Product Review: Outback Solo for Surface Pro 3

Papa's got a brand new bag. WaterField Designs has produced a truly enjoyable, stylish, and professional carry-all for the Surface Pro 3.

Rod Trent

March 24, 2015

5 Min Read
Product Review: Outback Solo for Surface Pro 3

I write about the Surface Pro 3 a lot. I mostly talk about how I have integrated Microsoft's tablet into my daily computing through add-ons (hardware and software) that I use to complete the package. Over a year ago I made the conscious decision to move from a desktop/laptop combination approach to the Surface Pro 3 with the official dock, external keyboard and mouse, and multiple monitors. It's been an extremely successful move. You can still follow my journey in my Surface Pro 3 Diary series.

Over time I've tried new things, always with the mind of ensuring I'm as efficient as I can be, and that my daily rig is at its optimum. Sometimes those tests have resulted in replaced gadgets to guarantee I'm using the best options available. But, there's been one piece of my setup that I've not found a replacement for and that's my travel bag. Recently, I was able to locate a good replacement for my slipcase, finding that the WaterField Designs Surface Pro 3 Outback Slip Case was more than adequate to replace the Maroo. WaterField produces some excellent bags for many laptops, tablets, and even gaming systems, and I've always been enamored by the company's attention to detail and the solid construction. The company has a way of making utilitarian bags elegant and professional. But, though I love what the company produces, I'm not always sold on every offering. For example, I tested the Muzetto Leather bag last year and found it bulky and ugly – for me, anyway.

I love my current bag, the Kenneth Cole Backstreet DayBag and this is what I always use to compare against. I bought the bag in an airport a couple years back and it's been a solid purchase. It's protective light, and small, and holds everything I need for travel. Still, like I said before, I'm always looking to be more efficient and I don't want to settle on what I use just because it's comfortable to do so. I use a modern mindset, and that's to minimize where possible to maximize my abilities.

So, it's actually a great pleasure to announce that after a couple years of searching, I've finally found a replacement for the Kenneth Cole and that I am reviewing the Outback Solo for Surface Pro 3 from Waterfield.

The Outback Solo is what you might think Indiana Jones would carry artifacts in. The construction is rugged and the material is stylish. It comes in two material options, waxed canvas or black ballistic nylon. I chose the waxed canvas for that more rugged, more masculine look. Black nylon, to me, is overdone and seems a bit on the cheap-looking side.

The Outback Solo sports a leather front flap that snaps magnetically to the bag to keep your Surface Pro 3 from bouncing out during a frantic run to the gate. Two pockets adorn the front. One is the size of most smartphones, and the other is expanding, allowing the Surface Pro 3's power adapter to travel along with you.

The back of the bag offers another pocket that spans the length and width. I use this for toting magazines and papers, but more importantly to house my travel itinerary to which I always need to have quick access.

The inside is made of neoprene to ensure your Surface Pro 3 investment can survive travel in a scratch-free environment.

The shoulder strap, which is an optional buy as a $19 add-on, is made from seatbelt material. If this were truly an Indiana Jones accessory, the strap could be used as his whip. But, while a strong, durable shoulder strap is a pretty valuable asset, this is the only area that I have to ding the Outback Solo, and actually, Waterfield for. When you order the shoulder strap, that's all you get. Most bag manufacturers will attempt to make the strap more comfortable by including a shoulder pad. As far as I can see, Waterfield doesn't do that with any of its bags. Considering how heavy even light loads can feel after standing in a taxi line for an hour or more, a little extra comfort goes a long way.

I ended up ordering a shoulder pad add-on from Amazon (Manhattan Portage Shoulder Pad) but it's tough finding something that matches the color and elegance of the Outback Solo. Waterfield should definitely consider manufacturing its own shoulder pads.

UPDATE: After this review, the Waterfield folks reached out to give me a link to -- you guessed it -- shoulder pads. They're not included with the bags only offered as add-ons, but Waterfield does manufacture its own shoulder pads. Find those here:  Shoulder Strap & Shoulder Pad. The one I might order to compliment the Outback Solo is the Chocolate Leather shoulder pad for $24.

As you can see from the image above, the Outback Solo is thinner and smaller than my old Kenneth Cole, and truth told, it does hold less. This was actually the most important piece for me. Bags I've tested before didn’t have enough room to carry the junk I think necessary for travel, but the Outback Solo caused me to rethink that again. I'm a child of the "just in case" mentality and I generally pack like a Boy Scout. But, for travel, I really only need a few things. The Outback Solo forced me to revamp my travel needs and minimize even further, which I believe is a positive step.

So, for now, the Outback Solo is my primary bag. I carry the Surface Pro 3, power adapter, smartphone, an extra USB cable, earbuds, a couple magazines, my printed boarding passes, and that's it.

The Outback Solo for Surface Pro 3 is available for $109 from the Waterfield web site. If you want the strap (and who doesn't?), it's an extra $19. And, if you're like me, you'll want to grab a shoulder pad like the Manhattan Portage or the Hazard Deluxe or, as per my update above, Waterfield's own shoulder pad.

BTW: WaterField also makes a model of this bag for iPad Air owners.

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