bag

Waterfield's Sutter Tech Sling

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While I generally prefer backpacks when carrying a lot of gear, over the past year, my load-out has got a lot smaller. The iPad Pro, with its relatively light weight, is as powerful as a MacBook Pro and I don't have a laptop anymore. Often I want to head out to Starbucks (or Disneyland) with an iPad and a few odds and ends. The gang at WaterField bags were kind enough to send me their new Sutter Tech Sling to try out for just this purpose.

The Sutter Tech Sling is, as the name implies, a sling-style bag that can be adjusted to go over your left or right shoulder. It does this with a D-ring on the top of the bag and two separate mounting points at the bottom. On long days, it takes just seconds to move the strap and switch shoulders. Also related, the strap has a cam lock buckle that is easy to adjust while you are wearing the bag and there is a built-in shoulder pad to give you more comfort. Like other Waterfield bags, the back of the bag has a mesh padding to keep your back from getting sweaty on a hot day.

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The Sutter Tech Sling comes in either brown waxed canvas and brown leather (my preference) or black ballistic nylon and black leather trim. There are two sizes: Standard (11.5" x 8" x 3" with 4.5 liters of volume) and Full (14" x 9.5" x 3" with 6.5 liters of volume). I have the Full size, which is required to carry a 12.9" iPad but even the Full-size Sutter Tech Sling is the smallest bag I've used in some time. The bag has a main compartment that contains a separate padded sections that I use for holding my iPad. There's also a front pocket compartment for holding incidentals.

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On longer outings I've got the bag stuffed with my iPad, external battery, a rolled up jacket, small umbrella, water bottle, paper notebook and pens (they sell a matching pen case), and the other bits I normally carry with no problem. The bag has side zippers on both left and right sides for the front pouch and long zippers that go to the side on its main compartment, so it is easy to slide the bag forward onto your stomach without taking it off and access your gear. I often use the Sutter Tech Sling while biking. Being able to access my sunglasses in this fashion is great.

The thing I like about Waterfield bags most is the way they sweat the small stuff. The Sutter Tech Sling is no different in this regard. The clip on the key fob has a high tension spring, so I don't have to worry about losing my keys. The three pen holders are big enough to hold my larger pens (or Apple Pencil) but also tight enough to keep them from falling out in the bag. The aglets on the end of zipper pulls aren’t cheap plastic but metal barrels that look like tiny lightsaber hilts. The interior is lined with gold fabric, making it easier to find stuff in the bag. The zippers are inset and waterproof. We’ve (thankfully) had a lot of rain in southern California this winter and I've been riding my bike in the rain with this bag a lot. At no point did I see any evidence of water getting inside the bag.

My well-loved Sutter Tech Sling. Click to enlarge.

Here’s my Sutter Tech Sling after two months of abuse through rain and sun. If anything, it looks even better now than it did when it was new.

The Sutter Tech Sling has become my go-to bag. I love the compact size and the easy carry over either shoulder. Because I can switch shoulders, I am able to carry this bag with a full load through a whole day. I’ve received numerous compliments on the bag from strangers, and I’m not surprised. It's a great looking and highly functional bag. If you are looking for a sling, this is the one.

Tom Bihn Ristretto for 13" MacBook Air Review

Over the past year, I’ve changed up my mobile gear. I got my beloved iPad and sold my once mighty MacBook Pro in exchange for an underpowered 13” MacBook Air, which I adore.

Leading up to Macworld, I decided I was going to spoil myself with a fancy-pants case for the MacBook Air. I ended up with a nice leather bag that gave me that perfect hipster look necessary for a trip to San Francisco. The trouble is, my bag had a lousy strap and it was uncomfortable carrying it around all day. I toyed with the idea of doing some surgery on the strap to install my Tom Bihn Absolute Strap but there was really no way to do it right. So I sat there looking at my Tom Bihn Ristretto iPad case and thought it sure would be nice if it held my MacBook. After that obvious revelation, a quick trip to Tom Bihn’s site revealed that, indeed, Tom Bihn does make such a bag, the Ristretto for the 13” MacBook/MacBook Air.

The Ristretto is a vertical messenger bag, letting you slide your MacBook Air down inside sideways. Both sides of the laptop compartment are padded but only one has the nice soft nylon material (the other side is a relatively soft canvas) so you need to give some thought as to how you align the MacBook when you slide it in. The compartment easily holds both the 13” MacBook, 13” MacBook Pro, and their thinner sibling, the 13” MacBook Air. Ideally there would be some more foam padding in the bottom of the laptop compartment since one very likely damage vector comes from dropping the bag and it landing on its bottom. I cut a length of stiff packing foam and dropped it in mine. With that slight modification, I’m satisfied with the protection this bag affords my MacBook Air.

There is a second large compartment next to the laptop sleeve that works great for holding my iPad. There is also a zippered compartment (nice for holding my wallet and other important bits and pieces) and several other small sewn compartments that hold pens, Field Notes, a USB hard drive, and a few cables. Interestingly, I don’t normally carry my AC Power adapter. Instead I leave it in the car since I so rarely need it when out and about.

There are also three o-rings, letting you attach keys, pouches, and other items. Tom Bihn sells several accessories for the bag so you can trick it out as you please. One of the o-rings includes and 8” key strap. The back of the Ristretto has a slanted, open-top pocket great for holding the mail or other random papers.

The bag ships with removable waist straps helpful to secure the bag to your body if you are active. The straps unclip easily so you don’t have them hanging on when not needed. There are multiple color schemes available. I went with black and steel.

The Ristretto ships with a nice wide shoulder strap but for more comfort, pay the extra $20 for the Absolute Shoulder Strap. This strap includes a soft neoprene pad. It is both light and comfortable. It is the nicest strap I’ve ever used on a bag. It is so nice that I attach it to any bag I use. Also, it appears they’ve nailed the problem with the strap squeaking that I had when I looked at the iPad Ristretto bag.

At $140 (including the Absolute Strap), the Tom Bihn Ristretto for 13” MacBook is no small investment but I believe it is worth it. This is a well crafted bag, made in the USA, that I plan to use for years to come.