Our new MacBook bag: BBP’s Hamptons

To make one point clear at the onset of this entry: despite the fact that we’ve been looking at lots of different MacBook and MacBook Pro cases lately in Backstage, we really haven’t sought any of them out – they just keep arriving at our offices. Today, there’s an exception. We spotted a company called BBP Bags booth early last month at the Expo, and found ourselves genuinely interested in what the company was selling, namely “Hybrid Messenger Bags.” The Oakley-esque Hamptons Collection ($95) bags shown here are only a third of the company’s designs; it also sells softer-edged Flow bags and slightly more formal Biz bags, each in at least a couple of colors. But it’s been sold out of its best Medium-sized bags – the ones that fit 13” and 15” MacBook computers – and Apple Stores just picked them up, so we had to wait a bit to cover the ones shown here. You’ll understand why we like them so much as you step through the photographs; to that end, I strongly recommend that you view the full range of shots by clicking on the title of this article above.

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In short, BBP Bags exists because the company’s founder, Sean Lee, had serious back problems and wanted a smarter, more ergonomic laptop bag to reduce both his aggravation and back strain. The company’s name is a result of the resulting “bum bak pak” design, a low-hanging, butt-level messenger bag with straps like a backpack. A BBP bag has twin soft cushions on its back-facing side, unique dual straps that convert into a single, more traditional strap if you prefer, and both sternum and waist connectors if you need the extra security. Consequently, the bag feels good when you’re carrying it, despite the fact that it doesn’t force you to compromise on storage relative to, say, one of Oakley’s computer bags.

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I still remember the moment I was sold on these bags: when Sean explained that he put a zipper at the top of each bag because he was tired of having to dig for his laptop every time he went through airport security. Having used many – too many – other laptop bags, and repeated this exact same exercise with two hands every time, I felt that this feature alone was enough of a selling point to make me want to try BBP’s design. More on that, and other interesting design details, can be found by clicking on the headline above, or “read more” below.

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Here’s the black version of the Hamptons bag – the only member of this particular family without conspicuous orange outer accents. Brown, navy, and silver versions of Hamptons all have the orange coloration seen in the silver bag photos above. (I personally prefer my bags all black; my guess is that the silver and orange one was what caught Dennis’s orange-loving eyes, and led us to chat wth Sean at his booth.) In both cases, there’s a front flap with a set of reasonably large pockets, each large enough to hold a full-sized iPod – the center one’s big enough for a standard MacBook’s power supply. Resilient ballistic nylon’s the material here, and sturdy zippers are found on most of the pockets, save for the magnet-clasped one shown above, and the open, elastic-lipped ballistic and mesh side pockets. Note that the Biz and Flow bags strip off the extra front pockets in favor of a simple single zippered pouch inside the front flap.

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Here’s the laptop compartment, which is actually a bit more “designed” than it might appear from the photograph. Little pads on the left and right sides of the compartment can be adjusted to provide anti-shake thickness for laptops smaller than the 15” MacBook Pro, or pulled inwards to let the MacBook have the full width of the bag to fit inside. It’s hard to put in words just how nice it is to have a compartment like this one, accessible without having to pull open a messenger bag’s flap, for use at an airport; notably this is a true separate compartment, and not part of the case’s flap-sealed interior.

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That interior – lined with orange – is shown above. There’s another big, multi-zippered pouch on the inside of the flap, large enough for the MacBook Pro’s power supply, plus plenty of inside room for whatever books, magazines, paperwork, or other items you might want to carry along with your laptop. A mesh pocket inside is zippered for pencils, coins, and the like.

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And this is BBP’s unique strap system, a padded double arm strap that is worn like a backpack, suspending the bag below your lower back. The company has included two detachable central points – a snap and a plastic pin – that convert the double strap into a more conventional arm strap, and both the double-strap and a separate waist strap can be fully detached if you want to hand-carry the bag. We wouldn’t want to, but it’s an option. A small zipper on the case’s rear bottom provides a second place to stow the straps if the large, open rear compartment isn’t secure enough for your tastes.

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As fans of Oakley’s aesthetics – most of them – and its attention to practical, functional features, we can’t help but like what the Hamptons case offers. It has the best features of Oakley’s computer bags, coupled with added comfort, the airport-friendly zippered laptop compartment, and a bit less of the over-the-top “extreme” styling that sometimes turns people off to Oakley designs. It also feels extremely well-made, and is backed by a lifetime warranty, one of those not-so-little features that winds up being handy with frequently-used bags. If you prefer something less pocketed and more traditionally messenger-styled, Biz or Flow might be a better option, but the added carrying capacity of Hamptons makes it the winner in my book – a case I’m actually going to be actively using and enjoying.