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Incase Icon Review

This Editors' Choice is a versatile option with great storage for electronics.
Incase Icon
Editors' Choice Award
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Price:  $200 List | $199.93 at Amazon
Pros:  Great organizational capacity, effective use of space, comfortable, adjustable, separate laptop side-access
Cons:  Expensive, lacks cushioning on the bottom of the pack
Manufacturer:   Incase
By Amber King ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  May 16, 2018
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81
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#1 of 12
  • Laptop Protection - 25% 9
  • Comfort - 20% 7
  • Storage - 15% 9
  • Ease of Use - 15% 9
  • Water resistance - 15% 7
  • Style - 10% 7

The Skinny

If you want a laptop backpack that offers amazing organizational capacity and versatility, the Incase Icon is our top choice. This Editors Choice winner is loaded with two protective and separate side-access compartments that can accommodate both a 15-inch laptop and a tablet or iPad. Not only can you organize all your techy toys such as hard-drives, cords, and cameras in the external top-access secondary compartment, but you can also store folders and flat objects in the main compartment. This pack features overs 14 different types of pockets — perfect for whatever you might need to store and organize on the go. The 17-liter volume, while far from the largest, is maximized, allowing you to fit in a pair of running shoes, gym clothes, or a few groceries when completely loaded.

While this laptop backpack has many fine features and scores high in most categories, it doesn't come without flaws. While it provides sufficient protection overall, the simple foam pad along the back could be a little burlier. Also, while this backpack is pretty darn durable, it is not waterproof. Consider taking a rainfly with you on the wettest days of the year. If you prefer a backpack that is waterproof, check out the Patagonia Black Hole 25, our Top Pick for Water Resistance. Overall, our testers loved this pack for its organizational capacity and its wear-all-day comforts.


Compare to Similar Products

Our Analysis and Test Results

This Editors' Choice is perfect for those seeking a backpack that will store all their electronics as well as other gear such as gym clothing or last-minute groceries.

Performance Comparison


Take this top pick for gadget lovers anywhere in the city that you love to work and play.
Take this top pick for gadget lovers anywhere in the city that you love to work and play.

Laptop Protection


The Incase Icon offers decent laptop protection. The separate side-access laptop pocket accommodates computers both small and large (up to 15 -inches). The main laptop compartment lies across the back of the pack, with 1.5 inches of padding buffering from the back of the user. The separate tablet compartment is a nice feature. Sadly, this backpack lacks a suspension system to keep the laptop off the bottom of the bag.


Laptop Compartment

The side-access zip compartment keeps computers up to 15" in place. Our laptops didn't move around, especially when loaded down with other items (i.e., groceries or gym clothes). Also, the soft lining avoids abrasion on the exterior of the computer.

The faux-fur lined laptop compartment features convenient side access. It fits up to a 15-inch MacBook Pro. Shown here is an 11-inch MacBook Air.
The faux-fur lined laptop compartment features convenient side access. It fits up to a 15-inch MacBook Pro. Shown here is an 11-inch MacBook Air.

Even though the amount of foam padding is beyond sufficient at the back, we didn't like that the bottom of the pack contained next to no padding. When putting down the pack, the computer doesn't hit the ground because the compartment in the back tapers to a fine point to keep it off the ground. There is also a buffer zone where the padded part of the bag comes to an end before the bottom of the pack. However, a super small and thin laptop might slip past this tapering point to sit on the bottom of the bag. This bag could be made better with a small securing system or even a little more padding on the bottom of the bag.

Tablet Compartment

A great feature of this pack is the tablet/iPad compartment, located between the laptop and main compartments. While the laptop compartment side access is on the right, the one for tablets unzips on the left. There is a thin layer of padding between the two compartments, which is just enough for protection. This compartment does not have the fleece lining, but instead a smooth nylon texture. Our iPad moved around a lot more than the laptop (less friction). There are no securing straps in this compartment. Positioned far from the bottom of the back, your tablet is safe in the case of a dropped bag. Around the buffer of the zipper is a little extra cushioning, that wraps around the device and provides additional shock-cushioning.

The side access (separate of the laptop compartment) provides a specific entry point to your tablet. This pocket is well-cushioned and fleece-lined for added protection. Both this and the laptop compartment makes for easy access to electronics when your pack is stuffed with other things.
The side access (separate of the laptop compartment) provides a specific entry point to your tablet. This pocket is well-cushioned and fleece-lined for added protection. Both this and the laptop compartment makes for easy access to electronics when your pack is stuffed with other things.

