I wondered what a commuter backpack made by people who build cases for rocket launchers would look like.
And when my Pelican ProGear u100 Urban Elite Laptop Backpack arrived, I was relieved that it wasn’t camo, with ‘Semper Fi’ stitched onto it, but also a bit disappointed, because that would have been pretty funny.
Pelican Products made its name building the toughest protective cases in the world for major high-tech companies, government agencies and the global defense industry, and their trek into consumer territory is new—they launched their ProGear line of reinforced cases and bags for regular humans in July.
What sets ProGear apart from other backpacks is its integrated laptop compartment—an ABS hard case sewn into the seams. ABS is incredibly strong and resistant to heat, water and shock. The case is cushioned on the inside, and included foam inserts with sticky backs can be positioned to hold any size of device stationary inside the compartment.
According to Pelican, the U100 bag can be submerged in 3 feet of water for 30 minutes with no damage to the contents of the case, and it will withstand just about any shock or drop you might subject it to. Think of the bag as a Brownstone, and the laptop compartment as a panic room. And the concrete as Forrest Whitaker trying to steal your bearer bonds.
Accidents happen, after all; remember the time you bailed while riding your bike to work, and landed with your full weight on your murse? And that time you involuntarily flung your designer briefcase down a flight of stairs, after burning your wrist with latte foam? And that sinking feeling when it dawned on you that your $1600 MacBook was in there? Your laptop and your iPad (and your Fabergé eggs) would have been just fine, if you had one of these puppies.
I kid – in truth there’s nothing pretentious or militaristic about the u100; it’s just a really well-built backpack, and it even looks cool, in a rugged “I’m a city boy, but I still like Jeeps” kind of way. I’ve spent a few weeks using it to transport my Macbook Air between the suburbs and downtown—carrying it around on foot, on public transportation, and on my back while cycling. During this time, two certainties struck me: One, this bag probably isn’t going to wear out—ever. And two, my computer isn’t going to break, even if I get run over by a car. Or get shot in the back with a stinger missle.
ProGear bags (and particularly the u100) are heavier than you might like at first—there’s no way around the fact that the ABS case weights a few pounds. That said, it’s well-designed and comfortable, evenly distributing weight across your frame – you barely notice it once it’s on both shoulders. It’s got lumbar cushioning, numerous compartments, and you can collapse or expand it, in the way you can with decent quality luggage. The outer shell is made of 1000 Denier nylon.
And they’re pricey—$269 (for the u100) is a lot of coin for a backpack. Then again, there’s always a market for “nothing fancy but incredibly well-constructed” and nicer briefcases and totebags aren’t cheap, either. They also can’t stop shrapnel.
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