If you’ve been looking for a well-designed bag that can carry everything a successful remote worker or road warrior might need, a bag that is so well constructed that you’ll be proud to carry it for decades, the WaterField Pro Executive Backpack should be at the top of your list. It’s truly the goldilocks of professional backpacks; it’s just right.
- Extremely well constructed using quality materials, including 1050 Denier black Ballistic nylon and beautiful full-grain leather
- Eye-catching or more staid, the four leather panel color choices give you professional options
- Subtle and unobtrusive exterior branding
- Stylish and sleek exterior with a well organized and practical interior
- Fits larger laptops up to 15″ long by 12″ wide
- There’s a back slot for slipping onto your suitcase’s trolley handle
- Backpack stands up on its own and won’t flop over
If you are one of the many who now has to work remotely, or if you regularly commute and need a bag that can hold it all and then some, you’ve come to the right review. Finding a well-made backpack that looks professional, has intelligently designed compartments, and that’s comfortable to carry when fully loaded is no easy feat; the WaterField Pro Executive Backpack handles it with élan.
WaterField‘s been in business since 1998, and I’ve been writing about their products since 2002; I felt a hint of nostalgia as I realized that! Like all the other items designed and sold by the company, the WaterField Pro Executive Backpack is made in small batches at their San Francisco factory.
WaterField is known for making uncluttered, well-designed products that will stand the test of time. When you buy something from them, you’re not only purchasing an exceptionally well-made item; you’re also supporting a US company that is known for paying their employees a living wage and treating them with respect.
With a stylish and sleek exterior composed of rugged yet soft 1050 Denier black Ballistic nylon and beautiful full-grain leather accents in your choice of Chocolate, Gray, Black, or Crimson, the Pro Executive Backpack looks fantastic, and it will garner compliments. Still, its beauty is much more than skin deep; once you start using it, you’ll find that this bag is incredibly well thought out and very practical!
The backpack measures about 16.5″ tall by 13.5″ wide by 7.5″ deep, it weighs 3.1 pounds empty, and its volume is 25.5 liters. One of the things that I most like about this bag is that even though it can hold so much, it always looks polished and professional.
Waterfield sent me the Pro Executive Backpack with crimson leather accents to review. I love the pop of color that the deep red leather panel on the front and the leather handle provide, but if you prefer something a little less eye-catching, the other available leather trim colors are all solid choices.
The top center of the front leather panel is embossed with “WaterField, Made in San Francisco,” which is the only obvious branding anywhere on the bag’s exterior. If you were to look very closely, though, you would see that all of the waterproof zippers have flat pulls with open centers that are subtly embossed with the Waterfield name.
I love this backpack’s style, not only because it looks professional but because it exudes understated luxury. The first things you notice about it are the clean lines and the unmistakable quality; there are no sloppy open elastic pockets on the sides, the hardware is discreet, and there aren’t a bunch of bungees or straps cluttering the front.
The WaterField Pro Executive Backpack is beautiful, and while it looks like it could be a designer product, you won’t feel like a walking billboard when you wear it.
The front of the Pro Executive Backpack has four exterior pockets; one in the center that is accessed from either side of the leather panel, one on each side, and one at the top.
Let’s start by taking a look at those pockets before we open up the main compartments of the bag.
On each side of the front leather panel, a 7.5″ long zipper opens into the same 14.5″ long by 7″ wide slim pocket. This tall pocket is the perfect place to keep plane tickets and other flat items that you might want to access quickly.
Separate zippers leading to the same pocket might seem odd at first, but it’s turned out to be genuinely convenient. Because of this feature, I can easily access the pocket’s contents from either side by swinging the backpack off one shoulder and holding the bag sideways while it is still on my other shoulder.
A zippered pocket on the bag’s lower right side measures 9.5″ tall by 7″ wide at the base. Three open mesh organizational pockets are lined up on the inside wall. The first mesh pocket measures 5.5″ tall by 4.5″ wide; next to it, there is a slim 5.5″ tall by 1.5″ wide pocket and then an even slimmer 5.5″ tall by 1.25″ wide pocket.
I keep my 20,000mAh power bank in the larger mesh pocket, and the smaller pocket right next to it is a convenient place to tuck the 6″ cable that I keep plugged into the battery.
Inside this zippered pocket, there is plenty of space to carry other items in front of the mesh panel. I usually keep a small bag of travel snacks there, but it’s roomy enough to hold an insulated stainless water bottle or a compact umbrella. Depending upon the height of the bottle or umbrella, you might be able to zip the pocket closed; if not, you can still zip the pocket most of the way and leave the top of your bottle or umbrella exposed.
On the bag’s lower left side, a 9.5″ tall by 7″ zippered pocket opens to reveal the same organized mesh pocket panel as on the right, with the addition of a metal key clip on a 4″ long flat nylon tether.
