The WaterField Cargo Mambo Combo Review

It’s been five years since I helped review the WaterField Designs Cozmo bag, and two years since I reviewed the VertiGo. While I eventually grew out of both bags, to this day I still use the Gearpouch and SleeveCase (with flap and D-rings) that I received along with the Cozmo in late 2002. The Gearpouch goes with me every time I travel (I keep it loaded with Gomadic cables and tips, card readers and other assorted small items), and the SleeveCase still holds my aging Fujitsu P2110 – which I am always threatening to sell or give away, but will probably keep until it finally dies. ;-)I was recently offered the chance to review the Cargo, a larger WaterField laptop bag, as part of the Cargo Mambo Combo. This set is made up of? the bag itself, a shoulder pad, a Gearpouch or Cableguy pouch, and a SleeveCase.

Ordering a WaterField bag is a highly personalized experience, as there are several choices that must be made. You can choose from various colors of Indium (checkered) or solid black ballistic nylon for the front flap and top…

WaterField Cargo bag colors
photo courtesy of WaterField

…or various colored leathers.


There are three sizes of Cargo bags to choose from, the aptly named small, medium or large…

WaterField Cargo bag size comparison?
photo courtesy of WaterField

…and there is also a choice of aluminum aircraft buckle or para-gliding buckle (+$10). ?

WaterField buckles compared
photo courtesy of WaterField

There is an interactive customization wizard to help you decide which sizes and options to add for each item in the combo.

I was sent the Medium Cargo in Celeste Indium (checkered green and black), with a medium Cableguy in solid black, and a Horizontal SleeveCase (size 24-18) to fit my Fujitsu T-4215.?The medium bag measures approximately 17″ wide x 12.5″ tall x 4.5″ deep. The bag’s exterior is composed of? water-resistant, tough ballistic nylon which will resist getting dirty, getting ripped, or showing stains.?Everything about the WaterField’s construction screams quality, and according to a card I found in the bag’s interior, “WaterField bags are designed and made in San Francisco, where rent is high, labor expensive, and competition is intense.” Well okay! The card also says, “We wouldn’t go anywhere else.” πŸ™‚

The removable gel-filled shoulder?pad measures 8.5″ long x 2.25″ wide x 0.75″ thick, and it attaches to the 2″ nylon shoulder strap with a strip of Velcro.

The back side of the pad is lined with a “non-sliding material to prevent bags from sliding off the shoulder or wrinkling clothes.” The material feels like a rubbery micro-suede, if you can imagine that.

There are two leather-wrapped nylon strap handles on the top of the bag, and the way that the leather is wrapped allows the handles to be stacked on top of each other to make a single thick (and comfortable) handle when the bag is not being carried on the shoulder.

On the front flap of the Cargo is a 15″ long diagonal zipper securing an approximately 13″ wide x 7″ tall pocket, the interior of which is lined in black ballistic nylon.?This pocket would be perfect for holding plane tickets, a passport, bus or train passes – really it would be good for any flat item which needs to be regularly and easily accessed. I should mention that all of the bag’s zippers have a 1″ long pull fashioned of? nylon cord with a 0.5″ plastic cap on the end to make a convenient pull.

There is also a 6″ tall x 3.5″ wide slash pocket on the right side of the bag, which can be used to keep a cell phone handy.

The back of the bag has a16″ wide x 11″ tall slash pocket which is kept closed (and from sagging) by a 4″ strip of Velcro. I know that I have complained about Velcro use in the past, but on this bag I feel that it is quite judicious.?This large pocket is lined in a diamond patterned gold ripstop nylon fabric, which allows the pocket’s contents to be easily viewable against its bright background.

The shoulder strap has a unique quick adjust strap which allows it to be made longer or shorter by lifting the squeeze-buckle on the side.

My bag came with the black and brass colored aluminum para-gliding buckle…

…which quick-releases when the brass colored “wings” are squeezed in a down-ward motion, causing the black aluminum tab to easily drop.

Under the buckled flap are two zippers which close a dome-shaped pocket measuring approximately 15.5″ wide x 10′ tall at the top of the dome. This pocket is slightly gusseted to allow it to expand to about 2″ wide.

Inside this large yellow diamond, nylon lined, open pocket is a 9″ wide x 7″ tall hanging slash pocket.

Above the zippered dome pocket are two 7.5″ wide x 10″ deep open pockets.

Each of these pockets are also lined in the high visibility yellow diamond fabric.

