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Summary:

Like all true mobile professionals (read– geeks) that rely on mobile technology to aid us in our mobile lifestyles, I am in a never-ending quest for the perfect gadget bag.  I have tried so many bags I have a whole closet full of discarded bags that […]

Like all true mobile professionals (read– geeks) that rely on mobile technology to aid us in our mobile lifestyles, I am in a never-ending quest for the perfect gadget bag.  I have tried so many bags I have a whole closet full of discarded bags that didn’t make the cut.  I was quite happy using the Victorinox Mini-Backpack with the Sony U750 as it was very small and light and carried everything I needed to make it through my day.  Alas, when I replaced the Sony with the HP tc1100 Tablet PC the Victorinox had to go as it was too small to transport the Tablet.  There are two major factors I need from a gadget bag– smallest size possible to carry everything I need (and nothing more) and light weight.  The latter condition is no joke, I have tried bags that weight a couple of pounds or more empty, which doesn’t make sense when you are trying to go lean and mean.

A company that has garnered quite a reputation for awesome computer bags is the Booq company.  Booq is a company that makes practical bags to fit all types of mobile devices such as iPods, PDAs and notebook computers.  They have a complete line of bags, backpacks and laptop sleeves to fit just about any gadget you might be carrying around.  I did a lot of research and gathered a lot of user comments that indicated how good these bags are viewed by consumers so I decided recently to pick one up for myself.

Boa.XS

Booq Boa XS frontI like my gadget bags to be thin and low profile so I can push through crowded areas without bashing those around me so after careful consideration of all the various types of bags available on the Booq site I decided on the Boa.XS bag.  The Boa line of bags are backpacks that come in 3 sizes from small to large.  The backpacks are sized to fit different size laptops or Tablet PCs and since the HP tc1100 is nice and small with its 10.4” screen I chose the XS model.  The Boa.XS is designed to accommodate any laptop with a 12” screen so I knew my HP would fit in the computer pocket quite easily, even with the Verizon EVDO modem sticking out of the PC Card slot about an inch.  The bag is available in several different colors but I went with the all black version since I am trying to look professional in front of clients.  I may not succeed but I try. 

Construction

The Boa.XS is nice and small yet will carry everything I need to make it through my work day and even for short trips.  The dimensions of the XS are:

14.5 x 12.0 x 3.5”

This makes the bag perfect for carrying my stuff, and even those trying to carry a Tablet PC or notebook computer with a 12” screen will find the XS to be of adequate size.  The laptop pocket of the XS has the following dimensions:

12.5 x 9.75 x 1.6”

The outer construction of the Boa is first rate with ballistic nylon used throughout the bag and all stitching is extremely durable.  I would think it would be very hard to rip or abuse this bag.  The attention to detail in the design of the Boa.XS extends to the back panel and backpack straps which together make this one of the most comfortable backpacks I have ever used.  The back panel is molded with a slight curve to fit the owner’s back and the straps are wide and padded for comfort.  The way the straps are designed make this bag very comfortable to wear draped over one shoulder, my preferred method to wear it during the day.  I can carry the Boa over my shoulder for extended periods with no discomfort or fatigue of the shoulder at all.  It is apparent Booq put a lot of thoughtful design into the usability of the Boa.

Virtual Tour of the Boa.XS

Booq Boa XS front pocketWhen you first take a good look at the outside of the Boa it is readily apparent the level of detail that Booq put into the design and construction of the bag.  The large front pocket on the bag is covered in a nicely patterned nylon that is smooth to the touch and embellished with the tasteful silver “booq” nameplate.  There is a small orange rubber tag with the Booq logo on the left side and all the various zippers have the same logo in silver on the pull tabs.  All pockets on the Boa have two zippers which allows easy access to most of them without having to completely open the zipper. 

The front pocket also has a black plastic loop for attaching other accessories to hang on the front of the bag.  This pocket is a large area to store those items you need quick access to during the day and is nicely outfitted.  The upper back of this pocket when opened has the same patterned nylon as the front of the bag except it is a tasteful orange that is only visible when the pocket is open.  It is quite stylish and this pocket is the one I use all day long.  The back of this pocket has a flat zippered pocket within a pocket where you can put flat items securely.  There are two other smaller pockets on the back of varying sizes for business cards and the like.  Two of the pockets are mesh so you can see what is in them without digging around, a nice touch.  Hanging from the top of the open pocket is a clip for keys.

The next pocket you encounter as you move to the back of the bag is a very small pocket designed for an MP3 player.  There is a grommet pass-through to feed the player headphone cord through the front of the bag and if you have a player with a remote control you can clip that to the loop I mentioned earlier and run your player without taking it out of the Boa.  This is very useful for listening to podcasts like techADDICTION or The Tablet PC Show with your player of choice.    The zipper for this little pocket is covered by a flap of durable nylon to prevent the player from accidentally falling out of the pocket.

Booq Boa XS second pocketThe next pocket back is a large pocket that has more of the orange nylon on the back and is big enough to carry a small file or some magazines.  There are two additional pockets on the front of this pocket to accommodate various sized items, with the front most pocket constructed of mesh so you can see what’s inside.

