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Jun 27 2012

Altego Coated Canvas Backpack Review

For the last two weeks I have been carrying around my daily allowance of stuff that I think I need in an Altego Coated Canvas backpack.

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The Altego falls into a category I mentally classify as a medium technical backpack. It will carry up to a 17 inch laptop and will hold a lot of stuff comfortably. It does not have a waist belt or an internal framesheet but it is well made and obviously aimed at the urban commuter more than the outdoorsman.

The straps are well padded and each side has a loop for securing a light, reflector or carabiner. There is also an adjustable sternum strap for that mad cap dash through O’Hare with 17 minutes to catch your flight.

The straps have the traditional toothed fold over clasps to secure them and set their tightness. They work well and stay put nicely, but I do wish there were thumb loops on the ends. If the straps are completely extended when you throw the pack on they can be a bit of a chore to pull out of the clasps. The top section of the strap also loops up to give you a quick grab handle for the pack. All of the plastic hardware on the pack matches the bright cyan of the accents on the bag.

The section of the pack which rests against your back is padded with 3 inch squares of foam. They work well and make for a comfortable carry. The troughs between them allow for some airflow to keep you cool.

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The laptop section is directly against your back when you shoulder the pack. There are a pair of quality zippers which open this section along the top and one side of the pack. The inside is lined with a soft tricot like fabric that will cuddle your laptop in safety.

I was initially a bit concerned about putting my 13 inch laptop in this very large space, but pressure and gravity kept it immobilized and I did not find that it bounced around at all. The shoulder straps actually go across this zipper for a little extra security, but you do have to fold them away to open this section and remove your laptop.

The front of the pack has a good-sized front pocket, (8 x 6 inches) with a vertical zipper. This is a great place to stash a phone or power supply or anything you need to get to quickly. There is also a handle cut into the canvas here to help you slog it around if it is lying on its back.

The main section of the pack has a big fold-over flap to secure it. It secures onto a twist lock to keep it closed. Altego advertises this as a single hand closure. It can be locked in place and when you press the clasp against it, it releases and locks the cover in place. I had some issues performing this when the pack was half filled, as the top would sort of collapse when I pushed against it. I find the lock to be a bit fussy and it strikes me as the first thing likely to fail.

The bulk of the inside of the pack is the same bright cyan as the accents on the outside. This makes it easy to spot stuff inside the bag.

The front wall of this section has a large, (10 x 10 inches) open slash pocket to keep things separate from the stuff piled in the main section of the bag. The back wall of the pack has a nice organizer panel. There are 2 pen slots on the left and 1 large one on the right. This one is perfect for a Sharpie or a really fat pen.

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Dead center is a nicely padded slot for an iPad. This pocket gives you a little extra room and while it is a very tight fit, I can even put my iPad in here in my Writer Plus keyboard case. On the front of this are four 5 x 4 inch mesh pockets for storing a variety of little doodads.

My favorite thing about the Altego is its very clever approach to expansion. There are normally two toothed sections that a zipper rides on. In Altego’s approach there are actually three toothed sections with two zippers sharing them. Both ride on one side, but the other two each go to one or the other of the zipper closures. If you zip the bag fully counter-clockwise it tucks it in nice and tightly. If you zip it closed all the way clockwise it expands almost three inches. The flap also has a couple of snaps which take in some slack to keep its look tight and clean.

Two zippers on one and a half tracks. Very Escherian!

Zipped up tight…

Expandified!

The materials are all of good quality and the PU coating on the canvas makes the bag water-resistant. By this I mean if you are caught in a rainstorm you are safe, but don’t go swimming with the pack on!

The generally square shape of the pack means that there is almost no wasted space inside the bag. This makes it pack up nicely.


Conclusions:

I confess that I have expensive taste. I am not ashamed to look at bags that some of my readership have fussed at me about. I guess I have to come to terms with the fact that not everyone wants to spend $200+ on a backpack.

Still, I am not willing to compromise on my standards. A backpack needs to be functional and durable and have a certain something to it. When I first saw this pack I assumed that it was expensive, so when I found it on Amazon for much less than I expected , my eyebrows went way up!

I have a couple of little complaints. The clasp is annoying and I wish that there were a water bottle pocket on the outside. I think I would also prefer it if the hardware were not bright blue.

Really though, when you weigh the capabilities of this pack against the cost the equation looks very, very good.

Altego makes a good pack and I think they have a bright future. I look forward to the future products they have planned.

Altego Brands Coated Canvas Backpack $79.99
Contact them:

1 comment

  1. Matthew Smith

    I’ve had this bag for 2 months now, and I’ve used it on a few day trips and one 2-night trip. I think it is the perfect size – big enough to fit a lot of stuff, but not so big that it’s uncomfortable hanging way low on my back. That’s important to me because I wear it while walking a few miles a day through the city. I also am impressed by the “coated canvas” material, because it is durable and water-resistant. I usually put a bunch of books inside, the laptop, chargers, travel mouse, etc. To me, it’s just as good as many of the $100+ bags out there, and it’s only around $50 from a number of online retailers.

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