Many laptop cases suffer from the problem of being too small if you want to carry anything more than your laptop and the immediate essentials. Perhaps in answer to this the Brenthaven Expandable Trek backpack, giving a larger capacity than most with the option of expansion.
It takes the normal backpack form with two padded shoulder straps and a large main compartment, containing the customary padded sleeve for your notebook. When carrying the bag this will mean your laptop sits against your back, with plenty of padding to keep things comfortable. It will carry notebooks up to 15.4 inches and we found no problems with our test notebook.
The main compartment also has four pockets, useful for separating small things out, such as cables or Mars Bars, whilst leaving enough space for books, a folder or overnight stuff.
Moving onto other pockets, you’ll find a well padded top pocket, the sort of place of you could put your PSP and know it is not going to get knocked or scratched. On the sides of the bag you’ll also find two more pockets, one designated as a water bottle pocket, with elasticated mesh pouches on the outside which might struggle to be of any practical use.
The front features a pocket that is deceptively large, with more internal pouches that will keep things organised as well as the obligatory clip for your keys or whatever. Running vertically there are two additional pockets which end up being sort of triangular and are there if you need them for smaller items.
On the front you’ll also find an elasticated mesh section which you could stash your bike helmet under. If you don’t think you’ll ever need it, you can unclip it all and conceal it in a pocket at the bottom.
The expandable part comes in the form of a central zipped section, which when opened reveals yet another compartment. This is only a three-sided expansion section so not as flexible as some expansion pockets found in travel bags, but a welcome addition: it will allow you to stuff in a few extra bits, without having to carry around an excessively large bag all the time.
That said, the capacity of the Trek comes out to be about 50 litres, which is larger than most would want to carry on a day to day basis. The weight is also slightly awkwardly managed too, because whilst you stuff the bag full it expands outwards, yet the base of the bag is pretty narrow. This means most of the expansion is away from you and towards the top of the bag.
This is perhaps countered with plentiful padding around the shoulder straps, which has a chest strap if you find such things make carrying a load more comfortable.
There is also a small pocket at the top of the back section that would house an MP3 player with a port to let your headphones out. It seems to be an odd choice of location because if you have anything bigger than an iPod nano, there is a chance it will dig right into your back.
The material between the different segments also don’t give you any way of waterproofing, so if you wanted to separate dirty sports kit from your books, it might not work too well.
With ballistic nylon used throughout, all the zips feel secure and it seems to be well made. The padding is plentiful, especially on the base, so if you drop your bag hard, it shouldn’t affect the contents too much.
The quality isn’t an issue here, but the overall design perhaps is. Whilst all the pockets add to capacity, it does make you think you might be better off with a bigger main compartment, because unless you can divide your stuff up between the areas, you can’t practically use the space. Once you add in something bulky, like a pair of shoes, it does start to feel a bit limited.