Mountainsmith Lodo computer backpack

Daypack designs that have sufficient capacity and the features to handle not only laptop stowage, but also an assortment of files, notebooks, various other electronics, and a selection of personal items are numerous. Finding a really good one among the many, the SNEWS® team has found, is not so easy though. Perhaps it is because there are so many different sizes of computers and electronics. Or perhaps, it is because designers try too hard to please too many folks and end up with bags that simply don't please many. Whatever the reason, we've got a closet piled to the ceiling with discarded laptop bags and backpacks, each with some good features, but way too many bad ones.
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Daypack designs that have sufficient capacity and the features to handle not only laptop stowage, but also an assortment of files, notebooks, various other electronics, and a selection of personal items are numerous. Finding a really good one among the many, the SNEWS® team has found, is not so easy though. Perhaps it is because there are so many different sizes of computers and electronics. Or perhaps, it is because designers try too hard to please too many folks and end up with bags that simply don't please many. Whatever the reason, we've got a closet piled to the ceiling with discarded laptop bags and backpacks, each with some good features, but way too many bad ones.

While we are still in search of that perfect computer bag (can someone just work with real road warriors here, and not ones in a designer's office?), we've found one that is heads and shoulders above any other we've tested, and as such, it's become our go-to bag for most of our team…for now. Enter the Mountainsmith Lodo, a daypack in the company's urban line that is designed to carry a cell phone, PDA, files, reading materials, camera, iPod, an array of personal items, travel documents and, yes, a laptop.

Let's start with the features and there are a load of them: • Side access laptop compartment • File and book storage compartment • Zippered front panel pocket • PDA pocket with corduroy lining • Mouse pocket with corduroy lining • CD hinging organizer panel • Interior zippered mesh pocket • Internal organizer pockets • Pen and pencil slots • Key clip • Corduroy-lined eyewear side pocket • Corduroy-lined music side pocket • Front panel cord pocket • Dual-density, yoke-style foam shoulder straps with air-flow ventilation • Electronics pocket on the shoulder strap • Air-channel back panel • Heavy-duty, dual-density foam haul handle

One look at this bag and even folks our testers have come across in the airport ask, "Wow…where can I get a bag like that?" It seems like it has everything and then some. But the proof of greatness in a product is not in its appearance or list of features, but in the testing. And we got down and dirty with this bag, with four female and four male testers using bags since early 2006.

On the plus side, there is more than enough padding in the back and shoulder straps so that even if the bag is heavy, which when packed with folders and computer gear it can be, it carries relatively well. The side access to the computer compartment, with additional folder compartments next to the laptop section, makes it super easy to gain access to computer and files when jammed in an airplane seat, fumbling through a security line, or just waiting around for a meeting you hope will happen soon.

The ticket pocket hidden on the other side of the bag is superb, and works well for tickets and passports, although we all agree it could be just a tad longer to accommodate tickets without fear of crunching.

All the compartments in the front of the bag and on the sides provide oodles of room to stow personal items, electronics, business cards, pens, lip balm and more. In a complete endorsement of how cool this bag is, one of our tester's daughters wanted one and now proudly totes her books to and from school in her own Lodo.

There is so much to like. But, there's also so much to do better. For starters, the rubber grips on the zipper pulls come off way too easily. Our team has already lost most of them. Without a waist belt of any kind, some of our more petite testers and even some of our more burly lot found the bag just a bit too cumbersome to carry when loaded down -- sore shoulders after a day of schlepping in and out of airports aren't fun at all, and could be minimized with even a basic waist belt.

The front cell phone or iPod pocket on the shoulder straps is worthless and since it is sewn on, it just kind of gets in the way. Ditto the credit card and CD holder board that flops around inside the front pocket looking for something to do. No one uses it and we've even thought about just taking a knife to it and cutting the darn thing out. We also miss a place to stow a water bottle. Staying hydrated is key when traveling or on the go, and not having a place that will safely stow a water bottle away from possible damage to a computer should it leak, is important.

So, as you can see, we're still searching for that perfect bag. We hope to find it one day. However, until then, the Lodo is our choice for computer and business file schlepping.

SNEWS® Rating: 4.0 hands clapping (1 to 5 hands clapping possible, with 5 clapping hands representing functional and design perfection)

Suggested Retail: $149

For more information:www.mountainsmith.com

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