Other compartments

The other compartments in this backpack don't offer as much protection, as expected. There is not a whole lot of padding at the bottom, forcing us to add a compressible jacket when storing other gadgets at the bottom of this pack. That said, it does feature several zip-up pockets to keep items secure, some with fleece-lining and some without, positioned away from the bag's bottom. We love the fleece-lined and zipped pocket at the top of this pack that acts as a great place to store a pair of sunglasses or an iPhone, preventing scratches and abrasion.

Comfort


Considering this pack for all-day use? The Incase Icon provides all-day comfort. We tested it while walking around town, bike commuting, and hiking in the wilderness. We also gave this pack to friends of different shapes and sizes to evaluate its relative comfort and fit. Our testers thought it felt good in most situations, but we learned that it truly does fit those with a longer torso better than those that are a little shorter. Below, we dissect all the comfort features of this backpack, focussing on its adjustability, padding, and fit.


Adjustable Straps

This bag features an adjustable shoulder, sternum, and load stabilizer straps (connecting from the shoulder to the neck of the backpack). The shoulder straps have a simple release and pull mechanism that is smooth and easy to use. The sternum strap is adjustable on two axes. It can be moved up and down with a simple slide and pulled tighter or looser depending on what you require. The load stabilizer strap can be pulled tighter or looser to bring the backpack in closer when loaded down or emptied out. This provides better load balance, a feature common to backpacking packs but rare on laptop bags. Overall, our testers appreciate all the adjustable capabilities of this backpack. The only thing that could make it better is a hip strap option for hiking or biking.

A look at the adjustable straps on this backpack. Left is the sternum strap. The middle is a shoulder strap. Right is a load-bearing strap.
A look at the adjustable straps on this backpack. Left is the sternum strap. The middle is a shoulder strap. Right is a load-bearing strap.

Shoulder and Back Padding

The foam padding throughout this backpack is burly. The back panel and the shoulder straps have most of the padding. While the external material of this back consists of an abrasive 840-D nylon material, the areas that touch the wearer's body are softer. When wearing just a tank top, with the pack right against our skin and we were comfortable all day. The straps are thick and wide, helping to distribute the weight of the load throughout the shoulders during extended use. They are also set far enough apart to offer superior comfort.

Ben enjoys the cushioned backplate and straps of this backpack  in addition to the sternum strap.
Ben enjoys the cushioned backplate and straps of this backpack, in addition to the sternum strap.

While the padding in the back offers an ergonomic design that distributes a load well, it is not very breathable. After a hike and walking around town on a warm day, our backs got a little sweaty. The straps are porous and soft and offer more breathability.

Fit

Our testers with short torsos found the padding of the Icon a little longer than they wanted, even with the adjustment options. That said, our testers with average and longer torsos thought the back was just right. We recommend this pack for all genders and sizes, except those with a super short torso.

Jared wears this backpack  showing the relative fit for a six foot five man.
Jared wears this backpack, showing the relative fit for a six foot five man.

Storage & Organization


Are you a gadget geek that loves to carry around all of your toys? This pack may be what you've been searching for. With four main compartments and 14 different pockets, this is one of the most organized backpacks we have come across. It also offers the option to stuff in a jacket or gym gear alongside your tech products. This pack has only 17L of storage, yet we were surprised at how much it could accommodate. We found ourselves loading it up with all of our electronics in addition to a few last minute items from the grocery store at the end of the day. It maximizes volume while all the pockets are useful (not the case with all packs we tested), even with the bag packed to capacity.


The Compartments

From the back panel moving forward, first is the laptop compartment, followed by the one for tablets. The third (main) compartment is the largest and provides storage for flat items such as folders, documents, and books, or space to load up gym clothes or groceries.

The main (third) compartment: Slide in all your folders  books  or notebooks. A perfect place for binders  gym clothes  or even some last minute groceries.

The fourth external compartment offers several zippered and velcroed pockets for storing chargers, cords, pens, notepads, and more.

The fourth external compartment: Rich with organizational pockets  perfect for pens  chargers  or other small items.

Lastly, there is a large external pocket that is perfect for storing quick-access items such as wallet or keys.

A look at the size of the front pocket.
A look at the size of the front pocket.

External Pockets

Two side-access pockets also exist. Both unzip completely and are best for storing flat items such as a plane ticket or phone. One of the side pockets has a "power pocket" with an integrated cable port for a portable audio device or power device (a cool feature!). When loaded up, it can't accommodate much more than flat items.

The side access pockets are thin. The one that is green (shown to the left) features a power cord access  perfect for a set of headphone or a portable charger on the go.
The side access pockets are thin. The one that is green (shown to the left) features a power cord access, perfect for a set of headphone or a portable charger on the go.

A top access pocket is faux-fur lined, making it a great option to store a pair of glasses or even an iPhone. This pocket sits inside of the main compartment, keeping it protected from hard set-downs or falls. Overall, we are thrilled with the organizational capacity of this backpack and found most of these pockets to be functional for gadget lovers.

