The Pros and Cons of Top Carry-On Bags for Laptops

Locations in this article:  San Diego, CA San Francisco, CA

Girl Emerging From Laptop ComputerIn today’s tough economic times, it makes sense that both business and leisure travelers are taking shorter trips. And with more and more travelers opting to bring only carry-on luggage to avoid those pesky baggage fees, it’s become even more important to find the right bag for your clothes, laptop and various accessories.

Read on to find out what happened when gadget guy Phil Baker tested out some bags to find the best traveling gear for short trips.

I’ve been grappling with what bags to take for a quick overnight trip.

My 22-inch wheelie is too big and the clothes flops around.

I can take along a duffel bag, but carrying that along with a computer case is cumbersome and is hard on the back and shoulders.

Here’s what I discovered after trying out a variety of solutions:


The best thing about this case is that the inside partition and computer sleeve can be removed leaving a large sturdy container (18 x 14 x 8.8 inches) for carrying clothes and other necessities. I packed using Eagle Creek packing folders and cubes placed side by side.

For my second bag I took my trusty 19-inch Glaser Designs Transaction Bag that I plopped on top. I used a Lug-Buddy elastic strap to secure the Glaser bag firmly against the handle.

I tried this on a two-day/one-night flight to China and it worked just fine. And it’s carry-on baggage-legal on any flight, international or domestic.

It offers maximum capacity with minimal bulk.
The Briggs provided a wide stance for easy rollability.



Eagle Creek TarmacThis looked like a perfect bag on paper, but after trying it on a few trips turned out to be disappointing. It consists of a small wheelie bag with handle plus a matching backpack computer case that zips onto the front of the bag.

I was able to board the plane with one piece of luggage.
Travelers can use just the computer backpack and leave the suitcase in the car or room.
It can fit up to three nights of clothing.
It’s small enough to carry on international flights.

With the computer bag attached and loaded, the bag kept tipping over, face-first. Not exactly the ease of use I was hoping for.
There is no outside slash pocket to stuff a newspaper, receipts, liquid containers or boarding pass.


Crumpler Sinking BargeFor a quick overnight trip to San Francisco I looked for a large backpack with a computer sleeve that would still hold everything I needed. The Sinking Barge from Crumpler had the most capacity and flexibility. While the bag is designed to carry a camera outfit, that compartment is removable, leaving me with two huge pockets that held one day of clothing, a toiletry kit and my 15-inch computer … all well-protected.

It is a well-constructed bag made of rugged materials that should last for years.
There are quick-access pockets for tickets.
This is a backpack that’s all business, unlike so many others adorned with all sorts of decorations.

The water-resistant material feels a little abrasive.


Tumi alpha business class backpackThis puts all of the features of a Tumi computer case into a vertical format backpack. It has a pocket for a computer, a removable accessory pouch, a waterproof pocket with a drain, pockets for phones, music players, small accessories and business cards. In total five exterior pockets plus a large deep central pocket than can accommodate a change of clothes. It’s also available in their new brown ballistic nylon.

There are plenty of well designed pockets yet has a huge pocket for a change of clothes
The new brown color is very cool.
It’s most business-like of all the backpacks.
The bag is well-made with attention to detail.
Tumi offers lost-bag recovery service.

At $375, this is a pricey bag!
The black accessory pocket doesn’t match the brown bag.

This laptop backpack is designed around the computer. It’s also constructed of ballistic nylon, but places first priority on protecting your laptop, surrounding it with cushion-y material that protects all four corners and a hard shell that protects the two sides.

It has plenty of pockets, including a front organizer panel with pockets for mouse, battery, USB flash, disks, etc., an outside ticket pocket, and one for stashing all your gadgets in your pocket while going through security.

This bag is well-made and durable.
It offers great laptop protection, which is often a traveler’s number one priority.

There are no deep pockets to hold bulky items.

By Phil Baker for Read Phil’s blog at, and find his technology column in the San Diego Transcript at

Get more helpful hints from our Travel Gadgets section.

And don’t miss “Checkpoint-Friendly” Computer Cases: Worth It?