It is not a so-well-kept secret that I travel quite a bit for my day job. While 2009 has seen a slow down in travel for me, I still will easily make my American Airlines Platinum status for the 4th year in a row. As a reminder to everyone: Airline status is not something to be proud of. It means that you spend too much time on airplanes and that you know exactly which seats and rows have power outlets… but I digress. Since September 11, 2001 the single biggest challenge with air travel has not necessarily been the airlines but the security process you have to go through in order to get to your gate. I’m not complaining – security has kept us from having any significant airline issues since 9/11 – but it can be challenging, especially for seasoned travelers.
Normally when you go through the security checkpoint at the airport you are required to remove your laptop from your bag and put it in a seperate tray in order to be x-rayed amongst the other things you have to removed from your person – shoes, belts, etc. For most this is not that big of a deal but for people who have a lot of stuff in their bag along with their computer, it can take a minute or so to get the computer out of the bag and onto the belt. Meanwhile, the seasoned travelers are tapping their toe behind you waiting impatiently.
To help solve this challenge of travel, Skooba Designs has released a wide range of bags they refer to as their Checkthrough series. This series of bags are approved by the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) for allowing your computer to remain in the bag and be x-rayed. It is a tremendous time saver, especially on those days when the airport security is exceptionally busy. Skooba Designs was kind enough to send me the Checkthrough Roller bag for this review and after several trips with it I have to say it is a winner. Not only does it help you get through security checkpoints but it is a roomy and functional roller bag.
The Skooba Checkthrough Roller Bag
The Checkthrough Roller bag looks similar to many roller bags that you have seen in the past. It measures 15.5″x12″x1.5″ and will handle just about any notebook PC or Macbook up to 17″. The outer shell is a nylon fabric which is durable and wears well while the back edges of the bag are protected by hard plastic covers to prevent wear & tear while pulling the bag through the airport or up stairs. The wheels are made of a rubberized plastic with smooth ballbearings that make the bag roll smoothly and fast. The quality of the wheels has always been a big hang-up for me on roller bags but Skooba got it right with this one. The handle fits nicely into the chassis of the bag and has a zipper cover for it so you can close it and prevent it from accidently popping out. The handle is made from aluminum and telescopes to three different levels for your height and comfort. Finally, all of the accents are in brushed nickle and the zippers throughout the bag are self-repairing. All of this in a package under 8 lbs.
Handle of the Skooba Checkthrough Roller Bag
Here is where the Checkthrough Roller gets exciting. Skooba Designs has a patent pending on this design and I can see why – it works fantastically well. The front pocket of the bag is designed to carry your notebook or Macbook – and that only! In fact there is a warning stitched into the bag warning you that you should only put your computer in this particular pocket.
Warning label that you can only put your notebook in the PC slot
The back panel of this pocket is a clear heavy gauge plastic which allows for the computer’s base to be seen through it. This is particularly important when meeting the TSA requirements. Once your computer is in the pocket you zip it up and and head to the security checkpoint. Once there, instead of removing your computer, you unzip the zipper closest to the computer pocket and flip open the bag. Essentially this flips the bag into two – one with your computer inside and the other with your other travel items – attached by a strong strip of nylon fabric. You place the bag on the x-ray belt and into the machine it goes. Once it is through the other side you simply zip up the bags compartments again and off you go!
The notebook compartment of the Skooba Checkthrough Rollerbag
The Skooba Checkthrough Rollerbag about to go through X-Ray at BWI
Now there are some things you need to keep in mind when you use the Checkthrough Roller at the airport. First, the computer pocket must only have your computer in it and nothing else: No power adapters, no mobile phones, no slip cases on the computer, nothing. Zilch. If you do it is a promise that TSA will want to re-examine your bag and you’ve pretty much defeated the whole point. Second, TSA can still ask you to pull the computer out of the bag although I have not had this happen at the airports I have traveled to with this bag: Dallas/Fort Worth International (DFW), Chicago O’Hare (ORD), Minneapolis/St Paul (MSP), Baltimore (BWI) and even Cancun, Mexico (CUN). In fact, the 5 trips I have taken with this bag I have only had one TSA employee question me, stating I needed to remove my computer from my bag as I was about to slide it into the x-ray machine. Once he glanced over and saw the Checkthrough logo on the bag he said, “Nevermind, you have a checkthrough.” The bottom line is having the bag does not 100% assure you will not have to remove your PC from your bag but to date I haven’t had an issue. What is 100% for sure is if you don’t have this bag you will have to remove your computer from your carry-on bag. Another thing you will notice is that other travelers will ask you about the bag, especially those who travel a lot.
What makes the Checkthrough Roller even better though is that it is not a one-trick bag. This is a very roomy bag that can hold plenty of other things when you travel. In fact Skooba designed this bag in a way that if you are having to make a day trip or a one-night stay trip, this bag can be not only your computer bag but your clothes and shoes bag. Yes it’s that versatile.
Clothes in the Skooba Checkthrough Rollerbag makes this bag a great day trip bag
Built-in shoe holders of the Skooba Checkthrough Roller bag
If you are going on a trip longer than a day, no problem. You can use this clothes storage area for storing other things such as books and gadget cases.
Use the clothes storage for other things if you are taking a longer trip
Inside the main compartment of the bag you will find a variety of pockets to store things. Some of these are zipper mesh pockets, while others are traditional slip pockets and still more are elastic banded pockets. The nice thing is that Skooba made these slip pockets a variety of different sizes to hold just about anything snug and keep it in place.
Various pockets inside the Skooba Checkthrough Roller Bag
Various sized pockets make things stay secure in the Skooba Checkthrough Roller Bag
As I said at the beginning of this review, I’ve been using the Skooba Checkthrough Roller Bag now for several weeks and I don’t think I’ll be switching out anytime soon. The bag has taken a small beating that you would expect with normal travel and has held up exceptionally well. The versitility of the bag’s internal configuration – from a day bag to a full-on geek bag – makes it a real plus. You don’t have to change bags out to fit your needs. This bag fits them for you.
The Skooba Checkthrough Roller Bag sells for $189.95 and can be found on the Skooba Design. It is important to note that Skooba Design did provide this unit for me to review.
What I Like:
* Flexible storage
* It can be a day travel bag – even has shoe holders!
* Great roller action -wheels are smooth rolling but durable
* Easy-to-use security checkpoint opening
What Needs Improvement:
* It’s a little heavy but not overly so