I commuted to work for years with a large purse, various tote bags for my homemade lunches, gym clothes and assorted devices necessary for my job. A backpack would have made more sense, but everything on the market was too utilitarian (i.e., ugly) and too large.
Then, I needed a backpack to travel to a last-minute work conference and stumbled upon the Incase City Compact. I had used Incase’s iPhone cases and liked them, but I snagged the City Compact only because it was on supersale in basic black. The backpack features a large main compartment with a 360-degree padded interior to hold and protect a 15-inch MacBook, a smaller front pocket and a fleece-lined top pocket for smartphones.
Despite its understated (OK, boring) appearance, which I didn’t love, I stuck with the black City Compact for three years — I even had the strap repaired when it broke.
Then I ruined it: After toting home a jar of maraschino cherries, I noticed sticky red syrup had leaked from the jar all over the interior. Sadly, no amount of cleaning could fix it. I decided to find a replacement from another brand — something a little more stylish.
No other backpack has the streamlined look of the City Compact, nor the padded pockets for carrying around a slew of devices (which I do frequently for my job).
I used a Herschel Supply Co. bag, then a simple Everlane one. But no other backpack had the streamlined look of the City Compact, nor the padded pockets for carrying around a slew of devices (which I do frequently for my job). So I checked the Incase website. It was still selling the $100 City Compact, but in more colors.
The pale-grey-and-white Diamond Ripstop-pattern fabric, made of recycled PET bottles, appealed to me. A matching $50 travel organizer for corralling all my cables, wall chargers and battery packs sealed the deal. I snatched up both.
And I will never again stray from Incase. The little travel pouch, which I added to my cart on a whim, has helped me to finally become organized, even when I’m not traveling. And the 2018 City Compact has more compartments than the previous version I used, which helps me keep my gym clothes separate from my 13-inch MacBook Pro, whatever hardcover book I’ve picked up from the library that week and my lunch.
The plush fleece lining, which covers the laptop compartment inside and the top pocket, keeps my laptop, iPad Pro and the smartphones I’m currently testing safe and snug. There’s even room for my giant neck pillow, which I contain in a small round bag for long flights, and my over-ear Beats headphones, which I store in their case.
I don’t like backpacks. They remind me of being in school, and I prefer a classic, fashionable black leather bag for my personal life. But I’m a sucker for accessories that help me stay organized for work and travel, and Incase’s affordable, stylish backpacks just can’t be beat.
Credit: Tom's Guide
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Caitlin is a Senior editor for Gizmodo. She has also worked on Tom's Guide, Macworld, PCWorld and the Las Vegas Review-Journal. When she's not testing out the latest devices, you can find her running around the streets of Los Angeles, putting in morning miles or searching for the best tacos.