- Three front pockets are large enough for bigger gear
- Dedicated tablet pocket
- Camera cube-friendly main compartment
- Sternum strap not included
- Minimal laptop protection
- Harness system could use some more padding
1.5 lb (0.7 kg)
17.9 in x 11.6 in x 5.51 in (45.5 x 29.5 x 14 cm)
YKK Zippers, Polyethylene, Nylon
Laptop Compartment Size
Whenever a company puts a particular term in the name of its product, it’s fair to assume that there’s a reason behind it. For example, you wouldn’t expect a bag that’s labeled “daypack” to measure over 40 liters. Nor would you expect a duffel to be flat and slim like a messenger bag. So when we got our hands on Timbuk2’s Parkside Laptop Backpack 2.0, we knew immediately what to check for.
Unfortunately, we couldn’t find the side of a lovely park anywhere, but that’s okay. We’re really more interested in what laptop-specific features this backpack has. Unfortunately, we were underwhelmed by the built-in laptop sleeve despite the promising start of its trio of pockets and front compartment with a dedicated tablet pocket. It offers the minimal protection we’d expect more from a typical daypack, but not from a laptop backpack. Read on to learn more about what we think the Parkside Laptop Backpack 2.0 gets right and what it gets wrong.
Materials & Aesthetic
Timbuk2 takes an urban and contemporary approach for its styling of this backpack. It’s not subtle with its lines and branding, though it’s not very brash either—it’s an approach that doesn’t stand out too much among the big crowd of modern-looking backpacks. We’re testing out the Eco Black colorway, and this model fully embraces being discreet and subtle. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing considering that this is a laptop backpack—you wouldn’t want it to draw too much attention.
At the time of writing this review, there’s also a Gunmetal and Nautical colorway available. As far as we can tell, Nautical is Timbuk2 speak for navy blue while Gunmetal is a silver/gray color. We think Gunmetal is the way to go among the three colorways if you want something more eye-catching, though the black trim on gray is still pretty subtle, all things considered.
All of that said, we really don’t mind the styling, nor do we mind the fact that it’s not the most eye-catching bag at the party. What’s important to us is if there’s any substance behind whatever aesthetic choices a company makes. Fortunately, Timbuk2 starts off strong with 420D Coated Nylon. It’s nothing crazy in terms of denier, but it’s a good balance of durability and softness. All of the zippers are YKK as well, so they slide and glide around reliably. That sounds like a given with all zippers, but it only takes one bad zip to stop you from being able to use your laptop for an important presentation. Yes, that is based on a true story.
There are backpacks with some mesh material, some with none, and then there are backpacks like the Parkside Laptop Backpack 2.0, whose back panel and shoulder straps are covered with it. We don’t have an issue when it comes to this backpack’s breathability, and those among you who live or frequently travel to warm tropical places may find this feature interesting. However, breathability is but one of the many factors contributing to overall comfort.
The shoulder straps and the back panel are also padded underneath all the mesh, though the shoulder straps are a bit thin. However, it’s at an acceptable level of comfort that we really didn’t find them lacking. What’s more, the edges of the straps are tapered comfortably enough that they don’t dig in. That said, we’d feel better with just a bit more padding, considering the backpack’s total capacity of 24.5 liters.
The straps are length adjustable, with built-in strap keepers to keep slack neat and tidy. Strap keepers are one of those features that are easy to dismiss, but in our opinion, once you’ve had them, you’ll wish all backpacks do too. There are also nylon rails on each shoulder strap for mounting a sternum strap. Unfortunately, our sample did not include one, so we couldn’t test it. A shame since a sliding rail is our favorite kind of sternum strap adjustment.
The loss (or lack) of a sternum strap isn’t a huge one considering that the Parkside Laptop Backpack 2.0 is still within daypack territory at its capacity. It’s still manageable, but your mileage may vary depending on what you’re carrying. You’ll get an idea of our own loadout later; the sternum strap-less harness system copes well with it.
At the front, the logo doesn’t only bear the Timbuk2 branding; it’s also an accessory loop for bike lights and/or carabiners. Atop the Parkside Laptop Backpack 2.0 is another loop, though this one is for carrying the backpack by hand or hanging it behind restroom stalls. Both loops do their respective jobs well—perfectly usable, nothing more, nothing less.
