- Buyer's Guide
Drive By :: Timbuk2 Command TSA-Friendly Laptop Backpack
The Timbuk2 Command TSA-Friendly Laptop Backpack is a well priced, mid-sized carry-on backpack that suits a frequent flyer. The TSA laptop flap works well, the capacity deals with a night or two away, and the bag comes with the standard Timbuk2 lifetime warranty. It won’t blow your socks off, but it will carry them for you without fuss or bother.
Who It Suits
This is a travel-oriented backpack. It has the look of a frequent flyer pack, but with less formality than many. That means it looks better for a semi-casual wearer rather than a suit wearer. There’s a bit of flexibility, it can work as a daily bag but it’s mostly that jet-set crowd.
“The TSA laptop flap works well, the capacity deals with a night or two away, and the bag comes with the standard Timbuk2 lifetime warranty.”
This is a small to mid-sized bag. It’s not particularly stylish in these materials but some people like that simple utility feel. The size suits females pretty well or smaller guys. Definitely good for an overnight business trip, two days if you pack pretty light or are in warmer climates.
Who It Doesn’t
Big guys might feel it’s a touch small. Folks looking for style points or formality should look elsewhere. And if you’re buying it as a daily bag, it might sometimes look like you got lost on the way to the airport.
This backpack is slightly smaller than I was expecting. When you see a bag with bottom compression you’re used to a bit more size. But that contributes to a cute feel if you’re a smaller person.
The mid denier black nylon has a shiny synthetic feel. That means it will stay clean but won’t win your heart. It also means it’s not great with a suit or sharp clothing, or at university or somewhere that you’re targeting style points.
The most obvious feature is the TSA laptop flap. If you’re going to be using this, you need to put your laptop in from the side, and Velcro tab it in. It’s a bit of forward planning, but some folk love that. There is also a tablet pocket, which is fast becoming a must for business travel.
There are then a few things Timbuk2 should probably remove, because they’re feeling dated…
The first is a pet gripe – we wish Timbuk2 made those signature bottle openers removable. Or just got rid of them. I don’t want my boss or a business customer thinking I’m hitting the beers the second I leave the meeting. It’s fun to have personality, but not when it takes over the whole mood of the bag.
And the next is the low elastic pocket on the side. These days most water bottles seem too long for those, so they flop out. Same goes for most bike locks. So we find that sort of short elastic pocket a bit useless. Are we missing something?
“…we wish Timbuk2 made those signature bottle openers removable.”
The compression is interesting being only on the bottom, as that’s the only place that compresses. So your bag ends up sort of wedging outwards a bit. But the advantage to that is there are no compression straps getting in the way of zippers, so you’ve still got quick access.
There’s a small side handle if you do want to carry it more like a briefcase but you are still going to have the straps dangling about if you are doing that, so no great design feature in that way.
The pack is split into a couple of volumes. The main section for clothes is in the centre. You don’t have any form of compression for that so they will float around, so you probably need a packing cube.
The front is more for your work tools – organisers, pens, that sort of thing, following the classic mistake of putting all the organising on that front plane. So everything is essentially stacking on this plane and the bag isn’t utilising any of the side areas or the different kind of nested zones that it could. However, there’s enough organising, from a sunglass pocket up top to a little side quick-stash pocket for when you’re running through security that it’s not a big deal. It just means as you start to really stuff the bag you start to run out of some space.
The other major section to the bag is the flip-down TSA laptop section. You can flip that out and run through airport security. For me personally I can’t be bothered with these things because for instance on this one it just takes a bit more work to put your laptop in there and so I never really bother. But the thing Timbuk2 have done really well is if you are using your backpack in the vertical mode you can just push it into the sleeve straight, you don’t have to use it in landscape mode where you’re getting at this section into the TSA flip-down. So at least there’s flexibility, it’s a feature there if you want it but it doesn’t get in the way if you don’t want it.
“…following the classic mistake of putting all the organising on that front plane…the bag isn’t utilising any of the side areas or the different kind of nested zones that it could.”
The other advantage to having two ways of doing this is you now have a slot for your iPad and one for your laptop or the other way around. So that part of it works quite well. Some people really like having their computer against their back. It stops you bending, that’s the downside, but the good side is that it’s much harder to be pickpocketed without you knowing. If you’re on a busy subway or something it’s much harder for people to get the laptop out without you noticing.
Interestingly the bag has yokeless straps, much like classic Gorucks do. I really like this style of strap because it can adjust to more shoulder widths. Once you put a yoke on it locks those two straps together and you lose a bit of flexibility for different shoulder widths.
It’s pretty standard plastic hardware throughout most of the bag. It’s all fine, the handlebar-end zip pulls and the like giving Timbuk2’s bike vibe to it.
“Interestingly the bag has yokeless straps…I really like this style of strap because it can adjust to more shoulder widths.”
This is quite a light bag and the build quality is fine. Timbuk2 don’t really stuff much of that up. They’re generally pretty good with their warranties too.
Others to Consider
Tom Bihn totally jumps to mind.
Chrome are playing in similar spaces too.
Incase are a touch more chiselled forms, but with similar materials and price-points.
The pack is really not very expensive for what you get, so it’s a good value travel bag. It’s just you’re not getting any extra points for great looks, a refined aesthetic. The zoning of the organising is just lacking a touch of imagination. It’s pretty straightforward, all on that one plane, so you do get a few kind of crush zones as things start to interfere with each other.
“The pack is really not very expensive for what you get, so it’s a good value travel bag.”
Overall this is a good middle-of-the-road travel bag that doesn’t really screw much up. You can use it as a daily work bag too and it’s fine. It’s a value bag.