Multiple compartments make organizing easy
Thick polyester fabric feels sturdy and protective
High-use points reinforced with stronger materials
Shoulder straps sport extra padding for comfort
Thick metal zippers designed to last
Fits laptops up to 17 inches
Uneven weight makes bag tip sometimes
Multiple zippers make noise
Heavy for a backpack, even when empty
Savvy travelers have long known the benefits of using a backpack for quickly getting around airports or train stations: Most backpacks are compact enough to serve as a personal item, and they’re easy to carry around as you sightsee. Plus, you don’t have a wheeled suitcase dragging behind you while you rush to your next platform or gate.
However, many of the best-designed backpacks don’t put a lot of thought into the materials people are carrying, which creates problems with delicate screens and laptops. SWISSGEAR, on the other hand, has given the tech-forward traveler a lot of thought with the 1900 ScanSmart Laptop Backpack. We used this reasonably priced piece of luggage for a weekend trip recently to see how the materials, pockets, and electronic protectors performed.
Material: Sturdy, smooth polyester
The main body of the SWISSGEAR 1900 ScanSmart Laptop Backpack is constructed with 1200D ballistic polyester fabric. To the touch, we thought this fabric felt smoother and higher-quality than most other backpack fabric. The material is also lined with another layer of sleek polyester, which gives the feeling of better protection for anything inside the case.
Oversized zippers and a medium carabiner on the front of the backpack are made with thicker metal instead of plastic. The thicker zipper pulls seem like they can hold up better to the bangs and hits that travel invites on any type of luggage. However, the zippers ended up being one element we didn’t like after a few days of use. They are noisy when they hit against one another, which made storing or removing the suitcase a loud undertaking.
The oversized, padded straps are also made with a ventilated material on the sides that come into contact with the shoulders and front of the body. During our tests, that helped reduce sweating while walking several blocks in hot temperatures. One strap has a sewn-in loop labeled with an image of sunglasses. We found it snug enough to safely store shades when inside, but it’s not protective for storage, so don’t forget to remove them before putting your bag away.
The top grab handle is reinforced with a rugged easy-grip plastic cover. This made holding the backpack easier on the hand, even when it was at its heaviest. We thought it also provided a comfortable grip for pushing or pulling the backpack from a carry-on compartment.
Design: Well-considered for a techy traveler
SWISSGEAR put a great deal of thought into every inch of this bag, and it shows. We found that there were more compartments than we needed to carry a laptop, several notebooks, ink pens, chargers, headphones, and books. The location of each compartment made a great deal of sense for how travelers work in and out of their bags while on the move.
SWISSGEAR put a great deal of thought into every inch of this bag, and it shows.
For example, the laptop compartment is in its own padded cradle in the back of the backpack. It has its own zipper, and it’s designed to fit a laptop up to 17 inches. For extra movement protection, this section even has a padded arm for strapping in the computer.
A floating tablet pocket, with its own zippered entry, sits between the laptop and the main body of the backpack. A neoprene sleeve in the tablet pocket adds a layer of protection, and the suspended nature of the pocket (it sits about 4 inches from any of the backpack’s zippered sides) helps guard against damage from drops or slams.
The tablet and laptop compartments open into a lay-flat position; simply unzip and pass through TSA screening without removing the devices from the bag. (However, you should still abide by the agents’ request if they ask you to remove all electronic devices from your bags.)
Two side compartments are ventilated and zippered and the just-right size for water bottles. At the base of these pockets are mesh pockets with an elastic top. We found these were ideal for quickly stashing change or stowing a phone in a hurry.
A large center pocket has two divided sections for storing papers. A wide bottom is broad enough for notebooks or hefty books. Inside that pocket, at the top of the flap, the brand also included a webbed, zippered pouch for yet another place to stash items such as cords and cables. Directly across from this pound sits a petite padded pouch. It’s the just-right size for an audio device or a cell phone, and we were able to thread a pair of headphones through the opening in the lining of the backpack for easy listening while standing in line.