I tuck my phone into the larger mesh pocket when it’s not in hand, and I keep an assortment of pens in the smaller mesh pockets. Since we are in the middle of the latest Covid surge, I’ve been using this pocket’s open space to hold a ziplock bag full of fresh KN95 masks and a pack of WetOnes antibacterial wipes. But it can also hold a water bottle or compact umbrella when needed.
At the top of the front leather panel, there is a surprisingly large 8″ wide by 7″ deep zippered pocket that is perfect for storing any loose items that you want to access quickly. Many backpacks include a zippered pocket in this space, but they’re usually only large enough for a pair of sunglasses; discovering that this pocket was so big was serendipitous because I had the perfect use for it.
I tend to treat it as a catch-all for oddly-sized items that I need to keep handy, like my epi-pen, lip balm, hand sanitizer, and wireless earbuds.
Dual zippers open the roomy main compartment with a nicely padded bottom; it measures approximately 15″ tall by 12″ wide by 6″ deep. The zippers that secure this section don’t go all the way to the bottom of the bag; instead, they stop at the top of the side pockets. I thought at first that this might make it harder to access the items inside, but that has not been the case.
The WaterField Pro Executive Backpack’s main compartment is big enough to carry a pair of shoes and a couple of sets of clothes so that it can work very well as a weekend travel bag. Or you could use this compartment to carry your DSLR camera and lens, gaming device, a toiletry kit, a larger pair of over-ear headphones, or whatever else you might want to take, depending upon the situation.
When I travel, my loaded Oneadaptr Evri Accessories Pouch goes in first, followed by my billfold, sunglasses, eyeglasses, and a few other odds and ends. When I am not traveling, I remove the accessories pouch and carry purchases or other items there instead.
The last section is the laptop compartment. Inside, an open 13.5″ tall by 12″ wide padded laptop pocket is lined with a soft, fuzzy black protective material. The zippers on this section go almost down to the bottom, so the pocket opens very wide when fully unzipped.
If you carry a larger laptop, like the 16″ Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme Gen 4 I’m using, you’ll be pleased to know that this pocket can hold laptops that measure up to 15″ long by 10″ wide. So yes, it will hold your new 16″ MacBook Pro just fine!
There’s no Velcro tab or bungee cord at the top of this pocket, and I prefer that as it makes accessing my laptop more convenient.
On the opposite side of the laptop pocket, there is an unpadded 12″ tall by 12″ wide open pocket; I use this space to carry the massive power brick that my laptop requires, but it’s perfectly sized for a 12.3″ iPad Pro, a smaller second laptop, files, etc.
There’s about an inch-width of room at the bottom of this compartment that can carry extra files or other items.
The metal WaterField zipper pulls are designed with an open area in the middle; when there are double zippers present, as there are on the backpack’s two main compartments, you could use a small lock to secure the pulls together. Waterfield says that the zipper pulls’ black coating won’t scratch off, so don’t let that stop you from using a small lock if you need the extra security.
The WaterField Pro Executive Backpack has 3″ wide comfortably padded and adjustable shoulder straps with metal hardware and flexible rubber strap keepers. The backpack’s rear panel is padded and lined with a breathable black mesh that helps keep you cool on hotter days. The larger padded mesh panel is made so that you can slip it over your luggage’s trolley handle, which is very convenient.
I’ve only been on one trip so far with the WaterField Pro Executive Backpack, but it met my needs and performed flawlessly. Fully loaded for that trip, the backpack and its contents weighed almost 20 pounds, yet it was still comfortable to carry and easy to maneuver.
Even though it holds so much, this backpack has a slim enough profile to fit perfectly under the seats on both my regional flight from SJT to DFW and the larger plane from DFW to MIA with room to spare.
The beauty of this bag is that it works perfectly for me, and it would work perfectly for you, too. The items that I carry and how I arrange them are not the same that you or anyone else would, and that’s okay! The WaterField Pro Executive Backpack is so thoughtfully laid out and so practical, it will work for just about everyone!
If you’ve been looking for a well-designed bag that can carry everything a successful commuter, remote worker, or road warrior might need, a bag that is so well constructed that you’ll be proud to carry it for decades, the WaterField Pro Executive Backpack should be at the top of your list. It’s truly the goldilocks of professional backpacks; it’s just right.
The WaterField Pro Executive Backpack retails for $349; it is available directly from the manufacturer.
Source: Manufacturer supplied review sample
What I Like: Extremely well constructed using quality materials, including 1050 Denier black Ballistic nylon and beautiful full-grain leather; Eye-catching or more staid, the four leather panel color choices give you professional options; Subtle and unobtrusive exterior branding; Stylish and sleek exterior with a well organized and practical interior; Fits larger laptops up to 15″ long by 12″ wide; There’s a back slot for slipping onto your suitcase’s trolley handle; Backpack stands up on its own and won’t flop over
What Needs Improvement: Nothing