Price: $80 ListPros: Simple design, well placed pockets, side access laptop compartment, great laptop sleeve, dozens of color options, u-lock sleeve, fits men and women. Cons: Can be small for some people, no reflective material, u-lock only side pocket, customization is expensive. Manufacturer: Timbuk2
The Timbuk2 Swig is a highly versatile and simple messenger-inspired laptop backpack with logical storage and a design that fits both men and women. The bag has a 21 Liter main compartment with a well padded "laptop hammock." An open front compartment and zippered pocket provide easy access to everyday essentials while a U-lock pocket keeps your bike lock readily accessible. The Swig is available in five color options at the base price of $90. You can also spend considerably more to have your favorite color or another fabric type on the pack's lid. Drawbacks include a design that's better for average size people than large people. The side pocket can only fit a u-lock, and the bag's shiny bottle opener will be forever fixed to your shoulder. Theses nuisances aside, the backpack is highly functional, comfortable, and an excellent value.
Spending considerably more money will get you the most versatile laptop backpack, the Cilo Gear City Pack ($175). We recommend the City Pack for taller people, those who want more storage, or greater versatility. The most professional looking backpack and the best for a laptop and documents is the Arc'teryx Blade 24 ($175). For $90, however, the Swig will perform nearly as well as these bags and cost you a whole lot less.
The Timbuk2 Swig is a simple, unassuming, and highly functional laptop backpack. In essence, the Swig is a narrower and taller version of the company's messenger bags- just with backpack straps. The bag is consists of a medium sized main compartment, well-padded laptop sleeve, and several strategic pockets that provide quick access to everyday essentials. A large waterproof flap covers the main opening and attaches to the bottom of the bag with velcro and plastic buckles (just like a messenger bag). Our testers found the Swig's storage to be nearly perfect for everyday use. When the pack is loaded above the rim, the flap can fold over items that don't fit inside, and the straps can extend down and secure the overloaded bag. This feature adds significant capacity to the pack. When it's not loaded, the Swig is quite compact and remains close to your back. This detail is great because most other backpacks remain bulky when not loaded.
The Swig is our Editors' Choice laptop backpack in part because it's well suited to a wide variety of body types and lifestyles. Of the eight laptop backpacks reviewed here, the Swig is by far the best school bag; it holds a computer and books very well. It is also a capable performer for day hikes and cycling. One of our testers, Kirsten, took the bag for a sizeable hike along California's Point Reyes National Seashore (see photo below) and found the bag to be comfortable even when fully loaded.
The Timbuk2 Swig held these groceries with ease.
Photo: Max Neale
Of the sixteen bags we reviewed, the Swig offers the best laptop protection. Its "laptop hammock" pads the back, front and sides of your computer, and, more importantly, hangs the computer two inches above the bottom of the bag. The Swig is one of the few bags we tested that could endure the bumps, jumps, and drops that occur in a mobile urban lifestyle.
Regarding fit, the Swig, as Timbuk2 boasts on their website, "fits both men AND women." This claim is because the bag runs average size, and the shoulder straps have a substantial inward curve. Yes, it fits just about everyone, but people with longer torsos or broader shoulders will want a larger bag.
One drawback that irked our testers was the Swig's lack of a handy exterior pocket. The bag comes equipped with a small sleeve that holds a small u-lock perfectly but doesn't hold anything else well. This pocket is great if you commute to work AND have a small u-lock (which is arguably the be the best bike lock for city life). If you don't satisfy both of those conditions, you'll find the pocket to be useless. We much prefer the external mesh pocket on the Cilo Gear City Pack because it holds a variety of objects.
Timbuk2 boasts that most of their packs can customize with various fabrics and colors. Though true, we believe that customizing the Swig is both overrated and overpriced. Customization mainly changes the primary flap material, which needs no performance upgrade (it's the most durable waterproof material on the bag). You're paying between $15 and $45 for color changes.
While we love the Swig's versatile and straightforward storage for small items in the open front compartment can fall out if the bag went upside down. Our testers rarely found this to be problematic, but it's worth noting.
Along with the Option and other Timbuk2 backpacks, the Swig has a "carbonated beverage opener" on one of the shoulder straps. This shiny, attention-grabbing feature, prominently displayed on the front of the bag, could be a potential drawback.
The Timbuk2 Swig on a day hike along the Point Reyes National Seashore. Note how the flap and straps can hold larger items that don't fit in the main compartmnent.
Photo: Kirsten Lindquist
All-purpose everyday use.
The Swig is an excellent value. It has also been around for a while and can go for considerably less than already reasonable retail price. Avoid the previous version, which has the less durable Mission 6 fabric.
Other Versions and Accessories
The Timbuk2 Light Bright Swig, which we also reviewed, is a more durable and more waterproof version of the standard Swig. There's also a reflective racing stripe! Although the Light Bright is a higher performing bag, we awarded the Swig with our Editors' Choice Award because we don't believe the Light Bright's slight improvement in materials is worth the additional $30. The standard Swig is also available in a wider variety of colors and has an improved back panel that ventilates better than the Light Bright somewhat plastic-y rubbery material.
The Timbuk2 Classic Messenger, is a well designed, reasonably comfortable, durable, and waterproof bag for those who do a lot of biking and want quick access to their belongings. The bag is constructed of durable, waterproof materials, has logical and easy to use storage for small and large items, and costs only $100.
The Timbuk2 Command, $130, is a durable, waterproof, professional looking messenger bag with excellent storage options and a TSA-compliant studded laptop compartment - it wins our Editors' Choice Award.