Tech, Autos, & Gear in Layman's Terms Since 2006

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January 3, 2007 • Reviews

The Booq Mamba L Vertical Shoulder Bag Review

Are you still holding out for your perfect laptop bag? Perhaps you’ve been looking for one that isn’t too fussy, one that has plenty of large storage compartments, one that is made of strong durable materials, that uses a minimum of Velcro, one that has many pockets of all sizes…and most importantly, one that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. If 2007 is the year you have vowed to find your perfect laptop bag, and if you are open to trying a vertical messenger style, then I may have discovered one you would do well to consider…

The Booq Mamba L is specifically listed as being able to fit the 15″ Mac Book Pro or Power Book; but don’t worry – it will also work very well with any similarly sized laptops. The Mamba L is available in black, and its exterior is composed of polyurethane-backed ballistic nylon, which the Booq site explains “is water-repellent and will protect well against rain.” While I think that the black looks very professional and practical, I have to admit that I was a little bit disappointed that the Mamba wasn’t also available in the flashy white of the limited edition Python XM bianco. 😉

The Mamba L measures approximately 16″ tall x 14″ wide x 4″ deep and it weighs about 2 pounds 6 ounces when empty, there is also a Mamba S for laptops measuring 13″ and smaller. As I mentioned, the exterior is styled with a vertical orientation – meaning the bag is longer than wide; and while the Mamba has a large flap like a messenger bag, that flap accesses a specialized front storage area instead of the main laptop compartment.

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We’ll cover all of the exterior goodies and then jump right into the bag’s interior.

The back of the Mamba is plain…

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…being primarily composed of an extremely padded panel that will both protect the carried laptop, as well as cushion the hip it rests against.

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The Mamba’s design allows it to be worn casually on one shoulder, or bandolier style across the chest. The “seatbelt-nylon” shoulder strap is 2″ wide, and it is cushioned with a contoured 9.5″ long x 2.75″ wide non-slip pad; two Booq logos and the “BOOQ” name spelled out in grippy rubber provide the pad’s non-stick properties.

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A lightly padded handle has been worked into the top portion of the bag; I like a top handle on my laptop bags, and I thought this design was a clever way to include one. All zippers on the bag have substantial 1″ metal pulls featuring the Booq logo on their black rubberized ends. All zipper tracks are covered in water-repellent fabric to help keep the interior contents dry.

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The bottom right of the messenger flap has a distinctive orange enamel and brushed silver metal Booq logo plaque.

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The sides and bottom of the bag are plain, with no pockets or protective feet.

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The bag’s front flap has an inset of rip-stop nylon covering an approximately 7″ x 7″ pocket. Notice the orange and black rubber button-hole under the dual zippers? That is a port for a set of earphones to pass through.

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This padded pocket is lined in non-scratch fabric, and it is large enough to hold a portable CD player. Not that anyone but my daughter still has one of those, riiiight? 😉

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Of course this pocket is also perfectly sized to carry just about any digital music player, so here it is with my Zune in its new Vaja case with super.fi 5 earphones threaded through the button-hole.

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Instead of using a huge strip of Velcro, as any other bag company might have been tempted to do, the messenger flap is held tightly in place with two sets of 1.75″ long magnets which have been concealed in the ballistic nylon layers. Well played, Booq! 😀

Lifting the flap reveals an organizational panel which holds, from the top down: An approximately 9″ tall x 8″ wide zippered pocket that is lined in the same textured gray nylon from which the two lightly padded pockets in the panel are composed. The left pocket is 6.5″ tall x 3″ wide with a gusset that allows the pocket to hold items up to 1.75″ thick. The right pocket is 6.5″ tall x 2.5″ wide, and it also has a gusset allowing up to 1.75″ thick items.

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Both of these flapped pockets are kept closed with a round 0.75″ patch of Velcro.

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A pair of very clever open pockets have been worked into the bottom of the bag. The first is 8.5″ wide x 5″ deep, and its opening is defined by the stripe of orange trim running under the flapped pockets. This open pocket is perfect for holding the separate power brick component which most laptops utilize. Directly under that pocket is another open slash pocket, this one topped by a strip of textured gray nylon. The bottom pocket measures approximately 9″ wide x 4″ deep, and it is perfect for holding the remaining section of a two-part power cord.

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Ready to look inside the main compartment? Here we go…

Undoing the exterior dual zippers reveals a 15.5″ tall x 14″ wide textured nylon compartment. The front wall of the bag folds forward, and it is kept from spilling open by a pair of 8″ x 5.5″ side nylon gussets.

