Requirements: 12–15″ laptop
Timbuk2 has an incredible reputation in the laptop-carrying world, thanks to their messenger bags. As a backpack guy, I was thrilled to hear the company was releasing a bag that would suit me. Unfortunately, the Detour didn’t live up to my expectations.
First, the Detour is not a true backpack. It’s described by Timbuk2 as a “vertical briefcase” for your portable computer. If you are familiar with Kensington’s popular Saddlebag, then you know the style of bag the Detour falls into.
Like the majority of computer carrying bags manufactured now, the Detour is constructed out of tough ballistic nylon, and is available in a multitude of solid and dual-color schemes. The padded carrying handle on top is quite comfortable. The laptop compartment is lined, so as not to scratch the exterior of a metal-clad notebook, say like a PowerBook. The compartment has some paddings on the sides, as well as the back, bottom, and the divider separating it from the bag’s other compartment. However, I did not feel that this built-in padding alone was sufficient for full protection. My 12-inch PowerBook still traveled in its SleeveCase from Waterfield Design. The bottom of the Detour is, as stated above, padded, but on the exterior has a wide, rubberized form. When the bag has sufficient weight inside it, this allows the Detour to stand up when placed on the floor or a table top.
The Detour has a good amount of storage space. It doesn’t come close to my Brain Bag, but then, very little does. Still, it was able to haul about 85% of what I typically cram in to the Brain Bag. Storage-wise, the average user will have nothing to complain about.
A water bottle holster graces either side of the bag. The Detour’s flap has a single pocket, at the top. The pocket does not reach into the flap itself, but rather goes through the top spine of the bag into the back, between the laptop compartment and the storage pocket for the shoulder straps. The flap attaches to the bag via two large Velcro pads, and can be further secured from casual opening with the two plastic clips.
Under the flap is a small zippered pocket, good for a thin wallet, passport, airline tickets, and the like. On either side of that is a large, non-zippered compartment, perfect for your iPod, mobile phone, headphones, various cables, and the list could go on.
The main compartment is separated in two by a padded divider. To the rear is the laptop compartment, discussed above. The other side is open for whatever you feel the need to store. I used this space for my external FireWire drives, CD/DVD travel case, and cable pouches, as well as a few magazines and a paperback. This compartment has an integrated sleeve with various-sized pockets on it for smaller items, like pens and notepads. It even has a business-card pocket with a clear face, so when you pull the sleeve up to access items, you can advertise who you are.
Because it is a vertical briefcase, you have three carrying options with the Detour. First, you can carry it just like a briefcase, with the padded handle. Second, you can use the included shoulder strap, which attaches to two metal D-rings on either side of the bag, and carry it either messenger-style, slung across the body, or vertically from either shoulder. Last, you can open the the pocket on the back of the bag and remove the two shoulder straps, using the Detour as a backpack. It was this last configuration that I, as a backpack guy, chose. I was disappointed.
The padding on the Detour’s shoulder straps is minimal, and toward the top the straps are simply too wide. The padding does not extend to the edges of the straps, so the edging cut into my arms and chest, making it the most uncomfortable backpack I’ve ever used. Even the cheap Jansport school pack I still have from college 13 years ago has more comfortable shoulder straps than the Detour.
Ultimately, it was the carrying styles that disappointed me in the Detour. While I wasn’t expecting full backpack performance from a vertical briefcase-style bag, I was expecting more than what the Detour offers. I don’t see how anyone could be comfortable with those shoulder straps for any reasonable period of time. The bag doesn’t balance well when used in the messenger style, and messenger-bag aficionados should stick with true messenger bags, which Timbuk2 is widely known for. If you like the Kesington Saddlebag, you may want to investigate the Detour, but it’s certainly not a bag for me.