The tablet and laptop compartments open into a lay-flat position; simply unzip and pass through TSA screening without removing the devices from the bag.
Lastly, the front of the backpack features two zippered pockets. The one at the bottom of the pack includes one large compartment, two medium ones, three writing utensil spots, and a webbed pocket. At the top of this pocket hangs a key ring that can be quickly removed from a clip and then returned when you’re finished with the keys. The second zippered pouch sits just above this one. It’s shallow but sturdy, so we used it to store a wallet that we didn’t want to risk dropping while rifling through the lower pocket for keys.
Portability: Heavier than most, but tough
The company lists the bag’s dimensions as 18.5 x 13.5 x 9 inches, but when we measured the empty bag, we got 21 x 15.5 x 6 inches. Still, it’s small enough to serve as a personal item when you fly (it’ll stow easily underneath the seat in front of you on the plane). We also weighed the empty pack and found it’s more than 3 pounds without a single electronic. Many packs are well below 2 pounds. Though a pound might make little difference at first, every ounce of a pack on your back will begin to weigh on you and your shoulders.
It was difficult to distribute the weight just right, so the pack would frequently tip forward.
With that in mind, likely, the SWISSGEAR designers put great care into the padded shoulder straps. They are extra wide (about 3 inches), and at the center of each strap is an extra layer of padding. This helped mitigate pressure during our tests so we didn’t feel the need to frequently remove the pack to let our shoulders rest.
When you do set it down, keep an eye on it. We found it was difficult to distribute the weight just right, so the pack would frequently tip forward, spilling anything that might be unzippered. Once it’s heavy enough, it won’t go anywhere, but empty or mostly empty bags appear to be front heavy, and they tumble forward.
Color: Great selection for varied tastes
This SWISSGEAR laptop backpack comes in eight colors. The primary color in each is black, but they have a few heather-gray options as well. The black backpacks are paired with red, blue, and heather-gray. The brand also offers an all-heather gray backpack. The all-heather gray backpack feels a touch more sophisticated, at least in our opinion, and could easily be carried as a work bag because of its overall sleek aesthetic. The shoulder straps feature a reflective accent material for safety when traveling at night.
Price: More than most, but a good bargain
This isn’t your average backpack, so you won’t be paying a typical price. At this median price point ($69.99), you’re getting a great deal of smart design and careful craftsmanship. Plus, SWISSGEAR offers a limited warranty—three years if you buy in other stores; 10 years if you buy on the brand’s site.
SWISSGEAR 1900 ScanSmart Laptop Backpack vs. Rockland Luggage Melbourne Carry-On
Rockland, like SWISSGEAR, has an expansive line of suitcases. It’s also considered one of the more affordable brands, with much of the items costing well under $100. We tested Rockland Luggage’s 20-inch expandable Melbourne carry-on (view on Amazon), which costs just a bit more than the SWISSGEAR 1900 ScanSmart Laptop Backpack—or about the same if you get it on sale.
Both are made with sturdy materials, designed to protect what’s on the inside, but the right one for you will depend largely on what you’re planning to carry with you on the plane. For techy-travelers, the handy backpack is a no-brainer. However, if you can keep busy with a book while the pilot flies you to your destination, make the most of your carry-on space with the mini rolling suitcase. Plus, the Rockland luggage comes in 33 different colors.
Buy it if you travel with a lot of electronics.
If you don’t leave home without your laptop, tablet, two phones, and a multitude of chargers and cords, the highly organized SWISSGEAR 1900 ScanSmart Laptop Backpack is worth the money—and the time it will take to decide where you want to store everything.
- Product Name 1900 ScanSmart TSA Laptop Backpack
- Product Brand SWISSGEAR
- MPN 1900202418
- Price $69.99
- Weight 3.3 lbs.
- Product Dimensions 21 x 15.5 x 6 in.
- Color Black, Black/Red, Blue, Gray, Heather Gray, Urban Heather
- Volume 31 L
- Material Polyester
- Warranty 3 years limited; 10 years if purchased on swissgear.com