Bag-maker STM hails from dehn undah (if you think my Aussie impression sounds bad here, well, it’s even worse in person), where they’re apparently pretty huge. They’re less well-known here in the States — but that’ll likely change thanks to a big marketing push and bags like the fantastic STM Velo ($100), a designed laptop bag stuffed with unusually clever features.
Just like everything else from the massive marsupial homeland, this bag is different. In fact, the bag is so different in its approach that I was a little bewildered at first; I scratched my head at a few of the features and design elements (it even took me longer than I’d like to admit to find the well-hidden laptop pocket) — but everything fell harmoniously into place after the first day.
The strange, U-shaped, half-height zipper opening under the main flap is a bit of genius. It allowed me easy access to bits and pieces tossed into the main compartment, but also makes the top flap act a little like the floating top lids on bigger backpacks — making it easy to, say, stuff an oversize jacket under the lid and clamp it down with the straps.
STM really did their homework: The cast of supporting pockets is very large (especially for such a small bag), but each one seems to be perfctly designed with purpose.
There are the two side pockets, ideal for stashing smaller bottles or bulkier, taller items. I often used them to stash a medium-sized pro SLR lens (a Canon 24-105L) and my Speedlite 580EX with diffuser attached — both fit comfortably.
The remaining pockets are equally useful. Two front pockets, with the larger one housing elastic organizer slots and a small zippered mesh pocket; an open catchall just in front of the main compartment with two smaller partitions inside, good for a mouse and portable hard drive; two stash pockets at the back of the main compartment handle documents, magazines or an iPad; a fleece-lined zippered pocket on the lid is perfect for quick-access items (I found it perfect for my wallet and sunglasses); and there’s a rear slot desinged to slip over an overnight bag’s handle, but zippered on the bottom so it can be used as an exterior stash pocket.
Then there’s the laptop pocket, with its zipper neatly hidden along the side of the bag, generously padded and perfectly sized for a 13’ MacBook. I don’t recall ever feeling my MBP was as safely housed as when I slipped it into that tricot-lined pocket.
The Velo is also unusually taller and slimmer than most laptop bags — almost square in proportion — making it feel comfortable when I slung it onto my back. Perfect padding along the back and bottom of the Velo (which not only protected contents, but also helped the bag keep its shape) helped out.
The half-height main opening is great — until you pop something heavy in there and forget to buckle or zip up the main flap. On one occasion at CES my $1500 SLR popped out and hit the deck. Luckily it was a short drop.
My biggest concern with the bag was with some of the materials used. While much of the bag was costructed solidly from tough-feeling materials, the mesh-like fabric used for the back of the bag began to pill fairly quickly — you can see the wear in one of the photos below. And while nothing happened during testing, I was a little nervous about the plastic swivel used to attach one end of the strap. On the other hand, it held up, even with the bag stuffed to over-capacity — so most likely the fretting is groundless.
A pile of unusual, fantastic features packed into a perfectly sized bag for a 13’ MacBook make for one of the best laptop luggers we’ve ever encountered, m8.