Hands-on Gear Review

Incase City Review

Price:  $130 List | $97.45 at Amazon
Pros:  Compact, good laptop protection
Cons:  Not good for bulky items, pricey, doesn't repel water
Bottom line:  This tends to be a comfy pack unless you have a large load; there are lots of great features to help stay organized and the 360 degree laptop protection is a fun feature (even though it felt as though the bottom padding sometimes slipped).
Editors' Rating:   
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Volume (L):  25 L
Dimensions:  20.5 x 13.5 x 5.50 in.
Weight:  2 lb.
Manufacturer:   Incase

Our Verdict

The Incase City has one of the sleekest designs when compared to the other contenders we tested. It has two primary storage areas and a dedicated laptop compartment that fits up to a 17-inch MacBook Pro. Incase's platform is rooted in the lifestyles of those who create on the Apple platform, so if you are an avid Apple product user, this is a very well-designed bag for use with Apple products. The laptop compartment has a soft faux fur lining and 360-degree padding, which made it stand out amidst the plethora of laptop backpacks we tested.

The shoulder straps are a little bulky, and the lack of sternum strap didn't allow for any minor adjustments, which would help a smaller-framed individual carry this pack with ease. The back panel is heavily padded, adding unnecessary weight to a simple design. While this pack is comfy, extended wear might become cumbersome. That said, we appreciate it's larger laptop storage capacity and overall protection.



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Our Analysis and Test Results

Review by:
Katherine Elliott

Last Updated:
Tuesday
November 29, 2016

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With the InCase City's sleek design and a dedicated laptop compartment that fits up to a 17 inch MacBook Pro, it is an excellent laptop backpack that has some great functions. However, it just wasn't a top scorer in any of the testing metrics (and this is coming from an avid Apple product user). The laptop compartment incorporates a soft faux fur lining that made using the sleeve enjoyable and 360-degree padding was great. Unfortunately, when stuffed with gear, the padding on the bottom seemed to slip away from the laptop sleeve, which allowed our laptop to hit the floor on several occasions. The shoulder straps and back panel add a padded airy feel that makes it comfortable to wear, but the lack of sternum strap and the large diameter of the shoulder straps make it feel clunky and bulky when traveling by foot and by bike.

Performance Comparison


The simplicity of the City made it great for short commutes that don't require a hefty amount of gear.
The simplicity of the City made it great for short commutes that don't require a hefty amount of gear.

Laptop Protection


The Incase City Collection claims to offer a 360-degree layer of protection for your laptop, encompassing it in its own separate faux fur lined pocket. Although this is a nice feature, the bottom layer of padding tends to move around with different gear in the pack. Our laptop even ended up making contact with the ground once while in the sleeve, because the 15" Macbook slipped through the padding layer. While this was a contender for scoring high in laptop protection, the lack of a securing strap, a roomy laptop sleeve, and the variable bottom padding, ranks it the middle of the road.

The faux fur lining of the Incase City made for a pleasant feel while using the sleeve; this performed sub par with the rest of the group.
The faux fur lining of the Incase City made for a pleasant feel while using the sleeve; this performed sub par with the rest of the group.

Comfort


This contender has all the makings of a very comfortable laptop backpack, though a few shortcomings rank it rather low in the comfort spectrum. There is adequate padding on the back panel, and the straps are wide and padded…maybe a little too wide. They tend to slip while walking (and especially biking) and since there is no sternum strap, we couldn't fix the problem. It is not adjustable and not versatile in its fit.

The lack of sternum strap on the City was unfortunate  as the width of the straps made it rather uncomfortable for carrying. It tended to pinch our underarm area.
The lack of sternum strap on the City was unfortunate, as the width of the straps made it rather uncomfortable for carrying. It tended to pinch our underarm area.

Storage


Since the Incase platform was designed around the avid Apple product user, this is a very friendly bag for all of your tech storage needs. There is a decent size zippered pocket on the outer pack. This pocket has a nice organization system in place for an iPad or tablet and also a few pockets for pens and other loose knick-knacks. There is plenty of room for gear, such as a jacket and a change of clothes. A great option for tech-users seeking a good laptop backpack option, although we prefer the Incase Icon for nailing performance in this metric.

The top pocket is also lined with faux fur. Unfortunately  it wasn't quite big enough for our 11" Chromebook and we instead used it to hold our iPhones.
The top pocket is also lined with faux fur. Unfortunately, it wasn't quite big enough for our 11" Chromebook and we instead used it to hold our iPhones.

Ease of Use


With lots of pockets for keeping things organized and accessible in a pinch, the one complaint most of us have is the mesh inner pockets. Found in the main compartment, the mesh can get hung up on the corners of paper and books when trying to take things out. The zippers also seem to have a few hang-ups with proper use and the plastic pull tabs are not as easy to use as webbing pull tabs. This is an all in all fine design; however, for the price, Incase could have put in a little more effort into installing a better zipper system.

The zippers frequently snagged on this backpack  making this a frustrating bag to use when in a hurry.
The zippers frequently snagged on this backpack, making this a frustrating bag to use when in a hurry.

Water Resistance


This pack is not water-resistant. It became almost fully saturated within seconds of a simulated downpour. This left the contents inside saturated. It leaked, especially in areas where the zippers met the backpack.

This was the lowest scorer in the shower test and became saturated within seconds of our simulated downpour. Others in the test also became saturated but when the paper was removed  no water damage was seen. The Incase tended to leak at the zipper contact points  leaving the paper wet on the edges more than not.
This was the lowest scorer in the shower test and became saturated within seconds of our simulated downpour. Others in the test also became saturated but when the paper was removed, no water damage was seen. The Incase tended to leak at the zipper contact points, leaving the paper wet on the edges more than not.

Style


Like many other packs in the review, the City has a sleek look and clean lines. Not having a sternum strap made this pack seem much more suited to office and city living that many of our tech-users and city slickers appreciate.

The simple design and large build made this a decent laptop backpack for short trips around town and to the office. It was not our first choice for longer commutes or travel.
The simple design and large build made this a decent laptop backpack for short trips around town and to the office. It was not our first choice for longer commutes or travel.

Best Applications


This laptop backpack says it all with its name. It's a nice pack to use if you're in the city but not commuting by bike. The low levels of adjustability don't make it very versatile, but it does have a good handle on staying organized and spacious. There are also a few problems that we kept encountering like snagged zippers and papers. Overall a great pack for the city or somebody seeking a laptop backpack that can accommodate a 17-inch screen.

The Incase offers many great pockets for staying organized One complaint by many was that the mesh caused hangups on book corners and paperwork alike.
The Incase offers many great pockets for staying organized One complaint by many was that the mesh caused hangups on book corners and paperwork alike.

Value


At $130, the Incase is expensive. We don't think the price is properly reflected in the product, given its lower overall score.

Conclusion


This contender isn't a very high scorer, but it does the trick as a decent laptop backpack. Unfortunately, it's expensive, and the water-resistant is very poor. We like its organizational capacity and ability to accommodate a laptop that is 17-inches in size.

Here you can see the difference between the Osprey Flapjack's well-designed shoulder strap system which includes a sternum strap and hip belt (pictured left). The City had a large back panel and extra wide shoulder straps and there are many of options for almost any body size (pictured right))
Here you can see the difference between the Osprey Flapjack's well-designed shoulder strap system which includes a sternum strap and hip belt (pictured left). The City had a large back panel and extra wide shoulder straps and there are many of options for almost any body size (pictured right))

Katherine Elliott

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Most recent review: November 29, 2016
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:  
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 (3.0)
Average Customer Rating:  
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3 star: 100%  (1)
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