On Carrying Shrinking Macs, or, Incase’s Messenger Bags + Coated Canvas Sleeves | iLounge Backstage


On Carrying Shrinking Macs, or, Incase’s Messenger Bags + Coated Canvas Sleeves

Thanks to Apple’s heavy focus on thin, small laptops, and economic conditions favoring lower-priced machines, a lot has changed over the past few years: 13” MacBooks of various types have become massively popular, while the 15” and 17” models that used to be musts for power users have become commensurately less attractive. Due to our desire to carry less heavy computers around, three of our editors have switched from 15” MacBook Pros to various 13” MacBook, MacBook Pro, and MacBook Air models over the past two years, a change that has had interesting accessory consequences, as well: we’re now looking for smaller cases and bags to carry them in.

We’ve been big fans of BBP Bags for the past several years, but haven’t found a smaller laptop bag with the right look to replace the overstuffed 15” Hamptons model we’ve been loving since 2007. So we were intrigued by the somewhat similar but streamlined Small Messenger Bag from Incase ($80), which has the same black ballistic nylon body material, a soft faux fur-lined compartment for the 13” MacBook/Pro family, a roomy interior compartment, and a bunch of pockets.


Incase describes it as weather resistant, though it’s not entirely sealed at the top; if you keep it closed properly and don’t try to submerge it in water, it’ll be OK with splashes. We think. (Click on Read More or the title of this article for additional photos and the rest of the story.)

Interestingly, most of the pockets are on the inner side of the interior compartment, alternating between zippered and velcro seals, and there’s another zippered one on the front flap that’s big enough to hold an iPod or iPhone, plus another velcro pocket with two compartments found underneath the closed flap. Heavy arm padding is included on the shoulder strap, as well as on a handle up top; both of the pads can be velcro’ed off to slim down the straps, and the shoulder band is easily adjusted into sling and across-the-body positions.


We really dig the design, which is all black on the outside with gray Incase topography-style vinyl on the inside, and uses nice tapered lines that evoke a classic messenger bad without looking bulky. What’s interesting is that the company only produces this single color for users of 13” notebooks. By comparison, the 15” version sells for $20 more and is available in eight different colors, including some bright blue and purple tones that one would think would appeal more to budget- and size-conscious users (think: iPod nano) than the 15”-using professional crowd.


Also interesting is Incase’s new Coated Canvas Sleeve ($50), which is designed for users who prefer to just hand-hold their MacBooks—or keep them padded inside of general-purpose bags. The 15” version shown here was too big for our machines, but uniquely is made from a weather-resistant-coated cotton canvas material that has only the slightest luster in the light, with a softened fabric-like tendency to wrinkle.


Diamond-padded, the interior has a simple white Incase logo bar, while the outside has Incase leaf logo zipper pulls and a matching leaf tag. We love that the dominant Incase logo on the face is a color-matched rubber piece that doesn’t scream out; it’s this sort of design subtlety that Incase has really mastered over the years.


On a related note, with the impending release of the iPad, we feel a big shift coming in case design over the next six months, as developers work to figure out how exactly people are going to want to carry and use iPads relative to their desktop and/or notebook computers. The first wave of cases will most likely come in several variations—miniature laptop sleeves like smaller versions of the Incase one above, book-style cases like the ones that have been sold for Amazon’s Kindles, and oversized versions of the play-through iPhone and iPod touch cases we’ve been using for the past couple of years. It’s hard to imagine people wanting iPad-specific full-sized messenger bags, but it’s probable that someone will try—as well as offering existing bags and backpacks with “iPad compartments.” Of all the companies currently making iPod, iPhone, and Mac cases, Incase is one of the ones we’re most interested in watching during the lead-up to the iPad’s release, since it has either mastered or come very close to mastering the art of case design for all of Apple’s other portable products.


What do you think—will its iPad cases look more like this and this, or this? Or all of the above? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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I completely agree regarding the transition from the larger 15” and 17” Macbook Pros to a 13” Pro. Right now I use a 15” MBP and am definitely planning on getting a 13” for my next one. The 15” felt quite heavy when I traveled from Pennsylvania to California, and any weight I can shed would be good. Also, since Apple has the LED monitor that essentially functions as a docking station/charger, I really don’t feel the extra two inches of screen real estate is necessary.

To carry my laptop around, I use an Eddie Bauer messenger bag that’s got a built-in padded area for the laptop. It fits the 15” MBP perfectly and does a fairly good job keeping it safe. From a style standpoint, I don’t like bags that make it obvious you’re carrying a laptop. My Eddie Bauer bag is a vertical messenger bag, which I think is much more stylish than the horizontal bags most people use (it also converts into a backpack whenever necessary).

As for the iPad, I think my preferred method of transport/protection might be some type of portfolio-style cover that opens up like a book, similar to what some Kindle users have. I’d like something that was fairly rigid, but also lined on the interior with a felt-like material to protect the glass.

Posted by cxc273 on February 23, 2010 at 4:20 PM (CST)


You realize BBP makes a Hamptons for 13” MacBooks, right?

Posted by Scott on February 23, 2010 at 4:59 PM (CST)


#2: Yes. It was in the BBP article linked above, too. It’s bulky.

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz in East Amherst, NY, USA on February 23, 2010 at 6:28 PM (CST)


“Moot” point, sorry guys and gals.  Maybe I AM tired from lugging my MBP around.

Posted by Paul D on February 23, 2010 at 9:37 PM (CST)


Well, I eat my spinach so my 17” MBP is not a problem for me.  But, I can’t disagree with the spirit of this piece.  The IPad will make this a mute point.  The laptops will become our desktops.

Posted by Paul D on February 23, 2010 at 9:39 PM (CST)


Backpacks are where it’s at. They’re better for your back, they don’t slide off incessantly, and they leave both of your hands completely free. (All especially good qualities for mad airport dashes!)

I love my Booq Boa Squeeze - it perfectly fits my 13” MBP and all of the essentials, plus a few extras, into an unbelievably small package. It’s a great laptop/carry-on bag.

Posted by Herr Doktor on February 24, 2010 at 10:01 AM (CST)


I never had a 15in or 17in MBP, but I absolutely love the portability of my 13in MBP.  I bring it home every night from work since it is so light and then I can just flip it open when I am in need for a quick reference instead of going up to my iMac.  I think the iPad will be nice, but for me can’t see a need to replace my MBP.

As far as cases go, I really like my CaseLogic sleeve that I picked up for about $20 since it cushions the ride and opens up wider than the Incase version.  Also I LOVE my Keen Alameda messenger bag.  It has its’s own cuhioned space for a laptop that can accomodate up to a 15in so it fits my 13in MBP in the CaseLogic sleeve perfectly (double protection) and the strap is very comfortable to carry on my shoulder.

Posted by TosaDeac on February 25, 2010 at 10:48 AM (CST)

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