Review: WaterField's Tech Rolltop Backpack is a durable if pricey status symbol

in Current Mac Hardware edited January 2021
WaterField's latest backpack is a durable and versatile option for carrying your MacBook, iPad or other tech gear, but the price is only worth it if you put style on the same pedestal as function.

WaterField's Tech Rolltop Backpack

Sometimes I feel as if there's a separate, alien world of Apple buyers out there. To an extent I can understand the people who plunk down $1,000 on a new iPhone or $3,000 on a new Mac -- you're often spending hours with these machines day-in and day-out. If an iPhone is your primary device, an XS Max may not be far-fetched.

But as Apple fans are probably aware, there are some absurdly expensive accessories out there. Leather-wrapped chargers, Swarovski iPhone cases, Hermes Apple Watch bands, and so on, many of which cost a lot without adding tangible value. The makers of these products count on the fact that someone who can afford a $1,000 iPhone probably has cash to spare.

WaterField, I'd say, falls somewhere in between luxury and pure practicality. Just about all of their products are made of materials like leather, suede and canvas, yet while that's unnecessary it does have value in the context of things like pouches and backpacks.

The Tech Rolltop Backpack is if anything the most utilitarian thing they've made. As its name implies, the signature feature is a collapsible top -- this lets you shrink down if space is at a premium, or stuff the bag to the gills when it counts.

The product comes in either waxed canvas or ballistic nylon, depending on the color you want, and in two sizes: "Compact," holding up to 15 liters, and "Full," storing up to 24. We went with the Full option in brown waxed canvas.

The tech focus of the Rolltop is evident is several respects. Two outward-facing pockets include an unsealed one for quick access to things like cards, your iPhone or headphones. A mesh laptop/tablet compartment sits up against your back, and the interior has a padded sleeve compartment that can fit a 15-inch MacBook. Only the Full bag can hold 15-inch laptops within the mesh section.

WaterField's Tech Rolltop Backpack

WaterField sees the bag as useful for more than just the office, and along those lines there are two exterior side pockets. They're relatively spacious, so they should be handy for things like GoPros, water bottles, protein shakers or even Bluetooth speakers.

The Full model feels equally spacious when you open up the main compartment. By design it includes just two divisions: a plush sleeve for your MacBook or iPad, and a zippered pocket for cables, chargers, and other small items. Some people might want additional pockets, but I imagine most won't complain.

The sleeve is probably preferable for carrying hardware versus the exterior mesh, which is less comfortable and leaves your devices exposed to the elements. You may need to start with the the former when packing the bag though -- I found that if I waited until clothes and other items were in, even a 9.7-inch iPad (in a rugged case, mind) was troublesome.

WaterField's Tech Rolltop Backpack

The Rolltop does indeed let you cram in extra versus regular bags, for the simple reason that the top is flexible and opens straight. I tested it under a few circumstances, including using it as a grocery bag -- I was able to fit three large boxes of protein bars and four packages of ground turkey with room to spare.

WaterField's Tech Rolltop Backpack

If you're planning to use the product for weekend or overnight trips, you should absolutely buy the Full model. On a brief Houston trip, one night and one day, even that size was just barely enough.

The same goes if the bag is handling both work and fitness. You should be okay if you don't need to bring much to work beyond your tech gear, but it could be difficult to stash lunch, books, shoes, clothing and electronics simultaneously.

All that said, the product is extremely well-made. Stitching is tight and materials are tough, especially the waxed canvas, which seems like it would take a Bowie knife to rip. The canvas and interior lining alike are water-resistant, although you need to leave rolling headroom if you're expecting rain or snow.

Other nice touches include an adjustable magnetic clasp, and foam lining at the bottom that helps preserve the bag's shape when you're loading it.

WaterField's Tech Rolltop Backpack

My only remaining complaints start with the potential awkwardness of a rolltop design. If you need to grab something from the bottom you'll have to plunge most of your arm in, which might nudge some people towards alternatives.

The other gripe is price. The Compact Rolltop is $229, and the Full is $249, which is an awful lot to spend on a backpack. When you consider that a bigger, equally durable bag like 5.11's AMP24 is about $190, that's tricky to justify.

