A few weeks before we headed to CES, Solo NY reached out and asked if we were interested in reviewing their Unbound backpack. Since there’s no better torture test than a week lugging gear around Las Vegas, it came with me every step of my trip, and impressed me deeply with the amount of gear it held without being bulky.
Honestly, at first glance, I was skeptical it would work out well. It seemed like a fairly compact backpack for the amount of stuff I needed to carry, between my MacBook Pro, two textbooks for a class, my Kindle, a spiral notebook, plus a few external chargers…and that was just what I needed for the plane! I was pleasantly surprised at how comfortable it felt even fully loaded. I wound up downloading the Kindle version of my one textbook because the only thing worse than Newark Airport at 6 am is Newark Airport at 6 am with an extra 3 pounds to lug, but I did slip the book in just to test it, and the backpack swallowed it all without looking overstuffed or showing any signs of weakness.
Once we were in Las Vegas, the Unbound pack became my everything for several days. Each morning I headed out with my computer, a charger, and a few essentials, but between meetings that handed out pamphlets, picking up souvenirs for my son, and loading up with snacks throughout the day, I somehow managed to have a very filled pack at the end of each night. It didn’t matter if I had one item or 15 in my bag, the Unbound was comfortable to wear either way. I especially appreciated the side pockets, since they were very handy for tucking away extra water bottles. The TSA was less impressed since I forgot I had a Red Bull in one of the pockets until I went through security on my way home.
Speaking of the TSA, the Unbound has a neat trick to make air travel slightly less painful. The laptop portion of the pack unzips to lay completely flat, so in theory, you do not need to unload your laptop into a separate bin. Newark had no issues with me putting the backpack through open, but at McCarran, in Las Vegas, they did ask me to remove the computer from the bag. I found the laptop section to be roomy enough to accommodate my computer as well as a fairly stiff sleeve I have for it, and the tablet side pocket kept my case-free Kindle free from bumps and scratches.
The middle compartment has two mesh pockets along one side to keep things organized, but it otherwise is perfect for stuffing just about everything you might need. I could easily fit a flannel, some notebooks, a magazine or two, and some books without a problem. There are adjustable straps if you want to tighten up the pack or give it a bit more breathing room to expand. The two front pockets worked nicely as well. One has organizer slots for pens and other small items, and then there’s a super tiny access pocket on the top, which was the perfect place to store mints, Advil, eye drops, and other items for quick and easy access. If I had to criticize anything about the interior, it would be that it was a bit dark for my taste. I prefer a bright contrasting interior to make it easier to see, but that’s more of a nitpick than a deal breaker.
I had one issue with the Unbound pack-the chest strap. It is extremely flimsy, and, to put it politely, if you are a woman you’re not going to use it because, well, the placement does an excellent job of somehow pushing down on your boobs while also making a uniboob. It’s truly a mastery of physics. Honestly, that would be fine if it was comfortable and did a good job taking pressure off your shoulders, but it feels more like someone thought last-minute they should add a chest strap rather than something carefully designed. The shoulder straps are excellent, however, and I didn’t feel like it needed a chest strap.
In the end, the Solo NY Unbound was pretty much the perfect backpack for CES-it worked well while lightly packed as well as stuffed to the gills, it looked nice, had an adjustable profile to keep it slim, and it was tough as nails. It’s a fantastic backpack, and at only $86.99 it’s priced remarkably well. It looks nice enough to bring to an office, but is tough enough to survive any urban adventure!
Source: Manufacturer supplied review sample
What I Like: Fit a great deal of gear; shoulder straps were comfortable; lots of pockets and easy organization options; roomy water bottle pockets; unfolds completely if you need to go through TSA.
What Needs Improvement: Chest strap is flimsy.