IRL: Living with the Cocoon Slim, a backpack made for gadget hoarders

When you run around town with a lot of technology, a good bag isn't just nice to have -- it's a necessity. In any one given day at Engadget, we might be attending a product launch, interviewing people or taking all those lovely sample shots you see around the site. A regular courier bag or rucksack will likely do the job, but do you really want all your work-essential kit rattling around in a cross-city spin cycle? No, us neither.

Enter the Cocoon Slim. This bag was built for the urban gadget carrier, there's simply no doubt about it. The backpack has two main sections. The primary one is where you'll slide in your laptop (it fits up to 15 inches). In this same section is another pocket ideal for a tablet, e-reader or, in my case, a good old-fashioned book. While the outside of the Slim is made of "ballistic" nylon, the internal is a much more luxurious faux suede. This definitely makes me feel like my gadgets are not just protected from the elements, but also safe from each other. This, however, isn't really the main event.

The Slim's party trick -- and what hooked me the moment I saw it -- is the "grid-it" system in the second compartment. Basically, criss-crossing elastic straps make this an infinitely configurable gadget holder. Most of the bands are quite tight and thus better-suited for small items, but there are a few looser ones that let you tuck in larger items as well. I can get everything in from USB sticks right up to my NEX 3 camera. It's a bit of a Fort Boyard-style puzzle to cram everything in the relatively small space, but that's all part of the fun, I guess.

Once you've got everything packed up, then you're ready to rock. Another strong point of the Slim is because everything is so tightly packed, the whole backpack feels small and compact. If you adjust the straps so they're nice and snug, it almost feels like a parachute attached to your back (albeit a heavy one). This also leads me to one of the few downsides. If you're doing a lot of walking, and have your laptop in standby, things can get very warm around your shoulders. Perhaps that's OK in the wintertime, but in summer I found myself having to carry it by the top handle on more than one occasion to prevent, well, let's face it, Sweaty Back Syndrome.

If there's one more improvement I'd love to see, it would perhaps be an adjustable/expandable middle section. A bag packed with military precision is great until you're given something else to carry. Which is often the case in my job, where you can find yourself with the bag and something in your hand. In desperate times I've managed to be pretty creative with the space available and get a surprising amount of irregular sized objects in there. I persist regardless, because it's such a reliable perfomer day to day. And at $80, not pocket-unfriendly either.

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