Which brings us full circle. This bag is really for people who want a status symbol as much as something useful -- whereas a 5.11 product looks like you just got home from a tour in Afghanistan, WaterField's lineup is meant to blend in with the business casual world. In any environment, it'll probably impress your colleagues.

If you can afford it and fashion does matter that much to you, by all means buy the Tech Rolltop -- you won't be disappointed.

Score: 4.5 out of 5

Where to buy

The Waterfield Tech Rolltop Backpack is available in three colors and retails for $229 for the compact version and $249 for the full size.


  • Reply 1 of 12
    olsols Posts: 50member
    Is it just me or does this $229 priced bag look like a shopping bag? This think is ugly
  • Reply 2 of 12
    Looks old and mouldy, like it had been laying in a damp basement since WWII.
  • Reply 3 of 12
    Suede for a bag is awful, so easily gets dirty and stained.
  • Reply 4 of 12
    fred1fred1 Posts: 1,104member
    Sorry, but way out of my price range. OK, there are lots of folks who make that much every hour, but there are very nice alternatives that cost much less. 
  • Reply 5 of 12
    jeffharrisjeffharris Posts: 771member
    Shapeless, ugly blob. 
    Everything will settle into the bottom and be awful to carry.
    The top doesn't properly seal… maybe a zipper?… so it's susceptible to dirt infiltrating.

    You can do a LOT better, for a LOT less!
    Start by looking at packs from companies known for making actual backpacks and not laptop sleeves.
  • Reply 6 of 12
    Roger_FingasRoger_Fingas Posts: 148member, editor
    For the record, it looks nicer in person. It's difficult to get good photos of.
  • Reply 7 of 12
    entropysentropys Posts: 4,129member
    It is not suede, it’s oilskin. Or, as the article says, waxed canvas.
  • Reply 8 of 12
    mpantonempantone Posts: 2,023member
    Ugh, this thing is atrociously ugly.

    I'm okay with black nylon straps on my $30 JanSport daypack, but not for something that is $200+.

    I don't see who would view this monstrosity as a status symbol. 
  • Reply 9 of 12
    entropys said:
    It is not suede, it’s oilskin. Or, as the article says, waxed canvas.
    Sounds worse. I thought I recognised that canvas material from the military. They use to make duffle bags  from the same material and overtime, after being exposed to water and heat, it would shrink and fade. It's tough material but certainly not waterproof or visually pleasing.
  • Reply 10 of 12
    maestro64maestro64 Posts: 5,043member
    First I am glad most people's first impress was similar to min, it kind of looks like a brown sack of potatoes. I am not always about fashionable, functionality if usually top of the list for an item like this. If it can look nice too and not cost a fortune just because some designer put their name on it then I am all for it. But it looks like something the Army would have commission and award the business to the lowest bidder and because the Army is buying you pay extra.
  • Reply 11 of 12
    macguimacgui Posts: 2,344member
    entropys said:
    It is not suede, it’s oilskin. Or, as the article says, waxed canvas.
    Sounds worse. I thought I recognised that canvas material from the military. They use to make duffle bags  from the same material and overtime, after being exposed to water and heat, it would shrink and fade. It's tough material but certainly not waterproof or visually pleasing.
    Duffle bags were canvas, not oilskin or similar. Yes, they were not waterproof. However oilskin and waxed canvas 'fabric' (two different things) are waterproof if cared for properly. Whether the bag itself is also waterproof is a function of design.

    The military would have designed something like this – around the time of WWI. I humped around Alice gear, and pre- and post- gear and it looked much better than that.

    I tend to put both from and function on the same or equal pedestals, and have owned a few Waterfield packs in the past. But this will not be one.

    It probably has typical Waterfield durability, but I don't like the looks at any price. It looks like a retro-style to channel your Indiana Jones, and it's not for me.

    I don't mind paying for a level of style over function if it pleases me. Nobody else's opinion matters except to them so 'status symbol' is irrelevant.
  • Reply 12 of 12
    jbrown771jbrown771 Posts: 1unconfirmed, member
    This look is in these days, lol...i've seen sneakers that look like they are used on sale for 100s of dollars, it's certainly a style that takes some stomaching, not for everyone, but some will appreciate the rugged look, and for certain it will protect ipads, macbooks, apple watches and more. Though most Mac users may not like this bag as it's not stylish...I've seen better backpacks for Macs at
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