By Jared Miniman | February 22, 2008 12:00 AM
Let me begin this article by exclaiming
how particular I am about my travel accouterments. Not even bringing my food and
supplement carry-on needs into consideration, I spend about five minutes collecting
clothing and essentials prior to each journey I make for business or pleasure
followed by about 30 minutes of perfectly laying out my suitcase. Why the
obsession over neatness? Perhaps it is due to my engineering background. Or,
more likely, perhaps I treat my travel luggage as an extension of my person and
I want to know where every item is at all times. Since I never check a bag
anymore (I’ve read enough horror stories in my five years of flying regularly to
keep me away from the baggage carousel!), I’ve perfected the act of compressing
a business week of clothing and gear into a carry-on bag deemed acceptable by
the TSA. Needless to say, I put a lot more thought and effort into filling my target="_blank">Victorinox Werks Traveler 2.0 than perhaps I need to.
technology consultant. What about my computer equipment? This subject is the
crux of this article. As obsessive as I am about how I take my clothes with me,
I’m even more particular about how I tote my laptop and electronic accessories.
I’ve been searching for my perfect bag for two years now. I’ve resolved to
ignore price when looking at bags, since I figured a good bag would last me at
least 18 months and after that time, I will have gotten my money’s worth out of
it. Here is a general outline of my criteria for a solid bag:
- Extremely durable. Made of nearly army-grade, non-leather
material that will handle abuse from regular wear and tear and placement on
- Dedicated laptop compartment. This area would need to be
permanently affixed to the bag. I don’t like laptop sleeve inserts. Moving parts
are bad when traveling. It’s one more thing to lose. The compartment should also
provide a decent amount of padding for obvious reasons.
- Dedicated documents compartment. I always bring several
magazines, along with pertinent documents on all of my trips. I want to keep
these items somewhat separate from the laptop.
- Bullet proof zippers. The moving parts of any system tend to be
the least durable over time. Frequent zipper use can wear out the teeth of the
zipper as well as become less smooth operating over time. Everyone uses "YKK"
zippers. Some have more reinforcement than others.
- Ability to sit vertically. I was first introduced to this
with my Booq XM (the 2006 XM has been
replaced by the forthcoming target="_blank">Boa 3M). To be able to place your bag on
the floor without propping it up against a wall is incredibly useful. This
feature requires really smart weight balancing by the bag designer and a flat
- Backpack versus messenger. I like the look of messenger bags but
I couldn’t "live out of one". Messenger bags generally have insufficient storage
and I generally have enough stuff in my bag that I’d want to support it with
both shoulders. I’m looking to keep decent posture for as long as I travel,
- Comfort. I want ergonomic back straps
with sufficient padding and a nice bit of cushioning on the part of the bag that
rests against the back. That’s not too much to ask, is it?
- Style. I’m a big fan of fashionable accessories. I tend to like
bags that grab attention by strong coloring, lots of cool logo/branding on the
bag parts, and general sleek styling that stands out from the world of
eBags-grade, disposable laptop bags.
As I said before, I’ve been researching laptop bags for a very long
time. I’ve surveyed the landscape and have come up with the following brands to
consider: Victorinox, Tumi, Ogio, Samsonite, Crumpler, Targus, Brenthaven,
Kenneth Cole, Waterfield, Booq Bags, and several others. So far, the only bag
that has really met my needs came from Booq. I used their Boa XM 2006 model for
two years and change. The only reason why I decided to look for a replacement
was the top handle was beginning to wear out and I wanted a more padded bag.
Because prior to this review, none of their products had been much refreshed, I
looked elsewhere. I learned about Covertec’s edgy Racer M product and asked
pocketnow to obtain a review sample for me.
As I said before, I’ve been researching laptop bags for a very long
didn’t fit my needs for one reason: the documents sleeve wasn’t high enough to
really warrant its use. Magazines stuck out half-way and documents could easily
get wrinkled since the pocket only was about 6 inches high. Bummer! It was great
otherwise. I contacted Covertec directly and asked for something better and they
told me I would have to wait. Four months later, they let me know I’d soon be
receiving a Racer L, which has a dedicated document sleeve and compartment.
Plus, they had totally redesigned their bags to include some pretty nifty
features, which I will describe below.
AT A GLANCE
I recognize that pocketnow.com tends to put a great deal of emphasis on the unboxing
process within their reviews, and I agree with that. After all, a great user
experience starts as soon as you pry open the ugly UPS shipping box and connect
with the product within. Covertec spent some time thinking through the boxing
materials such that it entices with suggested usage ideas as well as folks
enjoying their Racer bags.
Covertec put an almost Apple-esque touch on their packaging design. Even
though most people will throw away the box (hopefully recycling in the
process!), the first impression is a very positive one thanks to a nice minimal
Here is the Racer box interior.