The top carry compartment is fleece-lined and perfect for a phone.
The top carry compartment is fleece-lined and perfect for a phone.

Take a look at all the storage offered in this Editors' Choice here.

Ease of Use


Easy to use? You bet! This backpack was one of the easier backpacks to find all your things, assuming you load it up properly. The only hard thing about it is choosing which pockets to use for what function. Once we formed habits of placing our daily items in their designated places, the Icon was a cinch to use.


The two side-access compartments allow quick access to your computer or tablet without having to dig through a bunch of stuff. The voluminous main compartment is large enough to accommodate shoes, gym clothes, and a lightweight jacket, while the plethora of pockets are perfect for organizing all your smallest gadgets.

The side-access compartments provide specialized and separate storage for both a laptop and tablet. In addition  the tabs make for opening the pack easy.
The side-access compartments provide specialized and separate storage for both a laptop and tablet. In addition, the tabs make for opening the pack easy.

The pull tabs are big, so you can open and close your bag even with a pair of bulky gloves. In addition, this backpack features several easy to access pockets for anything you might need on the go. The only thing that we wish this backpack had was a water bottle holder. This is a fantastic, easy-to-use pack that our testers love to wear each day.

The pull tabs are large and easy to use. Zipper didn't get stuck and proved to be quite durable during our testing period.
The pull tabs are large and easy to use. Zipper didn't get stuck and proved to be quite durable during our testing period.

Style


This isn't the prettiest or hippest backpack out there, yet it doesn't look like a classic school bag either. It features a square look that is sleek and simple. Although we like external water bottle pockets on backpacks, the lack thereof on this pack helps in the looks department.


While no laptop backpack is at home on Wall Street or in the courtroom, our testers liked its look for tech professionals and casual working environments alike. The Icon comes in a variety of colors to accommodate a range of tastes.

This pack is great for wearing in the city or at your favorite coffee shop. Load it all up with your favorite gadgets.
This pack is great for wearing in the city or at your favorite coffee shop. Load it all up with your favorite gadgets.

Water Resistance


This backpack offers decent water and weather protection from the elements. While it's not waterproof, it is one of the only packs that didn't allow water into either the laptop or iPad compartment during our shower tests. The other compartments, meant to hold papers and other electronics, weren't as protected.


During our shower tests, we exposed this backpack to a water dunking then shower test. We took the Icon and dunked the bottom of the back about fifty times to see if any water leaked at the bottom of the backpack. This was meant to simulate putting the backpack down in a big puddle. During this test, the pack leaked into the main compartment, creating a puddle inside. That said, water didn't permeate immediately. It took some vigorous agitation before leakage began.

The Incase undergoes our shower test!
The Incase undergoes our shower test!

Then, we sprayed this pack for about one minute while it sat in a water puddle in the bathtub. The covered zippers provided some water resistance, but it isn't waterproof. Some side and external pockets were damp inside, but not soaked. What we loved about the test results is that the compartments meant for larger electronics stayed dry. We weren't impressed when the compartments meant for paper got damp easily. If you plan on using this backpack in a giant rainstorm, be sure to pack an umbrella or a rainfly for additional protection. In a pinch, place any water-unfriendly items into the laptop or tablet compartments for increased rain protection.

After our water resistance tests   the side pockets and main compartment were damp and with pooled water (left and right). However  the compartment meant to hold the computer (middle image) was completely dry.
After our water resistance tests, the side pockets and main compartment were damp and with pooled water (left and right). However, the compartment meant to hold the computer (middle image) was completely dry.

If you are on the lookout for a backpack that offers the best in water protection, be sure to check out the Patagonia Black Hole 25.

Best Applications


If you seek a backpack to hold all of your gadgets and gizmos, this Top Dog is where it's at! Take it with you all over town while loading it up a 15-inch computer, tablet, and all the accessories. The roomy compartments add versatility to fit gym clothes, shoes, jackets, or your favorite DSLR camera. Overall, our testers loved this bag for its optimal storage and organizational capacity that is comfortable to wear all day long. From tech professionals to office-in-a-backpack contractors, this pack pleases many.

A look at the front and side profile of the Icon.
A look at the front and side profile of the Icon.

Value


For a retail price of $199, the Icon is one of the most expensive in this review. While it's specialized and of good quality, there are other options out there for much less. You're paying for exceptional features for organization and ease of use.

Conclusion


If you love to carry all your gadgets and you value organization, the Incase Icon is a perfect choice. Load it up with all your favorite tech and get out the door. It's perfect for commuting to work, a coffee shop, or to bop around town.


Amber King