WaterField Sutter Slim Laptop Backpack Review: Compact Size with Huge Features

Gear Diary is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn More.

The Lowdown

I’m a huge fan of the WaterField Sutter Slim Laptop Backpack. It’s the right size and has all the features I need without any of the extras I don’t. The bag is already wearing in nicely, and because it is from WaterField, I know it will last for years.

Overall
4.5

Pros

  • WaterField’s construction is excellent, and their bags last for years of daily use
  • This bag shows the brand’s commitment to thoughtful storage without going overboard
  • The bag stays slim and looks good even when loaded
  • Easy access to outside storage
  • Well-organized internal storage

Cons

  • I get why the backpack doesn’t have a slot for a water bottle, but there are still times when I wish it did
  • No sternum strap
WaterField Sutter Slim Laptop Backpack Review: Compact Size with Huge Features Listen to this article

As gas hit prices few have ever experienced in America this past spring, I decided to start riding my bicycle to work. I quickly discovered that I needed a backpack small enough to wear on a bike comfortably but large enough to carry all of my day’s gear. Enter the WaterField Sutter Slim Laptop Backpack; it’s perfect for my needs.

If you’ve been reading Gear Diary for any time, you likely know that we’re huge fans of WaterField’s products. I like their bag designs, and I appreciate the organization built into them; it’s smart and practical without being overly done.WaterField bags are very durable, and it is a joy to watch them change over time as they get used and gain “patina blemishes,” which make my bags unique to me.

And I love that their products are designed and crafted in their San Francisco workshop.

Rarely does the day go by when I’m not using one product from them or another. When I travel, I usually carry the Air Porter Carry-on. When I’m heading out for a few days, I take their Staad Backpack. My daily driver for the past few years has been the Sutter Tech Sling that I reviewed some time ago. And don’t get me started on the WaterField Tech Folio; I use it constantly.

On top of that, I never travel without my WaterField Indy Bag; Judie reviewed it and then was kind enough to send it to me. That bag has been to Israel multiple times, Hawaii, Greece, the Galapagos, the national parks out west, Sonoma, California, and more. It is about as well-loved a bag as you will find, but the years of use have only made the leather softer and the patina deeper; after all these years, it is still perfect from a functional perspective.

In other words, I am a huge fan of WaterField bags and accessories, and I have been for some time.

Model wearing the Waterfield Sutter Slim Laptop Backpack

So when I wanted something different that would work for my bicycle ride to and from work, the WaterField Sutter Slim Laptop Backpack seemed to fit the bill quite nicely. Having used the bag for some time, I can report that it’s a great backpack for bike commuting and more.

WaterField describes the backpack this way:

Sharp, Compact, Balanced. The Sutter Slim Laptop Backpack packs a laptop, tablet, and accessories in a small amount of space. Convenient external top and front pockets for easy-access items. Full-grain front leather panel ages beautifully.

The backpack WaterField sent me for review is made from the company’s brown waxed canvas; it is also available in 1050 Denier black ballistic nylon. The ballistic nylon is great, especially if you need something that looks a little more professional, but I tend to opt for the waxed canvas since I love how they look as they break in over time.

Of course, as with almost every WaterField bag, there are full-grain leather accents which only add to their aesthetic appeal.

Side view of the Waterfield Sutter Slim Laptop Backpack

The Sutter Slim Laptop Backpack is only available in one size. It measures 11.25″ (l) x 3.75″ (w) x 15.5″ (h) and weighs in at just over two pounds. Despite its relatively small size, the backpack offers 11 liters of storage space.

The backpack is specifically designed to hold a single day’s worth of personal and tech gear without looking overstuffed. After using it for a few days, I realized that WaterField hit the nail on the head concerning the size. The backpack holds everything I need for a day at the office, but it isn’t so large that I’m tempted to overstuff it. That would, of course, not be ideal for biking.

The entire front panel of the backpack is made from WaterField’s full grain leather. It looks and feels fantastic and, as you can see in the pictures, it’s already picked up some marks during use. To my mind, this only adds to the richness of the bag.Front view of the Waterfield Sutter Slim Laptop Backpack

A weatherized zipper at the top of the leather panel opens to reveal a small pocket for items you want quick access to during the day.

Pocket at the top of the Waterfield Sutter Slim Laptop Backpack

A zipper extends on each side of the leather panel from the bottom to about the middle; unzipped, it reveals a nicely sized compartment for additional items you might want to grab quickly.

Side panel pocket on the Waterfield Sutter Slim Laptop Backpack

One feature I particularly like is that both zippers access the same compartment. So you can flip the bag to either side and quickly access what’s in the bag without having to take it off both shoulders.

The side zippers access the same pocket in the Waterfield Sutter Slim Laptop Backpack's front panel.

If the zipper were placed only on one side or the other, you’d always have to take it off in that direction, making it ambidextrous. There’s even a metal key clip inside, so your keys don’t get lost in the bag.

