Review: Megalopolis Backpack
I hate walking everywhere. Cycling is so much faster, and anything that lets me slap the snooze button one more time before I get up in the morning is a good thing in my book. Unfortunately, commuting by bicycle or motorcycle is not without its dangers. Aside from the obvious personal safety risks, it is quite important to ensure the safety of any items you might be carrying with you. Anyone who has ever dropped a laptop computer, even one in a carrying case, can attest to the damage that can be done by even a moderate impact.
That’s why, when I got my TiBook last year, I immediately began searching for a backpack (read: case that straps securely in place and out of the way) that would allow me to carry it on a bicycle, and occasionally a motorcycle, without the risk of severe damage in the event of a crash. I wanted something that could also double up as my main laptop case. Enter the $189 Boblbee Megalopolis, an ABS-and-nylon hard-shell backpack, which fits a 15" PowerBook or smaller laptop perfectly.
The Megalopolis comes in a range of colors, all of which are very “hip” and showy, meaning you won’t blend into a crowd wearing this pack unless the crowd is watching the X-Games. A chrome finish—yes, chrome is actually available as a color—costs an extra $20. I got mine for $119 on sale from a local outdoor equipment retailer, proving that it pays to shop around for the best deal.
The design of this pack is at least partly functional. The shape claims to offer lumbar support and superior weight distribution, an endeavor aided by the inclusion of a chest strap and (supposedly included, but absent from my unit) waist belt. The Megalopolis also includes a very useful external cell phone pocket that clips onto the shoulder strap, and a waterproof “rain fly” that can be quickly thrown over the pack to protect its contents from the elements. While the pack doesn’t advertise the presence of a laptop computer, it is unusual enough that it might still attract the attention of potential thieves.
Outside with PowerBook
Boblbee claims the Megalopolis “accommodates all major laptops.” In reality, if your laptop is significantly thicker than a TiBook, good luck. The 14" by 10" by 2" maximum dimensions are somewhat generous in the thickness department. There’s no way, for example, that the retaining straps inside the pack would accommodate my Wall Street PowerBook G3. However, with a “shell” case (like the Brain Cell), any laptop that physically fits into the opening will be well-protected, albeit at the expense of a great deal of the internal storage volume.
There are plenty of pockets inside the pack, including six that are almost perfect for CD jewel cases and one large, flat zipped pocket that would hold a file folder or two quite nicely. The single external zipped pocket, on top of the flap, is plastic-lined and should prove to be nearly weatherproof, making it ideal for carrying your PDA or calculator and a writing utensil or two, or other small accessories that would be easily lost in the depths of the larger internal pockets.
Inside with PowerBook
Although a hard-shell pack is probably unnecessary for ferrying the laptop in the back seat of the car, I have no problems tossing my TiBook, CoolPad, various AC adapters and a large pair of headphones into the bag for vacations. If I’m going to class, I can take out the AC adapters for my cell phone and iPod and throw in two or three notebooks or binders instead. I can then hop on either bike (motorized or not) and I’m off with all the essentials.
One of the most interesting, though probably little-used, features of the Megalopolis is its multiple external mounting points. Nylon straps on top of the pack allow for the attachment of anything up to the size of a bed roll, and with a few dollars’ worth of hardware and some ingenuity, a great deal of “stuff” can be strapped on near the waist of the pack, in the lumbar indentation area. Boblbee’s Web site (which leaves something to be desired, unfortunately) shows a number of users engaging in extreme sporting activities with such items as skateboards, snowboards, skis, and mountain climbing gear strapped to their packs.
Like Tom Bihn’s ID messenger bag, the Megalopolis is lacking in one major area: internal cargo volume. The Megalopolis won’t work as a “take-your-office-with-you” backpack, though if you’re in this demographic you probably don’t have a two-wheeled commute to work, nor would you associate yourself with the “extreme” image Boblbee tries to present.
Compared to a Zero Halliburton or Pelican case, the Megalopolis is cheaper, wearable, and in general much more versatile. For two-wheeled commuters, students who tend to toss bags around, or for the chronically paranoid, the Megalopolis bag offers peace of mind and value found in few other products.