LAPTOPS are really useful for when you need to game or work away from your desk – but you still have to carry them around with you.
Laptop bags tend to be either gigantic, padded, quasi-tacticool designs that look good on social media or while rappelling out of a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter, but may not be all that practical to stuff into the overhead locker on a Boeing 737-800 jetliner, or they’re the satchel style which can get a bit uncomfortable to carry for any length of time, particularly if you’ve got a gaming laptop with a bit more weight to it.
There is a middle ground however – which is where this product comes in.
The Victorinox Altmont Active Lightweight Expandable backpack is a lightweight but rugged daypack from the Swiss company best known for their ubitquous Swiss Army Knives and equally reliable watches and travel goods.
With an RRP of $249 it’s not an impulse purchase (although I have seen it advertised on by at least one Australian online retailer for $149) but it’s very well made and extremely light as well as very durable, and does an excellent job of carting around your laptop or your loot.
The Altmont Active Lightweight Expandable backpack comes in three colours – red, black (reviewed) and dark teal. Measuring 21cm x 33cm x 49 cm and weighing 600g, the backpack features a large main compartment (with laptop/water bladder section), a side access pocket, and a front pocket, divided into two sections.
Both the front and side pockets also have access to the main compartment as well, which is helpful when you’re trying to remember where you put something.
The overall capacity is 25L in standard mode and 32L when fully expanded is 32L, which is well positioned for carrying the essentials without turning you into an RPG character parody – you can easily fit a laptop, power supply, mouse, water bottle, snacks (or even a packed lunch), headphones, and even some event loot and/or swag into it, and it will still be comfortable to wear and easy to pick up.
The shoulder straps are padded but not bulky, and include an attachment for a drinking tube, which can be connected to a hydration bladder carried in the backpack itself, too.
One of the advantages of the Altmont Active Lightweight is it can do double duty as a general daypack as well – not only for family outings such as beach trips or hikes, but as carry-on baggage on aeroplanes too.
In the course of testing the bag for this review, I used it as a general day bag and even took it to Sydney on a flight as my laptop bag twice – it did a very good job. Whether it was carrying togs and towels, or my work laptop, accessories and notepad, the Altmont Active Lightweight did the job without complaint or issue.
The material it is made of was very easy to clean and appeared stain resistant, with everything from mud, chocolate, and coffee to barbecue sauce and spaghetti just wiping off – very helpful when I was on an outing with the kids.
While there aren’t any MOLLE (Modular Lightweight Loadbearing Equipment) straps on the bag, there are small bungy-cord loops and a couple of other mounting points, so I was able to attach a sunglasses case and GPS via carabiner without any trouble.
The design is quite innocuous too – it is intended for travellers, after all – so nothing about the pack says “I have an expensive gaming laptop in here!”, which can be an important consideration depending where your adventures take you.
The main issue I encountered with the backpack was that it was sometimes hard to work out which was the zipper for the main compartment and which was the zipper for the front, which led to a bit of fumbling in airport security lines and when setting up for meetings. The interior also isn’t padded, so it may not be the best choice for carting around anything particularly fragile – and won’t help your laptop much if you drop the bag, either.
While it’s not likely to become your primary backpack, the Victorinox Altmont Active Lightweight Expandable is a versatile, lightweight and well-made piece of kit that you’ll find plenty of use for, regardless of where you venture.