REVIEWED: Manhattan Portage Commuter laptop bag

Optional backpack straps lend extra mobility to this well-designed bag that’s ideal for conferences, urban travel and as a carry-on for business trips

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“Love many, trust few, but always paddle your own canoe.” It’s a tried and trusted motto among travellers, and in the modern era it means one thing: luggage must be wearable. It’s no good having the latest in motorised, wheeled luggage if you then can’t run to catch a bus, through an airport to catch a flight, or if you get stranded in a city for 10 hours and need to do some last-minute city touring. Although it’s aimed mostly at commuters, this laptop bag is ideal as a carry-on for anyone attending a conference or work meting.

Carry-on options

The Portage is made for a 17-inch laptop, which is the territory for designers and graphics people. Key to its appeal are three ways that it can be carried. The obvious favourite is as a backpack; two reasonably comfortable straps are stored in a pocket on the back of the products, and can be easily unfurled when necessary, and hooked-on to rings on the bag’s undercarriage. Unlike most occasional backpack straps, they are not too bulky and don’t interrupt the sleek lines of the bag when it is in its other orientations.

Hard-wearing design

Also including a comfortable leather grab handle on the lid, as well as a nicely-padded shoulder strap (which can easily be unhooked and discarded if that’s not your thing), the Portage is really well made. It’s solid, well-stitched and crafted from a hard-wearing polyester fabric, called Cordura, and it’s good in the rain, too.

Pockets galore

As well as a magazine or newspaper-sized pocket on the rear of the bag behind backpack straps, the Portage has four other storage areas. The lid has a wallet-sized pocket on the front (that’s also great for chucking in some keys) as well as a larger pocket that’s ideal for quickly accessing an iPad or papers. Inside the main compartment there’s a lovely padded area for a 17-inch laptop complete with a securing fabric strap to keep everything snug, and on the front of that, a half-size pocket that’s also iPad-sized. Its front has some small compartments for pens and notebooks.

On test

In our test on a business trip to a conference, we found the Portage was comfortable throughout – mainly worn in the backpack mode – and was able to carry most of what we needed. There’s no room to stuff a jumper or coat in case of rain, but there are ways around that. Less so a travel pillow for sleeping on the plane, but you can’t have everything. Used as a carry-on, it provided easy to access what we needed when we needed it, and proved itself more than tough enough for travel.

Price as reviewed: UK£130

Buy the Manhattan Portage Commuter laptop bag