Booq Boa XS notebook pocketThe last (or rear-most) pocket is the laptop compartment which in addition to the same double zippers that all the outer pockets use also has a durable nylon flap with two velcro enclosures.  This has a dual purpose of keeping the two zippers from accidentally opening plus making it impossible for someone to snatch your laptop off your back without alerting you.  The big pocket is completely made out of a soft velour type material that pads and protects your mobile computer from scratches.  Tablet PC owners who are concerned about the exposed screen of the computer can rest assured it will not be scratched in the Boa computer compartment.  The pocket keeps the notebook from flopping around while still remaining easy to take it out of the bag when you need it. The back of the pocket rests opposite the padded back molding I mentioned providing even more cushion for your expensive gadget.

Booq Boa XS strap assemblyThe top of the Boa.XS is where the wide shoulder straps are attached to the bag with a handle bridging the two straps for stability.  The handle is a padded sure-grip rubber and is easy to use to carry the bag around if needed.  The shoulder straps have another orange Booq logo tag and are completely adjustable for length.  There is a small strap that can connect the two shoulder straps across the chest for additional comfort if the back is loaded very heavily, but I find I don’t need that much.  There is another removable waist strap which can be used to further distribute the weight evenly along the back and prevent the bag from moving around while it is being worn.  I have removed this strap completely and do not find I need it but I can see a use for it for long walks.

The bottom of the Boa shows the same level of construction as the rest of the bag, from the rubberised non-slip bottom to the two “feet” that sport the Booq name in black and silver.  You can safely stand the bag up to root around in the pockets without worry the bag will slip away from you.  The aforementioned padded back has a large molded Booq logo that is quite clever and stylish, like everything else on the Boa.

Conclusion

It is probably apparent by now that I am quite happy with the Booq Boa.XS, and find it perfect for carrying all the stuff I need every day while still remaining light and with a low profile.  The entire bag tapers narrower toward the top of the bag making it very low profile which I really like.  I find the Boa to be stylish and tasteful enough to carry into any meeting without attracting undue notice from the other attendees. 

Here are a couple of photos that shows how flat the bag is both empty and loaded with all my stuff:

Booq Boa XS side view empty  Booq Boa XS side view full

You can barely tell the difference which suits me just fine.  Here is a photo of the bag with all the stuff I carry in it piled in front of it for your reference:

Booq Boa XS what goes into it

The Boa.XS is available from the Booq Bags site for $109.95 and while that is normally more than I would pay for a bag such as this the construction and utility of the Boa makes that price worth paying.  When I purchased my Boa a few weeks ago Booq had an online discount of $30 making this bag a real steal so check their site before buying elsewhere to make sure you’re not missing a special.  If you need a bag that is larger Booq has bags that accommodate laptops with screens up to 17” so you are sure to find the perfect bag in the right size for your needs.

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  4. Michael Parekh Monday, August 1, 2005

    Good post, thanks.

    Is the bag you have big enough to fit a digital SLR camera in as well? That would be instead of books…I’m wondering if it’s deep and wide enough to carry a SLR, and mayba a small digital camera as well, along with a thinkpad x41 and all the doodads you’ve got in it as well.

    thanks again.

  5. Michael, that would depend strictly on the size of the camera. You could probably fit an SLR in the XS but it would really push out the front of the bag and closing the front pocket might be difficult. To carry a full SLR the next size up, XM, would probably work better or perhaps one of the other models of Booq bags.

  6. JK,

    Good review. I’ve been looking for a good backpack to replace an aging L.L. Bean one that I’ve had for the better part of a decade. In my search, I had narrowed down to the Booq brand and those by Tom Bihn (www.tombihn.com). I’ve got an M205 tabletPC, and have the same desire to ‘professionalize’ my computer case, and keep it as minimal as possible. I’m also on a serious weight reduction program (not MY weight – well, I could lose a few pounds), but the stuff I carry with me. The tablet, along with a rigourous document scanning routine has made that possible. So, back to my question: Is this Booq bag ‘heavy’? Tom Bihn’s Smart Alec bag itself is pretty light, although when you add a Monolith laptop case, I think it begins to approach normal bag weight.

    My goal is to be fully packed, and under 10 lbs, including bag weight….if possible. I know most of that weight is surrendered to the laptop and power-cord (I don’t carry the external CD-RW on a regular basis). Beside that is a Moleskine and a few other items.

    Also, does the Booq have an external pouch to hold a water bottle?

  7. JK,

    Good review. I’ve been looking for a good backpack to replace an aging L.L. Bean one that I’ve had for the better part of a decade. In my search, I had narrowed down to the Booq brand and those by Tom Bihn (www.tombihn.com). I’ve got an M205 tabletPC, and have the same desire to ‘professionalize’ my computer case, and keep it as minimal as possible. I’m also on a serious weight reduction program (not MY weight – well, I could lose a few pounds), but the stuff I carry with me. The tablet, along with a rigourous document scanning routine has made that possible. So, back to my question: Is this Booq bag ‘heavy’? Tom Bihn’s Smart Alec bag itself is pretty light, although when you add a Monolith laptop case, I think it begins to approach normal bag weight.

    My goal is to be fully packed, and under 10 lbs, including bag weight….if possible. I know most of that weight is surrendered to the laptop and power-cord (I don’t carry the external CD-RW on a regular basis). Beside that is a Moleskine and a few other items.

    Also, does the Booq have an external pouch to hold a water bottle?

  8. I find the Booq bag to be very light when empty so it doesn’t add a lot of noticeable weight when full. It does not have a spot for a water bottle though. The bag is so sleek that Kevin Tofel commented on a past techADDICTION Show that it looked like one of those mini-parachute packs. :)

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