Whether you are just tired of commuting with both a laptop bag and gym bag, need something with a bit more carry functionality, or are just looking to class up your everyday carry bag a bit… Waterfield has you covered with the Bolt Backpack.
What is the Bolt Backpack?
The Bolt Backpack by Waterfield is designed to be used for a variety of tasks. It’s exterior is designed to be rugged enough to be carried everyday and used as your airplane carry-on bag, but is professional looking enough to be worn with your business clothes and taken into the office. Its interior is designed with two built-in padded sleeves so you can carry both a laptop and a tablet but is also has enough room so that you can pack the main compartment with your gym clothes. Size is also important and Waterfield got it right with the Bolt. The Bolt is small and sleek enough that it doesn’t look out-of-place being worn in a professional environment or slid under an airplane seat but it has just enough capacity to be used as a gym bag. Below are the main features and specifications for the Bolt Backpack:
- Constructed from waxed canvas or 1050 Denier Ballistic nylon (both options come with premium full-grain leather handles, accents and zipper pulls)
- 12.5” length x 5.25” width x 16” height
- Volume: 17 liters
- Two padded compartments (full list of computer and tablet compatibility is listed on the Waterfield website)
- Waterproof zipper for laptop/tablet access and main compartment access
- Gold-lined interior to make finding things easier
- Two open-topped, interior hand pockets for storing chargers, cords, pens, etc.
- Two exterior side pockets for water bottle or other quick-access items
- Front zippered pocket with rain-guard flap for stashing sensitive documents
- Two additional front pockets with leather tabs and magnetic closures
- Anti-sweat mesh cushion also slides over rolling suitcase handle
- Thick, leather bottom boot provides structure and enhances water-resistance and longevity
- Leather-lined comfortable grab handle
How Have I Been Using the Bolt?
I’m a huge fan of Waterfield and recently reviewed their Nintendo Switch Pouch here on GeekDad, but I reached out to Waterfield specifically about the Bolt Backpack because I had a lot of travel coming up and knew I would be able to put the Bolt through its paces.
My first use for the Bolt was before I even started going on all of my back-to-back travel trips as an everyday bag to carry into the office. I carry a 13” MacBook Pro as my work computer and then have a GRID-IT that I use to store all of my power adapters, dongles and various computing tools I need. I use the larger padded sleeve in the Bolt for the GRID-IT and the smaller sleeve for my MacBook Pro, which leaves the entire main compartment open for me to use as my gym bag.
The Bolt works exactly as advertised in this use case. My laptop is well protected and I have just enough room to pack my workout clothes, towels and shower related items. It is a tight fit but it does all fit and even when fully packed the Bolt is still a relatively slim looking backpack. This means I can take a single bag into work and sling it over my back and I’m good to go. This has been my daily carry into work for the last month or so and I love it!
My next use case was to use the Bolt as an airline carry-on bag. Normally I travel with a single carry-on bag when I travel for just a one or two-day work trip (see my GeekDad review of the Henty backpack) but for some of my travel I have a connecting flight that puts me on a very small airplane. When I have to travel on a commuter jet I really don’t like carrying all of my luggage as carry-on and I had one of these trips within the last couple of weeks. So for that trip I checked a small piece of luggage and used the Bolt as my small carry-on. In this use case I use the large padded sleeve for my 12.9” iPad Pro and the small padded sleeve for my 13″ MacBook Pro. The GRID-IT then goes into the main compartment along with a few snacks, my Kindle and of course my Waterfield Pouch for Nintendo Switch.
The Bolt also works very well in this use case. The slim profile of the Bolt makes it very easy to squeeze in and out of congested airport walkways while keeping your hands free for a caffeinated beverage (don’t let the photo above fool you, it looks thicker than it is with everything intentionally sticking out of the bag). The Bolt is also small enough that you can slide it under the airline seat and still have some room for your feet. When you pick up your checked luggage the Bolt has a tab built into the padded mesh of the back that allows you to slip the backpack over the handle of a rolling piece of luggage.
