Topo is FUN and cute commuter laptop backpack. I wouldn’t say well done in the functionality department though. The cost of this bag does not deliver the quality It should. Not even a little bit. I can’t even imagine a bag that costs over $ 100 that would deliver less than this bag. If you rely on a daily carry bag a basic backpack will serve you better.
If you’re worried about this commuter laptop backpack might be too small, the answer is yes. The details and straps and overall design make it look substantial but the space inside is quite tiny. I knew it would be smaller from looking at the dimensions but the big disappointment Was that the water bottle compartments will only fit a 20oz bottled water. It’s best to think of it as a holder for a few pieces of paper. They are not gusseted so it presses into your already small main compartment to carry anything but feathers and popsicle sticks.
None of my water bottles fit. Basically if you study pack design and what makes nice packs, you’ll find Topo never quite delivers anything that make a good pack. Because I love the aesthetic I keep giving topo a shot, this is my 3rd bag and I’m just left underwhelmed again. It always feels like if they just did 10% more on any element of the functional design I could live with it or even like it. The form is great. To quote a great designer I once knew,
“Form is the Avenue through which function is communicated to the user.”
In that regard they are doing a poor job of communicating. The form is deceiving. You feel the concept of something you want, you get the hit of emotion that satiates the function you’d like to have. Then when you interact with it, and it falls short, EG: seeing something that could hold a water bottle and then realizing none of your bottles will fit, and it sacrifices martin compartment space.
I like that topo uses large zippers. I like that the leather wraps around the bottom instead of some designs where the leather is just a decorative element and not used to protect the most stressed parts of a pack. I would’ve like to see leather climb up the sides more for full protection and 5 metal luggage studs on the bottom.
If you get into bag designs really heavily, you really can’t say this commuter laptop backpack is any better than a standard leather bottom Jansport. A rover would not suffice as a school backpack if you need to take more than one class worth of books and materials.
The one use I’d say it would be great for would be a one-night overnight bag. Change of clothes in the main compartment, hygiene stuff in the top compartment, laptop or tablet in the inner sleeve. Some snax in the front zip. A couple of tiny water bottles in and sides.
To put everything in perspective, let’s say topo made a special edition of this commuter laptop backpack and knocked it out of the park for me – it would look like this:
– Metal hardware, preferably unpolished brass.
– Bottom luggage studs
– Gusseted and pleated water bottle holders
– Raw Brass YKK zippers (dear topo, no one likes painted zippers. Paint rubs off and looks terrible bonus points if you sourced the YKK Old American (Something interesting looking like the DA22OAZ17, DA22OAZ16, or GFOAZ8)
– Softer laptop sleeve material
– Add 2-3 inches in each direction.
– Cordura fabric
And yeah, that commuter laptop backpack would be more expensive, but it would be a pack that I love and I would be overjoyed to have spent the extra money.
If even the water bottle pockets were real , I could use this bag, but it’s just awkward at almost at every turn. Every time I use it every single thing fall short of what I’m needing.