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You are already planning what will go in those pockets, admit it. 😉

The front wall has a lightly padded and textured nylon pocket measuring 7″ tall x 6″ wide; its flap is held in place by two 0.75″ rounds of Velcro. This pocket is perfectly sized for holding loose cables.

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The interior wall has a 15″ wide x 10.5″ deep open pocket which can easily hold several magazines or legal sized files. On this wall there are also two lightly padded pockets, the first measuring 7″ tall x 6″ wide with gusseted sides which will allow it to expand and hold items up to 1.75″ thick. The pocket on the right is 7″ tall 4.5″ wide, and it is also gusseted. Each pocket has a flap that is, once again (say it with me!), held in place with a 0.75″ round of Velcro. Really, I am not complaining; although I don’t like Velcro, Booq has once again managed to use it judiciously. The Velcro placement is convenient, and it is not so much that opening the pockets produces that aggravating Velcro rrrrrip.

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Behind the interior panel is the final compartment, an area covered on all six sides with a non-scratch lining that covers a half-inch of high-density foam padding. Although this compartment is sized to accept Booq’s Vyper M2 sleeve, unless you are really hard on your bag (and its contents) using one might actually be overkill.

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Sarah has a Dell laptop with a 15.4″ widescreen, and it fits perfectly into this compartment.

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Okay, so all that’s left is showing the laptop bag on actual models. Here is Sarah wearing the Mamba, and for reference she is 5’6.

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And here’s me, with the shoulder strap adjusted to fit my 5’10” frame. There’s no doubt about it – the Mamba is a larger bag, but it is certainly not unmanageable.

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I have reviewed other Booq products in the past, and once again I am very impressed with their quality. The Mamba style should be perfect for anyone that wants a shoulder bag with lots of pockets and padding…unless they want it in a color other than black. 😉

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The Booq Mamba L is available directly from the manufacturer.
MSRP: $139.95, includes a five year warranty
What I Like: Extremely well made from quality materials, judicious use of Velcro, all pockets are padded, lots of ingeniously configured pockets which are conveniently placed, comfortable
What Needs Improvement: Just a personal request – I would love to see this bag offered in other colors

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11 Responses to " The Booq Mamba L Vertical Shoulder Bag Review "

  1. MitchellO says:

    Great review!! Looks like a very nice and well designed bag. Plenty of pockets to store all sorts of gadgets and necessities in 🙂

  2. Jerry Raia says:

    Please don’t say you would like it to come in pink!

  3. Judie says:

    Ha, no! I specifically mentioned their white – or “bianco”. 😉

  4. rgbyhkr says:

    I was wondering if you could expand a bit on your review of the Mamba L for someone who?s looking at it for purchase. As a person who loves using the net for product research, I?ve done a LOT of looking around at various bags and cases, Along the way I?ve changed my mind a bit about exactly what will be right for me. It all comes down to
    personal requirements and taste and the likelihood is that there really is no perfect bag. However, the Mamba does appear to be pretty close to perfect for me.

    Unfortunately, without the ability to see it in person at retail before I buy, I?m making a few guesses. Here?s what I?m thinking and, if you wouldn?t mind, let me know what you think.

    – First, both the pictures you have carrying it as well as a video I saw on another site show it worn across the body like your typical messenger. That?s fine for heavier loads or longer walks but for quick ?pick up and go?, I?d probably just throw it over one shoulder and let it hang on that side. I wonder how feasible/comfortable the strap?s design is for wearing it like this. For reference I?m a 5?6? guy.

    – One thing that isn?t clear from the pictures is the interior compartment area with the padded pockets. I can see exactly what you mean about it being a perfect place to hold loose cables. However, I wonder how suitable that area is for placing loose items like a PSP in its case, a sunglass case, etc. If you had a 15? laptop in the laptop area and maybe a magazine or 2 in that ?deep open pocket?, is there enough room to put a few items in the interior compartment even if there were cables taking up space in the padded pockets? It kind of seems like when you zip up the bag, that area might push pretty flat and thus not offer a lot of room for anything substantial to be loosely placed there.

    – I have a 15? MacBook Pro but I will be getting a 12? PC notebook or tablet in the near future. I?m thinking then that I?d get the Mamba L to use for both (not at the same time, of course) and just get a sleeve for the 12? so that it doesn?t just flop around inside the larger notebook compartment. Any thoughts on doing this specifically with the Mamba L?

