A Flatlight (probably to be replaced with a Larrylight)
  • A micro multi-tool
  • Earbuds
  • An Advil bottle (thanks Achilles tendonitis)
  • An iPhone charger (I’ll be glad to get rid of this – when does the S4 ship?)
  • A micro-USB charger
  • An HDMI connector
  • A Microsoft Wedge mouse
  • A Surface Pro power brick
  • A micro-fiber cleaning cloth

There was also a forty-page document in the file-folder sized compartment in the back of the bag (you can see it in some of the earlier shots – I forgot to put it on the pile for the picture).  Also, I sometimes put keys or business cards or other incidentals in the pocket on the front flap.  Keep in mind, what you see here is not with the bag stuffed – you could cram a lot more in if you needed to.  This is with a well-organized, easily-accessible working load in the bag.

 

Conclusion

I don’t say this lightly:  I think the Skooba Tablet Messenger V.3 is the perfect everyday use bag for someone who wants to travel light and is using a Surface Pro, Ultrabook, or similar device as there commuting computer.  It has room for everything you’re likely to need on a day-to-day basis, and it keeps everything exceptionally well-organized.  The materials and build quality are outstanding, and it’s a bag I plan to use for years to come.

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Here’s a gallery of all of the photos included in this article:

 

 

 

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