Front face of the Racer.
The first thing you’ll notice about this bag is its very minimal look.
It’s black with orange trim and no exposed appendages like a lot of the cheaper
bags have. Those extraneous cell phone pockets make the bag wider and harder to
fit under an airplane seat. Not interested in having to always chuck my bag in
the overhead bin when I need my laptop by my side.
The bag is made of 1680D
ballistic nylon (same as my Boa) and has waterproof zippers (I’ve never had
zippers rust on me!), and comes with a lifetime warranty.
A CLOSER LOOK
The orange trim is a very nice touch that
fits well into business settings. It’s subtle enough to make your bag look
different, but not garish to the point of wondering if you’re about to go hiking
up Mount Rainier!
The bottom of the
bag is covered in a pretty durable looking, and I’m sure waterproofed material.
Here is where one of my wish list items from above is missed: this bag cannot
stand upright! No matter how well you balance the contents of the bag, you’ll
need to prop the bag against a wall to keep it standing. I really dislike this.
Am I the only one who wants this in all bags?
Ah these shoulder straps feel as amazing as they
look! Super padded and nicely angled so that they fit the back of a normal
adult, rather than an alien of some kind. Covertec definitely spent time fitting
this bag against folks of different forms, coming up with the best design to
cover the average person.
appreciate the shoulder strap cross-over connection, which helps better
distribute heavier loads. This makes a noticeable different when you’re forced
to keep the bag on your back for long durations, as the weight is placed not
just on your upper back but also your lower back and even brings your abdominals
into the equation. The sternum strap I never use. Just never saw the point of
looking so ridiculous to be wearing a fabric belt!
superficial, but I want all exposed parts of my laptop accessories to look
great. The zippers play the part of breaking up the uniform black covering the
bag. These zipper tips are made of a rubbery material and it makes opening and
closing the zippers a bit easier. In the end, they serve one role: they look
The front pocket is
made of thermoformed, semi-rigid EVA. Prior to using this bag, I’ve never heard
of such a material. Although it’s a distinctive part of the bag, I’m not sure
I’m totally sold on the front pocket. It juts from the bag by about two inches
and makes the bag harder to squeeze into small places. I kind of wish this
pocket weren’t as fat. On a positive note, this pocket fits a ton of stuff.
Looking down on
the bag reveals a durable Covertec-branded handle as well as the top-most
pocket, which is good for coins, lip balm, keys, and perhaps a few tossable
computer accessories like USB keys and the like.
In here you can fit
several pens, plenty of business cards or other credit card-sized things,
perhaps a charger or two, keys (on the key hook), and flat items within the
first internal pocket. In this internal pocket I have placed some CDs and DVDs
in flat jewel cases. Yes, I still use DVDs. I know I’m a bit slow with the
This pocket is
about 4 inches deep and has a rather narrow mouth. I use this pocket for change,
keys, and small cords. It’s not all that useful for anything else because you
can’t see what’s in the pocket without diving in with your hand. Although I have
a good use for this pocket, you might not.
Here is the
document compartment that I was missing from the Racer M so I asked for the
larger bag. This is the big differentiator between the M and the L, since they
both accommodate up to 15.4" laptops. This compartment has a half-length
document holder (like on the M), two somewhat hidden pockets that can hold a
mouse, batteries, or any fist-size item, and then another flat-oriented pocket
that can hold small objects such as a pack of gum, cards, writing tools, etc.
Because this pocket is somewhat wide and is made of smooth material, things
slide around a good bit in there. Not a big deal if you fill it with enough
things, but something to consider. Also, the zipper is kind of corny on
this pocket – not the same quality as the others. Don't pull too hard.
I don’t understand
why the document sleeves used in these bags are so
low-cut. The issue is that the tops of your papers/magazines will quite likely
get wrinkled or slightly mangled as time goes on � I had several hotel receipts
in my bag and after a week, I had to reprint those statements because they were
ruffled at the top. I think these document sleeves should be high enough to
cover a standard 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper. Shouldn’t be such a big deal!
At the bottom of
this document is a short-height, mesh pocket that I use to store a small USB
hard drive, its USB 2.0 cord, and a Verizon BroadbandAccess USB dongle.
Finally, here is
the laptop compartment. Rest assured, your laptop will be kept comfortably in
here. Unlike the diminutive document sleeves, this sleeve leaves no part of your
15.4" or smaller laptop uncovered. Just press back the top of the orange fabric,
slide your laptop into the fleecy material, push down, and you’re done.
quite easy to remove the laptop, too. My IBM ThinkPad T61 remains locked in
place and doesn’t slide at all. It’s a perfect fit. Also in this compartment is
a mesh pocket that can hold documents (again, it only protects half the length
of a standard 8.5 x 11 page).
