Finding that right bag for all your day-to-day needs can feel like a Quixotic quest. It sometimes seems impossible to find that one bag with the right blend of storage compartments for daily items and travel essentials, plus adequate space for a computer and other electronics. Overland Equipment has done a fine job addressing these all-around needs with its Cambridge bag.
We found that this combination tote bag and backpack was useful in various situations from business travel by plane to weekend trips to the local Farmer's Market. The length of the bag’s tote handles can be adjusted using locking, internal plastic buckles. They can be shortened like a shopping bag for quick grabs or lengthened so they easily slide over the shoulder, but don't cut into the armpit. The bag also has lightweight backpack straps, which can be unclipped and stashed in a back compartment.
And pockets? Oh yeah. The Cambridge has enough pockets to satiate even those obsessed with organization. We found multiple uses for the two long and narrow, zippered pockets on the outside -- like stashing need-'em-quick items, such as keys or a cell phone, or a boarding ticket and passport when traveling. There was also a slightly expandable, outer mesh pocket, but we found it only somewhat useful. While it was good for small water bottles or a soda can, we couldn’t squeeze in a larger 32-ounce bottle – a missed opportunity in our estimation.
Inside, the Cambridge has four pockets in various sizes and configurations. Two are smallish rectangles with snap closures -- useful for holding a phone, MP3 player or other electronic device. A third is a zippered, see-through mesh for stashing pens, business cards or a few dollars. The largest of the set is deep and expandable for holding paperwork, folders, magazines, books, etc.
Overland Equipment also outfitted the Cambridge with a padded computer sleeve with a Velcro closure, and kept the padding to a minimum. We appreciated the minimalist design because it eliminated bulky padding that can hog up space, and were able to carry items that would otherwise get left behind. On the other hand, the padding is really only enough to protect the computer from very minor bumps and jostles, and probably won't be enough for a major drop from 3-4 feet. If you’re considering the Cambridge, you need to determine whether space and weight are more important that protection for electronics. Another thing to consider is that the backpack straps aren’t designed for heavy loads.
Rounding out the bag is a zippered closure so everything inside can be secured from the outside world, and a snap buckle on top that can hold a light sweatshirt or shell. Our tester also found the nylon fabric repelled water and was easy to clean.
Overall, the Cambridge is constructed well, though there are limitations due to the design of some pockets, the computer sleeve and straps. Despite the quibbles, if you’re looking for a really handy bag that suits your everyday life, your search may be over as this bag is as good as we’ve seen so far.
SNEWS® rating: 4 hands clapping (1 to 5 hands clapping possible, with 5 clapping hands representing functional and design perfection)
Suggested retail: $80
For more information:www.overlandequipment.com