Lastly, there’s a stretchy mesh pocket for a water bottle on the left-hand side of the backpack. It has sufficient grip to hold onto our 18-ounce Hydro Flask and enough depth that we don’t have to worry that our bottle will slip out—a rational fear when we’re walking down the street while slightly bopping to some tunes.
Inside The Pack
Timbuk2 has made an interesting choice for the front pockets of the Parkside Laptop Backpack 2.0. Instead of having just one large dump pocket similar to more typical daypack designs, there are three here: one on the right and two on the left.
This shared space at the front between three pockets sounds concerning at first. However, we were able to fit a whole compressible jacket inside the right-side pocket, with room to spare in the remaining left-side pockets. The secret is gussets, which give the pocket a fair amount of dimensionality to go with its wide side opening. If we can fit a jacket, then notebooks, power banks, and even a thick triple-decker peanut butter and jelly sandwich can fit.
On the left are twin pockets; the only difference is that the top pocket has a built-in key clip with a bright red leash, long enough to feasibly reach locks. Interestingly, the clip itself rotates along the leash, which helps avoid tangling when turning a key. The space is the limit for what you may want to put inside, and the lack of security pockets in the back panel makes these candidates for storing IDs or wallets. Of course, that would mean being extra mindful when you’re in public.
Something to note about these pockets is that while we didn’t encounter any major issues, they do slightly eat into each other’s space. Some balancing is required to maximize their use. The upside is that the Parkside Laptop Backpack 2.0 is doing well with organization as far as its secondary pockets are concerned.
The good news continues inside the front compartment. It opens horseshoe-style for access to the versatile organization inside. From front to back, the available slots start with a deep pocket fit for even a 12.9-inch iPad Pro. The pocket is so deep that the large tablet sinks in with enough clearance measuring in inches. Next to it is a series of liner pockets, one extra-wide followed by three pen silos on the rightmost side. This entire row can be left to stationery in case you want to go analog.
The rearmost pocket in this compartment looks like a deep one. However, it’s actually a shallow slot for notebooks, so you can fish them out without fumbling too much. It has a good amount of volume as well, easily accommodating the thickest notebook we have on hand.
Whereas the front compartment and pockets handle most of the organization for the Parkside Laptop Backpack 2.0, the main compartment is much simpler. There’s only a 15-inch laptop sleeve inside, but other than that, the big empty space is prime real estate for pouches and packing cubes.
This works in our favor because our WANDRD Essential Camera Cube is a perfect fit inside. Better still, the rather rigid camera cube acts as structural support for the bottom half of the backpack. Plus, it creates a raised floor where the rest of our packing cubes and pouches can settle, making them more accessible. This makes the Parkside Laptop Backpack 2.0 a good match for a camera cube if travel photography is your thing.
At the rearmost side of the main compartment is the 15-inch laptop sleeve, which we expect to be the most protected part of the backpack. However, despite the “Laptop” part of the backpack’s name, we’re disappointed to see rather lackluster protection here. The front side of the sleeve doesn’t feature any padding, while the rear has some courtesy of the back panel. At the very most, it’s the same kind of protection we expect from a regular daypack, but not from a backpack that’s geared towards laptops. We still felt comfortable storing our tech inside, though it left some security to be desired. Your mileage may vary depending on what gear and how much you’re carrying. We have ours tightly packed, so items aren’t bouncing around inside, potentially hitting our laptop.
Unfortunately, we were really expecting more laptop-specific features in the Parkside Laptop Backpack 2.0 since it has “laptop” in its name. It’s too bad, because the front compartment looks promising for tablets, and the overall organization is good, inside and out. While the amount of padding for the harness system and back panel was at least acceptable, we wish there were more for the laptop sleeve.
- The back panel’s fully meshed
- Shoulder straps are simple but fairly comfortable to use
- There’s a secondary sleeve in the front compartment for a tablet
- Some minor but noticeable scuffing to the front side of the bag
- Depending on how the bag is picked up, the top can cave in on itself if packed full
- Shoulder straps are thin, but padding on the edges helps prevent it from digging into you
- The three gusseted front pockets worked great for organization and quick access