8 laptop bags that will speed you through airport security

These new TSA-approved checkpoint-friendly bags mean you don't have to pull your laptop out at airport security.
Targus' Zip-Thru bag shares many features with other popular Targus bags, such as the adjustable air cushioning system around the notebook compartment.

Targus' Zip-Thru bag shares many features with other popular Targus bags, such as the adjustable air cushioning system around the notebook compartment.

  • Targus' Zip-Thru bag shares many features with other popular Targus bags, such as the adjustable air cushioning system around the notebook compartment.
  • The Skooba also offers loads of pockets and organizers, about 20 in total, including a drop-down workstation area with file compartment.
  • The ScanFast Backpack holds notebooks with up to 17-in. displays and unzips to open flat for security scans.
  • The Solo CheckFast has a very space-efficient clamshell design that holds your laptop in padded safety on one side, yet has enough pockets on the other for accessories.
  • The Skooba Design Checkthrough is a functional black briefcase with a zippered double-compartment design.
  • The Mobile Edge ScanFast Backpack is one of the few backpacks manufactured to follow the TSA's security standards.
  • The Tom Bihn Checkpoint Flyer Briefcase is one of our favorite bags, thanks to its good looks, expert pocketry and three hinged compartments.
  • Constructed of ballistic polyester, at US$50 the Solo CheckFast also the least expensive bag in our lineup by far.
  • Checkpoint-friendly bags allow laptops to be fully visible to security scanners. This scan was taken by Aerovation, which went to the distributor of the X-ray equipment used by TSA and rented its lab.
  • The Aerovation is a zippered clamshell that opens flat with your laptop on one side and everything else on the other.
  • The Targus Zip-Thru has a split design that unzips to lie flat and an interior workstation panel equipped with accessory compartments.
  • The Aerovation was the first checkpoint-friendly bag on the market, available back in June.
  • The Pathfinder bag features an aircraft-grade aluminum handle and ball-bearing polyurethane wheels; it unzips to lie flat on the security belt.
  • For a premium price tag, the CODi CT3 offers superior construction and materials, such as military-grade black ballistic nylon.
  • Pathfinder's Wheeled Checkpoint Friendly CompuBrief is the only current option we found for those who prefer wheeled laptop bags.
  • The detachable laptop compartment of the Tom Bihn Checkpoint bag doubles as a laptop sleeve, complete with handles.
  • Two hinged compartments open to lie flat and instantly close themselves when picked up by the handle -- thanks to Velcro in between the compartments.

While no one questions the need to properly scan laptops when going through airport security, the requirement to remove them from their protective cases is a different story. "Naked" notebooks can easily get dropped, damaged, forgotten and even stolen outright. One study done for Dell estimated that about 12,000 laptops are lost in US airports every week -- a claim that has been challenged by the US Transportation Security Administration (TSA). Whatever the numbers are, you don't want your machine, with all its precious data, to become a statistic.

Happily, the TSA has recognized these issues, and began working with case manufacturers in March on a standard for checkpoint-friendly laptop bags that can pass through the security scanners without your having to remove your notebook.

Several cases meeting the spec have already hit the market, and many more are due soon. They have been allowed at checkpoints since late August.

So what makes a checkpoint-friendly laptop bag? The TSA has five official criteria:

  • A designated laptop-only section.
  • A laptop-only section that completely unfolds to lay flat on the X-ray conveyor belt.
  • No metal snaps, zippers or buckles inside, underneath or on top of the laptop-only section.
  • No pockets on the inside or outside of the laptop-only section.
  • Nothing packed in the laptop-only section other than the computer itself.

To meet these requirements, case makers have come up with three basic bag designs: zippered clamshells that open flat with your laptop on one side and everything else on the other; double- or triple-compartment bags that unfold and lie flat like a garment bag, again with the laptop on one side; and simple notebook sleeves that either fit into a larger bag (in which case you'll need to take the sleeve out for scanning) or are carried alone. Many existing sleeves meet these criteria, as long as they don't have pockets or metal parts on the sides.

Here are eight of the latest full-featured TSA-approved cases with pockets and compartments that hold everything from your power adapter and accessories to a change of clothes. They'll help speed up the line and look good doing it.

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Becky Waring

Computerworld
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