Your MacBook needs a brand new case


  • High-quality, robust materials
  • Perfect build and build
  • Nice color options
  • Goldliner for finding content
  • Handcrafted in San Francisco


  • Simple grab handle
  • Expensive for some

Part of my commute involves biking a few miles, so I collect and carry my gear in a shoulder bag or backpack. For the past few weeks I’ve taken a minimalist approach and wrapped my gear in dark green WaterField Essential messenger laptop bag.

WaterField launched its new Essentials Collection in August 2022 with four new lightweight bags that were handcrafted in the USA and priced lower than the flagship options. The Essential Messenger laptop bag is available for $179 in four accent colors: black, green, blue, and red. You can also purchase a cross-stabilization strap for $10, which was not part of my test sample.


The green accent color looks amazing on this shoulder bag.

Matthew Miller/ZDNET

Tour of the Essential Messenger laptop bag

Sent WaterField WaterField Essential messenger laptop bag with the green top accent color. The accent color appears on the top of the bag and the beautiful Forza textile material is sewn very well into the black ballistic nylon of the bag.

On the front of the bag is a zippered front pocket that runs the full length of the bag. In this area there are two large pockets and a main compartment as well as a lanyard. The beautiful traditional WaterField gold lining is also present, making finding your gear quick and easy.


Room for a phone and a laptop.

Matthew Miller/ZDNET

The front flap compartment is held securely to the bag via magnetic Fidlock buckles. We’ve seen some interesting belay buckles from WaterField over the years and the Fidlock is another unique design. The buckles are made of durable plastic and slide together securely with help very strong magnets. The buckles have a clever angled design that prevents the buckle from slipping open. As for the sliding mechanism, there are stops on the top component so they only close in one direction. In general, you can maneuver the buckle with one hand fairly easily.


Keep the front flap secure with strong magnets

Matthew Miller/ZDNET

After lifting the front flap, the large main carrying compartment is revealed with a gold lining in the main compartment and in the two inner pockets on the front of the bag. Across the width of the back is a padded laptop sleeve that will fit medium-sized devices like the 14 inch Apple MacBook Pro, Microsoft Surface Pro 8and Surface laptop 4. I happen to have a Surface Pro 8 and can confirm that it fits well in this space. I also tested a 12.9 inch iPad Pro with the Brydge 12.9 Max Plus keyboard and found the size perfect for mobile working.

Also: WaterField Air Travel Backpack Rating: Perfect bag for hands-free business trips

The bottom of the main compartment opens to about three inches wide, making it easy to carry a water bottle, headset, charger, and other gear. The back of the bag is fully covered in padded fabric and should sit comfortably against your back when you wear it around your shoulders. There is a single grab handle at the top rear, but this is not ideal for carrying the bag for long periods of time. The shoulder strap is the way to go.


A Surface Pro 8, an Amazon Kindle Oasis and a Sony headset in the lower compartment.

Matthew Miller/ZDNET

Finally, there’s a soft bike harness made from seat webbing that attaches to loops on the back. A metal cam-lock buckle secures the two ends of the strap, allowing for quick and easy adjustment when the strap is across your chest.

bottom line

WaterField Designs makes some of my favorite bags and are designed and built to last for years (or decades) while retaining their good looks and shape. The Essential Messenger Bag is the company’s most affordable and accessible bag yet. Best of all, it doesn’t compromise on American-made quality, materials, and design features. Personally, I love how the green highlight looks, and the signature gold lining is both stylish and useful for sorting out the gear inside.

to examine alternatives

While I highly recommend WaterField Designs bags because they are so well built and will last for years, here are some other options to consider:

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