My idea of a perfect weekend getaway is four days in San Francisco. My idea of traveling light while still packing as much as possible is Green Guru’s Stand-By Travel Bag System Backpack.

Made in the USA out of some unique materials such as Aerospace Mesh and Hook & Loop and Truck Tarpaulin, this stylish urban nylon pack is as versatile as it is durable. I traveled with it for two months, which involved a train journey from Seattle to Minneapolis, two bus rides across Iceland, two international flights, and numerous bus and car rides in several cities in two countries, and it performed admirably. It still looks like new!

The Stand-By Travel Bag System Backpack is actually five separate bags: a well-padded, multi-sleeve and multi-pocket computer/messenger bag with a removable zippered, padded computer sleeve; two detachable zippered pouches; and the wrap-around “shell” of the bag, which contains a large, zippered and padded compartment.

Since I never go anywhere without my laptop, laptop stand, iPad, iPhone, my bluetooth speaker, and an assortment of power cords, thumb drives, pens, notebooks, and related office gear, I’ll start with the computer/messenger bag. It’s huge! It has a padded, zippered pocket in the center (very securely attached with Velcro-like tabs, but I can remove it if I want to), which most people probably use for a laptop but I like to use for stashing my iPad and speaker. There are deep pockets, also sealed with Velcro-like tabs, on both sides of the main pocket for cords, my camera, and other accessories.

Behind the center pocket, there’s still a large space for my 13″ MacBook Pro, encased in its super padded case (I’m paranoid). I carry my notebook and magazines in front of the center pocket. The bottom of the bag is padded, as is the zippered cover of the bag. I can carry it like a briefcase with the contrast red nylon handle (there’s one on each side of the bag) or use the adjustable shoulder strap. When the shoulder strap isn’t in use I can stuff it into the sleeve on the back of the bag, which is also seriously padded and secured with Velcro-like tabs. When I’m in a rush, I often stash my iPad in the outer sleeve rather than open the bag again. green-guru-bag-2

Two great things about this computer/messenger bag: it holds a lot of electronics and has a decent amount of padding. Another great thing about this bag: I can remove the padded sleeve, leave my laptop at home, and pack a couple shirts and a pair of pants in it, with room in the outer padded sleeve for my iPad.

Now, the outer shell. I can pack another change of clothes, socks, and underwear in the main compartment, or I can stash smaller pouches with cords and gadgets and a few books in there; the bottom is padded. During my two-month summer travels, I did the latter and appreciated the zipper on the side of the compartment that allowed me to grab my iPod out of there (before stashing the bag in the overhead bin of the plane or in the luggage hatch on the bottom of the bus) without opening the entire compartment or completely dismantling the entire system.

Once I pack the compartment in the outer shell, I place the computer/message bag inside it and add the two small duffel-shaped zippered pouches (filled with toiletries, my silk sleep sack, my tin of jewelry, my vitamins, some nutrition bars, and last-minute packables), which attach easily with wide Velcro-like straps. Then I wrap the shell around the computer/messenger bag, secure the two pieces together with tough plastic snap-lock attachments, and cinch the straps as tight as I can. Viola!

It’s incredible how much the Stand-By Travel Bag System Backpack holds. It’s also a bit dangerous for me. I completely overpacked this bag for my summer travels, and it became quite heavy–too heavy for me, actually. Still, I was impressed with how much it held. The straps stay tight, so the system stays “together,” but the bags do shift around. I didn’t feel movement while wearing the pack, but did feel some shifting when grabbing it out of a bus hatch. Still, I got used to it, and the pack never let me down. It never came apart, I felt that my gadgets were well protected, and nothing ever fell out of it. There were times when I stopped to cinch it tighter, and I didn’t always enjoy taking it apart and repacking the system. I’d love it if the system held together in a way that didn’t allow any movement. Having said that, I think the Stand-By Travel Bag System Backpack is brilliant. I like that I can customize the bag to fit my needs. I like that it holds so much (although it’s probably wise not to overpack it like I did.) I like the organization system; there’s a place for everything in this bag.

When I’m able to pack light, I ditch the small duffel pouches and the computer sleeve and use the computer/messenger bag for clothes and a small toiletries bag. Then I pack my iPad and other gadgets in the outer shell compartment. I never check a bag if I can avoid it, and this bag is perfect for a several-day-long trip, even if I want to bring a laptop. It’s also a fabulous bag for long trips, when I need to bring my entire office with me!

black-back_grandeThe pack has padded shoulder straps, with a sternum and waist straps. I prefer wearing bags over carrying them, so I appreciated the sturdy straps. There are also sturdy attachment slots along the front of the bag, which I also used. I tied water bottles to the bag, as well as a blanket in a stuff sack.

Bottom Line: It’s stylish, sturdy, and bottomless. A highly versatile bag for all types of travel.

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