A detachable pouch can be used to hold pens or
cords or small items that you may wish to take with you when not near your bag.
I didn’t find a need for this pouch, so I removed it.
Easily, the most
striking feature of this bag is the protection it affords from the rain. It
actually comes with a rain jacket (for the bag, not you!). It’s stored in the
bottom-most, hidden compartment of the bag.
Installing it on
the bag is like removing the head covering from a windbreaker with a compartment
located in the collar. It takes all of 5 seconds to properly fit.
Perhaps a little
gimmicky, this will certainly keep your belongings dry if you get caught in the
elements without an umbrella. Of course, you’ll be soaked, but your bag will be
The Racer L has two
tucked away pockets of somewhat limited value due to their narrow opening. My
Boa has one hidden pocket that spans the entire area of the bag front. I find
the Boa to be more useful since I can fit a lot more in there. At any rate, it’s
great to be able to tuck infrequently used items into these two pockets for safe
keeping. I usually keep a protein bar or two in these pockets.
View of MP3 player plugin.
We’re not quite
done yet! This bag has a nifty audio cable pass-through that starts in the
top-most, hidden pocket and comes out at the base of the left shoulder strap.
How cool! Since iPods these days are super thin, you can drop one into the small pocket underneath the shoulder straps.
models within the Racer Bag Series come with a limited lifetime warranty.
I find that these warranties are a nice bit of psychological comfort, but in the
end, your fashion interests will probably be outlasted by the bag materials.
If you do have a problem, just send the Covertec folks on their e-mail form
important to note that while this review is only looking at the L Model, there
are several other choices within this product line, starting with the S and expanding in
capacity to the XL. The S model is a sling edition, which is to be worn
only over one shoulder. Price is $149 USD. The M model is the
smallest standard backpack with an MSRP of $179 USD. The L model (as shown
in this review) adds a dedicated documents compartment and the price increases
to $219 USD. Finally, the XL model accommodates 17" laptops (who carries
those around as a traveler tool, anyway?), and the price jumps to $249 USD.
BUGS AND WISHES
Even though I asked Covertec to replace my M with the L, I'm
beginning to wonder if I wanted the M after all! I rarely use the
dedicated documents compartment, and because the document slots are not full
length, I'm afraid to place items in the document sleeve for fear of having my
documents wrinkled or my magazines damaged. The other difference with the
L is the depth – about 2 inches – and this makes a big difference when
attempting to slide the bag under the seat in front of you in an airplane.
If Covertec made all of the document pockets full height, the M would be a
perfect model for me as I don't bring many documents with me. I tend to
only bring boarding passes, expense envelopes, and several magazines.
I see nothing wrong with beating a dead horse – I want my
laptop bags to stand upright on its own. If you've never owned a bag that
does this, once you've experience it, you'll never turn back. It's like
going from driving an average family sedan to driving a high-end sports car.
You'll forever be disappointed unless you maintain that same level of
performance. Not having to prop a bag up against a wall when in an airport
bathroom, for example, is a great bit of freedom.
In addition to the above, it would be nice if the hidden
pockets had widened mouths so I can fit more materials inside.
As mentioned earlier, the Racer series range in cost from $149 to $249, depending
on size and configuration. All bags can be purchased directly from
Covertec and likely, by the time this review is published, from several other
high-end bag retailers. These "European"-style bags can be purchased both
in USD and Euros, and likely can be shipped to most places in the world if
you're willing to pay the import tariffs. Expect to pay about $60 in
shipping to the US. It would be advisable to purchase one of these bags
from a local or US-based, online retailer to save yourself the shipping fees.
- Super strong materials
- Durable zippers with attractive encasings
- Unique black-on-orange color scheme
- The most comfy shoulder straps/backing I’ve ever encountered on a
- Laptop compartment is well protected
- Some of the pockets could benefit from larger openings
- All document-designed pockets should be full height
- All laptop bags should stand up on their own; the Racer doesn't
- The semi-rigged front pocket consumes precious airplane seat
Covertec is certainly not new to the world of bags and laptop
accessories, so I was thrilled when I saw several tech blogs link to the same
teaser video of an earlier Racer M being unboxed, unzipped, and covered up by
the nifty rain coat system. I’ve enjoyed spending time (traveling, attending
meetings, etc.) with the Racer, and while it’s not perfect, it has a lot going
for it. Starting with the super strong nylon material, well-reinforced zippers,
unique black-on-orange color scheme, and fabulously padded shoulder straps and
backing, I found it easier to carry my 6 pound ThinkPad than with previous bags.
I’ve been informed by Covertec that any criticism would be seriously considered
for changing future releases of their models, so I hope they’re listening
carefully. Until Covertec releases the perfect bag for me, take a close look at
one of the three available sizes and see which one fits your needs best.
Covertec is certainly not new to the world of bags and laptop