Looking for a great backpack for your high school or college age kid, or something stylish and functional for urban commuting? There are plenty of cheap backpacks out there, but most of these suffer from a few key flaws: heavy weight and bulk, poor fit, poor use of space and they are often just plain ugly. I few years back, I tried out a Wise-Walker backpack from Nomadic, a Japanese company that’s built a reputation for making extremely compact, high quality bags and packs of all sorts. While the version I tried proved ideal for day trips and travel (with a vast array of compartments and pockets), the one thing it was lacking was room for a full-sized laptop. JetPens — purveyor of a wide range of cool Japanese pens, bags and office supplies — sent me a new Nomadic Wise Walker WL-25 backpack, a model designed to address this requirement, making a good thing even more useful.
When you pick up one of these Nomadic bags, you immediately notice two things: they are incredibly lightweight and seem much smaller than a backpack should be. Given the dimensions, can a 15-inch laptop actually fit in there, as claimed? Yes, it can, but with one caveat: there isn’t any padding. If you’re worried about banging your computer around, you’ll need a protective sleeve, which adds bulk. So, depending on the model of computer and the protective sleeve, it may be pushing it (I was almost able to stuff a 17-inch MacBook Pro in there, but a 13-inch model in a well padded sleeve slips in quite easily). At any rate, this Wise Walker will definitely suit many of you who need to lug a laptop along with you on your travels, so long as you don’t expect it to replace a ballistic-padded, dedicated laptop bag.
That being said, Nomadic Bags have built a reputation for combining style, utility and comfort and the Wise Walker WL-25 is another example of this. Just look at the diagram below to get an idea of how much design went into this thing (the labels are in Japanese, but you should be able to get the picture). Gadget lovers will be in Nirvana:
The backpack itself is in an attractive, plain fabric (available in grey, black or navy blue), lined in a high contrast, bright orange. Rip-stop material is both strong and lightweight, while the bag has also been treated to make it waterproof. Zipper flaps ensure that rain won’t leak in through the compartments. The straps are highly adjustable, well padded and it features a mesh, inverted “U” pad on the back to prevent the pack from clinging to the wearer’s back and causing the dreaded “backpack sweat” effect.
The Wise Walker WL-25 is more expensive than the backpacks the retailers trot out for back-to-school (it’s available from JetPens for $77 with free shipping), but it’s a lot lighter than most, waterproof and the myriad pockets and compartments make staying organized — and being able to quickly find and access everything — well worth the premium. And it offers big bang for the buck as an urban commuter bag or traveling daypack as well. Not to mention the fact that next year, while the cheap backpacks are in the trash, this one is likely to have years of service left.
Wired: sleek and stylish, loads of room (including capacity for a laptop) and plenty of hidden compartments, bright orange lining makes finding things easy (unless they’re bright orange), comfortable and lightweight, waterproof, sturdy construction.
Tired: The main compartment should have at least a little padding around the edges to protect a laptop, price not out of line for premium daypacks but on the high side for students.
Disclosure: A Wise Walker WL-25 was provided for review.