For the review of Crumpler's Dry Red No. 5 laptop backpack, I'll be using it in two capacities: First as an airplane personal carry-on bag, where its job is to hold things I'll need during a seven-hour flight. Secondly I'll be using it on the ground as a sort of journalist's bag to cover a press event.
Packing for Travel
I keep my carry-on bag as light as possible, for reasons mentioned in the travel methodology post. I don't carry adapters, chargers and cables in there, as I'm rarely in an airplane seat with an outlet. Just the bare in-flight essentials.
For me that's (clockwise from center) a set of noise-canceling headphones, an inflatable travel pillow, a print book, an iPad, my laptop, eyeglasses, a writing pad, a business card holder and a pen.
The laptop goes in the dedicated side-opening compartment, separated from your back by a layer of padding.
The main compartment opens wide, providing good visibility.
The pillow, iPad, book and headphones fit no problem.
The outermost compartment of the bag is where the small stuff goes. Like most bags in this class, it has stitch-delineated compartments near the top of the compartment for easy access through the top zipper.
Compression straps at two corners help you slim it down.
Loaded up with as few things as I have in there, the bag maintains a nicely slim profile. (There is also an expansion zipper that lets the bag bellow out, for those of you that travel heavier than I do.)
I realize the side-access laptop slit is standard issue on many laptop backpacks these days, but as I've never used one, I enjoyed how quickly I was able to get the laptop out in the security line.
At the airport the bag stays on my shoulders most of the time, since I cannot rest it and balance it atop the rolling carry-on I've got with me. The shoulder straps are both wide enough and contain enough padding that they remain comfortable after twenty minutes on your back. The bag contacts your back with a raised, padded section that also keeps it comfortable. I'll feature shots of these in the next entry.
The topmost handle has the same beefy, integrated design as the previous two bags we covered, the Dry Red No. 3 and the Spring Peeper. The handle is comfortable and easy to grab, and more importantly it's centered, so when you lift the bag it remains vertical, unlike the Spring Peeper's tilting issue covered in the previous entry in this series.
Once on the plane I kept the laptop backpack in the seat with me, as per my custom. For the entire flight, I typically keep my personal bag on the floor under the seat in front of me, as you're nagged to do during take-off; I always place the bag on its side so I have room for my feet on either side. Hence I discovered this bag is deceptively wide:
Though this bag maintained a flat profile when loaded, I was surprised to find that on its side, it wouldn't quite fit beneath the seat in front of me; it needed to be forcefully shoved beneath the seat and forcibly tugged out each time I needed to access it. Not a tremendous hassle, and perhaps it was not designed for this exact application, but bending over to awkwardly remove the bag each time was annoying enough that I noticed it. By the way I was flying on a Boeing 757, which seems to be getting more common than the larger 737s these days, and it's possible the smaller plane provides a smaller under-seat area.
Other than that I was pleased with the bag's storage compartments and, once the bag was vertical on the floor, was able to easily access whatever I needed to pull out of it with a minimum of digging and fussing. The zipper pulls have Crumpler's standard easy-to-grab shape, and I like that the zipper to the topmost compartment, which is partially obscured by the bag's design, is bright red so it's easy to locate.
Up Next: Used as a Journalist's Bag