In the bag...

5th November 2004 at 00:00
Protecting your laptop - and all the data stored on it - is a high priority for many teachers. Gail Robinson finds the best laptop bags on the market

Newspaper headlines regularly focus on the health implications of children lugging heavy schoolbags around all day and experts claim we're creating a nation of back pain sufferers (see the box, right). But we shouldn't forget the plight of the poor teacher in all of this - after all it's you that has to hoist all those books around, together with your folders, pens, sandwiches, painkillers and, last but not least, your trusty laptop and all its paraphernalia.

Ginette Smith (pictured right), reception class teacher and ICT co-ordinator at a West London primary school, is typical of many teachers; the contents of her bags would leave any normal person doubled over.

"There's the power supply, phone cable, floppy drive, spare floppies, planning folder, assorted papers, A5 diary, pens, more bits of paper, worksheets to mark," she explains, "then there's my handbag with all the usual women's stuff and I've usually got a carrier bag with my lunch and a bottle of water in there."

So given the weight your average teacher lugs around every day, it's not surprising that Tim Hutchful - chiropractor and spokesman for the British Chiropractic Association ( - sees plenty of teachers hobbling through his doors. "Not only do teachers carry heavy bags," explains Tim, "but they spend lots of time bent over marking books, workplace conditions can be stressful and they're often run down. This puts them at a higher risk of back pain."

All of which leads us on to the importance of choosing the right bag to carry your laptop and school kit.

In preparation for our bag test we asked TES readers what they considered important in a laptop bag. Comfort came high on the list with many readers going for a backpack style with shoulder straps because it distributes the weight evenly. You also told us the bags should be lightweight; many of you complained that some bags are heavy before you even get your laptop in there. Plenty of pockets and compartments were considered essential and the bag should be able to withstand the wear and tear of being lugged around school corridors day after day. Importantly, the bag shouldn't look like it contains an expensive lump of silicone, as one reader told us: "I don't want to carry around something that screams 'mug me please'."

Another reader wanted to be sure we didn't ignore the needs of those that cycle to school, after they'd had problems finding a suitable bag. "I talked to my ICT manager, who suggested a couple of rucksack-style bags, but they were nowhere near big enough. Last term I carried the laptop in a normal rucksack but really it needed more protection."

We've searched long and hard for the perfect laptop bag and out of 15 on the shortlist have picked six that you should consider (page 29). Of course, not everyone will agree with our final choice. Teachers chatting on the TES forum have been known to go for some rather unusual ways of transporting their laptops. One recommends the pound;14.95 Funky Trundle from kitchen kit suppliers Lakeland ( "It's essentially a plastic box on wheels that folds down to the size of a briefcase," explains the contributor, "It fits neatly into the boot of my car, holds all I need and I don't have to carry it."

One forum member even admitted to using an old-fashioned tartan wheelie trolley for the heavy stuff. But, aside from the problem of zero street cred, the trolley had other drawbacks; "It was great in the summer, but got bogged down in the mud in winter."

Get the right balance

Tim tells his patients the best way to distribute weight across your back is to carry items close to you and make sure the weight is balanced across both sides of the spine. "If you're using a shoulder bag, try to carry it across the body over the right shoulder with the bag on the left. Either have the bag high up on the body and close to the chest or support it with your arm underneath, the shorter the strap the better."

Tim also recommends dividing the weight of one heavy bag between two smaller ones (one for each hand) and advises you to "take every opportunity to ditch the bags and stretch your muscles by arching back slightly and holding that position for a minute or so".

He has the following tips for both teachers and children struggling to lug their heavy bags to and from school:

* Limit the amount of time you wear heavy packs

* Look for backpacks with two padded, adjustable shoulder straps. Use a waisthip strap to distribute weight evenly

* Satchels should not be wider or longer than the back

* Place the heaviest item closest to the centre of the back

* Don't overload the bag and look for packs with a number of different-sized compartments and construction features like padding to protect against sharp objects

* Choose a backpack on wheels, But remember it will have to be carried up stairs and you also run the risk of looking like an airhostess


Libera Grafite

Price: pound;49.99


Your laptop is kept safe from bumps and knocks in this bag thanks to a compartment specifically built with a protective layer of pressurised air cells. It's made from sturdy nylon with a waterproof rubber base and has comfy padded shoulder straps. There's even a specially designed pocket for your MP3CD player with a slot to push your headphone cable through.

Laptop protection *****

Value for money ****

Style ****

Comfort ****


Ritter Classic RCB-01

Price: pound;39.95


Ritter is best known for its musical instrument bags, but this good value laptop case is a bit of a winner. The lightweight design - made from water-repellent polyester - includes a shoulder strap, a briefcase handle and backpack straps. Inside there's a padded compartment for your laptop, together with plenty of space for books and paperwork.

Laptop protection ****

Value for money ****

Style ****

Comfort ****


Targus Sport Deluxe Notebook Backpac (model TSB312)

Price: pound;90.18

This is a strong, sturdy backpack with more than enough room for your laptop, gym kit and paperwork. The cushioned backpad also makes it a comfy option for cyclists. It's a tad expensive, but is backed by a lifetime warranty.

Laptop protection ****

Value for money ***

Style ***

Comfort *****


Samsonite GTS 400 Office Case Plus on wheels Price: pound;99

If you travel with work, or have a big campus to navigate, the benefits of a wheelie laptop case shouldn't be underestimated. The sturdy nylon case has a protective section for your laptop and a clothing compartment.

There's a shoulder strap but the bag is too heavy to lug around for long.

That said, the case is a doddle to steer.

Laptop protection ****

Value for money ***

Style ***

Comfort ***


Computer Luggage Company Vancouver

Price: pound;39.99

This khaki nylon shoulder bag is the kind of design favoured by couriers and trendy types. Inside,a protective layer of pressurised air cells protects your laptop from bumps and mishaps. Nice touches include pockets for your CD player and mobile phone and a rubber base to protect your computer from grubby classroom floors.

Laptop protection ****

Value for money ****

Style ****

Comfort ***


Targus Slimline top-loading Computer Case (SLN30)

Price: pound;45.23

Smarter than the other notebook bags on review, with quality nickel fittings this briefcase, (with removable shoulder strap) will make a good impression if you're off for an interview or making an important presentation. Other pockets take care of your mobile phone, CDs, pens and paperwork.

Laptop protection ***

Value for money ****

Style ****

Comfort ***


Shoulder bags: Samsonite 400 Inventure ICT Briefcase M (pound;45), Ritter RCP-L (pound;25.95), Targus Blacktop Messenger CBT200 (pound;30.25), Computer Luggage Co Detroit (pound;39.99),Computer Luggage Co Geo (pound;59.99), Computer Luggage Co Azura (pound;54.99) Backpacks: Samsonite Sahora ICT Case (pound;32), Targus Trademark Backpac Computer Case (pound;50.23), Targus Notebook Backpack CN600 (pound;30.25) All prices include VAT. YOU'LL FIND DETAILED REVIEWS OF ALL THESE BAGS, PLUS THERE'S A CHANCE TO WIN ONE OF THEM, ON THE TES WEBSITE AT WWW.TES.CO.UKONLINE

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