Choosing a good laptop bag or backpack can be a tricky bit of business what with so many brands to choose from, assorted useful to not so useful features and price points that in some cases seem as if you’re paying for branding over quality. Having recently purchased a larger laptop, I’d initially automatically grabbed an relatively inexpensive bag off a certain popular online shopping site (almost) everyone uses worldwide. That turned out to be a good buy in terms of price, but a not so good of a purchase. While the bag looked good and was functional, it wasn’t as well-padded as I preferred and the shoulder strap wasn’t very well constructed. So, back it went and just as I resumed my hunt (upping what I wanted to spend to under $100), I got a nice note from Solo asking if I was interested in trying out one of their laptop backpacks.
Funny how that timing stuff works, isn’t it?
A few days later a Solo Rival (MSRP $79.99) arrived and I was initially surprised at how light the box was. I had a brief warning sign flash in my head, but any thoughts of low quality were erased as soon as I opened the box. As you can see from the photos, the Rival is gorgeous and has storage space to spare and then some. At a mere 2.5 pounds and measuring 19.25″ x 15.5″ x 7.5″, the bag more than comfortably fits laptops up to 17.3″ an has room for much more. Three spacious main compartments, a tablet/e-reader pocket, and hard shell side pockets that add extra protection to what’s inside. As I was headed to a friend’s place to house sit/pet sit for a few days, I decided to pack a few other things with the laptop. I managed to fit my PS4 Slim, Vita and Wii U with the Gamepad into the Rival, and ended up laughing because I still had room for a few Blu-Rays in slim cases, a Nintendo 3DS, a bunch of pens and a small sketchpad.
Was it heavy? Not particularly, thanks to the well-designed shoulder and chest/strap system that kept everything balanced. The funny thing was once I got where I was going and had everything unpacked, I put the bag down in the living room next to the chair I was planning to sit in, fed the goofball cats and cooked a bit of dinner for myself before sitting down to catch up on one of the movies I’d brought along. About three hours later, I’m about to hit the hay for the night and when I went to put a few things away in the Rival, yep… both cats had crept into the bag and were snuggled up and snoozing. Of course, they were none to pleased to get taken out of their new sleeping spot. But hey, the Rival is probably not the best place for a pair of sneaky, sleepy kitties. That’s what those old cargo pants are for some of you guys still keep in your closets.
That said, Solo does have a 5 year limited warranty that covers defects in materials and workmanship, but not normal wear and tear or stuff like cats in the bag. I certainly didn’t notice anything wrong with the bag’s construction and it certainly got the job done as a carryall, so I have the feeling I won’t be taking advantage of the warranty. While I don’t fly much, the Rival seems as if would be perfect doubling as a weekend carry-on bag you can toss a change of clothes in along with whatever else will fit inside. Wile not listed as waterproof or water resistant, coming home after that cat-packed weekend, walking a block through a light sprinkling of rain didn’t harm anything inside.
Poking around on the Solo site revealed the company (based here in NYC) has been around for ages and in my opinion, has some of the best bags I’ve seen at price points for just about everyone. Did I mention they also offer free shipping on all US orders? With Father’s Day coming up (June 18 will be here before you know it) and all those graduation days also approaching, a nice new bag is just the ticket for just about everyone on a gift list. Go bookmark the site and keep Solo in mind for all your bag/pack gifting needs. We all could use at least one good bag in our lives that’s not just for show. Fortunately, Solo has quite a few of them at price points just about anyone can afford.