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Hands-on Gear Review
Patagonia Black Hole 25 Review
Cons: Minimal laptop protection, small fit
Bottom line: Great daily backpack for all around commuting to and from work or school but wouldn't recommend it for an all day sweaty hiking endeavor.
Active lifestyles, on-the-move schedules, and fast-paced workflows are all tough on our technology and equipment. Luckily, the Black Hole fills the void and accommodates it all. It rightly earns our Top Pick Award for its exemplary utility. With light and strong polyester ripstop fabric and highly waterproof and durable finish, this is a burly choice if you plan on working and cavorting in the elements and need to tote along a laptop as well. With a few surprisingly fun features, this bag really caters to the active adventurous working individual. In fact, it fits into the category of "backpack that also happens to carry a laptop".
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Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
One of the facts of an active working lifestyle is that you tend to become very familiar with every weather scenario that your region tends to materialize. For us, this meant testing in a high elevation mountain town in the late fall where the fickle weather can be sunny and warm one day and then rainy and snowy the next. Having a bag that is weather resistant is crucial for keeping your electronics safe and dry when commuting in the elements. The Black Hole was just the right blend of trendy and functional to accomplish this task and took home our top pick award for versatility.
This model didn't take home the highest scores in the laptop protection department with a 6 out of 10, but one nice feature is that it also includes a smaller padded tablet or small electronic device sleeve as well as the larger padded sleeve for your laptop. One function that stood out was the buckle to secure your laptop in place in the carrying sleeve, this gave peace of mind that your laptop won't slip out or excessively move around too much while traveling or moving about. The buckle was especially handy while carrying smaller laptops in the padded sleeve.
The Osprey Flapjack and both North Face models, The North Face Borealis and The North Face Recon, demonstrated exemplary laptop protection, so if your top concerns are in the laptop protection category check those out but if you are in the market for a great all-around backpack for your commuting and travel needs and also happen to use a laptop then we highly recommend the Patagonia Black Hole 25L.
The heavy molded back panel made for a comfy commute on most days but did tend to get warm and become irritating on longer bike commutes (when the back panel almost acted like a sponge for sweat). The straps are padded and very comfortable, which helps when the pack is loaded heavily or with cumbersome items, and there is a sternum strap for added stability.
The only thing missing was a hip belt. This only became an issue when we were on longer commutes or hiking with heavier items (in the pack).
The large signal chamber compartment made it very easy to access and load everything from kale to climbing shoes. The interior drop-in organizer pockets made it very helpful for storing small items such as pens and earbuds that might otherwise get lost in the bottom of the large single chamber compartment. This contender also includes two mesh water bottle pockets on the outside of the bag's sides, although the lightweight mesh was not as resilient as the durable fabric that encompasses the rest of the bag.
It also features a smaller semi-padded pocket for smaller items like a tablet or portable electronic device. A tube port lets the laptop sleeve double as a hydration sleeve, and there are side stretch pockets for water bottles. It fits a full-size Nalgene but you really have to cram it in there. The plethora of functions that this bag encompasses is the reason that this laptop backpack took home our Top Pick Award for versatility.
Ease of Use
Most of the laptop bags we tested had a handle on the top of the pack for a quick pick up and go; the feature that stood out about the Black Hole was that it also has a large webbing strap on the front that so you could almost carry it as a briefcase as well. This was nice when we needed to quickly load the bag into or out of our vehicle. The top loading design made it very easy to load and pack our gear, whether it be books and papers, or an extra change of clothes. It even fit gym shoes, along with everything else we needed for the day.The Black Hole 25L was the perfect fit for all occasions.
The sternum strap can be clipped to any of four positions along a daisy chain on the straps, offering great versatility, but not the same on-the-fly adjustability as other designs. The bonus, however, is that the sternum strap won't slip.
Patagonia has always had a polished look about their products and they tend to be designed for integration. The Black Hole 25L is no different. With its sleek streamlined design and a large single chamber compartment, this bag can be sported in and out of the office (although the webbing on the outside of the pack does tend to lean in a more outdoorsy fashion and might not be as well suited for an office setting as one of the more).
Although the urban look made it feel a little more outdoorsy the Black Hole 25L really was the perfect fit for all occasions. For more good looks, check out the Burton Tinder, our favorite in the style department.
Patagonia does not list a waterproof rating for Black Hole 25 Daypack, stating "The pack is not waterproof. It will be water resistant". With that said, we found this to be amongst the leading competitors on water resistance. It is made with a TPU film laminate a DWR (durable water repellent) finish. It kept our gadgets dry even in the worst of simulated downpours and scored highest in the "shower test".
This urban style daypack has plenty of room for all your gear, including a decently safe place to keep a laptop. It will keep your goodies dry and safe to a certain degree, with almost any amount of precipitation. The Black Hole is a great commuting pack while either walking or biking and rightly earned a place on the Award winning team taking home our Top Pick Award for versatility.
This laptop pack has a retail value at $129. This is the highest priced laptop bag of the 10 we tested. Even though this is on the pricy side, with Patagonia's Ironclad Guarantee standing behind this product, we doubt you could end up disappointed.
The Patagonia Black Hole 25L is a highly functional pack, especially for the outdoor-minded individual. It has plenty of room for all your gear and gadgets, keeps your electronics dry and organized and is in it for the long haul. If you are looking for a bag with the maximum laptop protection though this might not be the best option; instead, we would recommend looking into the Osprey Flapjack, The North Face Recon, or The North Face Borealis. They lacked in a few of the other categories such as comfort and ease of use but excelled at keeping our laptops protected.
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— Katherine Elliott
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