When does a feature become a hassle? When referring to laptop safety versus portability, that's a very good and vexing question. Rickshaw Bagworks, a San Francisco-based company focusing on a high-end line of laptop-carrying messenger bags that use a fair amount of recycled materials, made us wonder about that when testing several of its products. Its Waterproof X-Pac commuter bag ($160) is a case that will withstand downpours or puddles, but it's not exactly the most svelte of computer bags.
A top flap made of waterproof technical sailcloth is, as Rickshaw itself proclaims, lightweight. The rest of the bag, however, feels heavy. Inner waterproof linings on all bag walls make the X-Pac feel very safe, but it also feels as if you're carrying a foldable raincoat over your shoulder. Two zippable outer pockets have a pleasant rubberized padding that's also lined, and inside all of this is an additional, thickly padded (and removable by Velcro) laptop sleeve. Yes, that's a lot of waterproof layering, but perhaps with valuable devices, it's better to be safe than sorry.
The rubber bottom is also waterproof--this bag almost feels like the perfect messenger bag for life on a boat--and an easily adjustable shoulder strap with a long and grippy pad will keep the whole thing on your side relatively comfortably. It's a shame that the design, as much as we wanted to like it more, was just slightly more brash than we'd ideally like. From the outside, it doesn't exactly look like a $160 bag.
There are several nice touches: plastic buckles to seal the top lid down are helped by Velcro strips that can be swapped out for quieter magnetized pads. The top handle is thick and strong. And a rear zippering extra compartment has pockets for pens, business cards, and other documents.
For construction quality, Rickshaw's bags are certainly impressive. But be forewarned, their design and feel are more designer handbag than sleek messenger bag. Nevertheless, while we found some of the designs on the Web site to be overdone, the well-reinforced X-Pac does come with an impressive number of pockets and compartments, as well as reinforcement that lets it sit upright when put on the floor.
All Rickshaw bags come with a "no unreasonable request denied" warranty, which is basically a lifetime warranty or refund/exchange, "within reason." It's an unusual level of customer service, and claims that any basic dissatisfaction or disrepair will be fixed by the company.