booq Boa Flow M Laptop Backpack Review

It has been more than 20 years since I have regularly carried a backpack (college to be exact). It was a ratty (at least by the time I got done with it) old JanSport with mediocre construction, little comfort, and zero accommodations for tech-stuff, being the 80’s and all ;). Jumping to present day, today’s backpacks not only need to protect and carry all of our fragile technology and miscellaneous stuff, but do so in a much more ergonomic way. After using the Boa Flow M for a few weeks, I can definitely attest to the fact that this backpack by booq has evolved many quantum levels since (way) back-in-the-day.

The booq Boa Flow M is an all black bag with orange and gray trim and stitching.  Like the Boa Slimcase XL and XL90 laptop bags I reviewed a few years ago, the materials are top notch and the workmanship is very well done. The exterior of the backpack is made of a heavy-duty black ballistic nylon with a water-repellent coating. The ‘high-performance YKK’ zippers will withstand countless openings and closings.

The shoulder straps are nicely padded with both a waist and a chest strap; all adjustable to give a well-carried, comfortable ride. The front of the backpack has two zippered, exterior pockets. The back of the backpack is padded as well. Even fully loaded, it is comfortable and distributes the weight well.

The top allows access to the two main compartments designed to hold a majority of your stuff (front) and laptop (back). Between the two pockets, there is  a handle for carrying the bag horizontally.

The main front compartment has a large number of subpockets, of various sizes and shapes, for holding a multitude of tech-stuff. The picture on the right is devoid of any gear, the one on the right has all my tech-stuff within. My point is that, the Flow has a deceptive amount of space to carry stuff in and pockets-galore to keep it all organized (although, sometimes I have to search many pockets to find what I am looking for). Even loaded with everything I typically drag with me there is tons of room for extras.

The rear compartment is for your laptop. It is well padded and my 13″ MacBook easily slides inside. This compartment is large and lined with a soft material providing an ideal, protected place for your laptop. Designed to carry a laptop that is 13-15″ in size, or 13-17″ if you carry an Apple MacBook. This specialized pocket holds the laptop separately from the main pockets, placing the laptop directly against your back, providing even further protection.

Specifications:

  • Fits: 13-17 Mac, 13-15 PC
  • Max Laptop Size: 14.5″ x 10.5″ x 1.5″ (368 x 267 x 38mm)
  • Exterior: 18 x 14 x 9 (457 x 356 x 229mm)
  • Weight: 4.5 lb (2.05 kg)

Features:

  • Ballistic nylon exterior with water-repellant coating
  • Oversized YKK high-performance zippers
  • HD foam laptop compartment for optimum protection
  • Intelligent interior layout optimized for laptop accessories
  • Side pockets for phone, music player or water bottle
  • Limited 5-year Warranty

Both sides of the Flow have a moderately sized vertical, zippered pocket. Perfect for a small water bottle, rolled up magazine, or power brick and cords.

On the top/front of the Flow there is another compartment with several pockets, slots, and keyring holder to carry even more stuff.

Like a majority of booq’s bags, the Boa Flow has a metal tag with a unique ID number. And once registered, booq’s Terralinq service may be able to help you find your bag if lost.

The Boa Flow has a collapsible bottom compartment, which serves as a protected, separate place for your camera (or large headphones), specially sized for a DSLR camera. When the pocket is not in use, it can be collapsed to maximize space in the main compartment.

The Boa Flow sits nicely on my shoulders and is extremely comfortable. Back in the 80’s (at least in Renton, WA), few people wore their backpacks on both shoulders. Instead, we use to sling it over a single shoulder….pretty much as bad as it gets, ergonomically speaking. But either way, booq has engineered the Flow to distribute the weight of your load extremely well. Enabling you to carry a bunch of stuff along way.

Best thing of all is how well this backpack looks and fits my motorcycle gear. It is perfect for getting my laptop, gear, and lunch to and from work.

Overall, I (& the Gadgeteer Kid) really like the Boa Flow (he is trying to sweet-talk me into letting him use it (he likes black and orange lately)). This backpack is well made with high quality materials. It has a good amount of space to carry your laptop and gear around. booq has put a great deal of thought into the Boa Flow’s interior layout with protecting your laptop as this backpack’s primary concern plus a specially engineered compartment for your DSLR camera. At $200, the Flow is not inexpensive, but in this case you are getting what you pay for.

 

Product Information

Price:$199.95
Manufacturer:booq
Pros:
  • Excellent materials and workmanship
  • Very well made
  • Water-repellent coating
  • Separate, padded laptop compartment
  • Many pockets and compartments
  • Comfortable
  • Very nice looking
Cons:
  • A bit expensive
Posted in: Laptops and Gear, Reviews, Travel Gear

9 comments… add one

  • Garth May 27, 2010, 3:55 pm

    Great review.
    Question: what is the brand of the motorcycle jacket?

