I’m addicted to bags. I have four for my laptop alone and dozens for my camera equipment. When the iPad came out last year I knew it was going to be a while before really good bags started hitting the market but that didn’t stop me from trying out just about every one I though might be interesting.
I can honestly say that the Booq Cobra Courier XS has come the closest out of any bag I’ve tried to being the best way to carry an iPad. It’s a great size, it’s incredibly well manufactured and it shows real thoughtfulness in the way that it’s put together. Unfortunately, two velcro strips put it just outside of completely perfect, but that actually might not make much of a difference for you as the rest of the package is so great.
The Courier feels incredibly well made from the moment that you touch it. There are four distinct textures at play here and they all work together well. The nappa leather flap, the denier nylon exterior, the rubberized bottom cap and the nylon twill lining all still feel very coherent. It gives the bag dimension and style, without feeling hodgepodge. It also feels very light, even though it’s a tad heavy at 1.7lbs.
There are thoughtful touches throughout as far as build. Plush lining in the iPad pocket makes it easy to stuff an iPad in without feeling like it’s going to scratch. The front pocket is lined in high-visibility orange so that you can find bits and pieces that you shove in there easier.
While the wide nylon shoulder strap doesn’t have a pad for comfort, it’s soft enough, and the cargo is light enough, to not cause discomfort during long carries.
The interior compartment is kept incredibly simple, with a pocket the perfect size for an iPhone and two pen slots. The iPad compartment is separated from a general compartment that easily holds a notebook and pocket camera along with a few other odds and ends. There’s also a rear, unzippable, document pouch with a sewn-in key ring.
And then there’s the two Velcro strips that hold the flap closed. But we’ll come back to those.
To use it is to love it
The Courier is a joy to use in almost every way. Because the bag has some basic structure, the mouth is always open far enough to slide your iPad or other items in one-handed. I can’t stress enough how important this is for putting items away when you’re standing. With a ‘floppy’ bag that lacks structure, it can become a battle to put anything inside without using both hands.
I can’t count the amount of times I’ve been holding the flap of a bag open with one hand, trying to catch the lip of the bag mouth on the edge of a $500 gadget enough to get it slid in right. All while trying to get off of a bus or out of a meeting without running into people or things. Not so with the Courier, easy-in, every time.
The strap is also a joy, with it’s canted mounting it allows the bag to hang at a comfortable -25 degree angle. This means that when you put it on, and the strap is crossing over to the other shoulder, it lays almost perfectly flat on your hip. Normally a shoulder bag with a horizontally attached strap will put additional strain on your neck and shoulder as it is constantly pulling downwards to lay flat. That, or the bottom end pops out constantly in some sort of wild flapping motion. Once again, the Courier suffers from none of this.
The rubberized bottom makes it easy to set it down without worrying that you’re going to get leakage if it lands in water. The nylon exterior is also waterproofed, although I didn’t test that much.
About that Velcro
I’m not a huge fan of Velcro. It’s loud, obnoxious, doomed to stop working at some point and gathers bits of lint and crap. The only place that Velcro belongs is on kids shoes. Once they learn to tie their laces, boom, out it goes.
I’m overstating it a bit here because yes, Velcro does have its uses and I even have some clothing, mostly snow gear, that does use it. But the purpose of Velcro is speed and speed alone. It’s used because it’s quick and easy to fasten.
The problem with using it to enclose a bag like the Courier, which has two fat stripes of it keeping the flap closed, is that it’s also very, very loud. This makes the Courier actually embarrassing to open in a quiet meeting or study hall. You know the sound, rrrrrip! ‘Who’s opening their wallet from the early 90’s?’, you might say.
Does the Velcro hold the flap closed? Yes, absolutely, but it does it without any style and it doesn’t match up with the obvious thought that went into the rest of this bag. It’s a classy, understated bag that also happens to be rugged. It’s not a hiking pack or iPad case for your parasailing trip.
Replacing the velcro with a simple, quiet, magnetic enclosure would have made this bag perfect.
Should you buy it?
Honestly, yes. Even with the velcro, this is still one of the best iPad bags I’ve tested and it’s really well thought out. Top notch build quality and great usability make it an easy recommendation. I haven’t even mentioned the complimentary Terralinq membership that allows you to register the tag inside the Courier with the online service for easy return should someone find it.
As long as you don’t have to open it in any super-quiet places, you’ll probably even be ok with the velcro.
The Booq Cobra Courier XS is available for $145 at Booq’s site.
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