Appletell reviews the CorePack Fly and AftPack laptop bags from Speck

Sections: Cases / Bags, Laptops, MacBook, MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, Macintosh/Apple Hardware, Peripherals

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Remember the good old days before the iPod and the iPhone, when you couldn’t rely on your iDevice case to convey your personality? Back then, you had just one thing to carry around—your computer—and that alone let passersby know every tiny detail about who you are. Well, some of us still carry around laptop computers, and Speck wants to make sure you’re making a statement with their CorePack Fly Messenger Bag and AftPack Notebook Backback.

CorePack Fly Messenger Bag

First off, the “Fly” here gets its name from its ability to help you get through airport security faster. Apparently, you don’t have to remove your laptop from its case so that it can be seen, you just need to be sure there’s nothing above or below it. The CorePack Fly allows you to unlatch the velcro fasteners and unfold the laptop compartment so it rests away from the rest of the case, allowing it to be scanned on its own, as seen in the image below.

CorePack Fly Messenger Bag

Does that work? I’ll let you know after I fly out to San Francisco for Macworld Expo next week. Until then, let’s look at everything else this case offers.

First off, I dig the look. Both the grey pinstripe and greyscale pixel designs are modern and fashionable while still looking somewhat professional. I would like to see a little more color, but that’s not a deal killer.

CorePack Fly Messenger Bag

The back half holds the laptop only (up to 15″), and is firmly padded and lined with extra-plush micro-fleece for comfortable, scratch free protection. My 13″ MacBook slid around in there a bit, but never so much that it made me worry. An extra flap over this area can be used to slide the bag over a suitcase trolly handle, I’m guessing.

CorePack Fly Messenger BagThe front storage compartment is held shut with both velcro and a plastic latch. Opening it, you’ll find holders for your MP3 player (and headphones), two pens, and two cell-phone sized devices. Beneath these is a larger zippered pocket that holds a detachable key chain fob and is separated into two storage compartments that can hold items about the size of a CD case.

Beyond this is your main storage area that also features a large, attached zippered bag and a smaller compartment for magazines, documents and such. There’s plenty of room in this area for anything you’d need on an airplane, and you could even fit a small change of clothes in here, if you needed to. And finally, the right side of the bag has a water bottle compartment. The entire interior is colored neon green in the pixel design, gray in the pinstripe design.

You’re given two options for carrying the CorePack. You can use the tuck-away handle to carry it by hand, or you can attach the included shoulder strap to the tuck-away latches on top to sling it over your shoulder. Both methods are padded with thick foam to make carrying the case as comfortable as possible. The positioning of the shoulder strap latches isn’t the best, however, causing the bag to rest awkwardly against your hip and bounce around while you’re walking.

The CorePack was quite sturdy during my testing period, providing ample protection for my MacBook. Plastic latches always make me nervous, but so far, so good. The stitching also seems quite strong, and I haven’t yet seen any fraying or tearing.

The CorePack Fly Messenger Bag is properly priced at $89.95, and is a solid choice for those who do a lot of flying. There’s not much here beyond the TSA requirement functionality to distinguish it from other similarly priced laptop bags, so those who don’t frequently find themselves facing checkpoint security guards are free to look elsewhere. Honestly, though, I wouldn’t be surprised if you find yourself right back at Speck.

Appletell Rating:

Buy the CorePack Fly Messenger Bag

AftPack Notebook Backback

Now, here’s a bag I didn’t think I would like nearly as much as I do. The concept of carrying a computer on my back is just weird to me, but it’s actually a great idea for various reasons. First, it frees up both hands for carrying other items. Second, it’s more comfortable when you’re carrying the weight of a computer (plus accessories) for longer durations. And third, when you don’t need your computer, you’ve still got a fully functional backback good for carrying other items.

AftPack Notebook Backback

For this review, though, we’ll assume you’re carrying a computer. The AftPack has fully padded shoulder straps and back support to make it as comfortable as possible. It doesn’t quite distribute the weight as well as higher-end backbacks, but it also didn’t slide down my shoulders as some backpacks do. Latches in the shoulder straps can be pulled out to fasten the straps around your chest, and there’s a tuck-away handle at the top for when you’re carrying the AftPack by hand.

A decently sized front compartment is held shut with velcro and a small plastic clasp, and can be opened to reveal two compartments for cell phones and MP3 players, two pen holders, and a zippered pocket with a key chain fob on an attached lanyard. The external right side of this compartment has the traditional water bottle carrier.

Behind this is the main compartment. It’s quite spacious, and features another small MP3 player sized pocket at the top. A netted area on this is perfect for placing your earbuds or other small earphones, which can also be run through an opening at the top without having to unzip the bag.

The main area is separated by an extra-plush micro-fleece padded insert that provides your smaller, secure laptop area. It’s held shut with a velcro strap to keep the laptop in place (up to 17″). The coolest part of this is that you can access this area either through the main opening at the top of the bag or through a hidden, zippered opening under the shoulder straps. If you need to pull out your laptop but don’t want to reveal the contents inside the bag, you can do so with this this second opening.

AftPack Notebook Backback

The design options of the AftPack are similar to the CorePack fly, right down to the nylon neon green or gray interior, with the addition of a coffeehouse brown option left over from Speck’s last design run.

AftPack Notebook Backback

I really, really, like this bag. Currently on sale for $89.95, it’s priced attractively enough to be the main laptop bag for those who are frequently on the move (especially those tho tend to bike, skate or scoot to their destinations). But it also makes sense as a second bag for those who currently use a smaller laptop case for shorter trips, but want something bigger and more functional when required. I’d prefer to see more metal on the clasps and zippers and less plastic, especially on this type of bag that’s bound to take some abuse. But for the price, the AftPack appears sturdy enough to get you a fair amount of life.

Appletell Rating:

Buy the AftPack Backpack

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  • Tanya

    Thank you, Kirk, for your very thorough and informative reviews of these 2 Speck products. I was on Speck’s website debating on which one to purchase, and their consumer reviews of “this bag is great” didn’t help at all.

    • Kirk Hiner

      Thanks, Tanya. That’s why we’re here!