Review: Victorinox Big Ben Backpack

The security screening procedure at the airport typically provides about as much enjoyment as a graduate-level macroeconomics lecture, so it was comforting to know I had one less hassle when I approached the conveyor belt at the TSA checkpoint the last time I flew: I didn’t have to remove my 15-inch MacBook from my backpack.

My notebook was stowed inside a Big Ben backpack, which is made by Victorinox Swiss Army, the same folks who make the knives, watches and other assorted travel gear. The Big Ben has a separate Security Fast Pass sleeve — basically, a laptop compartment inside the bag that has been pre-approved by the TSA. They’re still going to X-ray the computer pouch, but it doesn’t need to be opened and the laptop doesn’t need to be removed. In fact, it glided through the luggage scanners at every airport I traveled through with absolutely no suspicious looks or barked orders from the agents.

There’s a little drill you have to learn: Unbutton the clasp at the top, peel the Velcro, and pull the laptop pocket away from main body. The bag butterflies into two sections on the conveyor belt: the main pack and the padded computer sleeve. It provides small comfort — you still have to put your shoes back on, get your belt, your jacket and your plastic bag of 3-oz. liquids, but at least you’re not also fumbling with a couple thousand dollars’ worth of aluminum-encased delicateness at the same time.

Until recently, the only TSA-approved luggage you could use to fly through security were the more staid and traditional laptop briefcases. But the Big Ben leads an ever-increasing bevy of security-friendly travel backpacks. As with their Swiss Army knives, the Victorinox folks have taken the more-is-better approach to appointments. There are interior pockets for paperwork, pens, business car holders, a cell phone and other travel musts. Even with the storage panels fully loaded with gadgets, there’s still room for an overnight change of clothes in the main compartment. The computer compartment can fit up to a 15.6-inch notebook with room for the power supply. A clever zip-away water bottle pocket on the side is a nice touch — except when a burly TSA guard demands you throw the bottle away.

Like Victorinox’s other TSA-ready laptop bags, the Big Ben isn’t very exciting to look at, and other pack makers offer similar designs. But this one does have an extra goodie: the Swiss Tracker lost and found service. Each bag has a 9-digit tracking ID and a phone line to call if the bag is lost or misplaced. It’s as a piece of baggage that clears security and offers security as well.

Photo courtesy of Victorinox Swiss Army

See Also:

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  • TSA Chief Apologizes to Airline Passenger Soaked in Urine After Pat-Down
  • Timbuk2 Command TSA-Compliant Laptop Bag
  • TSA Explains Why Your Wart Cream Goes in a See-Through Bag
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