I love a good backpack. I've reviewed Incase's ICON backpack, and diving so deep into what makes a great backpack great has birthed an odd love for bags. Thus, when offered a Pro Executive backpack from WaterField Designs, I said "hell yeah". I'm incredibly frugal (I like to chalk it up to being a Winnipegger, but who knows), and I was really curious to see if these bags were worth $349.
WaterField Designs also sent me its Transit Travel case, which is meant to help organize the glovebox in your car, but it also makes a super hand way to carry around peripherals. Let's check that out too!
Pro Executive: Badass, elegant, and tough, all in one
Built to last
Let's just start with the smell: I opened the shipping box and was immediately hit by the smell of genuine leather. Sorry, vegans, but I love it (sorry, cows, too). I had it in my closet for a couple days, and now it, too, smells of rich Corinthian leather (*not actually Corinthian). That leather accent on the outside is what defines this bag and the fact that it's already somewhat distressed and patinated makes it look well-worn without looking worn out.
Pull it out of the box, and you'll notice that the Pro Executive is heavy for a backpack. Premium materials do come at the cost of weightiness, but it's not terrible. I'd rather put up with a hefty sack than a flimsy POS that'll be shot within the month.
The Pro Executive has many pockets, but they're almost secret — they blend in very well, giving the bag a very sleek and streamlined look. The straps and back are padded, though I think the straps could use just a tad more padding. I have bony shoulders, and prolonged wear left me just a little uncomfortable and tender.
Get the look
The inside color is absolutely ghastly, but the inner material feels strong and durable, and the microfiber-lined laptop pocket is a wonderful touch. The side pockets are actually large enough to be useful, but there is one nit I have to pick, as I do seemingly with most tech-oriented backpacks: WHERE IS THE WATER BOTTLE HOLDER?
I understand that you might not be cycling to work or going for a hike with this backpack; that makes sense, but a water bottle holder would be gold for longer commutes, like spending 45 minutes on a crowded bus or walking the 20 minutes to work in 80-degree heat.
Other than that, this bag is flawless. Again, I really have to consider whether or not any bag is worth $349. I have a hard time reconciling paying more than $150 for a backpack, but judging by the material and the quality of the zippers, I have to expect this bag to last a long time. That and the fact that these were made in San Francisco goes a long way in terms of quality – it's not mass-produced trash.
The thing I love most about the Pro Executive backpack is that it's clearly made for business, but it exudes charm. Generally, business-oriented products look and feel sterile — as though they were made with no soul. The beat-up leather accents give this bag a rustic flare, while maintaining the class you'd want to present to a room full of executives. The color options are awesome: I got the gray leather, which is gorgeous, and there's also a chocolate leather option, black, or a crimson option that very much looks like the something Red Hood from the DC Universe would wear.
Dat optional folio though
I was also sent the optional Executive Folio, which is an absolutely stunning laptop sleeve that has an outer zipper pocket for your mouse, inner pockets for pens, cables, and much more, a microfiber-lined pocket and another large pocket for a pad of paper or folders or whatever. I would gladly pay $90 for the folio. If you don't want to take the backpack on a particular day, the folio will easily hold what you need.
Transit Travel case: House your car insurance or all your tech accessories
Ok, I don't want to call this a men's clutch, but that's kinda what it feels like, and I like it that way. I have the black leather version, and it just looks and feels like a very utilitarian handbag. It's almost too nice to put in your car's glovebox, but if you're looking for an organizer that you can use in this car and the your next car (and probably the four or five cars after that, depending on how frequently you buy cars).
I can honestly say I wouldn't save up $349 for a backpack. I just couldn't justify it for myself. That being said, were I making the money suitable to make such a purchase, I wouldn't think twice. The Pro Executive is built to last, gorgeous and sophisticated, and more than ready to carry exactly what you need to and then some. The Transit Travel case is a lovely little pouch, and it's just as suitable in the car as it is an addition to the Pro Executive as an additional carrying case for your miscellaneous accessories.
Should you buy these? Hell yeah... if you can afford it
Mick is a staff writer who's as frugal as they come, so he always does extensive research (much to the exhaustion of his wife) before making a purchase. If it's not worth the price, Mick ain't buying.