Australian manufacturer Crumpler makes some of the best and most practical computer cases around. But what a cheesy marketing philosophy and low-information catalogue. They spend too much time trying to be clever and too little providing real information and a clear choice for potential buyers.
Despite this, I've been a Crumpler addict ever since I first decided to try a messenger style bag as a replacement for my old backpack. My current bag is the Cheesy Chick 13in (yes, dreadful but what can you do?) which contains enough pockets and space to cope with a typical day out. The laptop slot includes a removable padded envelope-style wallet for the computer, but you can slide the machine out without first removing the envelope (useful at airports). The protection for the computer is good for a bag without rigid sides and there is a clear space below the computer compartment to act as a cushion if the bag is dropped.
The thing I like about the Crumpler range is the unimpeachable workmanship. The material is called Chicken Tex Supreme (which sounds like a nasty childhood illness but is actually very serviceable). The stitching is in contrast, matching the interior, and the inside colours are bright and attractive. My case is in charcoal with a vivid olive-green soft centre (see photograph, which is actually the Cheesy Tina 15in but looks identical to the Cheesy Chick). The carry strap is wide and comfortable and the weight of even a MacBook Pro is well distributed when the bag is cross-wise over the shoulders. The MacBook Air is barely noticeable.
The interior pockets include an outside, zipped organiser for pens, notebooks, mobile phone and small items, while inside the main compartment there are two large pockets, either of which comfortably accommodates the Sony Touch Edition reader. There's plenty of space for your MiFi router, a supplementary iPhone battery and a set of cables, including a MacBook power unit; even a sandwich and an apple.
This Crumpler style includes an unusual carry handle built into the back panel. It works, but causes the bag to hang at an angle because the centre of gravity is altered. With a messenger bag, however, you don't spend much time carrying it in your hand. One improvement I would like to see would be a slot on the back to fit over the handle of a trolley case when travelling. Many bags these days have such a slot and they are much easier to carry around airports when secured in this way.
These bags aren't the cheapest (the 13in Cheesy Tina has a recommended price of £99) and they aren't available at Apple Stores, remarkably enough. Lots of other computer stores stock them, however, and there are dedicated Crumpler stores in London and most major cities.
In a market stuffed with bags and carriers of every possible description, the Crumpler range is unique and worth checking out. First, though, you have to get your head round the infuriating catalogue and the ridiculous nomenclature. Get this description of the Cheesy Tina: "She aint no hag-bag. This high specs, Chickentex laptop glam pouch is strictly for the chic chick. Down the street you’ll stride, your chin upraised in that ‘too good for you’ look".
I suppose someone at Crumpler thinks this is all very clever and cool, even gramatical. Pity, because it tarnishes the overall impression and as far as I can see the bag is as unisex as you can get; I cannot imagine why it is considered by Crumpler as suitable only for female use and why they try to segment the market in this way. I continue to buy Crumpler despite their execrable and sexist marketing policy.