I love backpacks, so much so that I call my main one the Bag of Life. But thanks to the myriad of things I cram into them, and my inadvertent rough treatment, my favorite bags rarely last long. That is why, up until now, I've gone for big bulky bags from laptop makers, as regular bags tend to collapse under the pressure. But I might have met my match with the Knomo Dale. Priced at $399, the backpack is a sleek, stylish companion for adults who need to carry a standard-size 15-inch laptop (or smaller) along with additional gear.
Let's get this out of the way -- the Knomo Dale is categorized as a male bag, but it looks pretty gender-neutral. I chose the Dale because I often have to take my work, which consists of laptops 14 inches and larger, home, and this was the largest bag that Knomo offers.
Described as a tote backpack, the Knomo Dale looks like an oblong purse, albeit a long one. Most of the bag is made from supple ebony full-grain leather. The back of the bag and part of the top-mounted handles are made of black canvas. The bag's two main compartments are secured with sturdy silver metallic zippers.
One of my favorite things about the Dale are the detachable straps that transform it from a sleek tote into a dapper backpack. Hidden in the canvas rear pocket are a pair of wide canvas straps that snap into a pair of metal connectors tucked into the bottom corners of the bag. In addition to the straps, Knomo added some extra comfort via a pair of sliding strap pads.
The bag's interior is made of mustard canvas with a pocket or two lined in a soft, velvet-like material. All in all, it's a nice bag -- too nice for me and my destructive tendencies. That's part of the reason I chose the black version of the bag instead of the brown or white iterations. I wanted a color that wouldn't stain too quickly.
Durability and Comfort
Measuring 15.8 x 12.2 x 9 inches, the Dale is smaller than my preferred 17-inch backpack. That meant I couldn't cram in as much of my gear as I would have liked (though not for lack of trying). Still, I managed to get in my Nikon D3300 camera, a 15-inch MacBook Pro, a Nintendo Switch, several Moleskine notebooks, the V-Moda Remix Speaker and several papers strewn here and there.
I immediately noticed the bag sits up higher on my back than other bags I've worn, which made the Dale infinitely more comfortable, especially when I had to wear it for long periods. I never felt the straps digging into my back, or that ache in my upper back signaling it's time to remove the backpack and take a seat.
That's not to say everything went smoothly with the Dale. There were a couple of instances when I was running for the train or to catch a flight, when the rapid motion inadvertently caused the metal connectors holding one of the straps in place to disconnect. The sudden weight redistribution made me stop in my tracks to put it together again.
For a tony leather bag, the Dale isn't easily scuffed. To date, there's only a small abrasion on the front pocket, something that can potentially be remedied with some olive oil or a good leather repair kit. Just because it made me feel like a fashionable adult, I didn't go easy on this bag. For six weeks it's gone back and forth with me to work, traveled to SXSW and taken a trip to Tampa, Florida. In between that travel, it's endured the grime of the New York City subway floor.
Room for One More
For a midsize bag, the Dale certainly has a lot of nooks and crannies. Upon opening the front pocket, you'll see two large mustard canvas pockets created by the light gray felt and canvas divider. Along the front of the divider sits seven smaller pockets for pens, chargers, business cards and other various knick-knacks.
The largest pocket has integrated RFID (radio-frequency identification) blocking to protect your credit cards, passports and other important information from identity theft. Knomo also included a detachable keychain, so I didn't have to burrow into the depths to find my keys, which is always a bonus.
Unzipping the larger portion of the bag, you'll see two more pockets, again lined in that resplendent yellow. I used the smaller of the two pouches to store some of my mail, a notebook and a few errant cables. The larger cavity held my 15-inch MacBook Pro and a copy of Neil Gaiman's Death: The Deluxe Edition along with another Moleskine. Although Knomo made the bag large enough to carry up to 15-inch laptops, I don't think they had anything as thick as the Alienware 15 R3 in mind. Despite several attempts to finesse, cajole and jam it into the bag, I had no luck.
The remaining space between the two pockets was wide enough for me to stow my camera and a few portable chargers as well as my Bluetooth speaker. Granted, getting everything to fit took some feng shui on my part, but once everything was in place the bag closed fairly easily.
I didn't think I could handle the responsibility of having a nice backpack. Made from beautiful leather, the Knomo Dale is lovely -- and surprisingly sturdy. It survived, relatively unscathed, traveling around the country, including the rigors of the NYC subway.
Despite being a smaller bag than I'm used to, it carried most of my tech menagerie without putting undue strain on my back. It's pricey at $399, but having a bag this nice is an investment worth making.