First look: “Beautiful handbag,” remarked a flight attendant as I stored the Knomo bag in the overhead compartment above my seat. “Thanks,” I answered, “but it’s not a handbag. It’s a laptop bag.” The canvas and leather bag -- the one I carried was chocolate and tan -- fits most 15-inch laptops, is lightweight (2.43 pounds) and lightly padded. Three internal compartments and a zippered back pocket help organize material. The bag has a two-year guarantee.
Likes and yikes: The beauty of the Knomo bag is that it can be used as either a smart-looking handbag or as an efficient laptop bag. It is roomy enough to store files, laptop paraphernalia, a cellphone and other travel necessities. But my favorite thing about it: The top is magnetized to close automatically. Negatives: Because the padding inside isn’t very thick, a dropped bag could cause havoc with your laptop.
The 411: $295, available in four colors and fabrics. Call (800) 737-5160 or visit www.knomo.com. Also available at Benchley Luggage Ltd. in Newport Beach. (Knomo)
By Diane Wedner
First look: The XOXO Romance Laptop Tote will wow the younger female set (18 to 22) with its signature hugs-and-kisses theme emblazoned on the luggage. The bag, about 14 inches tall and 16 inches across, features zippered outside pockets for cellphones and car keys, and an interior space large enough for a small laptop and personal items. The tote has vinyl straps and is trimmed with metal nail-head studs.
Likes and yikes: The tote is lightweight, a plus for airline carry-on purposes. The strap is the right size for hooking over your shoulder. But the zippered tote opening is too small for easy loading and unloading of a standard-size laptop. It’s fine, however, for handbag items, hand-held electronics and a paperback. The interior pockets won’t easily handle cords and chargers but are fine for lipstick and a mirror.
First look: The Kameleon Convertible is stylishly mod -- and practical -- for a laptop bag. It comes in three-toned colors, olive, beige and yellow-green, with some leather trims. It’s lightweight and versatile: It can be carried as a backpack to free your hands, over the shoulder like a messenger bag and by short handles like a briefcase. It comes with a 12-month warranty.
Likes and yikes: If you love compartments to stash stuff, this one’s for you. It is an organizer’s dream -- with more than a dozen pockets, including a padded Velcro-fastened laptop pocket and others of varying sizes and depths to stash PDAs, BlackBerry, iPods, cellphones and folders. One side zips down to create a work surface to prop up a laptop. Its slim, boxy design turned heads in the office, but once I got my 12-inch laptop inside, I didn’t have much room left for the odds and ends you haul aboard a plane.
411: $86 at UpTown Bella, San Ramon, Calif.; www.uptownbella.com. Also at Amazon.com. (UpTown Bella)
By Catharine Hamm
First look: The leather Scully Wheeled Work Bag can really stand out in a crowd; it comes in an electric mint, light blue or red. (The shy can also choose it in black.) A laptop fits nicely in the center pocket; the outside pockets have plenty of space for the whatnot you need for work on the road. And here’s a nice touch: A small zippered case holds pencils and the laptop’s adapter cord. The bag has a detachable shoulder strap if you don’t want to roll it, but it’s so nimble on the ground that the strap seems superfluous.
Likes and yikes: The telescoping handle means that tall types need not hunch over to hold the handle. The bag was designed with women in mind, but it’s no lightweight: Empty, it tips the scale at 9 pounds. Add a laptop to that, a couple of books, some magazines and a post-security-purchased bottle of water, and lifting it into the overhead will take a bit of brawn.
First look: Solo’s Urban Vertical Messenger bag is roomy, durable (made of canvas and corduroy) and cool-looking -- sort of Army Surplus gets wired. Its laptop compartment, capable of holding a 15.4-inch laptop, is well-padded with a Velcro closure to keep the computer from moving around in the bag. There’s an MP3 pocket and pass-through hole for headphone wires in front so you can listen to music in transit with your digital audio player safely tucked inside. It is available in black and olive.
Likes and yikes: This capacious shoulder bag has plenty of room for books, files and electronic accessories. But it feels heavy and ungainly when full, not to mention hard on the shoulders and back. An adaptable strap that makes it possible to carry the bag like a backpack would be a big help.
The 411: $79.99, with a five-year warranty. Info: (631) 434-7070 or www.solocases.com. Available at Staples and Amazon.com. (Solo)
By Jane Engle
First look: The soft-sided Yak Pak Kiku Laptop Bag is designed with fashionistas in mind. Its cotton-twill cover comes in more than 40 prints, including “black psychedelia” (shown). It offers decent padding and an outside pocket, big enough for files, with slots for CDs, an ID card and a cellphone or peripherals. Comes with handles and a detachable, adjustable shoulder strap.
Likes and yikes: The casual design is anything but workaday, which can be fun. The main compartment is oversized; its sturdy zipper is easy to work. And the price isn’t bad. But the shoulder strap could use padding, and the outside pocket, secured with a 3-inch-wide, hook-and-loop closure, could allow some items to slip out.
The 411: $50, at New York-based Yak Pak, (800) 292-5725, www.yakpak.com. (Yak Pak)