A good laptop backpack that you can feel good about owning
I love a good laptop backpack. In my line of work, where I’m always carrying my laptop, iPad Pro and all their various accessories along with plenty of stuff in my hands like controllers or tools, a backpack is definitely the most efficient way to get it all from A to B. Because of this, I’m all ears whenever there’s an opportunity to review new backpacks.
I’m also no stranger to Solo New York’s products. I reviewed their Everyday Max backpack in 2018, and then looked at their Re:new Briefcase and Re:focus Sleeve last summer. In both cases I came away very impressed with the products. In fact, I liked the latter two items so much that I’ve been using them at work ever since. I carry a backup laptop with me daily (currently a Surface Pro 7) among other things, and both the Re:new and Re:focus have been perfect for keeping all of that extra gear safe.
The Re:new and Re:focus bags are part of Solo NY’s Re:cycled collection, where the good is more than just skin deep. This entire line of bags, which runs the gamut from totes, to laptop bags, to luggage, is made from recycled plastics. Here’s what Solo has to say about them:
It all starts with discarded plastic bottles. Through an environmentally-friendly process, these plastic bottles get transformed into a high quality and lightweight Recycled PET Polyester yarn. This process uses 50% less energy, 20% less water, and 60% less air pollution.
The end result? Giving plastic bottles a second life as sustainable bags that don’t compromise style.
That makes these bags really unique and interesting products. I never really thought about the materials and production processes that go into making most modern laptop bags and backpacks before I came across the Re:cycled line. Considering how much of an issue plastic waste has become and how little of it actually gets reused, even when it’s earmarked for recycling, it’s good to see a manufacturer putting a lot of thoughtful effort into creating a product line that is truly sustainable and addresses the glut of plastic trash in a very unique way.
Solo NY was recently recognized for their efforts in this regard with a SEAL Business Sustainability Award. Specifically, Solo received their Environmental Initiative Award:
Solo was awarded the SEAL “Environmental Initiative Award” for its Re:cycled Collection of bags made from respun ocean-bound plastic, as well as for additional sustainability programs across the company. The Environmental Initiative Awards honor specific sustainability and environmental initiatives, using key criteria for selection including impact metrics, innovation and sharing of insights. For example, Solo plans to remove 40 million plastic bottles from landfills by 2024, its recycled fabric is certified by The Global Recycled Standard (GRS), and the team is now applying its learnings in recycled materials, packaging and waste reduction across the company and its products.
While there are several ways to source discarded plastic, Solo worked hard to locate ocean-bound sources and landfills where plastic commonly ends up in oceans and waterways. The plastics are recovered, chipped and spun into the soft, durable fabric used for Solo bag collections.
Solo hasn’t stopped their efforts to improve sustainability throughout the company, either. According to a press release on May 10th. they met their goal of removing all plastics from their packaging by 2020.
Solo established this goal in 2020, and all packaging for its bags, luggage, laptop cases, and tablet sleeves are now 100% Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC)-certified recycled, recyclable and biodegradable, including strings and clips of hang-tags. The project involved the entire Solo team – product design, marketing, operations and finance – working together to determine the best way to eliminate plastic while maintaining Solo’s approachable price ranges….
The elimination of plastic in packaging is one part of Solo’s broader sustainability plans to significantly reduce the company’s landfill deposit and reduce pollution while making sustainable bags accessible and affordable for a wide audience. In 2020, Solo received the “Sustainability Initiative of the Year” award from the Business Intelligence Group, and in 2021 received the SEAL “Environmental Initiative Award,” both honoring the company’s work on its Re:cycled Collection of bags and overall business sustainability programs.
If sustainability is important to you, then this is a company you will want to do business with.
So what about the bag?
All of that said, the ethos behind a product only matters to buyers if it’s a good product. I’ve been using the Re:claim Backpack for my extra gear for the last month, in place of the Re:new Briefcase. One of my kids also used it on our last family vacation. Based on this experience, I can tell you that it definitely stands on its own merits, beyond the sustainability aspects Just like the Re:cycled products I reviewed last year, this laptop backpack is well-constructed and feels built to last.
As far as the design of the Re:claim goes, it’s basic, but effective as far as laptop bags go. The inner compartment has ample room for a 15.6″ laptop and more. As you can see below, my 15.6″ Lenovo Yoga C940 easily fits in the laptop storage pocket.
There is a LOT of extra room in this inner compartment, even when you are carrying a laptop.
I also like that the zippered opening to the inner compartment goes all the way down each side, giving you complete access to the interior of the bag. These features make this bag a good option for students who need to carry books or notebooks along with a laptop.
I’ve used this ample space in a different way on occasion. I’ve been carrying my Surface Pro 7 around in the Re:focus Laptop Sleeve, which I can easily fit inside the inner compartment of the Re:claim. As an iPad Pro and Air users, this works out well, as it leaves the storage pocket open to hold one.
It will fit any model of iPad in pretty much any case you may have and will STILL have some room left over for more stuff.
The rest of the bag is just as simple as the inner compartment. The front compartment has enough room for small accessories and has a few pockets and such for organization.
The zippered front pocket works well for smaller items that are more difficult to keep up with.
Both work for holding a few small items such as chargers, cables, pens, etc. However, if there is one downside to this bag, it’s that there is very little structured storage here. If that isn’t a big concern for you, then it shouldn’t cause you any problems. However, if you do carry a lot of smaller items, you may need to provide your own organization to keep up with it all.
There are a few other small features that are nice touches. The straps that run down the front of the bag from the handles at the top are able to hold something small outside of the bag, such as an umbrella., lightweight jacket, or hoodie.
The back also has the familiar strap that allows you to slip the Re:claim over the handle of a larger piece of luggage.
I also appreciate the fact that the mesh drink holder pockets on the sides of the backpack are big enough to hold the two 20 oz coffee tumblers I carry to work with me every morning.
It’s a small thing, but when you carry coffee every day and have your hands full with 100 other things, a little detail like this one matters.
Solo New York’s Re:claim Backpack is solid, no-frills laptop backpack. It looks good, feels well put together, and it can hold a 15.6″ laptop and an iPad Pro, their accessories, and a few other items. Based on my experience with it alone, the Re:claim is worth the price on its own.
However, there’s no separating the Re:claim or any product in Solo’s Re:cycled line of bags from the thought and effort behind them. I would recommend this bag to anyone looking for a no-frills laptop backpack. However, if you care about sustainability and the impact that products you purchase have on the environment, then this bag should be number one on your list.
I’ll be completely honest in saying that the Re:claim isn’t really for me, personally. I have to use a laptop bag that’s a lot bigger and has more compartments than this one for my needs at work. I used the Re:claim backpack in place of my Re:new Briefcase as a secondary bag to give it a good test for this review. However, I’ll be going back now because the Re:new is more ideal for carrying along with a backpack. I can just throw it over one shoulder and I’m good.
However, even though the Re:claim isn’t a great fit for me, I still see it as a quality product for anyone who doesn’t need to cart 40+ pounds of stuff around on their backs on a daily basis. In other words, most people.
Don’t worry, though. This Re:claim definitely won’t go to waste, as my kids are probably going to fight it out to see who gets it. My oldest son didn’t really want to give it back to me after our vacation and my daughter has already asked about switching to it next school year. We’ll see who comes out on top.
The Re:claim Backpack was provided for review on iPad Insight by Solo New York. For further information regarding our site’s review policies, please see the About page.