The next use case for the Bolt was for my recent business trip to London. I used the Bolt as my carry-on for the flight and then used it as my commuter backpack to get to and from my hotel and my daily business meetings. I had a 15-minute walk from my hotel to the Kings Cross train station where I caught a train out of London for my work meeting. It was generally cool and rainy so I would wear a jacket in the morning and the Bolt would get some rain on it from my walk, but the rain just rolled right off the waxed canvas exterior and kept everything inside nice and dry. When it warmed up later in the day and I didn’t need my jacket I could roll up the jacket and put it into the Bolt. I haven’t talked much about the side pockets on the Bolt yet but they served a very important function on my daily London commute. I have an all-in-one coffee press/vacuum sealed travel container that I use to brew fresh coffee in when I am away on travel. It is a rather large container, but it still fit nicely in one of the exterior side pockets of the Bolt. This allowed me to keep my coffee container upright and secure during my commute so that when I arrived at my meeting I had a really good, hot container of coffee (which is a must on that first day after international travel).
My final use for the Bolt was as my personal backpack to carry around while I was doing some sight-seeing around London after the business portion of my trip had concluded. My wife and daughter traveled to London with me and we did a lot of walking around London. One of the days we were there we even traveled about 90 minutes north of London to a small town called Warwick to visit some family. The Bolt was my companion on this little adventure as well and it served me very well. I was able to take my iPad Pro, some snacks, a jacket and carry a water bottle in the exterior side pocket. Between the walk to the bus, the bus ride to the train station and then the 90 minute train ride to Warwick I had a little over four hours (round trip) of traveling in that single day and it was nice to carry enough things with me to keep me productive and entertained during the trip. While we were in Warwick we went and toured Warwick Castle. I had the Bolt on my back the entire time and it ended up being a pretty hot day (at least for United Kingdom standards). The padded yet ventilated backing keep my back relatively cool and the thin profile of the Bolt allowed me to traverse the narrow staircases within the castle towers with ease.
Up until I got the Bolt for the purpose of this review I was using a Tom Bihn Ristretto as my everyday carry bag for work and the Tom Bihn Parental Unit bag as my gym bag. These are great bags and they both served me well, but the Waterfield Bolt Backpack now serves both of these purpose for me in the form of a single bag. I also pack a lunch everyday and then have a travel coffee mug in my hand, so that meant I used to juggle two bags, a lunch bag, and a coffee container everyday. Not any more. Now my work and gym items go on my back inside the Bolt and that leave my hands free to carry the all important coffee mug and lunch bag. Did I mention I also walk up three flight of stairs? Not something you want to do while carrying all those various bags. The all-in-one functionality of the Bolt is a no-brainer for me.
I haven’t talked much about the two smaller pockets inside the bag (secured with Velcro) and the two outer pockets (that use leather tabs with magnetic closures) and the main outer pouch that is secured with a waterproof zipper. I used these various compartments for things like my wallet, cell phone, keys, headphones, Apple Watch bands (yes, I really am a total geek), and sunglasses. The various pockets in the Bolt are roomy enough that they can hold a lot of things but not so large that you can’t find what you are looking for. I especially like the leather tabs with magnetic closures on the front two external pockets. Not only do they do a great good of securing the contents of the pockets but they also look great while doing it. Additionally there is a leather handle on the very top of the Bolt for easily picking up the bag and all the zippers have leather pulls.
The Bolt Backpack is a winner in my book. This is a backpack that you can take from the boardroom to the gym and then out into the streets and pubs of London and the bag both functions well and looks the part in all of these use cases. The waxed canvas (which is the version of the Bolt I tested) has a rugged yet professional look that won’t degrade over time and the padding built into the back of the backpack ensures a comfortable journey. I would highly recommend the Bolt to anyone looking to simplify their daily commute or travel needs and want to look great doing it. Oh, and apparently women like the look of the Bolt as well. I was out-of-town when the Bolt arrived and my wife opened the box and threatened to keep the Bolt for herself. One of her female co-workers also really liked the Bolt. Waterfield must be doing something right because my wife and her friends aren’t jealous of my tech gear very often.
The Bolt Backpack is available from Waterfield (sfbags.com) with a base price of $329.
Disclaimer: Waterfield supplied me with a waxed canvas version of the Bolt Backpack so I could use and abuse it over a period of 6-weeks of straight travel. Waterfield had no input into this review.