New Bag Time Thule Strävan, Reviewed

This blog turns out to be one of the longer-lasting ones around.  I started out (badly) in, let’s see:  Ah.  June, 2008.  Took a while to get going, posts in fits and starts, but, what the heck, I’m still here.  And if you’ve looked at this blog before, you know that I am obsessed with bags.  Well, briefcases.  Among other things.

I still have and use my trusty, debranded Manhattan Portage Europa.  It’s simple and it works well.  But I’ve had it for four years, and my life has changed a bit, and I was looking for something new and.  Well, we’ll get there.

I have had several cardinal points for bags over the years, the most important being that the strap should be sewn on.  Two reasons for this:  First, it makes the bag more secure, or at least it makes it feel more secure.  When you’re riding somewhere, you don’t want a piece of hardware to come apart on you.  I’ve had that happen, and almost dropped a rather expensive laptop that belonged to someone else.  A Close Call.  Second, it makes the bag quieter, because the hardware, metal or plastic, isn’t knocking around.

So it took a lot for me to violate that particular point when I acquired my latest bag.

Actually, it’s a bit of a compromise.

New Bag

The bag is known as a Thule Strävan 13″ Macbook bag.

The first thing I should point out is that this is a small bag.  It’s intended for 13″ and smaller notebook computers (which works well for me, because I use a 12.5″ computer, the Lenovo X240).  The second is that it appears to be out of production, but still available from Amazon and similar places.  and because it is out of production, it’s cheap (think $25, give or take).

So.  First, as to that compromise:  instead of having the strap sewn in, or having plastic or metal loops to which to clip the strap, this bag has webbing loops to which the strap clips directly.  It thus eliminates the noise of rings and clips, though some hardware remains.  The strap hardware seems very solid, however and, unlike some, it holds the strap tightly enough that things shouldn’t get twisted up.  There is a strap pad (which I removed) and two buckles to adjust the length of the strap.

Next, the Strävan has something I’d been looking for:  handles.  I’m spending way too much time in my car these days, and I needed an easy way to grab the bag until I can use the strap.  Thus, handles.  These are nice–there’s one on either side of the main compartment, they’re comfortable, and the bag feels balanced.

About that zipper–another cardinal point for me has always been to have a flap over the top of the bag, because it keeps out the weather.  I also like the way it looks.  Here, no flap, just a zipper across the top, with nice pulls.

Inside that zipper are three large, flat compartments.  First, on the front side, a nicely-lined and padded one that fits my notebook perfectly.  Second, on the back side, a smaller lined and padded pocket intended for a tablet of some kind.  I don’t use it often, but sometimes toss in my Kindle Paperwhite.  In between the two is about an inch of space, into which you can put some folders and a letter-sized writing pad.  I’m trying hard not to overstuff this, which is comparatively easy because most of what I need is on the computer.  Sometimes, you want paper, but most of the time, you’re OK.  I keep a single folder and a legal pad in there.

Oddly, the tablet pocket can be opened by a zipper running down one side of the back of the bag.  I don’t know why you’d want that, but it’s there.

The front side has a veritable plethora of pockets:  One runs parallel to the computer pocket, which means that it’s a bit smaller than that pocket, and opens with a zipper across the top front.  I use it to store a USB to MicroUSB cable and a small Claierefontaine tabbed notebook with my to-do list.  On top of that are three more pockets.  The largest of these is intended for a notebook power supply, and that’s what I use it for.  To it’s right is a pocket just a bit smaller, into which go pens, business cards, and a tin from a Well-Known Brand of herbal teas that holds some bluetooth earphones and a tiny digital audio recorder.  Each of these pockets unzips on two sides, so they’re easy to get into.

On top of the power supply pocket is a small flat zippered pocket clearly intended for a phone.  Why anyone would put their phone in that kind of pocket is beyond me.  Mine lives in my back pocket at all times.  But it’s a nice extra space to have:  I keep my blood glucose test kit and a granola bar in there.

Overall, the bag looks nice, not overly-techy, and keeps my stuff together in a small space.  The only thing I truly dislike about it (allowing that I’ve already violated my cardinal points regarding straps and flaps) is that the manufacturer’s logo/name is printed on the side in large letters–unlike the Manhattan Portage bags, you can’t remove it.

I’ve had this bag for about a month, and I’m really very pleased with it.  They also make a 15″ version, still in production, and consequently, priced significantly higher.  If you need to carry a 14″ or 15″ machine, it looks like it will do just fine (these are currently available at Staples, as well as online).

If you’re the kind of person who travels a lot with a small computer, I think this bag, particularly at its current price, is hard to beat.


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