Review: Waterfield Cargo Mambo Combo Messenger-Style Laptop Bag

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This is one tough, yet elegant bag that will carry your gear in style. I have a
lot of bags, a whole closet full of ‘em. Although I usually don’t get bags in
the $200+ dollar range, (I’m kinda cheap that way), this bag is worth the price
if you need an incredibly well made bag that can go from casual to client
meeting.
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Unpacking the Waterfield Cargo bag I was struck by how thick the material is.
It’s the same ballistic nylon used in bullet-proof vests. Seams are thoroughly
stitched and reinforced. This bag is rugged but it still looks stylish. The
simple silver and black check pattern is distinct enough to be unique and classy
enough to fit in anywhere and the nylon has a nice sheen to it that has yet to
wear off after weeks of use. The only downsides of the beefy construction is
that the bag is a little on the heavy side, weighing in at 4lbs, and is a bit
stiff initially.

Compartments are numerous. There is a thin one on the outside of the front flap,
a medium zip compartment for accessories underneath the flap (which has an inner
pocket as well), a velcro pouch under the flap, the main compartment with laptop
separator and five more pockets (including a business card holder), a rear
compatment for magazines, books, newspaper, etc., and a drink pocket on the
side. The rear pocket also has a zip opening on the bottom to allow it to fit
over the extendable luggage handle, a must for any frequent flier.

The shoulder strap is thick, which provides strength and helps distribute the
weight. The included shoulder pad is made of thick padding and has an excellent
non-slip rubber surface on one side. The pad on the Cargo Mambo bag slides along
the strap so you can keep the pad on your shoulder as you shift the bag from
your side to your back. This bag also has one of the easiest adjustment
mechanisms around. The strap is fixed on one side. On the other side is a large
plastic clip that you can flip open and closed to adjust the length of the
shoulder strap. The end of the adjustment strap does not hang loose either. This
bag is too clever for that. It is held in place via an adjustable slider. If you
commonly switch between two different strap lengths, say one for hanging out and
another for biking, you can adjust the excess strap to the right length for the
longer setting so that whenever you let out the strap, it will stop where you
want. When you’re ready to take off, flip open the clip, pull the shoulder strap
to the right length for the ride home, snap it shut, and hit the road.

The Cargo Mambo Combo comes with a laptop sleeve that fits your laptop. They
have over 40 different sizes so you can get the one that best fits your machine.
I had a 17″ MBP when I ordered the bag, but got downsized to a 15″ MBP shortly
after it arrived. It hasn’t been a problem. I just have a very roomy laptop
sleeve. One minor inconvenience is that there is a velcro strap on the sleeve
itself as well as on the compartment in the bag that the sleeve fits into. As I
leave the sleeve inside the bag, I don’t need two straps. Given how well thought
out and well made these bags are, I would have expected a small patch of velcro
that would let me secure the extra strap so it isn’t dangling about. No big
deal. Just tuck it out of the way.

There are two buckle options. I got the buckle that is used for paragliding. You
can also get the familiar airline buckle that you’ve seen flight attendents
demonstrate ad nauseum. I think the paragliding buckle is cooler, it opens
easily with one hand, and with some practice, I can close it with one hand as
well.

The Combo deal includes the bag, with your choice of buckle and color, the
shoulder pad, medium-sized pouch for cables and gear, and many customizable
options for your laptop sleeve, including its own strap, ‘piggyback’ mini-bag
attachement, flap, and orientation option. These would let you use the sleeve as
its own bag and can add to the price. Prices range from $220 for the small bag
with no extras to over $300 for the large bag with lots of customizations. If
you just order the bag by itself (with shoulder pad), the range is $179-$269.

There are very few downsides to this bag, but I do have a few minor points that
would improve it, but that should not dissuade you from getting it. First is
access to the main pouch. Unlike most messenger-style bags that require you to
open the flap to access the main compartment, you access the Waterfield Cargo
bag’s main pouch via a zipper on the top of the bag. While access is easier, I
feel like the opening is not quite as large as some other messenger bags I’ve
had. This would only be an issue if you are carrying one extremely large parcel
and should not effect most users. The comparment itself is quite large.

My other minor nit is on the rear pouch, where I usually keep whatever book I’m
reading (at least until the next gen Kindle comes out). This pouch is secured by
a velcro patch ~6″ long. During an absolute torrential downpour, this didn’t
quite close the compartment completely and a small amount of the water that was
running down my back got into this pouch. My book got slightly damp, but not so
much as you noticed once it dried. Everything else was bone dry. I was walking
around outside without an umbrella in a Boston monsoon and my book got a little
damp. Not bad. If the velcro went all the way across, I don’t even think that
would have happened.

Waterfield makes all their bags in San Francisco so a side benefit is that
you’re supporting a company that keeps its manufacturing in the good ol’ US of
A.

Bottom line: Top notch bag. Built to last. Space aplenty. Price to match.

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