IOS Cen­tral Re­views

Macworld (USA) - - Contents - BY LEIF JOHN­SON

I was get­ting fed up with bags. I’m a car­less San Fran­cis­can, so good bags rank right up there with good shoes among my pri­or­i­ties, but for months I’ve strug­gled to find some­thing that nails the sweet spot be­tween com­fort and con­ve­nience. Back­packs win for com­fort (and they’re bet­ter for my back), but get­ting any­thing out of them usu­ally de­mands con­vo­luted ac­ro­bat­ics. Mes­sen­ger bags win for ur­ban con­ve­nience, but they gnaw into my shoul­der when I’ve crammed them with Mac­books, ipads, and reg­u­lar books.

But then I found the Sut­ter Tech Sling from Water­field De­signs. The name makes it sound a bit like a 1920s-themed shindig in Sil­i­con Val­ley, but it comes as close to per­fec­tion as any­thing I’ve ever used. Com­fort? Check. Con­ve­nience? Check. And as with al­most any prod­uct from Water­field, it’s made with Ap­ple prod­ucts specif­i­cally in mind.

I picked up the larger 14-inch by 9.5inch by 3-inch Full ver­sion, but Water­field also makes a smaller Stan­dard model that looks a bit like a hefty fanny pack slung across one’s back. It’s sup­pos­edly good enough to hold the new 11-inch ipad Pro, but it’d never do for the larger Mac­books I need to carry for work.

But the Full ver­sion? This is my jam. Be­ing a sling bag, its strap reaches across my chest in the style of a mes­sen­ger bag while the bag it­self rests against my back like a slanted back­pack. I’ve tossed loads in there that would have had me winc­ing with my fa­vorite mes­sen­ger bags, but heavy loads with the Sut­ter Sling cause me mild dis­com­fort at most. That slant means it’ll never de­liver the full com­fort you’ll get from a back­pack, but it comes closer to the mark than most other cross-body or sling bags I’ve worn.

We can thank the cam-lock for most of

that. It’s a latch on the strap that lets you ad­just the slack in mere sec­onds, which makes a mas­sive dif­fer­ence when the bag’s load puts un­due ten­sion on your spine. Just flip up the latch, pull it up or slide it down, and the bag slips into a more com­fort­able po­si­tion. The large D-ring the strap at­taches to aids in this com­fort, as it lets the strap swivel to the same po­si­tion re­gard­less of how tight the strap is.

It’s mag­nif­i­cent, re­ally. I can’t count the times I’ve tol­er­ated badly bal­anced loads in other bags be­cause I dreaded tak­ing the bags off on busy side­walks or crowded sub­way cars, to say noth­ing of the frus­trat­ing guess­work of ad­just­ing straps to com­fort­able lengths. That’s never been a prob­lem with the Sut­ter Sling.

EASE YOUR BUR­DENS

The city dweller in me loves that I never have to take it off dur­ing com­mutes. It works as a back­pack on the side­walk, but I can pull around the whole bag on the train or bus so it sits on my lap. While in my lap, the two zip­pers on ei­ther side of the front com­part­ment be­come the “top” or “bot­tom” open­ings, al­low­ing me to pull out my sun­glasses, Air­pods, or sim­i­lar small items with the ease of open­ing a purse.

Im­pres­sively, it works this way re­gard­less of whether you’re right- or left-handed. The sin­gle back strap snaps to one of two D-rings on the bag’s lower side, which in turn de­ter­mines whether you wear the strap on the right shoul­der or the left and how the front com­part­ment aligns when you pull the bag around.

It’s a smart de­sign, so long as you’re smart enough to keep track of which side you’ve opened. Dur­ing my first few days with the Sut­ter Sling, I’d open a ran­dom side of the front com­part­ment when it was off my back and then for­get I’d left it open. I had a bad habit of open­ing the “wrong” side, so ev­ery­thing would tum­ble out when I’d hoist it on my back at 5:00. For­tu­nately,

four days suf­ficed to break the habit.

