Riutbag R15.3 anti-theft laptop backpack – Price: £119 (discounted until the end of 2018 to £79)
* Black Friday (23rd November 2018 one day only) special offer, half price: £59 *
- No vulnerable zips or access while you’re wearing the backpack
- More usable space than you might imagine
- Neat and clever design
- Comfortable to use
- Good quality materials
- Drinks pockets intrude internally
- Only available in black
- Detail quality not top-notch
- No partitioning for cameras and lenses
- Too tall for free carry-on with some airlines
As a journalist, I need to travel with both my laptop and a selection of camera gear.Thanks to the reduction in size of cameras and lenses there is less need to rely on a large dedicated camera case.
A backpack is one option, along with shoulder-bag/messenger bags and sling bags, which let you access the bag’s contents without having to remove the bag from your person.
I have been using a messenger style bag for several years. However, it’s better suited for larger laptops and I’ve recently downsized to a slim 14-inch model. Sling bags look attractive and functional but tend to be smaller and not all can accommodate a laptop, even a relatively small one.
So, for now, I’ve decided to look at backpacks. I’ve been sent two for review; the Booq Shock Pro and the Riutbag R15.3. It’s the latter I’m reviewing here.
For Riut, say ‘riot’
Riut (pronounced ‘riot’ is a brand set up by UK-based designer, Sarah Giblin. Her story is covered in detail at her company’s website. Basically, she was concerned that traditional backpacks were vulnerable to opportunist theft because when you’re wearing one you can’t see what’s happening behind you and that’s where access to your bag’s contents was.
That was back in 2014 and after successful crowd-funding for the original R15 (15-inch laptop, 15 litres of storage space), Giblin has now built a range of laptop backpacks that open from the body-facing side of the bag. This is fundamental to the principle that if access to the backpack is reversed, thieves can’t get at your stuff when you’re wearing your backpack.
A laptop backpack that could suit photographers?
The Riutbag R15.3 backpack is aimed at laptop users who carry other gear as well. My hunch was that this bag could be suitable for my cameras and a selection of lenses.
There is certainly enough space. My 14-inch laptop, power supply and mains lead, wallet, phone, phone charger and leads, an Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II body, standard zoom, telephoto zoom and a portrait lens, plus accessories, all fitted easily, with some space to spare.
One important caveat is that as the R15.3 is not designed specifically for photographers, there are no partitions provided to separate lenses and bodies. My solution to that is to pack the lenses in their pouch cases, which adequately prevents them from damaging each other and the camera. The bag itself is not too heavy but also has adequate impact protection.
Lots of compartments
A neat compartment large enough for a wallet and a few other bits and pieces is located where the bag rests against your lower back. It’s secure and the slight bulge dovetailed nicely with my back; it was certainly comfortable. There are also some gaps to provide some cooling air circulation around your back.
At the top, and normally covered by the shoulder straps when the backpack is worn, is another larger zipped compartment that makes use of the smaller and often redundant space at the top of the bag.
Inside the R15.3 the main compartment is lined in bright yellow, which helps you find what you are looking for. There are a number of small zipped pockets.
The whole bag opens right up with the laptop/cushioned back section, containing the laptop, folding down flat. Access is basically good, only hampered slightly by the drinks bottle pocket linings that intrude on both sides. A zip-up mesh divider prevents the contents of your backpack from falling unceremoniously out when opening the backpack fully.
If you only need your laptop, it can be extracted without opening the case; just unzip the top and slide your laptop out.
Nice touches include strap ends that can be easily rolled up and tidied, cleverly hidden fixings for the optional waist-strap and a height-adjustable chest strap.
Overall, I liked the Riutbag R15.3 backpack very much. It’s stylish, makes excellent use of space, isn’t too big and bulky and is commendably secure. I’d like to see the production quality improve; there are some wrinkles in the finish here and there. Maybe my sample wasn’t the best. Another concern is that with some budget airlines now charging you to bring bags taller than 40cm into the cabin, the Riutbag R15.3 is about 10cm too tall. Some colour variation would also be nice. On the plus side, the bag looks like it’s built to last and I would be quite happy to own it.