Price: $175 ListPros: Simple and effective storage, storable shoulder straps, easily accessible external pockets, waterproof materials, large reflective strips, six removable and adjustable external attachment straps, lightweight. Cons: Some say it's too large for their needs, not sexy. Manufacturer: Cilo Gear
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The Cilo Gear City Pack is a large (30 Liter), fully featured, and highly versatile laptop backpack capable of everything from grueling commutes and long bicycle rides to trips to the grocery store and day hikes. The pack has a large central compartment that engulfs objects of all shapes and sizes. Three strategic zippered pockets provide ideal storage for small items, and a side access laptop compartment allows you to whip out a computer super fast. The City Pack falls short, however, when it comes to sleek laptop protection. The laptop sleeve needs better padding on the sides. The bag's larger size also makes it better for people who carry lots of stuff than those who waltz into the office with nothing but a smartphone and wallet. Despite its shabby laptop compartment, the City Pack is the most versatile laptop backpack tested here; it's a dream for a bicycle commuter.
Cilo Gear packs are only sold online directly from Cilo Gear at cilorgear.com.
If you want a more refined laptop compartment, or are on a tighter budget, the Timbuk2 Swig ($90) could be for you. The Swig, however, is made with lower quality materials, and consequently, is neither as durable nor as waterproof as the City Pack, but it is available many online retailers.
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Cilo Gear 30L City Pack is a highly functional and versatile laptop backpack with a design that draws heavily upon the company's high-performance alpine climbing packs. The City Pack has three distinct storage options: a large central compartment, a padded side access laptop sleeve, and three zippered pockets of varying sizes. This simple and effective storage combined with high-quality materials makes the City Pack one of our top-rated laptop bags.
The City Pack's main compartment is very large — nearly capable of swallowing an entire 12-pack — and features a white interior that helps you find items quickly and easily. The padded laptop sleeve is accessible through either the main opening or a watertight side access zipper, the latter of which provides instant access to your computer even when the bag is packed full. With similar functionality, the City Pack has three zippered pockets: the largest one lies under the pack's lid, another rests inside the top of the pack's main compartment, and a third hides near the top exterior of the pack. These pockets are excellent because they provide easy access and secure internal storage for valuables; all you need and nothing more.
Beyond logical storage, the City Pack boasts several features that no other bag reviewed here has. Our favorite is the storable shoulder straps, which tuck into the back panel. Hiding the shoulder straps is great for crowded subways and flights because people won't trip over them. When hidden, the shoulder strap also protected from dirty, muddy, or snowy floors of buses and trains. How do you carry the bag with the shoulder straps stowed? Answer: pull out the large strap that hides in the back panel and throw the bag over your shoulder.
The City Pack is the only laptop backpack we reviewed that's capable of carrying large bulky items.
Photo: Max Neale
Borrowing a key design element from the Cilo Gear alpine climbing lineup, the City Pack includes six attachment points for a removable waist belt and your choice of a multitude of side attachment straps, which transform the City Pack into a fully featured daypack for hikes and gear-laden overnight trips. Just clip the straps on and attach your yoga mat, camp chair, or tent to the outside. A third unique feature is the pack's double loop grab handle that makes passing the pack off to someone else easier. Finally, the City Pack is the only laptop backpack we reviewed with a functional external side pocket. Whether it was for a water bottle, coffee mug, or bicycle U-lock, our testers loved this pocket.
Unlike most other bags reviewed here, the City Pack's materials are both high quality and lightweight. Light is good! The City Pack weighs a pound and a quarter less than the other two bags with similar capacity. This is important because you're carrying the bag all day, everyday. Less weight means less strain on your body, and it makes biking and walking easier and more enjoyable. Although weight is not part of our numerical rankings, we view the City Pack's low weight as a huge advantage over other bags.
The City Pack is available in two sizes: Normal and Long. All in all, the City Pack is a wonderfully versatile backpack capable of everything from the most grueling commutes to casual day hikes along the coast and large trips to the grocery store.
The Cilo Gear City Pack's removable side straps come in three different styles and contribute to the bag's versatility. Also note the large reflective strip, generous mesh side pocket, and accessory pockets under the cover.
Photo: Max Neale
The City Pack is a recent addition to Cilo Gear's line, and some kinks remain in its design. The most significant drawback to the current version is the unrefined laptop storage, which is quite rudimentary. A nylon sleeve, similar to a hydration sleeve, holds a ¼" sheet of closed cell foam folded in two. This foam serves as the protection for your laptop, and while it provides adequate protection against bumps and drops, it needs refinement. Other laptop backpacks, such as those from larger companies like Timbuk2, have well-refined laptop storage with padding on three sides. The City Pack is well padded on the bottom, but not on the sides. Its back panel is also the narrowest of all laptop backpacks reviewed here; making the bag an inch wider might allow for more padding.
Another minor gripe: when the bag is empty, the main compartment can be quite floppy. This issue has no effect on performance, but it looks less than ideal. Our testers suggest a slightly wider back panel and marginally thinner (measured perpendicular to the back panel) main compartment with a more rigid or thicker foam back panel. These drawbacks aside, the City Pack is our favorite large laptop backpack.
The City Pack is available only through custom order with Cilo Gear. Expect construction to take up to a month. Call them for details: 503.305.3858
Most versatile laptop backpack
The City Pack costs a hefty $175, but keep in mind that this price reflects high-quality materials and workmanship. The City Pack is handmade in Portland, OR. We think the bag is well worth the price, especially when compared to the much less versatile Arc'teryx Blade 30 and Chrome Soyuz, both of which cost more than the City Pack.