Lighten That Load: the Skooba Shuttle Backpack REVIEW

As a downtown worker, I have to make a daily jaunt of several long city blocks to my office. It’s not because I choose to walk, but rather, it’s because the expense of downtown parking. Thus, I carry the necessities of mobile computing on my back like a modern day beast of burden like everyone else I see whether it’s downtown, at the universities, or the tourists.

Of course, all of the gadgets along with the related materials such as books and assorted odd and ends need to be compartmentalized in an orderly fashion, while keeping weight and comfort in check.

Skooba Design is well known for their unique line of traditional bags, satchels, sleeves and organizers. They have introduced a new backpack: the Skooba Shuttle.

Let’s take a look at this distinctive backpack.

From the Skooba Design website:

The Skooba Shuttle doesn’t look like any other laptop backpack you’ve ever seen (and if you’re reading this, we’re guessing you’re probably not the type who wants to look like everyone else). The Shuttle is a lightweight—yet seriously protective—laptop backpack with a fresh and unique approach to styling, shaping and color.

When I first opened the box containing the Skooba Shuttle backpack, my immediate reaction was, “Oh my!” Frankly, I didn’t know exactly what to think. The blue/black color combination was striking; the construction looked to be of high quality; and the materials used was industrial strength Ballistic Nylon.

The long and slim appearance threw me for a loop. I’ve gotten used to seeing bags that range from looking very bland, oversized with poor comfort considerations or that were too trendy ( U G L Y ) or those to be of any use short of a pillowcase on a stick.

Another thought that I had about the Skooba Shuttle backpack was it was too thin to carry any quantity of items.

Keep in mind that I tend to over pack. In the old days prior to laptops, I would stuff a briefcase with folders full of papers that I would take home every night only to never open. To this day, I can stuff a backpack with gadgets and cables that will never get used, but will come in handy for that special one time use. After all, I just may have a need for 8 AA and 4 AAA batteries! Best to be prepared. Fortunately, the design of the Skooba made me rethink how to transport the items I really needed on a daily basis.

I’m going to approach this review in a different way. My comments will contrast the bullet point specifications that Skooba Design published on the website.

  • 15+ pockets and compartments hold laptop, files and folders, gadgets, accessories and more.

Looking at the Skooba, there are primarily three zippered compartments. The main one holds a laptop, the second holds a music player and the third holds the usual accessories. Inside the bag is a good mixture of open mesh pockets, Velcro closures or zippered compartments.

  • Adjustable, quick-release retention strap secures laptop of virtually any size, including most 17” screen models up to 16.5?L x 11.75?H x 3?W

This compartment perplexed me the most. Fitting an Apple MacBook, Toshiba or Dell laptop into the deep slot swallowed the laptop.

I was concerned about the wasted space from side to side and especially at the top.

While adequately padded, my comfort level would have been much higher if there was a thick padded bottom inside the pocket.

I would recommend using a sleeve to encase smaller laptops to gain that “snug as a bug in a rug” fit.

The space in the front of the laptop compartment can accommodate file folders and books, but there no pocket sleeves to keep them separate. I kept the Apple power cord and battery pack stowed at the bottom, so that I could stack a couple of books or a flat frozen meal for lunch on top of it. On top of the books, I placed my digital camera in its case to complete the stacking. Because of the slimness of the Skooba Shuttle backpack, I wanted to make sure that there was no protruding bulkiness that would placed pressure against the LCD Screen.

Here’s the clip with the fold over flap to secure the laptop.

On the inside of the zippered front there is a top zippered compartment to stash some items like cords, cables or a round cd case. At the bottom are two deep mesh compartments for accessories as well; a power cord and battery could be stowed in this mesh compartment.

  • Accessory organizer compartment on front of bag provides pockets for phone or other compact gadgets, CDs, pens, cables, keys, business cards and more.

The compartment was adequate – no complaints here.

Just keep in mind that items should be flat as a general rule. My round Advil bottle didn’t fit in one of the slim pockets.

  • Music player pocket with headphone exit port

Located on the exterior, the pocket is oversized. An iPod, iTouch, or Zune fits without a problem.

There is not a sleeve inside to keep a player in the upright position if you want to listen via the headphone exit port. Not a big deal.

  • Padded, ergonomic shoulder straps with additional accessory pocket and wire keeper.

The shoulder straps are adequately padded and distributed the weight very well without cutting in the shoulders. The Skooba really excelled with this design feature.

As for the pocket and wire keeper (a vecro hold down), I can’t really think would fit in this compartment unless it’s a phone smaller than a Samsung Blackjack.

This would be the perfect place to have a larger compartment to accommodate popular sized phones. Most likely a small flash MP3 player or a Bluetooth headset will find a home in this pocket.

  • External quick storage panel ideal for jackets, umbrellas, etc.

If you got a windbreaker, then roll it up and stash it through the openings.

  • Mesh pouch for water bottle hides away in its own zippered compartment on the side of the bag

This pocket holds a plastic water container. A disposable 9 oz water bottle fits loosely in the compartment.

  • Moisture-wicking back panel

Just like the shoulder straps, the back panels are adequately padded and distributed the weight on the shoulder blades and lower back very well.

  • Dual handles with padded grips, for comfortable hand-carrying

Carrying a laptop inside the Skooba Shuttle will most likely be too heavy to carry by the handgrips alone. However, if you’re on a subway way train or bus, then the grips are adequate to keep a tight grip on your backpack.

Primary materials: Ballistic Nylon exterior with neoprene panels. All interior sections fully lined with smooth nylon pack cloth.

Hardware and trim: All load-bearing points massively reinforced with ‘box-X’ stitching. Self-repairing zippers, rubber bottom treads

Overall Size: 19.50?H x 14?L x 9?D (Nominal)

Weight: 53 oz.

At the bottom of the bag are 1 3/4? x 6? feet to provide additional padding protection and keep the bag from sitting directly on nasty floors.

Skooba Pose
photo courtesy of Skooba Designs

I like the Skooba Shuttle as it has forced me to really think about what to carry. Once I have pared the non essential items back, the padding on the shoulder straps and back panels made carrying the items with ease. The thinness of the design requires a bit of thinking of keeping things flat as to not place any pressure on the laptop. I’m just a stickler for keeping expensive laptops from any accidental breakage. The Skooba Shuttle doesn’t offer an overly generous area to just toss items into. If you’re a minimalist or like carrying items in an organized fashion than the Skooba Shuttle is the perfect bag for you.

I do like the color scheme of the Blue/Black combinations. Other colors include Grey/Orange and Red/Olive combinations.

The Skooba Design Shuttle is available directly from the manufacturer.

MRSP: $139.95 (on sale at $119.95)

What I Like:
Well made of quality materials
Lightweight design with comfortable shoulder padding
Interior compartments
Distinctive look and color schemes
Slim design

What Needs Improvement:
Thicker padding in the laptop compartment especially at the bottom
Making the additional accessory pocket on the strap larger to accommodate popular sized phones

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Gear Diary Staff
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