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Christmas Gift Guide

Lowepro RidgeLine Pro BP 300 AW

It's a grower

Important stuff within reach

Keys, please

Bigger on the right

Safe sunglass storage

Secret stash

Comfortable and stable

Stowable straps

Separate laptop and tablet compartment

Deep, wide center compartment

Front compartment

Accessory storage

Strong but painful grab handle

Compression straps

All-weather cover

Built-in trolley strap

Traveling office or weekend daytripper

The $130 RidgeLine Pro BP 300 AW (£95; AU$185 converted) is an outdoor-inspired 25-liter daypack designed for travel or a daily commute. I tested it out as my mobile office for a grueling week walking and working on the floors of the consumer-tech hellscape that is the CES 2016 convention.

Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET

The RidgeLine comes in two sizes, the Pro BP 300 AW reviewed here and the slightly smaller $100 BP 250 AW. They're similar in capacity, though the latter has fewer pockets in and outside the bag and has two main compartments. The BP 250 AW does, however, have an extra external mesh side pocket for a water bottle or umbrella.

The Pro BP 300 AW is deceivingly compact. Three main compartments allow it to grow with the demands of your trip with compression straps on each side to let you adjust the depth for your load.

Here are the dimensions:

  • Internal: 32x12x49 cm (12.6x4.7x19.3 in)
  • External: 34x21x50 cm (13.4x8.3x19.7 in)
  • Tablet compartment: 21x2x23 cm (8.3x0.8x9.1 in)
  • Laptop compartment: 29x4x34 cm (11.4x1.6x13.4 in)
  • Weight: 1.31 kg (2.9 lbs)
  • Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET

    I used this bag as my carry-on for my flight. The inside was stuffed full of every little thing I would need for the week: a 15-inch MacBook Pro with its power supply and an iPad Mini; a Nikon D7100 dSLR with a flash and three lenses; over-the-ear headphones; miscellaneous cables and chargers and back-up batteries; and a change of clothes just in case my checked bag didn't make it through. It was fully loaded, but remarkably still slid under the seat in front of me on my commuter jet.

    With that much stuff inside, it was nice to have several pockets on the outside for anything from boarding passes to hand sanitizer to snacks.

    Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET

    The front has two vertical zippered pockets -- one on each side. The one on the left is a bit shallower, but has a key clip.

    Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET

    The pocket on the right side was big enough for me to stash my Amazon Kindle Paperwhite as well as a few other things like medicine and mints that I wanted to keep handy.

    Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET

    At the top of the bag is what Lowepro calls a FormShell pocket lined with tricot, a soft material to prevent scratching. The crushproof pocket is made for sunglasses, but large enough to store multiple pairs. Basically anything fragile you want to protect you can put in here. Because of the stiffness of the shell, though, it takes extra effort to get stuff in and out.

    Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET

    On the right side when you turn the bag over you'll find a hidden zippered pocket that's perfect for your phone or a passport and money or any other small thing you don't want easily found.

    Caption by / Photo by Joshua Goldman/CNET

    The shoulder straps and back padding made the bag quite comfortable to wear all day. If you're the type to just sling your bag over one shoulder, however, the Pro BP 300 AW might be too much bag for you.

    When this thing is fully loaded, you'll want some help to support the bag and keep it from sliding around. The sternum strap has an elastic piece to let it stretch a bit for comfort. There's a generous hip strap, too, with padded fins where they attach to the bag.

    Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET

    The hip fins and straps can be stowed behind the air-mesh back panel.

    Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET

    The smaller BP 250 AW puts your tablet storage in one compartment and your laptop in another. The Pro BP 300 AW puts both in the back compartment, which is convenient for airport security and organization in general. There isn't much room in this area one loaded, but I was able to fit a legal pad and few documents in there for safe keeping.

    The pockets use Lowepro's CradleFit design, which keeps the sides of your laptop and tablet from smacking into the ground when you put the bag down.

    Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET

    This center compartment is what really makes this bag good for travel. There's a mesh pocket for some toiletries or something, but otherwise it's just a big open area. This is where I fit all my camera gear, my headphones and a full change of clothes, and still had enough room to reach around inside to pull stuff out.

    Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET

    The front compartment doesn't open terribly wide, but if you're considering this for a daily commute bag, this is probably where you'll keep a mouse and power supply and other stuff to get you through your day.

    Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET

    For all the cords, batteries, chargers and other little tech bits you travel with, this compartment has a nice deep zippered pocket, several open pockets and a row of elastic straps.

    Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET

    When you need to grab the bag and go, there's a bright orange strap at the top. With so much storage space, the bag can get heavy fast and this handle is just too thin and uncomfortable if you're using it for anything other than getting the bag from the ground to your back.

    However, despite the low-profile handle's flimsy appearance, it was solidly stitched to the bag, supporting it fully packed with no signs of wear or tear.

    For those who want a more substantial handle on top as well as one on the side, check out Lowepro's HighLine bags.

    Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET

    These straps help compress the middle section when not in use. It would have been nice if they could have also connected to each other around front for holding a jacket, but, well, they don't.

    Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET

    Tucked into its own pocket at the bottom of the bag is a waterproof cover. The bag on its own can handle a little light rain, but for heavier rain, snow and dust, this cover will protect it.

    Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET

    Almost completely hidden by the back padding is a strap to drop down over the handle of a rolling bag.

    Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET

    Overall, the RidgeLine offered much more than I expected for the money. It's well constructed with some nice storage features and a ton of space inside.

    Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET
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