Reviewed in the United States on June 23, 2020
*The very top pocket looks like it'd be tiny from the outside, but it's actually pretty deep. A Dish remote can go about halfway or so down into it. I can fit my Galaxy S9+ with an OtterBox case in it.
*However, the other front pocket is too small for much other than a map, a phone, or a very small book. For example, I cannot fit my paperback version of the Buffalo Creek Disaster. It's just a hair too big. This pocket also contains the lanyard, so maybe it is better suited to keys, cards and wallets anyway.
*The two laptops I used to test fit in the bag and how they compare to each other: A 15" Acer gaming laptop and a 15" Lenovo ThinkPad. The Acer is about 3 years old and hefty. You can see it's dimensionally bigger, but the thickness is literally double of the Thinkpad as well. They both fit well. The Thinkpad didn't jiggle around, and the Acer is proof that just about any 15" should fit this bag.
I just got this backpack, so this will be first impressions. I hope to update later with performance.
I bought this to use for college classes, so I plan on packing a 15" Thinkpad laptop, books and materials needed for classes.
The construction looks solid, but it's not a heavy bag at all. The padding is very thick on the straps, the top handle, and along the back. It's really nice. I could see this being weighed down and the straps not digging into my shoulders, and with as thick as the back is, there's no way a book or errant pencil would jab into my back. Granted, the back is also the laptop compartment, so this padding is two-fold. The back has much thinner padding along the spine, and I think that might help a little with airflow. At the very least, the bag shouldn't suction itself onto my back on a hot day due to this design.
The laptop compartment is well padded. It doesn't open very wide (the zipper pretty much just runs the top curve of the bag), but it's plenty to get a laptop in and out. But I wouldn't put little things inside of it, because they would be lost. At the very bottom is a "sling" of strong material, so if you had this backpack full and dropped this on the floor, in theory, it should help keep the laptop from smacking the floor on its edge. Nice touch. The sling is only up maybe 1/2 to 3/4 of an inch from the very bottom, so you don't lose much room for the feature. However, if you were to drop some change or something in there, I could see it potentially winding up under the sling and disappearing forever.
As for the size of the laptop compartment, I tested it with my ThinkPad and an older Acer gaming rig (15" Aspire VX). There should be a photo of the two on this review. The Acer is larger and literally twice as thick as the ThinkPad (it's a beast), and while it's a snugger fit, it does fit just fine. Would a 17" laptop fit? *Maybe*. It would be really tight. The Acer fits nicely in that there's a little room on either side and an inch or so to the zipper at the top. If it was much larger, I'd be concerned about the laptop being difficult to get in and out, and that the edges would be at and touching the side walls of the backpack, making dings to the laptop much more possible. So.. if you have a 17", tread carefully (hold onto your receipt or buy one that can be returned easily). Just about any 15" should fit fine, though, and be properly protected and easy to get in and out of the bag. I am very glad I opted for this model and not its little brother, the Division, however. If this bag were much smaller, I'd have my doubts about that Acer fitting.
I saw a review where someone complained that the stitching might eventually rub on their laptop, and I could see that happening. The stitching is heavy duty stuff inside, and several lines of stitching run along the inside of that compartment in rows. Easiest fix? Make a cheap sleeve out of some fleece fabric. You don't need padding, as that is ample in this bag. But if you are worried about little scuffs from the thick stitching, a piece of fleece would do you fine. Definitely not a deal breaker to me. That is an easy fix. The padding is the important need from the backpack that I needed, and this bag provides it well. But, I do wish they would have thought of that and just fleece lined it. For as much Timbuk2 wants for them, that shouldn't have been a problem for them to do that.
The front compartments are nice. I can see pens and chargers and all that fitting well in the large, divided, inside compartments. This section of the bag does not unzip all the way (the zipper goes almost 1/2 of the way down the bag), but I found it very easy to access the pockets and interior. I kind of like the interior material at the sides that keep that section of the bag from flopping open, considering that's where my loose pens and chargers will be held. No more spilling everything all over the floor!
There is a main area that is a blank slate. It contains one very thin padded area towards the back (the other side of the laptop compartment), big enough for a thin tablet of just about any size or folders. The main area looks like it would hold a couple of text books (2 at least) and maybe a bag lunch on top of that. I will try and update how much I can cram in there when school starts.
The very, very front has a small pocket towards the top for what I think might be for sunglasses or a wallet. I was surprised that it fit my Samsung Galaxy 9+ in an OtterBox Defender case! The case makes my phone super thick, and while it was a bit tight getting it in there, it did fit! Impressive. You might be able to fit glasses in their case in this pocket. Again, a minor complaint in that this pocket is not fleece lined, either. If it's meant for glasses or whatever, fleece lining would have been a nice touch, and would have helped justify the price point.
There is another front pocket that would be good for something flat: a map, a guide, or maybe a phone. It looks like it'd fit a sodoku book well, but not anything much thicker. A small paperback novel, tops, depending on how full the other compartments are. It's not tall or wide enough for a standard sized notebook, but possibly a really small planner or one of those little notebooks? A parking tag or the likes. Not sure what I'll use this for. Inside of this pocket is a sewn in lanyard with a metal clip at the end. It's not very long, though, but might be fine to hold an access card or keys if you need them to be secure in your bag. But the lanyard is not really long enough to make good use of traditional door keys without unclipping them every time. I'm not sure they thought that out.
The one water bottle holder on this backpack is indeed slender. I was able to fit an insulated 16oz bottle that was given to me as a gift, and it was tight. I kind of like that the neoprene holds so snug. I don't see my bottles tipping out very easily at all. I would not expect this to hold anything much bigger than a 24oz water bottle unless it's designed to be taller and skinnier. That works fine for me, but it's something to be aware of.
Overall, I like the backpack. It seems sturdy and padded and isn't too huge on me (I'm just over 5'). I like that the chest straps are removable, and that the very bottom clasps (the ones that will hit the ground most often) are metal. The layout is good and I think it will work well for me.
But would I pay $120? No. I paid about half that and I feel that was a fair price. If you can get it for ~$70 or less, I'd say go for it. But do not pay $100+.