When I studied abroad in college, my trusty Eagle Creek backpack went with me everywhere. It had just enough room for everything I needed to carry, with lots of little pockets to keep my stuff organized. It was so compact and maintained its shape so well that I never felt like a turtle, even when the bag was stuffed.
The MetroLite Backpack, from Washington-based manufacturer Brenthaven, reminds me of that bag. Its main compartment includes a well-padded sleeve that accommodates laptops up to 15.4 inches (though we were able to carry even a 16.4-inch system). Its front compartment contains tons of little organizer pockets to corral your gadgets and accessories. And the whole bag adds just 4-6 inches to your profile while you're carrying it.
For example, in the picture at right, the MetroLite is loaded with the Sony VAIO FW270 and its AC adapter, plus a letter-size spiral notebook, two magazines, a trade paperback, two smartphones, a wallet, keys, and pens. Even with all that stuff, the bag is about 6 inches at its thickest point--and that bulge could have been reduced with more thoughtful packing.
If you want a backpack that can carry your laptop, gym clothes, reading materials, and lunch, then the MetroLite backpack is not for you. But if you prefer to travel light or regularly commute by bus or train, I think you'll love it. Read the MetroLite Backpack review and let me know what you think.