Here is a picture from the WaterField site of items in all of the pockets. I had to use this photo because the devices pictured tickled my fancy. πŸ˜‰

WaterField Cargo stuffed
photo courtesy of WaterField

Across the top of the bag is a 17″ long zipper with a?single pull. Inside this approximately 12″ tall x 4.5″ deep pocket is a hanging organizational panel built into the mid-wall section.

There are ?five pockets built into this panel, including a pen pocket that is 3.5″ wide x 5″ deep, a 5.5″ wide x 5.5″ tall PDA pocket, a 4″ wide x 5.5″ tall digital music player pocket, a business card holder, and a 6″ wide x 5.5″ tall PDA pocket.

Here is a picture from the WaterField site showing the pockets stuffed, as well as the SleeveCase in place.?When not carrying a laptop, the Cargo can make a great book-bag, as it will hold at least two thick text books and a spiral notebook. Be forewarned that the Cargo has no real padding without the SleeveCase, so some kind of padded carrier must be used when toting a laptop if you don’t have the sleeve.

WaterField Cargo main compartment stuffed

This diagram shows that the 18″ wide large Cargo has basically the same features, with the addition of a bigger flat bottom to allow the bag to stand upright.

The SleeveCase appears to be a simple slip-cover, but it deserves a closer look. I have the 24/18, which basically measures 13.5″ wide x 10 tall. It is composed of black ballistic nylon with a Lead (dark gray) Indium bottom panel. On the front is a 2″ wide nylon strap which secures to the case via a 4″ strip of Velcro. A nylon loop at the bottom of the case and a ?nylon loop at the bottom of the strap will make for easy opening of the case and removal of the contained laptop. The interior of the SleeveCase is lined in approximately 0.25″ of soft padded neoprene, which will protect the carried laptop from bumps and shocks on all sides but the exposed one on top.

On the back side of the SleeveCase is a ?13″ wide x 8.5″ tall open slash pocket. The SleeveCase can be ordered with D-rings (+$5), with a separate carrying strap ($12 – 18), or plain like mine.

People who want complete protection for all sides of their laptop, versus easier access, will want to add the SleeveCase flap for an additional $15.

?My Mambo Combo included the medium Cableguy pouch, which has just enough Lead Indium trim to break up the solid black ballistic nylon exterior.

Both the front and back of this 10.75″ wide x 6.5″ tall pouch have 9.5″ wide YKK zippers…

…which each open to reveal a 10″ wide x 6″ tall compartment with a large open interior and two mesh pocket on the back wall. I can’t say enough good things about the organizational capabilities of the Cableguy. As much as I liked my Gearpouch, I like the Cableguy that much more. πŸ™‚

Here is a picture of Michael carrying the Cargo bag. He is about 5’11”, so you can see that the bag is a good size without being overwhelming.

And here is Michael wearing the Cargo bandolier style; he made the remark that he really liked the quick adjust shoulder strap system.

The WaterField Designs Cargo Mambo Combo is a great set of components that can be used together or separately to make either a good business brief-bag or a roomy laptop bag. The ability to personalize the bag will allow buyers to get exactly what they want, so that they can use the bag exactly how they need. If you have been looking for a versatile laptop bag, then you might want to take a look at this particular Mambo Combo.

The WaterField Designs Cargo Mambo Combo is available directly from the manufacturer.
MSRP: $199 – $289, $229 as tested
What I Like: Lots of pockets; comfortable padded shoulder strap; quality construction, personalized design, well laid out interior pocket panel; comfortable leather wrapped handles; judicious use of Velcro in Cargo bag; Cableguy pouch is extremely well laid out with lots of convenient pockets; SleeveCase can be as simple or complicated as the user would like
What Needs Improvement: Bag has little padding on its own, so a SleeveCase must be used when carrying a laptop

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About the Author

Judie Lipsett Stanford
Judie is the co-owner and Editor-in-Chief of Gear Diary, which she founded in September 2006. She started in 1999 writing software reviews at the now-defunct; from mid-2000 through 2006, she wrote hardware reviews for and co-edited at The Gadgeteer. A recipient of the Sigma Kappa Colby Award for Technology, Judie is best known for her device-agnostic approach, deep-dive reviews, and enjoyment of exploring the latest tech, gadgets, and gear.

2 Comments on "The WaterField Cargo Mambo Combo Review"

  1. Was that a Palm V in there?! Yessss!!!

  2. I know!!! Classic!! πŸ˜€

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