The Highs: Light weight; heavily padded laptop sleeve; understated styling; price; can access front pockets when flap is buckled

The Lows: Limited organization/widget pockets, e.g., not much room for power brick & cord; grab handle is of little use

The Verdict: Great value, albeit with limitations, if you don’t need to carry much beyond a laptop

If you’re looking for a no-frills, good looking messenger-style bag for carrying your laptop and a few other essentials, you might want to take a look at Australian manufacturer STM’s “Scout” line.

 

 

The Scout comes in three sizes – Extra Small, for most 11″ screens, Small, shown here, for 13″ laptops, and Medium, which accommodates most 15″ laptops. The two larger bags come in black, olive, and ochre; the Extra Small is only available in black and olive.

Featuring a heavily padded laptop sleeve, an adjacent pocket that’s about an inch wide, two front pockets (one with a removable keytainer), a zippered pocket also in front, and an open pocket on its back, the STM Scout offers significant protection for your laptop and enough room for various odds and ends plus perhaps a magazine or a file folder or two.

As I’ve mentioned in the past, one of the most effective ways I’ve identified for evaluating these bags – in addition to traveling with them – is to temporarily put them to use as a daily bag. Using a bag day in and day out makes flaws stand out quickly.

My needs in this regard may differ from yours, but the things I carry between home and work – (at present) – a MacBook Air, spiral bound notebook, a few file folders, a Canon S90, and a bunch of odds and ends (jump drives, ear buds, aspirin/meds, business cards, eye drops, extra contacts, small notepad, pens, keys, etc.) fit the Small Scout, with a few compromises. The Scout has fewer organization pockets than I prefer, so I had to combine a bunch of small items in the front zippered pocket, making retrieval of specific items a bit more difficult. In addition, the pocket adjacent to the laptop sleeve doesn’t hold much more than a spiral bound notepad and a file folder or two. My industrial commercial-sized ThinkPad would never fit in this bag, of course; a DSLR camera body would fit, but not if equipped with a lens.

Before taking a photo tour of the bag, let’s take a look at the Small Scout’s specs.

Specifications

  • Main fabric: 14oz water resistant canvas
  • Lining: 210D water resistant nylon
  • Laptop space: 9.6 x 13.2 x 1.2 in 24.5 x 33.5 x 3cm
  • External dimensions: 11 x 14.2 x 3.1 in 27 x 35.5 x 8cm’
  • Weight: 1.2 lbs 0.5 kg
  • High density padding protects and surrounds laptop with cushioned felt laptop lining
  • Secure easy open buckle for main compartment
  • Velcro closure over laptop section
  • Utility pockets for accessories, cords, pens, etc.
  • Full sized document pocket
  • Padded and removable shoulder pad for carrying comfort
  • Holds most 13″ laptops

A photo tour…

The STM Scout is a simple messenger style laptop bag, with a couple of interesting twists.  What’s immediately apparent is that there’s just one polymer buckle closure on the bag’s flap; as a result, unbuckling for access takes, well, half the time as it would with a bag with two buckles, and you can access the two front pockets without unbuckling anything…

Below, a view of the two front pockets mentioned above. The one of the left includes a key retainer that’s removable via a polymer push button closure; the pocket on the right contains a few pen slots and a small open pocket for business cards and the like. Behind the two pockets is the zippered pocket (zipper pull is hidden by the book) I mentioned earlier; it’s 8″ wide and about 6″ deep:

At first I thought it odd that the key retainer was in the pocket that would be toward the back when the bag is worn over your right shoulder, thinking it would be more convenient if it were in the front pocket; in actual practice, it’s easy to lift the (rear) flap at a 45 degree angle, and reach down – your hand naturally goes into the pocket – and the keytainer “falls readily to hand.” It works!

Below, a view of the open rear pocket, well suited for a print magazine or similar object:

One end of the shoulder strap is fixed; the other (below) features a simple locking tab which makes adjusting the strap’s length with one hand reasonably easy, should you want to wear the bag traditional messenger bag-style (over your head, the strap on your opposing shoulder):

Below, the shoulder strap pad is well padded with closed cell foam. The only difficulty I had with the shoulder strap was that it at times tended to twist a bit and I’d have to take a moment to straighten it out.

A shot of several items in the main compartment. Merely to convey its size, I put my MacBook Air’s Brenthaven sleeve in the laptop sleeve; as you can see, once I’d put a spiral bound notepad in the adjacent compartment, there wasn’t a lot of room left over (below). The laptop compartment’s flap is open in this image; if you look closely, you’ll note that it features gussets at its ends, to provide extra protection against moisture, should you get caught in the rain (more on this in a bit)–

Earlier I referred to the laptop compartment as being “heavily padded.” Below, immediately above and beneath the Brenthaven MB Air sleeve, you can see just how thick the padding is; it’s a full 3/8″ thick, and that includes the bottom of the compartment as well. Your laptop (or reader, or netbook, etc.) should be well protected!

Below, a shot of water beading on the front panel of the bag.