Key clip on the Waterfield Sutter Slim Laptop Backpack

These two quick-access spaces are great since they let me put electronics in one section and personal items in the other. So much thought goes into WaterField designs, and when you start using them, it only becomes more and more obvious.

Because the WaterField Sutter Slim Laptop Backpack is relatively small, you won’t find water bottle holders on either side, but I found that my water bottle fits inside the main compartment quite nicely.

ThermoWorks Thermapen Mk4

There is a grab handle trimmed in leather at the bag’s top.

Leather top handle on the Waterfield Sutter Slim Laptop Backpack

I always appreciate it when backpacks have an integrated handle that is functional and comfortable to grab when the bag is full, making it far easier to grab and go.

The shoulder straps are made from a soft, breathable mesh on the underside with waxed canvas on the outer side. It looks nice, but even more importantly, the breathable mesh on the underside, where the bag will touch your clothing, keeps you from sweating too much while wearing it.

Mesh back panel on the Waterfield Sutter Slim Laptop Backpack

The shoulder straps are permanently attached to the lower corners of the backpack and have sturdy plastic hardware for adjusting the size. Surprisingly, the WaterField Sutter Slim Laptop Backpack doesn’t have a sternum strap, but with a small backpack like this, I guess it isn’t really needed.

The bag’s back panel has the same breathable mesh, but it is divided into two sections. The top half is permanently affixed to the bag, while the lower half is only attached to the sides so it can slip over a roller board’s handle.

The small details make WaterField bags as special as they are.

The main compartment has two zippers so it can be opened wide or, if the need arises, the zippers can be brought together, and a small padlock can be used to secure the contents.

The main compartment of the Waterfield Sutter Slim Laptop Backpack

Of course, the zipper is weather resistant, which is particularly important as you’ll likely be carrying a laptop and a tablet inside. As will be familiar to anyone who has ever used a WaterField bag, the interior lining is a gold material that makes it easy to see what’s inside.

728x90

A padded laptop sleeve can hold laptops up 15″ in size; a 16″ MacBook Pro also fits, but it may be a bit tight. A second padded sleeve is in front of the laptop sleeve, perfect for a tablet as large as the “12.9” iPad Pro.

Organization pockets in the Waterfield Sutter Slim Laptop Backpack

The strap comes down from the top of the bag, securely holding the laptop and tablet in place with Velcro; this is particularly important when you’re using the bag the way I do and don’t want your precious electronics to move around too much.

WaterField Sutter Slim Laptop Backpack Review: Compact Size with Huge Features

The other side of the WaterField Sutter Slim Laptop Backpack’s interior has some nice organizational features, including two open pockets for holding items such as a laptop wall adapter and three pen slots. That’s the organization’s extent; I’ve found it’s just enough without being too much.

WaterField Sutter Slim Laptop Backpack Review: Compact Size with Huge Features

The remainder of the interior gives you a nice cavernous area that holds far more than you might expect.

Here’s Gary walking through the Waterfield Sutter Slim Laptop Backpack’s features.

I love carrying my Sutter Slim Sling, but it doesn’t work for me when I’m on a bike. This WaterField Sutter Slim Laptop Backpack has the design features I love in the Sling but delivers them in a form that is just a bit larger and that sits a bit more securely on my back —which is just what’s needed for my commute!

Model wearing the Waterfield Sutter Slim Laptop Backpack

I’m a huge fan of the WaterField Sutter Slim Laptop Backpack. It’s the right size and has all the features I need without any of the extras I don’t. The bag is already breaking in nicely, and because it is from WaterField, I know it will last for years.

I’ve been quite pleased with the waxed canvas version of this backpack, but if you need something a little more formal, the black ballistic with black leather will work well.

The WaterField Sutter Slim Laptop Backpack sells for $249; it is available directly from the manufacturer.

Source: Manufacturer supplied review sample

What I Like: WaterField’s construction is excellent, and their bags last for years of daily use; This bag shows the brand’s commitment to thoughtful storage without going overboard; The bag stays slim and looks good even when loaded; Easy access to outside storage; Well-organized internal storage

What Needs Improvement: I get why the backpack doesn’t have a slot for a water bottle, but there are still times when I wish it did; No sternum strap

728x90

As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases. Thanks for your support!


About the Author

Dan Cohen
Having a father who was heavily involved in early laser and fiber-optical research, Dan grew up surrounded by technology and gadgets. Dan’s father brought home one of the very first video games when he was young and Dan remembers seeing a “pre-release” touchtone phone. (When he asked his father what the “#” and “*” buttons were his dad said, “Some day, far in the future, we’ll have some use for them.”) Technology seemed to be in Dan’s blood but at some point he took a different path and ended up in the clergy. His passion for technology and gadgets never left him. Dan is married to Raina Goldberg who is also an avid user of Apple products. They live in New Jersey with their golden doodle Nava.