WaterField Designs HardCase Review: A bag with split personalities
At a Glance
When I first took this bag for a spin in New York City, I wasn't quite sure what to expect. Suffice it to say, I was quickly hooked on the comfortable wear, understated and unique design, and unbelievable protection it afforded my computer. This bag has personality: Part messenger, part biker friendly, and part professional briefcase. It's quite simply one of the best laptop bags I've seen in awhile.
WaterField Design, known for designing and producing their gear in San Francisco, is the brain behind the HardCase laptop messenger. The HardCase has a main laptop pocket (protected is an understatement, but more on that in a moment), two organizational pockets, a pack zippered compartment, and a bit of space for other items.
The bag is made of ballistic nylon (better known as the super durable material used in bullet proof vests). Its leather flap and paragliding buckle hardware top it off with a nice, unique finish. The color under the flap and hue of the hardware can be customized when you order online. The bags come in 13- and 15-inch models (both weigh in at less than three pounds—shockingly light for how much padding is packed in there).
The bag itself feels tightly packed (probably a symptom of all the protective lining), and I worried that it wouldn't wear well or distribute weight properly. Fear not, the suspension pads on the strap were top notch (read: no rough edges cutting into my shoulder) and the bag moved well with me, it really felt smaller and lighter than other bags of its size once it was on.
Granted, there's a trade off to packing a case with so much protection; in order to maintain a compact size, there's not a ton of room for anything beyond your laptop. I got a magazine, book, iPad and wallet in there, too, but anything above and beyond that wouldn't have fit. The laptop pocket is packed with impact protective inserts. With these padded liners, secure is an understatement—come the apocalypse, cockroaches and your laptop will be the only survivors. This case offers supreme and utter protection for your laptop. I liked that the bag always felt full—no laptop bouncing syndrome here.
While design, a solid make, and extreme protection had me sold on the HardCase, my favorite feature is that its just such a distinct looking bag. More than a few New Yorkers have broken the unspoken agreement not to talk to strangers to ask me where it's from. This is a great bag. The $250 price range is a bit steep for me, but if you're willing to make the investment, you at least know what you're getting (protection and design) and what you're not (a lot of room).