I had doubts as to just how water “resistant” this material would truly be, so after putting a few sheets of 8½” x 11″ paper in the laptop compartment, I (and I am not making this up) put the Scout in our shower for a total of approximately 5 minutes, underneath a steady shower stream. I changed the orientation of the bag three times during this period, and in each case the bag was sanding upright. After five minutes I took it out, emptied about a half a cup of water out of the rear open pocket ( ! ), toweled the bag off, and opened the laptop compartment. The paper was perfectly dry.  The only moisture I noticed inside the bag was a little bit of water on the underside of the main flap, around its perimeter. In my mind, the bag passed this test with flying colors. (Again, note that the open rear compartment did take on water.)

There’s a small grab handle on the bag of the bag (you can see it in the image of the rear pocket earlier in this post), but frankly it’s not good for much more than occasional use, as it’s too small for most hands, and is positioned too far to the rear of bag from a balance standpoint. You can see a similar handle on the back of the flap on the laptop compartment’s flap; it’s intent isn’t clear to me. Perhaps both are for hanging the bag on a hook.

Finally, for the sake of comparison, here’s a shot of my custom Timbuk2 Small Messenger bag alongside the STM Small Scout. Note that the Scout is essentially a rectangular bag, while the T2 favors the slightly trapezoidal design common to many messenger bags. The Scout is a bit smaller overall, particularly when it comes to (front to back) depth. If you’re unfamiliar with this T2 bag, you can see a few more shots of the Custom T2 Small Messenger by clicking on the link in this sentence.

The T2 bag is certainly is a higher end, more robust, larger bag than the Scout; of course, it costs nearly $100 more.

Here’s a quick (~30 seconds) video from STM which should give you a very good idea of the relative sizes of the three Scout models:

Wrapping up

In my mind the Scout is a fine bag for a student or someone who needs to carry a laptop and not a lot of additional items. As a “seatside” carry-on, it would also work: you could bring a laptop, music player, compact digital camera, book or magazine, etc. and easily stow the bag beneath the seat in front.  It only gets complicated when you need to carry more. Within its own limitations, the bag works well. Personally, it’s a bit too small for my use as a daily bag, and although the Medium version is taller and longer, the depth (front to back) dimension is the same as on the bag reviewed here; I’m scticking with my T2 for now.

The Small Scout sells for about $59 to $65, at various online retailers. You can learn more about the entire STM line, which includes laptop backpacks, here:  STM Bags, and see the Small Scout here:  STM Small Scout Laptop Shoulder Bag.

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7 Comments on Review: STM Scout laptop shoulder bag

  1. Michael W. says:

    I think Timbuk2 wins hands down on the “cool” factor.

    Also, if just about the only thing you can really use the bag for is carrying a laptop, I’d like to see the laptop be in a TSA friendly “fold out” arrangement so the laptop doesn’t have to be pulled out of the bag all the time. Target actually has some very useful, albeit incredibly cheap looking, TSA friendly attaches in their luggage aisle, where the bag splits apart like an accordion so the x-ray machine can scan the actual laptop.

    But I am very impressed by the light weight of this bag!

    [Reply]

    Kevin Reply:

    Totally agree on the cool factor – the T2 has it in spades, plus more utility, and it’s much more robust in terms of materials.

    [Reply]

  2. Richard J Laue says:

    I own the STM Alley (13″), which is a vertical-carry bag, somewhat bigger than the Scout, but still very compact. I’ve had mine for several years, and the more I travel with it, the more I like it.

    For airplane travel, the Alley is really superb. The vertical orientation allows me to go down the aisle without banging the bag into people or seats.

    Once in my seat, I can slide the Alley under the seat in front of me, and turn it up on its side, which leaves me plenty of room for my feet.

    The quality of material and assembly is quite high, and it’s only $40 from Amazon, with free shipping. It’s rugged, easy to clean, easy to carry, and unobtrusive.

    I’ve been carrying laptops for years — I’m a retired computer consultant — and have used many different bags over that time. The STM Alley is hands down my all-time favorite.

    There are several YouTube reviews of the Alley, so you can get a good idea of what it’s like.

    I’ve not actually seen the Scout, but if it’s built to the same standard as the Alley, it’s a bargain.

    Cheers and aloha –
    RJLaue

    [Reply]

    Kevin Reply:

    RJ –

    Thanks for a great comment! The Scout and the Alley are similar, but I believe the materials are slightly different: the Alley is made with ripstop, and the Scout with canvas.

    [Reply]

  3. Dr. P. Rajagopal says:

    I would like to look at a STM Scout laptop shoulder bag before buying one. Do you have a shop in Toronto, accessible by TTC?

    [Reply]

    Kevin Reply:

    No.

    [Reply]

  4. […] almohadilla de la correa pq la quite para usarla en otro lado… Os pongo un link de una review: Review: STM Scout laptop shoulder bag Si mirais en la pag de STM vereis que ha salido la Scout 2, parecida a esta, pero no es igual. […]

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