Small States features small companies that design and manufacture within the United States. 

Need a bag? There are so many different styles and brands out there, you’ll find something. But it isn’t until you find that perfect match that you truly understand what you’ve been missing.

For me, this happened with Waterfield Designs’ Staad Laptop Backpack. I’ve long been searching for a bag that could meet all of my on-the-go needs. I’ve tried the Ogio Renegade, which can carry everything you need (and feels like it too). I’ve tried the traditional leather messenger bag, but that struggled to handle everything I threw at it. It wasn’t until I came across the Staad that I realized what I’ve been missing.

Created by Gary Waterfield, the Staad Laptop Backpack is the perfect blend of form and function. It is able to meet your computing at the coffee shop needs, without over complicating the situation. I’ll get into the design later, but let me start with the Waterfield Design story first. Gary was working in the bicycle industry, enjoying a successful but at times unfulfilling career at the height of the mountain bike craze. In 1997 Gary decided that it was time to take a year hiatus away from work and reassess his professional goals. During this time, he began looking around San Francisco and admired all of the great textile manufacturing that was happening. It was at that point Gary decided that he would change paths and get into the bag making business.

“I took a year off, just trying to figure out what I wanted to do” Gary says of the transition, “I found a small sewing shop, just to do a few small runs of some things. Which just isn’t something you can do overseas. When Steve Jobs came out with the Titanium PowerBook, it got on the forums that we had a sleeve and the orders just took off.”

The thing about Waterfield Designs is that they don’t just have a bag for some devices, they have something for nearly every device. From your Apple TV and Nintendo 3DS to MacBooks and Mac Pros, Waterfield is hand crafting high-quality protection for the majority of consumer electronics.

“We get ideas from customers or whatever is coming out, like the iPod, I think we were the second company with an iPod case. Then the same thing happened again, you turn the computers on in the morning and the orders just poured in. We try to listen to our customers and their needs.”

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Gary wanted to make it a great experience for the consumer throughout the entire life of the product. Not just from click to ship, but for the duration someone used a Waterfield Design product. As a matter of fact, there’s a button at the top of Waterfield’s page that says, “Hey Gary” where you can communicate directly with the owner. Although the company has grown from a handful of people 16 years ago to roughly 20 now, its ability to keep things local and in-house makes all the difference.

“Most everything is manufactured here now at the shop, there are no over-runs or extras. We don’t have sales or discounts because orders come in and manufactured and shipped out the same day, often.”waterfield-designs-5

We found this experience to be particularly true in our dealings with Waterfield. In every step of the process in getting to know Gary and his staff, I was blown away by their commitment to excellence and customer service.

“You know, it’s not just about the bag but the way you treat people.”

Back to the Staad. It is available in two model sizes, the “slim” or “stout”, and focuses on getting the job done while still maintaining an eye-pleasing design. It comes in either a black ballistic or waxed canvas body, with three different leather flap options.

The outer design is what first caught my attention, this isn’t a traditional backpack that extends away from the back putting weight in certain areas. The Staad runs wider, almost out to your shoulders which more evenly disperses the weight of your pack.

Additionally, you’ll find two exterior pocketswaterfield-designs-everything-in-my-staad and a military inspired locking mechanism for the flap. I found the flap lock to be especially well thought out, it is simple in design but really does the job and is easy to open with one hand. Another clever piece of the design is the half zip on the exterior, which zips down to easily expose the inner portion of the bag. You’ll also find two zip up compartments on the outside of the bag, under the flap, as well.

Inside, there’s enough room for all of your gadgets and goods. In my experience with the stout model, I was easily able to fit my 13-inch MacBook Air, iPad, This is Ground Mod Air, MacBook charger, wallet, keys, Lightning cable and EarPods. For me, that’s easily all that I need on a given day and suspect would meet the needs of most people as well. Some may find that the slimmer model offers enough space on its own.

While I primarily use my iPhone 6 for photography, I believe that thiswaterfield-designs-6 would be an excellent bag for carrying most photography equipment like smaller DSLRs. The interior is padded for protection from bumps along the way, with two compartments for your laptop (up to 13” with slim, 15” with stout) and one for the iPad. A keychain latch and two smaller pockets can also be found inside, I found those to be perfect for storing cables and my wallet.

This week, our readers can win a Staad Laptop Backpack ($329 value) in either size and whatever color combination they prefer. To enter our giveaway, simply follow @9to5Toys on twitter and retweet our article or Like us on Facebook and share with your friends. We will choose a winner next Saturday.

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