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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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