Like the Contour Balance, Kensington's slightly more compact rolling laptop bag, the $100 Contour Traveler accommodates laptops with display sizes up to 15.4 inches and incorporates wheels and a telescoping handle so you don't have to literally shoulder the full weight of your midsize laptop. As its name implies, though, the Contour Traveler's plentiful organizer pockets are designed for frequent fliers, and its bulky shape will likely be too much for commuters. Nevertheless, we like its place-for-everything design: the bag includes a built-in business card holder, an expandable water bottle holder, and a handy zipper pocket for tickets and passports. We also like the ease with which we can carry and roll the bag. If you travel often and struggle to keep up with all your gadgetry (and the attendant cords and chargers) while on the road, the Kensington Contour Traveler will be worth its high price tag.
Made of water-resistant microfiber and measuring 17.8 inches wide, 15 inches deep, and 8.3 inches thick, the black Contour Traveler is sized more like a carry-on suitcase than your typical laptop bag. It looks like luggage, too (unlike its sleeker cousin, the Contour Balance). In exchange for the bulky design and utilitarian look, though, you get plenty of compartments to corral and carry all your stuff. On the front, a double zipper opens to reveal organizer pockets for your MP3 player, cell phone, flash drive, pens, and discs; there's also a hook for your keys. An additional zipper pocket above the front flap is large enough to hold more discs, a wallet, keys, a passport, or plane tickets. On one side of the bag a Velcro panel expands to create a holder for a water bottle; on the other side of the bag a removable business card case tucks into a pocket and secures with a snap.
Inside the Contour Traveler's main compartment, which opens up three-quarters of the way for easy access to its contents, you'll find two expandable pockets to hold file folders or magazines. In lieu of a built-in laptop compartment, the Contour Traveler incorporates a fully removable, padded laptop sleeve. We like that the sleeve has a front pocket and metal loops on the sides; if you need to streamline your stuff, you can attach the shoulder strap to the sleeve and carry just your laptop and some papers. This main compartment was able to comfortably accommodate the Dell Latitude D630, two bulky file folders, and a thick, bound journal. With the bag this full, we found it a bit difficult to remove the laptop from the separate sleeve--a concern for those who pride themselves on swiftly traversing the security checkpoint.
A double zipper on the back of the Contour Traveler opens to reveal the area where the telescoping handle attaches to the bag. Within this compartment, two handy removable zipper pouches keep cables under control, while a small pocket with a Velcro closure holds your Kensington (natch) security lock. We were glad to see the pouches, because the cover for the Contour Traveler's telescoping handle opens directly onto this compartment, potentially exposing its contents to the elements. This gap wouldn't do for our soggy San Francisco commute, but it shouldn't be a concern if you're primarily shuttling from the airport to the hotel. As with the Contour Balance, the Contour Traveler features a handy Velcro strap on the back of the bag that slips over a suitcase handle and attaches the laptop bag on top of a larger rolling suitcase.
We loaded up the Kensington Contour Traveler with all our requisite electronics (14.1-inch laptop, camera, phone, MP3 player) and cords, plus a travel mouse, a thick journal, two full file folders, and a magazine--far more than we'd ever want to lug with us on a business trip. All these objects easily fit into the Contour Traveler, and the bag kept its shape despite being full. Though the stuffed bag was heavy, the retractable, heavily padded handle on top made it easy to lift the bag to table height (as though going through a security checkpoint) and to carry it up a flight of stairs. The Contour Traveler also includes a detachable shoulder strap; the sturdy metal clasps seemed unlikely to bend or break over time. Though the loaded bag was too heavy to carry on one shoulder for any extended length of time, we carried it long enough to appreciate the bag's contoured shape, which helps transfer the weight of the bag away from your shoulder and closer to your midsection ("your natural center of gravity," says Kensington).
The best way to transport the Kensington Contour Traveler, of course, is by pulling it behind you. The telescoping handle feels sturdily constructed, and the T-shaped, rubberized grip makes it easy to keep a firm hold on the bag. We pulled our stuffed Contour Traveler across uneven tiled walkways and city sidewalks; we also dragged it behind us up and down some stairs and over a curb. Its wheels weren't as quiet as those of the Contour Balance, but we were pleased with the Contour Traveler's stability; it didn't even flop over when going down stairs.
While the Contour Traveler's price is a bit higher than that of other laptop bags, $100 is a little less than we'd expect to pay for a similarly constructed carry-on suitcase. That price also includes a lifetime warranty on defects in material and workmanship. If you travel constantly and struggle to keep all your gadgets, cords, and papers contained, the comfort and organization offered by the Kensington Contour Traveler is worth the cost.