We were using a generic LL Bean backpack as a diaper bag, but when sent the Case Logic Berkeley Plus to review, we switched to it as our main backpack and never looked back. This is a backpack meant for a 15.6″ laptop, but we found it does an amazing job holding kiddo stuff PLUS delicate electronics; it’s only $59.99.
This is a fairly well structured backpack, and it’s quite stiff and holds form even empty. Even when it’s stuffed to the gills it doesn’t expand to an enormous size, which is nice. It holds a great deal, as we’ll see in a moment, but you don’t feel like you’re ready to climb Everest after you fill it. There’s a chest strap for extra support, and the shoulder straps are incredibly comfortable. They are on plastic rings that gives them a larger range of motion, and whether it’s the padding in the straps, the rings, or both, I’ve carried heavy loads in this pack for hours and not been sore.
The best way to understand how much this backpack holds is to go section by section through a typical daily outing. In front is the smallest pocket, which has two slash pockets inside and a mesh zippered area for small items. This pocket holds my son’s emergency allergy kit, my wallet, disposable bibs, and small snacks (like a bag of Cheerios). If you were using this for work or school, it would be a good place to hold index cards, a smartphone, wallet, flash drives, etc.
The second section is quite deep. It unzips and opens 180 degrees, so it’s great if you have multiple items inside and need to access the whole section. There is a slash pocket here too, deep enough to hold a notebook or some loose papers. We use this pocket to hold diapers, changing pad, toys, and books, and the slash pocket holds placemats. What’s great about this section is that you can stack and organize it however you wish, zip it up, and open it all the way to access everything, so it makes for a great “catch-all” pocket. The worst thing about backpacks is that moment when you realize you can’t find a small item without tearing apart everything else inside, so this is great. It’s also up against a padded area, so you could use this to hold a laptop and charger, especially if you have your computer in a sleeve.
Finally, there’s a back pocket that’s a bit tighter, and would fit a laptop without a sleeve or a tablet. It’s quite padded and protective, with a smooth interior and thick material on either side. We’ve stuffed this to the brim with an iPad Air (in a Griffin Survivor case), an iPad Mini, and a Surface RT. It was tight but everything fit! On a typical day we use this to hold extra clothes, because babies are unpredictable in all ways except one; they will get wet and dirty, and the extent to which they get wet and dirty is directly inverse to the amount of extra clothing you’ve packed away.
In addition to all the main pockets, there’s a tiny zipper pocket that sits at the small of your back, which could be used to hold small items or to keep valuables close to you. There’s also two side water bottle pockets that are nice and deep and can hold most reasonably sized bottles.
All of the pockets, stitching and zippers are top-notch, and seem like they will hold up well to abuse. We’ve used this backpack nearly daily for almost a month, and it still looks great. It has been through a wash cycle due to a spill, and it dried quickly. Everything about the backpack feels well designed and thought out, from the padding on the back that breathes well to the strap construction to the adjustable sternum strap. It feels like the backpack was designed with the user in mind, and care was taken to make sure it wasn’t just a roomy pack but also a very functional one.
Chances are you aren’t packing a dozen diapers, wipes, changing pad, change of clothes, wallet, keys, medicine, AND sensitive electronics in your backpack. But whatever important items you carry, the Case Logic Berkeley Plus backpack will keep them safe and keep you comfortable! Best of all, the price won’t break the bank! You can check out all the colors and options at Case Logic’s site.
Source: Case Logic Berkeley Plus backpack provided by the manufacturer
What I liked: Comfortable straps; holds lots of gear; many hidden organizer panels and slash pockets inside the main compartments; adjustable sternum strap; affordable price
What Needs Improvement: Small pocket on the back would be useful if it was slightly bigger.