Pare down your travel kit with the shoulder-saving MacBook Outback Solo

Pare down your travel kit with this shoulder-saving MacBook Pro sleeve


Holds just enough to stay productive. Photo: Rob LeFebvre/Cult of Mac
Waterfield's MacBook Outback Solo holds just enough to keep you productive. Photo: Rob LeFebvre/Cult of Mac

I’ll admit it — I’ve got a thing for these waxed canvas and leather bags from Waterfield. I’ve ended up using the impeccably designed Staad backpack and the classy Nintendo 3DS case long after my reviews of them were published. These bags and cases from the San Francisco design collective are warm, inviting and just get better with age and use.

Let’s face it, though: Sometimes you only want to carry your laptop and a couple of accessories, and that’s it. Waterfield’s latest design, the MacBook Outback Solo, is a minimalist sleeve made of the same strong canvas material and rich, thick, buttery-smooth leather as the other bags in the line. It can be paired with a carrying strap that turns the sleeve into a messenger bag. While our very own Charlie Sorrel called the iPad version of this bag a man-purse, I’m thinking of this more as a shoulder-saving device — the fewer things I end up having to carry, the better.

This little sleeve is perfect for exactly that.

It’s the perfect bag to go gadding about on your writing or productivity tasks in your hip, urban city environment.

As with all of Waterfield’s bags, this one is exquisitely crafted. The stitching is solid, the canvas is flexibly thick and the neoprene interior keeps my 13-inch MacBook warm and dry. The fold-over leather top smells divine, and gets even cooler-looking with each scratch and blemish.

The magnetic snapping leather closure is strong enough to keep the folding cover secure yet not so sticky that you can’t get your gear out. The front two pockets will hold an iPhone or wallet on the left and your MacBook’s power cord on the right with ease. You can even slide your iPad mini (with a Smart Cover, no less) into the right pocket, should you want to get all fancy. If you do end up filling this sleeve up too much, you’ll have a bit of trouble snapping it closed, though.

There’s also a rear pocket to slide in some papers or brochures, perhaps a thin little book or e-reader. The MacBook Outback Solo holds your laptop, a power cord, an iPhone and maybe an iPad mini — no more, no less. It’s the perfect bag to go gadding about on your writing or productivity tasks in your hip, urban city environment. If you’re looking to carry all your kit with you, then maybe a larger bag will suit your purpose better.

The $19 optional carrying strap isn’t much to write home about, but it’s adjustable, functional and of the same build quality as the rest of the bag, though it’s made out of standard seat-belt-style materials. It snaps nicely off and on your MacBook Outback Solo via two leather and snap fasteners, and allows the sleeve to hang nicely over your shoulder when you need it to.

Ultimately, if you’re looking for a classy, solidly built sleeve or messenger bag for just your MacBook Pro and a couple of gadgets, the Outback Solo is a fantastic solution. You can’t get much nicer than this, and for $109 (or $128 with the strap), you’ll be hard-pressed to find anything of comparable quality.

outback soloMacBook Outback Solo by Waterfield ($109, $128 with strap)
The good: This is a high-quality, delicious-smelling, minimal sleeve that will force you to pare down your traveling gear and save your shoulder.
The bad: Magnetic snap won’t close if you overstuff the bag.
The verdict: This is a fantastic sleeve/man purse that looks like something Indiana Jones might carry if he lived in a city and explored only coffeehouses and art galleries. It’s a great deal for the price and quality, and your shoulders really do need a break.
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