The SOLO Vintage Collection Backpack

The richness of leather, superior craftsmanship and ultimate comfort

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The History

It has been years since I used a backpack but I remember those days well carrying all my books to school as well as a myriad of other items that I might need for the day. Over time I guess I felt that I didn’t need one and chose to carry my books under my arm like many of the students but it was often difficult to juggle all that needed to be carried. Eventually, I migrated to a brief case in my professional life where again I was able to “stuff” most of the gear I needed as well as a variety of folders.

When I got my first laptop I was able to carry it in my briefcase but in time I got a padded laptop case to protect my laptop so I ended up carrying my briefcase and laptop bag. I guess it was OK; I was sort of used to it and I never had to go too far from my parking space to my office. It just became a routine to pack both bags although there were times I found it too much.

With the change in my lifestyle over the past few years, the need for a briefcase was gone so I was finally back to carrying one bag on my journeys and of course I would add an iPAQ (or two) to the bag as well as an assortment of chargers and cables. But then I added a Tablet PC to my collection, a new camera, a PSP and a few more devices and all of a sudden I had three separate bags that contained all my gear. It was beginning to be a pain when I started to pack for a trip.

My last trip to Seattle was when I decided that I needed a change. When I left Boston, I had my luggage bag, a laptop bag and a second shoulder bag containing everything I wanted and even though I was able to get rid of the luggage right away at the check-in counter, walking around the airport carrying two bags with my gear was getting “old” real quick.

 

The Search

I started looking around to see what others were doing and I was surprised at the number of folks doing what I was but I was even more surprised at the number of folks carrying backpacks. It just made sense! Have a bag large enough to carry what you need and carry it on your back leaving your hands free. So it was then that I decided to start the search for the right backpack. In fact I looked at a couple of bags that were in a shop at the airport but they just did not strike my fancy. One was too small and the other looked like a “kids” bag.

I think the over-riding issue for me in my search for a bag was that I wanted the versatility of a backpack but I definitely did not want to have a backpack that was a “kids” bag. I wanted something that was professional and yet something that would provide me with all the benefits of a “regular” backpack. I spent quite a bit of time looking in local stores that have carry bags but none of them caught my fancy. There were a few that looked good but did not have the right number of pockets. There were a few that had the right number of pockets but were not padded for protection and there was one that had pockets and padding but was definitely a bag for a 15 year old. It was a disappointing experience and one that ultimately led me to start my search on the net.

The search continued for several days with me taking time to look for the right bag. I started to see a few that I liked but the ballistic nylon material was just not doing it for me. It just did not have the right look. But then I started seeing a few bags that had leather as part of the bag and I was intrigued. I wondered if there was a leather backpack that would suit my needs. Certainly the style of leather was timeless (and absolutely ageless) and over time, with use, leather picks up a richness as it is used versus ballistic nylon just looks worn. I found a few all leather bags but none were made with the “techie” in mind (or if they were, they certainly were not designed by folks that carry “tech stuff”. It was getting frustrating so I stopped looking for a few days relegating myself to the thought that I was not going to find the “perfect” backpack.

 

The Find

A few days went by and all of a sudden by sheer luck I ran into the SOLO cases website and sitting right in front of me was the most perfect backpack that I had ever seen. It was made from a full grain Colombian leather that's durable yet extremely soft to the touch and was a dark Espresso Brown color giving it a very rich appearance. I’ve always liked leather; it has a special look that exudes class as well as durability. Maybe it is my age but the appreciation of a something that is made from leather is something that I grew up with and this backpack had that special look. But it was not only the leather that drew my attention; it was the style of the bag.

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I had already seen a few backpacks that either had a touch of leather or were full leather but they lacked that special touch that you expect. Not so with the Vintage Laptop Backpack; it had the richness of fine leather but it had a style that drew you to look at it. It was special and it had an immediate promise that it was going to be the backpack of choice. But did it have the right storage for my needs? And was it going to have that padding that I wanted to protect my tablet and laptop?

 

The Design

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There are three full compartments and two exterior pockets placed on top of each other in the front of the bag. The three main compartments each have two zippers for adjustable access and the two smaller front pockets each have one zipper. Centered at the top of the bag is a leather handle for hand carrying. The handle is rolled and sewn to make a nice comfortable handle. The ends of the handle are attached to a brass rectangular ring. The other side of the brass ring has a leather strip attached that is attached to the backpack with three brass nail head grommets. It is well designed and clearly gives the appearance of strength.

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The back of the pack is not leather; a nylon material is used for the backing. I can only assume that this was done for wear as well as being breathable when the backpack is resting on your back for long periods of time. It did surprise me when I first saw it but as I used it I could appreciate the logic behind it. In the same vein, the two padded shoulder straps are leather on the exposed part and the same nylon on that part which rests on your shoulders.

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2 Exterior Pockets

Looking at the front of the bag there are two pockets placed one above the other. Both pockets have antique brass finish nail heads for strength (and appearance).

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The top pocket is a flat pocket with a single zipper and is suitable for smaller or thin objects. I find that it is perfect for storage of my Western Digital portable disk drive … it is a perfect fit and I have easy access when needed.

