Most waterproof backpacks are not waterproof backpacks in the true sense of the word. They're more water resistant and even then, if you dropped them out of a boat, they'd keep your laptop dry for about a nanosecond because they're really just designed to handle a bit of rain. The true test of waterproofing is putting nothing in the bag and trying to squash it with the bag sealed. If it squashes, then it means water can get it because its not sealed. An extended outing in heavy rain is likely to impose a serious risk and car drives past and dunks you in a wall of water from a puddle you have a chance of discovering our laptop is as usable as a 18 month old Samsung phone with the latest Android update. it's this exact reason that a number of laptop users put their laptops in a plastic bag inside their backpack when cycling in heavy rain.
Currently there are only a handful of bag options for waterproof riding, and today we're looking at StreamTrail, or more specifically the Streamtrail 25L backpack. StreamTrail as a brand is new, but its actually a joint venture between Caps and FeelFree. CAPS has been a fly fishing manufacturer for over 20 years; whilst FeelFree has been manufacturing kayaks for more than 10 years. StreamTrail are distributed in Australia by Ingaida
They have a number of colour (and size) options available which include black, white, green, bright yellow and pink to name a few so you shouldn't have much trouble finding a colour to match your requirements. Our review unit was provided in white which is likely to appeal to those who like to remain visible in traffic. My personal preference would be for white or black if you intend using this for business but that comes down to personal preference and a visibility vs corporate look argument.
Quality and Features
The material used reminds me of a thicker version of the material you find in a passport cover. Its basically heavy duty tarpaulen. The 25L bag comes with a small front compartment with a clear window (with a waterproof zip) and a large 25L compartment for the rest of your gear. The bag I tested is not a laptop bag per say, it's a generic 25L backpack that would suit anything although from drinks to electronics. Drinks you say? Yes, it has a dump valve at the bottom of the bag to let out the liquid so as much as you can use it to keep things dry, you could also use it to keep things wet and cold, like drinks with ice. They do have a laptop specific bag which is 30L and includes a laptop sleeve. The laptop sleeve clips into the bag lining and there is an external mesh compartment which is removeable. If this is not ideal for you, they have another 30L option with two seperate compartments that would allow you to separate your clothing and electronics.
The 25L bag has a couple of loops on it to allow you to attach anything you want. This could be anything from aluminium waterbottles to gloves, keys or a hat. All the StreamTrail bags have a reflective strip on the bottom of the bag and it comes with a tag to write your name and address on although its black, so I'm not 100% sure how you write your name? White pen?
The backpack itself has shoulder straps, chest straps and waist straps so it will be secure while travelling. If I had to knock this model on anything, I'd probably say its a little light on padding but having a padded Moshi laptop sleeve, I had no discomfort while travelling. The laptop specific version seems to be padded a little better so if the lack of padding is an issue, this may be something you want to consider.
All in all, its a pretty basic setup but it has everything you'd expect.
In the absence of a CSI or Mythbuster waterproofing test, I used some slightly non scientific yet effective techniques. For my rain simulation, I inserted some material that I knew would show wetness. I then climbed into a shower (okay, I lie, I put the bag in the shower and observed from outside because it was on cold), did a full 10 minutes with the bag under the shower head to simulate a torrential down pour of the scale and magnitude that normally caused floods. This was aided by a non-water saving shower head we have in our second bathroom as most of the water saving models would be lucky to simulate a light drizzle and would barely get the bag wet. After 10 minutes, I stopped, dried the outside of the bag and tested the contents which were dryer than Ricky gervais's humour.
For part 2, I dunked the offending bag into a bath of water to simulate someone riding their bicycle into a pool (just in case this happens regularly to you), or perhaps if you live on the flood plains in Queensland and didn't get mother nature's hint in the last flood.
In the case of part 2, I was surprised to discover the bag passed the tests without incident despite the lack of zip. I have no doubt your laptop will remain safe and sound in this backpack no matter what mother nature throws at you. Whilst I don't believe it would survive a scuba diving expedition or a swim from the mainland to Tasmania, this bag is possibly the most waterproof type of laptop bag available on the market at the moment.
If you're limited by a budget, the 25L Bag retails for $135 (including $10 Shipping) which great value for money. If you have a larger budget and want the laptop specific backpack, I'd definite recommend the 30L Roadster 2 with retails for about $40 more including a laptop sleeve and external mesh pocket. Whilst I didn't get to test the Roadster, I did get to see it when I collected the Splash and it looks good.
If you travel to work on a bicycle or motorbike and you're looking for comfort of knowing your laptop is always safe, then StreamTrail should be your bag of choice. The quality is outstanding, the price is reasonable and the waterproofing is class leading. Which model of StreamTrail you take is largely based on what you're carrying and what you need it for, but StreamTrail should have a bag to suit everyone's requirements.
A big thanks to Tim from Ingaida for providing the review sample. StreamTrail is still relatively new in Australia so if you're looking for a local supplier, it may be best to contact them direct otherwise they can be purchased online through hardtofind.