WaterField Cargo Bag Review


A while back I
received some cases for review from Gary Waterfield of

Waterfield designs
. Reviewed here are the large Cargo; a courier-type bag
and the SleeveCase; a laptop sleeve. The large Cargo
measures 16”x12”x5”.
Note that 5” refers to the average depth as the case
tapers from about 6” at the base, to just under 3” at the top. The SleeveCase
comes in a range of sizes to suit your laptop. Mine was for the Apple G4 so its
13.5”x9.5”x1.1” and fits like a glove. Like other bags in the Waterfield range
the Cargo and Sleeve case are made from a mix of materials: the exterior of the
Cargo is ballistic nylon and the interior is a mix of black ballistic (mainly
for the interior pockets) and gold-yellow coloured nylon as a liner. Giving
structure and strength to the case under the liner is a box made from corrugated
plastic padded with neoprene. Empty it weighs about 3.8 lbs. The Sleeve case is
mainly black ballistic on the outside, over black neoprene for the liner and
padding. The SleeveCase and Cargo are designed to be used together so this is
the way they are reviewed. However, both products can be used separately.

The Cargo

The cargo comes in
range of flap colours that can be viewed on the Waterfield site. My review
sample came in the chequered gold colour you see here. The pattern is very
striking and a great way to use bright colours with little danger of it looking
grubby with use.

The next view shows the very
cool-looking airline seat buckle and the diagonal zipper over the front pocket.
The Waterfield logo also looks great; if your name is Wendy Francis, Walter
Frogmorton, Wanda Freeman, Walid Farouq ….
well, you’d just have to buy this bag! The logo here
appears on the shoulder pad which is ballistic nylon backed by a velvety fabric
on the inside. This is very smooth and comfortable on the shoulder.

In the next pic you can see a big chunky
quick release buckle. This allows you to quickly adjust the strap for “over the
shoulder” or “around the neck” use. Just below the buckle is a small strip of
webbing under which you can tuck any stray length of shoulder strap.

This next view of the other side of the
bag shows what Waterfield refer to as a cell phone pocket. However, it’s a bit
big for that, so I’ve put a folding umbrella in there instead.

In all the previous exterior views the
bag was packed with the kit shown below. This is the kind of gear I would take
to work at my university. You can see my swimming kit and washbag at the top
left, my CLIÉ in its case, the SleeveCase, a spare hard drive, a Nikon Coolpix
in its case, a pair of speakers, one of Waterfield’s “Gearpouches” brim-full of
cables as well as other obvious bits. With this lot in the Cargo there was room
for more gear, but I stopped here because the weight of both bag and contents
was at about 21lbs. With this all-up weight the bag was comfortable for carrying
with either strap or handles.

The next view shows the huge newspaper
pocket at the rear of the bag. This can easily swallow-up a Sunday paper with
all the supplements. The only problem with this pocket is that it seals with
Velcro. If you reach in to get your magazine wearing wool, silk or anything
that’s likely to snag … it will snag. This Velcro could perhaps be removed and
replaced with a strip of elasticised material to keep the pocket lip tidy.

[Velcro located
under the marked area in picture]

The next view shows some handle detail.
These are of leather over nylon webbing. When I first saw the handles they
looked a little thin and I was concerned that with heavy loads they might dig
into my fingers. However, this is not the case and they work just fine; the
leather gives a good feel and because the handles are so thin I was able to
close my fingers together. The latter is an important issue to me. I’m quite a
big guy, but have small hands. Some cases designed for heavy loads come with big
beefy handles that force the fingers apart, adding to the burden of carrying the
load itself.

Inside the front flap and reached by a
diagonal zipper is a pretty big front pocket. In here I can put things like my
passport, tickets, my cell phone, change, keys, sticks of gum and other bits and
pieces. When looking in this pocket you notice that the rear wall is made from
waterproofed ballistic. I couldn’t tell whether the seams were taped, but this
feature would certainly deal with light showers.

Under the front flap is a zipped pocket
which itself contains a hanging pocket. In here I put my power adapter and plug,
as well as my speakers and remote control receiver. Ordinarily I wouldn’t put
such bulky items at the front of a bag as they would just stick out and distort
the front flap and its contents. However, a neat feature of the large Cargo
alleviates this problem. In the pic below I’ve marked the edges of the front
section of corrugated structural plastic. As you can see, there is a cut-out
more or less where the under-flap pocket sits. So any bulky or pointy stuff is
pushed in rather than out. This feature does not seem to diminish the protective
qualities of the case, and saves a bit of weight to boot.