    1
  • Eric May 27, 2010, 4:16 pm

    I have the Booq Boa 3M and it is fantastic. I only wish I had purchased the Boa 3L, but they don’t make it anymore.

    2
  • Dave Rees May 27, 2010, 8:23 pm

    Hi Garth,

    My jacket is a Dainese. I bought it about 10 yrs ago and its still going strong. I love it. I have yet to find another jacket even close to the style, quality, or protection.

    Dave

    3
  • Richard May 28, 2010, 4:57 am

    Hi, great review. I’ve been searching for a bag to lug around all the stuff I need for work when I travel (laptop, notepad, pens… ipod, kindle, cables, chargers, torch, etc.) plus a full size SLR, and on a number of occasions I’ve been directed to these bags (probably the bigger version), but have yet to see one in person.
    Do you get the impression you could safely carry an SLR in there, maybe a second lens too? How much padding is there around the lower section of the bag?
    Many thanks,
    R

    4
  • Byron Ala December 2, 2011, 11:30 am

    After reading this review and researching a great deal, I decided to purchase the Booq Boa Flow M. First, I was able to try one out with my kit (Nikon D40 with 18-200 mm lens on the body, and a 35 mm fast prime, along with my MacBook Air 11 inch) and I thought it was perfect. So I ordered one. Unfortunately, at that time (Feb 2011), they were only shipping the Black pack with black padding in the back, and red highlights. I prefer the orange as shown in this review. Booq, are you listening?

    Through using this daily since then, I would like to pass on my observations.

    I think it is the perfect urban camera/laptop bag, if you only carry a small laptop (like a MacBook Air) and a small DSLR like the Nikon D40 with max two lenses. It fits into city life quite well. I did find that it got heavy on my back after a few of hours if I was carrying my laptop, my camera gear, and a water bottle.

    I would not recommend this bag for a nature photographer, a camper, or as a day pack for a trekker. It looks too nice, which just makes you a target, plus dust gets into the grainy exterior cloth making it look dirty.

    I love the way Booq makes the camera accessible from the outside of the bag. It has saved me a great deal of time while traveling and I have been able to capture shots because of it that I wouldn’t have otherwise. I don’t think there is another camera backpack that makes the camera so quickly accessible. This could have its negative side too, since it might also be easily accessible for someone else while traveling in heavy crowds. I also don’t like having the camera so close to the bottom of the bag, and I have to remind myself to put it down more gently than I would ordinarily. This has not been a problem as it is well padded, only, I would like it better padded. I think also, having it so low in the bag reduces the capacity of the bag, which is not that much in the first place.

    The bag has plenty of handy pockets, and just last week, I discovered pockets I didn’t know it had. I use one side pocket for a water bottle or thermos, and the other side pocket for a small umbrella. There are additional little pockets that are inside these side pockets, but they are virtually unusable if you have an umbrella or water bottle in them. However the pockets just to the inside of the large pocket from the side pouches are quite handy for spare batteries, small tripod, or memory cards.

    I find the zippers very sticky and not the easiest to open, even after more than 6 months of use. I suspect it has to do with the ruggedness of the zipper and the waterproofed seams, but that is one of my major complaints. I feel like if I pull too hard, I might end up damaging the zipper. May not be true, but that is how it feels.

    Conclusion: This bag is not cheap, but it is very stylish. I would feel comfortable with it at any airport, or large city. I would not feel comfortable with it in the streets of Cuzco or Olamtaytambo. It is not large in the inside, but it is fairly large on the outside. It does not compact well, and there takes up almost as much space when empty as it does full. It does offer great protection for a 13 inch laptop or smaller and provides a decent solution for someone carrying one camera body and 2 lenses. I like this bag, but I don’t think I would buy it again if I lost it.

    5
  • Byron Ala December 2, 2011, 11:32 am

    Correction im my comments, I purchased this bag in May, following reading your review.

    6
  • Jackie August 10, 2013, 4:03 am

    Thinking about buying this bag as this is the only one I’ve seen where it’s not a fully dedicated camera bag w room for a laptop. Love that you can fit your stuff and (gently) throw in just your dslr. My concern is durability. Has anyone had it for a few months and it’s still going strong? Thanks!

    7
  • Dave Rees August 10, 2013, 9:20 am

    I have been using this bag on & off (a couple times a week) for years now. And yes, it is still going strong. The only failure has been a zipper pull has fallen off. But the bag itself is still great.

    8
  • Jackie August 10, 2013, 10:48 am

    I appreciate your quick response, thank you! I do belIeve this will become my next backpack!

    9

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