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Below the flat pocket is a second zippered expandable pocket. Opening the zipper revealed nylon gusseted sides providing stability for the pocket flap as well as safety for objects enclosed. It opens into one large pocket and has two smaller interior pockets sewn into the back of the pocket. I find these two pockets perfect for holding Pocket PCs or Smartphones. Because I generally carry three to four devices with me when I travel, this pocket has been a God send allowing me safe storage of my “extra” devices as well as my business cards, Bluetooth headsets and plane tickets. This is a perfect pocket for those items you want access to quickly but when you store items like Pocket PCs in the two interior pockets, it limits what else can be placed in the main pocket. My only wish for that pocket would be that it expanded a little more to allow for the addition of items like an eye glass case.

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1st Compartment

Behind the two exterior pockets you get access to the first of three main storage compartments. A double zipper is used for opening and provides multiple choices on how you want to access the pocket. I like this type of closure so you can open the pocket just from the top if you choose (or easily open the entire pocket). Like the lower front pocket, when it is completely open, there are gusseted sides allowing for stability as well as protection from smaller items from accidentally slipping out.

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Looking inside the pocket reveals in addition to the main compartment a zippered pocket sewn into the front flap (great for plane tickets and hotel reservations) and one large and two smaller pockets for storage and easy organization of multiple items to be stored. In addition, there are two very small pockets sewn on the outside of a small pocket that are perfect for SD cards (or coins). Between the two small pockets you find two pen holders. I use one for a pen and the other neatly holds a thumb drive … it is perfect!

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I use this compartment for chargers, cables, a mouse, GPS, cleaning cloths, additional devices, eye glasses and just about any other “small” item that I need to carry. I call it my utility storage compartment.

 

2nd Compartment

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The Middle compartment is also double zippered and gusseted. Opening this pocket reveals one main pocket for storage of large items and a second gusseted padded pocket that I have been using for storage of my Sony Vaio TX. It is an absolutely perfect fit for the laptop and has sufficient padding between the pocket and the main compartment that you feel very secure that your laptop is protected.

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Not only do I carry my laptop in the padded 2nd interior pocket but I carry my laptop charger in the main compartment as well as a variety of ever changing items that are needed as I travel. It has been perfect for stuffing that sweater when I have anticipated a cool day or evening.

 

3rd Compartment

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This zippered compartment is a little different than the first two. It has a double zipper but rather than opening all the way and having gusseted sides, this pocket was really made for a laptop and using a side/top access. I use this pocket for an “accessory” case stored at the bottom of the pocket and the upper portion for my Motion LS800 Tablet PC. This pocket has a thicker padding in the back and the separation between the 2nd and 3rd compartments. I wish this same thickness padding was used in the second gusseted padded pocket that I have been using for storage of my Sony Vaio TX located in the 2nd compartment.

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The Carrying Straps

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Besides the rolled handle on the top of the bag there are two padded adjustable straps for either slinging the bag over one shoulder or for comfortably carrying the bag on your back. The padded portion of the strap has leather on the exterior and the same nylon material that is on the back of the bag. There is a nylon adjustable strap that connects the padded portion to two tabs located on either side of the bag at the bottom. The two tabs are padded and have the same leather exterior and nylon interior.

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The adjustable strap is secured with the two brass nail head grommets on either end for security as well as good looks. The adjustment is made on the straps with an antiqued brass buckle that looks good and blends into the style of the bag.

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Conclusion

Comfort, style and versatility characterize this backpack that is providing me with the ability to carry a myriad of items easily, securely and safely. I like the way that I can organize what I need to carry in separate compartments, each offering easy access and I am amazed at the comfort I experience while wearing the backpack.

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I have a couple “fixes” that would make it easier for me in accessibility as well as add a little more security for my larger” devices. First, I would like to have a “double zipper” on the front lower pocket. Although it is gusseted for secure storage of devices, a double zipper would make it easier for closing the pocket when there are just a few extra items in it.

I have added a 1 inch thick foam pad at the bottom of the pack to add a little extra “cushion” for my laptop and tablet. It would have been nice if there was a little more padding in that area. Lastly, there are no nail heads to protect the bottom of the bag when you place it down. Not that it is the biggest concern but it would protect the leather on the bottom of the bag from damage.

In essence, I have few concerns and all praise for the Solo Vintage backpack. It has changed the way I carry my devices making my ability to Experience Mobility as I travel a lot easier. The quality of the construction is superior. The exterior is high quality Columbian leather that is durable yet soft to the touch. The flawless stitching adds that extra touch to make the backpack just look terrific! The interior is a blue nylon giving strength to the pockets and adding that touch of color for good look.

I imagine that most would classify this backpack as a “business-casual” bag but I prefer to call it the “relaxed professional”. Solo has provided you with the ability to carry all your gear comfortably with enough of a professional looking appearance that you would be comfortable carrying it back and forth to the office on a daily basis.

 

Reviewer: Jack Cook

Vendor: SOLO (http://www.solocases.com/item.aspx?id=1696)

Cost: $185.00 (MSRP) (A little searching on the net will provide some incredible prices)

Rating: 5 out of 5

Technorati Tags: SOLO,SOLO Cases,SOLO Vintage Collection,backpack,leather backpack,luggage,U.S. Luggage

 

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