    – Given the depth and width of the base, it would seem like it stands up on its own vertically. That could be deceiving though. Have you found that it is able to even with a full load?
    – Like you, I myself prefer that a messenger bag have a handle. It just makes for easier grabbing on the run. Does the Mamba?s feel pretty sturdy when you pick it up fully loaded?

    Thanks in advance for any light you can shed on these and please excuse my unbelievable level of detail. 😉

    Jeff

  5. Judie says:

    Hi Jeff, Let’s see if I can answer all of your questions…

    – First, both the pictures you have carrying it as well as a video I saw on another site show it worn across the body like your typical messenger. That?s fine for heavier loads or longer walks but for quick ?pick up and go?, I?d probably just throw it over one shoulder and let it hang on that side. I wonder how feasible/comfortable the strap?s design is for wearing it like this. For reference I?m a 5?6? guy.

    It’s fine to wear it that way – you;ll just need to adjust the strap is all. 🙂

    – One thing that isn?t clear from the pictures is the interior compartment area with the padded pockets. I can see exactly what you mean about it being a perfect place to hold loose cables. However, I wonder how suitable that area is for placing loose items like a PSP in its case, a sunglass case, etc. If you had a 15? laptop in the laptop area and maybe a magazine or 2 in that ?deep open pocket?, is there enough room to put a few items in the interior compartment even if there were cables taking up space in the padded pockets? It kind of seems like when you zip up the bag, that area might push pretty flat and thus not offer a lot of room for anything substantial to be loosely placed there.

    I suppose it would depend upon how “stuffed” the bag is, but I think it could still hold the items you described. The bag is currently on its way to Mitchell – We can get him to load it up and weigh in. 🙂

    – I have a 15? MacBook Pro but I will be getting a 12? PC notebook or tablet in the near future. I?m thinking then that I?d get the Mamba L to use for both (not at the same time, of course) and just get a sleeve for the 12? so that it doesn?t just flop around inside the larger notebook compartment. Any thoughts on doing this specifically with the Mamba L?

    That is totally how I would do it, myself. 🙂

    – Given the depth and width of the base, it would seem like it stands up on its own vertically. That could be deceiving though. Have you found that it is able to even with a full load?

    Not really – think of this more as a bag that leans. 😉

    – Like you, I myself prefer that a messenger bag have a handle. It just makes for easier grabbing on the run. Does the Mamba?s feel pretty sturdy when you pick it up fully loaded?

    It is very sturdy – but it is not overly padded. If you plan on carrying the bag by the handle for long periods of time, it’s going to dig into your palm. It serves its purpose very well though – it is handy for grabbing and moving the bag, or carrying for a bit when you need to relieve a shoulder. 🙂

  6. bananadude says:

    Hi. Thanks for the great review. I have a question though, and was hoping you may be explain to help me out.

    I’m trying to understand the measurements of this bag, as I’m in two minds over whether to get the L or S version for my Sony SZ laptop.

    The laptop compartment seems to be quite a bit smaller than the external measurement but the bag design doesn’t quite seem to explain that, as the compartment would appear to go from the very bottom of the bag to the very top. Or is there some thick padding at the bottom which accounts for the difference between the internal and external measurement? This difference is approx 4cm on the L version but is double that at nearly 8cm on the S version of the bag, which I find even more puzzling.

    Hope you can help. Many thanks.

  7. Judie says:

    bananadude, I am not sure why the measurement is doubled on the smaller bag, but there is 1/2″ foam padding on all six sides which would account for some interior space loss. Of course, it is always possible that there was a mis-measurement somewhere, too… 😛

  8. bananadude says:

    Yeah, I saw mention of the 1/2″ padding, but that doesn’t explain the 8cm space loss inside for the S version. That’s a big discrepency. On your L, is the official measurement of the internal compartment accurate – 361x279x46mm? I’ve emailed Booq with my query but have yet to get a response. Wish I knew someone with the S version so I could measure it!

  9. bananadude says:

    Update: OK, this is odd. On the US Booq site the measurements for the internal compartment are given as 337x305x51mm. I was looking at the European site before as that is where I would be buying from (I live in the UK) and they give the measurement as 318x260x38mm. I’m assuming (and hoping) that the latter is wrong given the discrepency with the external measurement.

  10. Judie says:

    “On your L, is the official measurement of the internal compartment accurate – 361?279x46mm?”

    I’ve since sent the bag to Mitchell, so hopefully he can answer. 🙂

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