Well, even though my sample Skooba Skreener didn’t come before my business trip last November, it did come in time for the various holiday nonsense, so I was able to give it a good workout.
We Gear Diary folks are pretty big on Skooba Design gear, and I am no exception, so I had been looking very much forward to reviewing the Skreener. I especially liked the thought of playing with the heads of the TSA people at the airport checkpoints.
My first impression was, “here’s a quality bag.” There are a lot of pockets, compartments and slots, and none of the dividers (except the mesh ones, of course) have that flimsy feel you sometimes get in bags. The material is thick, feels tough, and it looks like it can take some abuse. Which is a good thing in my house, believe me.
Speaking of pockets, like most Skooba bags the Skreener is loaded with them. Under the front flap is a zippered compartment, slots for your pens, and three extra open pockets for whatever—lip balm, bandaids, cell phone, whatever. The laptop pouch is nicely padded, with that egg-crate style pads that give you that warm, “my laptop is protected” kind of feeling.
Now, the Skreener is a messenger bag, i.e. it has a flap on there, and you should take that into account when bag shopping. I’m not a big fan of flaps, but some folks love ‘em. Skooba included a slick feature with this one, as the flap can be held down with either a clip or Velcro. I prefer the Velcro personally, for easier access, but it’s nice to have the option.
But that does bring us to a couple of problems that I had with the Skreener.
First, the handle. Or rather, the handle’s location. The handle itself is really nice: padded, easy to grip, and comfortable. Unfortunately, it’s attached at the back of the bag:
Why is this a big deal? It’s simple: when you have the bag loaded and the flap closed, and you heft it by the handle, the durn thing hangs at an angle:
I know this seems petty, but for me this was a deal-breaker. I cart my bags around by the handle all the time; I can’t be bending my body out of shape to avoid getting bonked by my bag. That’s a real bummer.
The second problem is much more minor, although still annoying (to a person with OCD like myself): the laptop pouch has a flap over it (good so far!), and that flap can be fastened in place. The bad thing is that instead of using Velcro, Skooba used a clip. The worse thing is, it’s not your standard press-the-sides-and-it-releases clip, but is one of those clip types where you have squeeze the back and front simultaneously–and quite hard, I might add—to get it to disengage. And that, quite frankly, is a pain in the tuckus.
So overall, for me this bag was a real, um, mixed bag. I loved the look, all the pockets, the padded laptop pocket, the strap . . . all those good things that Skooba does so well. But the clip for the laptop pocket flap, and especially the handle location, mean that it’s not a good bag for me. But you have all the data now, and can decide for yourself. If those two things don’t bug you and if you’re only carrying it by the shoulder strap, then this might be a good bag for you.
MSRP: $99.95 (from Skooba Design)
What I liked: Lots o’ pockets!; nice laptop pocket; play-with-TSA-brains X-ray on flap
What needs improvement: top handle location; laptop pocket flap clip