COTS APEX EXPLORE laptop backpack review

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REVIEW – Since COVID hit, I have been working from home and it looks like it is going to stay that way for the long term.  I will, however, have to go into the office now and again for special meetings or team events.  I wanted a bag I could use to carry my laptop into work that was professional-looking and not cumbersome.  The COTS APEX Explore backpack came up for review and I jumped on it.  Let’s see how it works out.

What is it?

The Apex Explore backpack (Apex from now on) is a lightweight multi-pocketed backpack that has padded areas for a laptop and tablet along with a larger open storage compartment and many other smaller pockets to organize things.  It comes in two colors:  black which I received and a funky-looking navy color.

Hardware specs

  • Our water & stain resistantultra-durablehigh quality patented Filmpor™ fabric is used for all products of COTS backpack collection. Well-designed material is made from new molecular technology, with a special TPU film on the surface. It provides soft hand feeling and wrinkle-resistant features, easy to take care of. Super dirt resistance, just simply wipes, can be as clean as new. For its multi-functional performance, COTS backpack will become your dependable companion from day-to-night.
  • Dimensions: 19.5″x 12.8″x 6.3″
  • Weight: 2.3lb
  • Total Volume: 26L
  • padded area can hold up to a 16 in laptop

Design and features

The picture below shows the front of the bag.  There are two vertical pockets, one small fleece lined front pocket, and a large main pocket.  There are also two pouches on the side for things like water bottles.

This next picture is a closeup of the Filmpor fabric.  It is a very fine weave and water does bead off of it.

Opening up one of the two vertical pockets you can see there is a contrasting liner.  It is lighter in color and should help you find things in the pocket.  It does not zip all of the ways down but stops a bit after halfway down.  There are no extra pockets inside either of these vertical pockets.

This next picture shows the smaller fleece-lined pocket just above the two vertical pockets.  This would be perfect for holding sunglasses or any type of item you do not wish to have scratched.  The width is just wide enough for my iPhone 11 Pro.  I am not sure a Max phone would fit easily and I had no way to test.

The next zipper behind this glasses pocket is a larger area.  There are two zipper pulls for this one pocket and it opens up to about halfway down the bag.  You can see there are slots for pens and larger items.  There is a key holder clip along with a larger zippered area to store items.  The zippered area in the back is covering just under half of the length of the bag.  This gives you plenty of places to organize your stuff.

Behind that first bigger pocket you will find a velcro tab covering the zipper of the main pocket of the bag.  This keeps that area from opening accidentally which is a good thing if your laptop or tablet is stored inside.  The velcro has a nice tab sewn to the front of it to make it easy to open.

Now we get to the main compartment.  This zipper also has two separate pull tabs.    This large pocket is made up of two padded sleeves in the back and one main compartment area.  The bottom of the bag is only lightly padded.  I would not want to put something breakable in the main open area and then drop the bag.  The bag you see at the top of this pocket belongs to the last pocket in the back of the backpack.

The two sleeves do not go all of the ways down to the bottom of the bag so your laptop or tablet is better protected.

There is a final smaller pocket behind the main pocket of the bag.  It has padding on the back as its back is the back of the backpack.  The pocket itself is a very thin shell.  Anything you put in this pocket will drape over any laptop you have in the sleeve of the main pocket.

Here is a picture of the back of the backpack.  It is well padded and the raised bumps will hopefully give a bit of airflow to your back.

I took a closeup of one of the buckles on the chest strap.  It is plastic, but feels pretty heavy duty.

The bag also features a handy grab loop at the top of the bag.

Performance

I first tried putting my Dell XPS 16 inch laptop in the main laptop sleeve of this backpack.  You can see it does fit, but does stick out of the sleeve area.   There is nothing holding it in place but the resistance of the sleeve.  Holding the bag upside down, which I admit rarely happens, does cause the laptop to slide out of the sleeve until it hits the top of the bag.

I then put in a Dell Latitude 13.5 inch laptop in the sleeve and it fits completely inside.

This next picture shows my large XPS laptop along with an Apple iPad Pro 11 inch inside the tablet sleeve.  It just fits with the case I have on it.

The moment of truth was when I tried the backpack on.  I had it loaded up with the large laptop, iPad, a book, and a few other items.  I also had my Hydroflask in one of the side pockets. I like how the backpack stayed with a slim profile.  The backpack did not feel that comfortable to me.   The shoulder pads were very stiff and I know I would not want to spend the day traveling through airports with this bag on my shoulders.  Carrying it from my car to the office would not be a problem, but having to wear it longer than 20 minutes at a time left a lot to be desired.  I have a really nice Osprey backback that is so much more comfortable.

I took a picture of my front so you could get a better idea of how the shoulder straps sit.  They are wide and stiff.  They seemed to cut into my armpits.  I am sure a guy or gal with wider shoulders would have no issues.

Here is a picture of the water bottle pouch.  I feel like a smaller bottle would fall out easily if the bag were tipped.  There are no straps to tighten down a water bottle or umbrella if you put one in there.

What I like

  • Very lightweight
  • Lots of pockets for organizing
  • Professional looking and keeps a slim profile

What needs to be improved

  • Straps were uncomfortable – stiff
  • No way to secure a laptop or tablet in place
  • Side pouches have no way of securing items in them to keep them from falling out

Final thoughts

I will continue to use the COTS APEX EXPLORE laptop backpack as my bag to carry my laptop to work.  It allows me to organize where I place everything I need so I can grab it quickly.  It looks professional and is lightweight.   I will however not use this backpack for any long extended trips where I would have to wear the backpack for a period of time longer than 15 minutes.  If I were on a trip somewhere by plane, I would use another backpack that I own.

Price: $79.99
Where to buyCOTS (Save 15% with coupon code: TG15  (no expiration date))
Source: The sample of this product was provided by COTS.

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