Ever since I upgraded from an 11″ MacBook Air to a 13″ Retina MacBook Pro, I’ve been hunting for the perfect hybrid computer and camera bag — a compact backpack that could hold my laptop, DSLR, lenses, and accessories at the same time. Six months ago, I covered several MacBook/camera bags from Incase, including the DSLR Sling Pack I’ve loved for years, and larger “Pro” options for bigger laptops. Each hybrid bag makes different compromises: for my needs, the Sling Pack’s too small, and the Pro bags are too large. But users of 11″ MacBooks might find the Sling Pack “just right.”
Seeing potential in a new alternative, I jumped at the opportunity to test Booq’s upcoming Slimpack ($195), a MacBook-sized evolution of its earlier iPad/DSLR backpack $145 Python Slimpack. Booq makes excellent bags, but apart from offering a multipurpose camera/headphone compartment in Boa Flow, it hasn’t taken a deep dive into the camera-laptop hybrid category. While the new Slimpack’s laptop compartment is just a hint too small for the 13″ MacBook Pro and iPad Pro I’m currently using, it’s right-sized for 12″ or smaller MacBooks, as well as 10″ or smaller tablets, any of which can be paired with a full-sized DSLR, three or four lenses, and accessories. Bundled with a rain shield and Booq’s standard Terralinq loss recovery protection system, it’s a very nice bag, and one I would certainly use if I switch to a 12″ MacBook next year…
Hybrid DSLR and computer bags always consist of the same two concepts: a fairly deep, segmented compartment that manages lenses, camera bodies and related accessories, alongside a considerably thinner, padded area designed to hold a laptop or tablet. A well-designed bag makes it easy to grab your camera as needed without fully disassembling the bag, provides comfortable padded straps for your body, and offers enough room to accommodate your choice of computers.
Slimpack is indeed a well-designed bag, and follows Booq’s tradition of handsome execution. Gray in color with silver and black metallic accents, it looks almost light gray under bright light, while its mid-gray tones and darker accents stand out when viewed from other angles. Unlike its predecessor Python Slimpack, which was made with ballistic nylon, the new model is made with Bionic fabric — a weave of 47% recycled PET and 53% cotton that’s weatherproof, with a texture that’s somewhere between waxed canvas and denim. The look and feel are professional, while giving no clues as to what’s specifically inside the compartments.
Slimpack also has two sturdy padded mesh shoulder straps with optional chest and waist buckles for added reinforcement, notably redesigned from Python Slimpack to eliminate what was previously a passive (but small) iPhone-holding compartment on one strap. While there’s a double zipper that runs in a U shape across the back, opening the bag to fully reveal separate computer and camera compartments, there’s also a padlock-friendly double zipper on the top that can provide quick (or secured) access to your camera with an attached lens. All of the external zippers have nice leatherette pulls held together with metallic Booq logos.
The camera compartment begins in a seven-compartment grid that will most likely need to be customized to your particular needs. My long zoom lens, for instance, required me to turn two small compartments into one by removing a central Velcro-tipped divider, and keeping a lens attached to my DSLR’s body required opening another compartment, cutting the initial 7 spaces down to five. But that’s more than enough space for all of my normal gear, leaving one space for a travel or computer accessory such as a multi-port USB charger. The interior of the bag is nicely padded and lined with a plush soft fabric.
On the computer side, Booq uses a Velcro-secured, padded laptop sleeve that’s almost as large as the bag’s full footprint — this is the other major difference versus the earlier Python Slimpack. The new model’s sleeve has expanded from iPad-sized to include enough space for an 11″ MacBook Air or 12″ MacBook. As the photos show, the sleeve is a little wider than the 11″ MacBook Air, and needn’t stretch to accommodate Apple’s smallest, thinnest laptops.
Unfortunately, the compartment is literally only millimeters shy of wide enough to hold a 13″ MacBook Pro, which is a real shame given that a fairly straightforward modification would have expanded Slimpack’s compatibility to include the 13″ MacBook Air, 13″ MacBook Pro, and 12.9″ iPad Pro. That said, devices that do fit inside the sleeve are nicely padded on all sides against damage, and the bag’s footprint is manageable.
Rather than hiding your accessories in nooks within the camera compartment, like Incase largely does with the DSLR Sling Pack, Booq instead places two large side pockets on Slimpack’s outer edges, opening to reveal similar but not identical flaps. Each has a zippered long mesh pocket capable of holding pretty much anything smaller than an iPad mini. One arrives with a rain poncho and Terralinq (use a serial number to find a lost, not stolen bag) registration card inside, while the smaller pockets alternate between pen/pencil holders and passive flash card/spare battery/accessory compartments. You’ll also find a detachable keychain and an elastic strip inside.
If you want to carry a tripod, Booq provides a somewhat secured option. Unlike Incase, which uses side-mounted straps to passively attach a tripod to the DSLR Sling Pack, Booq includes a thick nylon pull on the bag’s front. You can tug it down to reveal a pocket near Slimpack’s bottom, which holds the tripod’s bottom while a hideaway buckle is supposed to pop out near the upper center of the bag, under the Booq logo, holding the tripod’s top. The single issue I had with Slimpack was that the hideaway buckle was missing on my review unit, which otherwise arrived fully appointed.
Considered in totality, Slimpack is basically a direct competitor to Incase’s DSLR Sling Pack, with certain advantages and disadvantages that may swing you towards one choice or the other. Both bags have roughly the same laptop/tablet and camera capacity, but the DSLR Sling Pack is better for users who prefer single-strap, across-the-chest access to their gear, and Slimpack is better for users who need the additional body support that twin straps can provide, the rain poncho, and/or a secured quick-pull camera compartment. There’s a fairly significant price difference between the bags, favoring Incase’s options, but if you like the look and feel of Booq’s designs, Slimpack will be right up your alley when it hits stores on January 4. The slightly smaller Python Slimpack remains available for iPad users.
MacBook (12″), MacBook Air (11″), All 9.7″ or smaller iPads
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Filed under: General, Mac, Reviews Tagged: Backpack, Booq, Camera, camera bag, dslr, ipad air, iPad mini, Laptop, MacBook