WaterField Tech Rolltop Backpack Review: Too Little Utility for Too Much Money

Rating: 4/10 ?
  • 1 - Absolute Hot Garbage
  • 2 - Sorta Lukewarm Garbage
  • 3 - Strongly Flawed Design
  • 4 - Some Pros, Lots Of Cons
  • 5 - Acceptably Imperfect
  • 6 - Good Enough to Buy On Sale
  • 7 - Great, But Not Best-In-Class
  • 8 - Fantastic, with Some Footnotes
  • 9 - Shut Up And Take My Money
  • 10 - Absolute Design Nirvana
Price: $250
The WaterField Tech Rolltop offers huge capacity, but little in terms of value or organization.
WaterField

The basic backpack has nearly infinite varieties, but the rolltop is a popular option if you’re looking for maximum storage. But what if you also want a designer label with your utility? WaterField’s Tech Rolltop hopes you’ll take a look.

Here's What We Like

  • Huge carrying capacity
  • High-quality waxed canvas

And What We Don't

  • Very heavy
  • Very expensive
  • Not very easy to organize

That’s what I did when the company sent me the larger version of the bag. Unfortunately, its massive storage capacity is weighed down, literally, by a heavy build that doesn’t offer much flexibility as a trade-off. There’s no accounting for taste, but I can’t say I was in love with its low-key looks, either. Combine that with a very high price tag, and it just doesn’t make a compelling offering as a premium bag.

Hold Everything

The essence of a roll-top bag is, well, the fact that the top rolls up. The idea is that it’s capable of holding a startling amount of stuff when necessary and becoming more compact when not. On both points, the Tech Rolltop is adequate.

The bag rolls out for a massive maximum capacity of 15 liters.
The bag rolls out for a massive maximum capacity of 15 liters. Michael Crider

WaterField makes the magnetic clasp keeping the rolltop secure a significant focus of its marketing. And it’s a nice mechanism, to be sure: you can slide the clasp out easily with one hand, and getting the two points sort of near each other is enough to snap it back into place via the sliding magnet design. But the whole thing isn’t that much easier than a standard locking clasp you’d see on many backpacks, so I don’t find it as compelling as, say, the magnetic snap closure on the Peak Design bags.

The strap for securing the roll top uses a unique magnetic sliding clasp.
The strap for securing the roll top uses a unique magnetic sliding clasp. Michael Crider

Inside the large main pocket are just two interior pockets, one zippered and one shallow and lined with super-soft material for a tablet. The rest of the space is dedicated to holding as many loose items as it possibly can. And it’s a lot: at its maximum volume, the bag holds 15 liters. That should be enough for a long weekend and toiletries, plus a laptop in the padded exterior zipper compartment.

Organization Is Lacking

Unfortunately, you’re going to have to do a lot of organizing yourself on that trip. Aside from the laptop pocket and two water bottle pouches on either side, there are only two more pockets on the bag. The lower-front pocket uses a standard zipper and comes with an interior key fob, and the top pocket holds itself closed with a magnet, making it ideal for quickly grabbing phones, passports, or batteries.

The front-top pocket closes with a magnetic snap, allowing easy access to important stuff.
The front-top pocket closes with a magnetic snap, allowing easy access to important stuff. Michael Crider

But that’s pretty much it in terms of organization. If you want to carry pens, cables, SD cards, or other assorted bric-a-brac, you’ll need to either let them loose in one of the larger pockets or supply your own organizer. Ditto for mid-sized items that need more protection, like a camera or a portable game console. There are bags just as big as this one that provide more organization and at a lower price.

Good Materials That Weigh You Down

The Tech Rolltop uses a super-heavy 14oz waxed canvas. It’s tough enough to repel bumps and bangs from anything short of a knife or car accident, and water should roll off of it like a duck’s back. It’s also pretty rugged-looking in the brown finish supplied for our review unit. If you’d like something that looks a little like camping or military gear, it’ll do.

The Tech Rolltop's material is a tough, heavy waxed canvas.
The Tech Rolltop’s material is a tough, heavy waxed canvas. Michael Crider

Unfortunately, that heavy canvas material is, well, heavy. The bag weighs over three pounds empty (and that’s the larger version). If it doesn’t sound like much, remember that it’s explicitly designed to carry a huge amount of stuff, at least some of the time. As someone who suffers from back pain, I think I’d rather carry around a cheap, lightweight duffel for a weekend road trip or overnight flight.

A tough, zippered pocket on the back offers easy access to a laptop.
A tough, zippered pocket on the back offers easy access to a laptop. Michael Crider

The straps and padded back are quite comfortable, and the black version (which uses ballistic nylon instead of canvas) might be a little lighter. But to put it bluntly, there are plenty of tough, nice-looking bags that aren’t this heavy, and won’t weigh you down on long treks or in sticky weather. Combined with its maximum carrying capacity, one of the bag’s biggest draws is at odds with its material.

Value Isn’t on the Table

How much would you expect to pay for the Tech Rolltop? When I asked locals in my town, at the bar, and on the hiking path, most of them answered seventy or eighty bucks. They responded with disbelief when I told them it was $250 ($230 for the more compact version). Even as someone who’s no stranger to triple-digit price tags for nice bags, I can’t say I blame them.

The bag's value is way too low for the features it offers.
The bag’s value is way too low for the features it offers. Michael Crider

The Tech Rolltop’s materials are excellent, and its magnetic closure on the secure strap and front quick-access pocket are interesting. But between the poor organization options, the heavy build, and the high price, it’s just not a great product when everything comes together. I can’t recommend it.

Rating: 4/10
Price: $250

Here’s What We Like

  • Huge carrying capacity
  • High-quality waxed canvas

And What We Don't

  • Very heavy
  • Very expensive
  • Not very easy to organize

Michael Crider Michael Crider
Michael Crider has been writing about computers, phones, video games, and general nerdy things on the internet for ten years. He’s never happier than when he’s tinkering with his home-built desktop or soldering a new keyboard. Read Full Bio »

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