The Sut­ter Sling looks fan­tas­tic, too, which you won’t hear me say about many other slings. Water­field crafted it with the same rugged waxed can­vas that’s a hit with its other bags, although you can buy it in a sleeker “black bal­lis­tic” va­ri­ety if you find the can­vas clashes with your suit. The leather­work is min­i­mal, save for the shoul­der strap and a 7.75-inch by 14-inch slab of leather that looks snazzy and smells de­light­ful. Flip it on the back, and you’ll find a mesh lin­ing that both pads your back from the weight and lets the bag “breathe” in hot­ter climes.

Some bag mak­ers scrimp on the in­side, but not Water­field. Open the main zip­pers—each cov­ered with a rub­bery wa­ter-re­sis­tant ma­te­rial—and you’ll find Water­field’s sig­na­ture gold hon­ey­comb lin­ing that makes ev­ery­thing in­side stand out more starkly than it would with darker ma­te­rial. In the back of the main com­part­ment you’ll find a padded lap­top sleeve that’s roomy enough to hold both a 13-inch Macbook Pro and 2018 12.9-inch ipad Pro at once, although it’ll be a bit of a tight fit.

SHARE THE LOAD

It’s still a small bag com­pared to most back­packs, but you’ll still find a wealth of room in the main com­part­ment. In­deed, I once man­aged to stuff a 15-inch Macbook Pro in there, although the zip­per was tight and I couldn’t cram in much else.

On a typ­i­cal day, it car­ries al­most ev­ery­thing I need: my Bose Qui­et­com­fort 35 head­phones, my lit­tle pouch of ca­bles

and wall charg­ers, and my pen­cil pouch. There’s usu­ally enough room left over for at least two bot­tles of wa­ter, and one day I even man­aged to stuff my clean gym clothes in there. Along with a key fob, you’ll also find some smaller pock­ets lin­ing the wall op­po­site the lap­top sleeve. Four of them mainly ex­ist to hold the Ap­ple Pen­cil (or real pens and pen­cils), although there’s a larger pouch that’s roomy enough to hold two Magic Mice and a deck of cards.

So there’s just one prob­lem: that dang shoul­der strap. It’s made out of leather, but it’s very thin leather, and so it of­ten bunches up on my shoul­der when I’m in a hurry. The whole point of this bag is that it’s easy to ad­just the bag along the strap, but those fre­quent ad­just­ments of­ten leave the shoul­der pad hang­ing point­lessly on my chest or (more an­noy­ingly) against my back after I’ve swung the bag around.

Should I try to ad­just it, it usu­ally ends up bunch­ing on my shoul­der again.

I’m tempted to cut it off. The

Sut­ter Sling is still com­fort­able with­out it, although the pad mit­i­gates the weight of heavy loads enough to jus­tify keep­ing it around. I long to re­place it with a thicker pad I love from a com­peti­tor, but the cam-lock strap is crafted from one stitched piece and so re­plac­ing it is out of the ques­tion.

Ev­ery­thing else about the Sut­ter Tech Sling is so good that this doesn’t bother me much. It’s the per­fect bag for nav­i­gat­ing the streets of Water­field’s na­tive San Fran­cisco, as I can load up my gad­gets from work but quickly ac­cess my wal­let from the same bag when I saunter into bode­gas. I can carry my gad­gets com­fort­ably on the side­walk, but pull the bag over to my lap in one mo­tion when I sit on the train.

No other bag does this so well. It’s too bad about the shoul­der strap, but even so, it’ll be hard to find a bag that beats the Sut­ter Tech Sling for my ev­ery­day carry. ■

The smaller Stan­dard model here looks cool, but it’s re­ally only help­ful if you use the 9.7-inch ipad for most of your work.

The cam lock, open and ready to pull.

The Sut­ter Tech Sling makes it easy to switch sides.

Here’s a com­par­a­tively light load.

In other words, imag­ine this, but on the bot­tom.

Nope, that strap isn’t go­ing any­where.

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