David mentioned the Sutter Tech Sling on the latest episode of MPU. Mine arrived today, and I thought some folks might be interested in it. Much like with my iPad Pro first impressions, these are the product of just a few hours with the Sutter, so my feelings may evolve with time.
The Sutter is a one strap bag that can carry a tablet or small laptop plus a bit of other gear. I got the larger of the two sizes to accommodate my new 12.9” iPad Pro.
The exterior is Waterfield’s usual waxed canvas and brown leather (they also have a black ballistic nylon version, but I do not see the appeal). It looks great, and I’m sure it will look even better as it ages and wears in a bit.
The interior is Waterfield’s nice bright gold fabric, making stuff inside the bag easy to see. The Smart Keyboard the 12.9” iPad Pro fits fairly snugly in the padded laptop slot. You’re definitely not going to get it in there with the Pencil magnetically attached. However, there are four pen slots on the opposite side at the top of the main compartment that can accommodate pens and pencils (Apple and other). I like the fact that the pencil pocket is in the same compartment as the iPad. I’m trying to make the Apple Pencil an integral part of my iPad experience; my goal is that every time the iPad comes out of the bag, the Pencil does too. Having it in the same compartment as the iPad removes a bit of friction in this regard (on my current daily driver, the Tom Bihn Ristretto, the Pencil lives in a different compartment than the iPad).
Other than those four pen slots, the only built-in organization is one phone sized pocket and a key strap. I use a Waterfield Padded Gear Pouch for my cables, dongles, and other kit. If you’re like me and carry lots of little stuff like this, you’ll probably want some kind of pouch or other “bag within a bag” to keep it from all just rattling around at the bottom of the compartment. The Sutter is definitely BYOO Bag (Bring Your Own Organization).
The main compartment zippers come quite far down on the sides, providing good access. Because of the way the zippers are centered the compartment front-to-back, I did notice it was a bit hard to pull the iPad out of the laptop slot when the Sutter is lying flat on a table (much easier when it’s standing on end).
To give an idea of how big the main compartment is, I’d say there’s enough space in there to squeeze in a thick hardback textbook (with the iPad in its slot). I could easily fit the padded gear pouch, a Field Notes Steno Pad, and a couple of cans of soda in there.
The outer compartment is basically a side-access pocket with zippers on both sides. This allows you to swing the bag around and get into the pocket no matter which shoulder you’re carrying it on. In the larger size Sutter, at least, this compartment is quite large (you could fit a slim hardcover novel in here). However, there’s no organization at all, just one big space. Pockets might not work well with the two-sided access, but I think the key strap would make more sense in this pocket than the main compartment.
While this is a one-strap bag, it’s not a messenger bag. It’s more of a single-strap backpack. The bag carries on the back rather than hip, which is a big part of what made this bag so appealing to me. I recently moved close enough to work to walk, and I found that a messenger-type bag like the Ristretto didn’t carry as well when I started putting more stuff in it and walking a longer distance. So far (one trip to work and back) the Sutter definitely carries more comfortably.
You can either just put the strap on your shoulder and carry it similar to the way you’d carry a conventional backpack using only one strap (the way the cool kids always did in school). Or you can put the strap on the opposite shoulder and carry it hanging across your back, which is more comfortable for a longer walk. To accommodate these two modes of carry the strap has a very nice quick-adjust buckle that’s easy to adjust one-handed. I do wish the strap was just a tad longer, but being 6’5”, that’s a common feeling with a lot of bags. The strap comes with a nice shoulder pad (and I say it’s nice as someone who usually pulls the shoulder pad off of most bags).
The bottom end of the strap can be clipped to D-rings on either side of the pack, allowing carry on either the right or left side of the body. The top of the strap attaches to a semicircular swivel, so it hangs correctly off of either shoulder without having to make any changes on that end. It’s really quite a clever setup.
Overall, I quite like the Sutter Tech Sling. I’m looking forward to using it some more, and I could easily see this becoming my EDC bag.