Port Designs – Chamonix review

rucksack for carrying your precious laptop
Photo of Port Designs – Chamonix

I’m a bit of a rucksack junkie. I have different rucksacks depending on how much I need to carry at any one time, and whether I am hiking or just going to the supermarket – yes, rucksacks are great for toting the weekly shop. I’ve done a lot of hunting around and never really found a laptop-specific rucksack that does the business. Port Designs recently sent the Chamonix along, and I’ve been giving it a rigorous testing.

Laptop rucksacks are going to get heavy, so they need to be built with wearer-friendly ergonomics in mind. They need to keep your laptop protected too. And they need to be able to tote a lot of stuff, including papers, cables and your general carry-around bits and bobs, keeping the lot separate and organised. So let’s deal with all of these points.

The Chamonix has a solid top-carrying handle for those times when you don’t want to wear it on your back, along with good quality shoulder straps. There is a nice ‘air venting’ and comfort arrangement on the section that rests against your back. I didn’t feel this it to be quite up to the standards delivered by some rucksacks from specialist makers, but it’s the best I’ve seen on a laptop sack.

This rucksack shape is a bit square and rather wide. As it can become very heavy, it is worth noting that it will probably fit least well those with a narrow back. There’s no belt clip and its absence is a cardinal sin, as belt clips help redistribute the weight of a heavy sack around the body.

The Chamonix has plenty of pockets. The main laptop pocket is padded and has a Velcro strap to help keep your pride and joy securely in place. The specifications say it can accommodate laptops with screens up to 15.4-inches. I just about got away with toting a 17-inch wide-screen monster. By contrast my 13.3-inch screened sub-notebook looked lost in the capacious pocket, but it was held securely and felt well protected.

A second large pocket has a couple of dividers which are good for keeping files separated, but it is annoying that these aren’t anchored to the base of the rucksack. Small items fall through the dividing sections and end up in a heap at the bottom of this pocket.

There is also a fairly large internal padded pocket you can access through a zip on the top of the Chamonix. The marketing blurb suggests this is ideal for your portable music player, but I found it most useful for stowing things I wanted to keep safe but accessible in a hurry, such as cash or keys.

There’s a large open pocket – little more than a big flap of material held in place with a clip – that’s big enough to stow a jumper, and then on the front a generously-sized pocket with various sections, one of which is zipped, and a key-holder.

These sections really weren’t plentiful enough for me. When travelling for work with a laptop I need to carry a lot of cables and other odds and ends (phone, PDA, camera, etc. and their associated chargers and other gubbins), and this section, as is often the case with rucksacks, didn’t deliver what I needed by way of separated storage. A meshed area on the front of this pocket is next to useless, as these always are. There’s nothing I carry that I want to stow on full view in a pocket like this except a packet of tissues!

In a zipped section on the bottom of the casing is a rain cover, which is absolutely essential for any rucksack that is going to be used to transport vital equipment, although the nylon the Chamonix is made of survived a few rain showers without the need for the cover.

Company: Port Designs

Contact: 01672 810366

Importantly this rucksack doesn't look like a notebook sack, so the 'please steal me' telegraph signal that some send out is not present. That's a definite plus. Ergonomically, whether you like this sack will depend on how broad your back is; as a narrow-back I found it a bit unwieldy at times. There are plenty of pockets and the laptop padding is effective. I'd say this is a good rucksack for use on overnight or even weekend work trips and it copes well with big loads, but something more svelte might suit the daily commute.