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Apr 02 2012

Ful Brooklyn Backpack Review

I must confess that I stalk bag companies. I lurk on their web pages and zoom in on zippers to try determine the brand. I calculate carrying capacity and gauge the tensile strength of the material. I buy bags and fill them with piles of stuff no normal human being would cram in there.

I am truly creepy about bags so that you don’t have to be!

In one of my recent, herculean web stalkings crawls I came across Ful (pronounced “fuel”). According to their website they were born in Memphis along with Elvis, blues and barbecue. Also my favorite defunct band, Human Radio,is from there, but that is a different story…

They make a range of stuff from duffels and backpacks to messengers and folios. They really span the spectrum of carry.

Right now I am on the lookout for a bag that suits the iPad lifestyle, without completely bailing on the fact that there are still some situations that require I have a laptop along.

A couple of their products caught my eye, but the Brooklyn really jumped out at me. It is a daypack sized pack with its own attached pocket for the iPad.

The specs on their website list the Brooklyn at 18.25in x 12in x 5in but my ruler sings a little different song. Those measurements are all maximum distances. The main section of the pack is about 16 by 12 by 4 or just short of 800 cubic inches of total storage. The pack is constructed from ballistic nylon, neoprene and features good, solid but not name-brand zippers.

The handle on top is nicely padded and feels pleasingly chunky in your hand. If you have overstuffed the Brooklyn it is a little snug to get your hand under it.

The back side has really nice padding with channels cut in it to encourage good airflow. The three-inch straps are reasonably well padded and have an adjustable sternum strap.

I initially thought that the Brooklyn was a “high and tight” biker kind of backpack and I was not pleased with the way it rode on my back with the straps cinched really tightly. They gapped strangely with the sternum strap on and I found myself constantly rolling my shoulders trying to get it settled correctly.

Once I let the pack settle a bit, the flexible part of the straps hit my shoulders correctly and the light went on for me. The Brooklyn is happiest when it’s base is resting right at the top of, well…your bum.

The left shoulder strap features a loop for a light or carabiner and the right strap has a zippered pocket for an iPod with a headphone port. That pocket has an open area that a full-sized iPod will fit in and a slash pocket that would be perfect for a Nano sized player or a USB thumb drive. The back of the right strap also has a clear pocket that allows you to operate a touch screen phone while still in the pocket. Great for a quick text response without having to remove the pack or pull the phone out.

Ipod pocket

Strap with my iPhone tucked inside

The sternum strap is adjustable across range of about eight inches and each strap has thumb loops for quick tightening. The sternum strap hardware is plastic and a bit flimsy but should be fine in most situations.

The left side of the Brooklyn has two 4 x 3 inch neoprene pockets and the right side has one of my favorite features of the Brooklyn. A zippered 4 x 3 inch pocket actually folds completely down to reveal a mesh water bottle pocket with an elastic mouth. I love this because I am constantly snagging things on mesh pockets and this lets me tuck it completely away. It easily held a Nalgene 1 liter bottle.

Side pocket

Water bottle pocket closed

With bottle inserted

The front of the pack has a dedicated pocket for an iPad. The back of this section features a neoprene pocket the full size of this section and the front flap has a zippered 5 by 6 inch pocket and a couple of open top 4 x 3 pockets. The iPad can either slide safely into that neoprene pocket or sit in the main open section if you want to have instant access to it.

As a nice little touch, this whole iPad section zips off to become a little vertical messenger bag. The back side reveals a hidden handle, a couple of D rings to attach the included shoulder strap, a velcroed piece to slide over a rollaboard bag and a slot for a pen or stylus.The hardware for this strap and connection points are metal and very solid. Being able to take this off and use it as its own little case adds a lot of flexibility to the Brooklyn. I found zipping it on and off of the main pack to be quick and easy.

The main open section of the pack has a padded slot for up to a 15 inch laptop that comes with a velcro insert to scale it down for a smaller computer. On the back wall of the section is a bit of an organizer section with a zippered and open top pocket (both about 7 by 6) a 5 by 3 pocket, a pen slot and an elastic top pocket that is about perfect for a travel mouse. All of these pockets are right on top of each other, and tightly sewed so you are not going to put anything really thick in any of them.

Inside organizer section

The main section is primarily an open rectangle but the Brooklyn has a good padding surrounding it and a solid structure so it holds it shape whether it is stuffed to the gills or reasonably empty. THe stitching is solid all the way around and they reinforce the bag well at stress points like where the shoulder straps attach to the bag.

In Use

I used the Brooklyn as my daily pack for about a week to see how well it worked. The dedicated iPad pocket and the computer section worked well but the small organizer section and vertical open section of the bag left me struggling a bit to organize the bag for daily use. If you are kitchen sink carrier, the Brooklyn is not for you.

If you are looking for a laptop, iPad and the requisite accessories than life is pretty smooth. I do wish that it had a key clip tucked in the center section some where. My only other real complaint is that because of its narrow form factor it will not stand up without leaning against something.

Tucked inside with a little bit of room left over

Where the Brooklyn worked really well was on a quick overnight trip I took. Clothes and dry toiletries went in a packing cube in the main section and everything packed together neatly. Computer and iPad were segregated nicely so I could toss the pack up in the overhead bin but unzip the iPad section and keep it at my seat. Adding that little bit of structure to the large storage section really made its vertical open center work much better for me. If you are going to use it as a daily pack consider adding some kind of organizational pouches to the package.

The Brooklyn is well constructed and it fits the bill if you are looking for a small pack to keep your techno-essentials close at hand. Plus, if you are a gadget fan at all, zipping off the little iPad bag is all kinds of fun and gives you iPad carry when the laptop needs to stay at home. Definitely a lot of value in a compact, well made bag.

Ful $99
6400 Shelby View Dr. Suite 115
Memphis, TN 38134
Main Phone: 901.751.0021
Main Fax: 901.751.0067
Toll Free: 866.454.6776
info@ful.com

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