I usually don’t write these types of product reviews. Most of my entries focus on post production software and techniques, but in a way this is related. As more and more editors ply their trade with the aid of portable devices, such as laptops, an important tool is your backpack or laptop bag. I generally freelance at other facilities; but, I have done the occasional on-site editing gig, too. Airline travel and stowing extras like headphones, small speakers and i/o devices are considerations. There are plenty of options on the market, but one company that was recently brought to my attention was ECBC, a vendor for backpacks, messenger bags, tote bags and notebook sleeves.
I have my share of NLE manufacturers’ swag bags from meetings, conferences and conventions. It just so happened that my favorite bag was giving out at about the time that ECBC’s rep contacted me about testing out their new K7 line. This gave me a chance to check out both the K7 Zeus messenger bag and K7 Hercules laptop backpack.
The K7 line is made from Kodra Nylon, which is lightweight material designed to be abrasion and water resistant. It’s a bit more like cloth than a standard ballistic nylon, such as they use in their B7 line. This makes the bags more lightweight. Secondly, the K7 series comes in smaller sizes, which befits the popularity of 13” and 15” MacBook Pros, small Windows laptops and tablets like Surface and the iPad. Both the backpacks and messenger bags use a spacer in the laptop compartment, so the same bag will fit 13” and 15” laptops, simply by using or removing the spacer.
I tend to run around town these days with only my iPad, which I use to surf the web, write, check e-mail and keep track of the calendar and contacts. I tested the Zeus messenger bag, which was perfect for the iPad, along with a collection of USB sticks, keys, umbrella and other run-around necessities. If I need the laptop for on-site, local production, then there’s plenty of room for the 15” MacBook Pro plus the iPad if I want to bring both. Traveling out of town? That’s where the Hercules backpack is just right.
Overall, I liked the construction quality of these bags. They use YKK zippers for a nice type fit and the front compartment zippers are specially designed to be more water resistant. Compartments are well designed and sewn in, with extra pockets for water bottles and all the organizational areas you need. The interior is nicely lined with padded nylon and the laptop compartments use a felt liner to “baby” your computer. That’s a cut above most cheaper bags. For example, my previous swag bag had a plastic inner liner, which started to crack and flake with age. That would never happen with the ECBC liner material.
An interesting feature on the backpacks is what is called a TSA-Compliant compartment. ECBC calls this their FastPass system. The laptop compartment of the backpack is the entire back panel of the bag. It zips completely open so that the laptop compartment lays flat going through the X-ray machine without the need to remove the laptop itself from the backpack. With a MacBook Pro in the back panel, you still have plenty of interior bag room for power supply, headphones, external drives and more. One last nice touch to point out is that the handles are padded. That doesn’t seem like a big deal, but if you’ve hauled around a heavy bag with just a thin nylon handle to hold it, you’ll appreciate the padding. This prevents the cloth of the handle from cutting into your fingers.
My only quibble is that the messenger bag does not have a zipper to seal across the top the interior compartment. I presume that’s so you can easily remove a laptop and quickly go through security. It’s unlikely that you’d lose anything. The internal pockets are tight and closed. The top flap, which covers this access, closes snugly with heavy-duty plastic clasps and some of the most robust Velcro you’ve ever seen.
While there are plenty of top notch bags and packs on the market, the ones that ECBC sent for my review are worthy of the editor turned road warrior. Top flight construction that will protect your gear on the road. Not much more you can ask from a bag or backpack.
©2013 Oliver Peters