Behind the zippered pocket is another pocket secured with
Velcro. This pocket is big enough for a few magazines or books. In the pic I’ve
put a ring of monitor cable in there.

In case its
not obvious, this next pic shows how the hanging pocket can be lifted so that
you can easily tuck stuff behind it; books, cable rings etc.

Here is the main compartment of the case
full with laptop in SleeveCase as well as that other gear shown earlier.

The SleeveCase sits in its own
compartment and is anchored either by the Velcro tab on the compartment, or by
using the Velcro tap from the SleeveCase. However, these tabs do cause a bit of
a problem in that the hook Velcro tends to snag as shown below. Already the
material just opposite the tab is beginning to pull. This problem is not going
to affect the functionality of the bag though, and after a while you get into
the habit of covering the hook Velcro with your fingers until
its in place over the loops.

located in marked area]

Organisation of the stuff is aided with the many hanging

The pockets are of black ballistic nylon
except for one in the middle (behind the blue CD case in the picture above)
which is of leather. It looks like its designed to
hold business cards. There are five hanging pockets in the main compartment, two
of which are nested. An obvious improvement here would be to create a bit more
contrast, perhaps by hanging the pockets on gold rather than black material.
Also, a few dedicated pen pockets would be handy.

At one end of the main compartment is a
short key lanyard. I think this is in the wrong location as you have to be very
careful that the keys don’t scratch the Powerbook when you remove it with the
keys in place. A better location for the lanyard would be in the front flap
pocket (under the diagonal strap). Also in the pic below you can just see one of
the SleeveCase D-rings used for attaching the SleeveCase shoulder strap. These
could do with being situated an inch or so lower on the sides of the Sleeve case
as if you forget to tuck them away they can scrape at the sides of the
“sensitive” G4 (though this is probably not an issue for users of other

A second minor problem with detail is
the male half of the front buckle. Its

secured to the bag with thin webbing and so it just hangs down. (I know,
I know … I can see the discussion board replies already!) This means that
closing the buckle with one hand is not so easy unless you have long arms or
have the shoulder strap very short. Still, this minor problem is worth living
with if you appreciate the fine aesthetics of the buckle, it looks great.

The SleeveCase

On to
some views of the SleeveCase.

It’s a svelte and minimalist protective case for your laptop. There are several
versions of the SleeveCase on the Waterfield site. The one I got was for my G4
and it fits perfectly. The trim comes in just one colour this time (lead indium)
and this is on the bottom 10% of the bag. The neoprene provides just enough
padding for short trips around the office, but if I was taking my G4 anywhere
else I’d use the SleeveCase / Cargo combination. The two together make for
excellent protection. Also on the bottom of the SleeveCase is a loop of webbing
that you can hold while removing your laptop from its case.

strap is not included with the SleeveCase by the way, and if you want to use it
you need the SleeveCase with D-rings like my review sample. Strap and D-rings
add $18 to the price but are well worth it for the extra functionality. The
strap has a rubberised pad that makes a great shock absorber. My sample also had
the addition of a flap of ballistic nylon rather than just a webbing tab. This
flap adds $15 to the price.

Finally, here is a shot of the whole
assembly in my shoulder:

The Cargo is currently my shoulder-bag
of choice. The pictures in this review and on the Waterfield site do not really
do justice to the quality of the design, and its implementation. The Cargo is
practical, but also very striking and stylish. Exuding quality from every seam
it is very well built; this bag will last. It even smells good! Being a bit of a
bag nut I’m always running around with something new on my shoulders, but it was
this bag that really drew comments from colleagues and students. There are some
minor problems as described above, but these pale when I think about the
interesting features and cool design. Its very
comfortable to carry, even with heavy loads. Like all the other Waterfield
products I’ve seen, a very impressive bit of kit.


Price: Large Cargo $209,
Medium Gearpouch $22

Striking and innovative design
Loads of storage compartments
Build quality
Carrying comfort
In the main, a “loud” interior … but

could do with a
little more of the bright stuff
No dedicated pen pockets
Velcro snagging issues
Main buckle requires long arms to close
Key lanyard in the wrong place


Product Information

Posted in: Laptops and Gear
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