When travelling a lot one of the biggest wastes of time and irritations is having to remove your laptop from its laptop bag, place it in a tray for the x-ray machine, and then reverse the whole process on the other end. It may not seem much effort. But doing it while trying not to lose your phone, juggle everything while putting your shoes back on and still trying to look dignified can be quite a challenge.
For the past couple of years, at least one small part of this little dance has been made easier. In 2008 the Transport Security Administration (TSA) set out some guidelines on a new group of laptop bags that were exempt from the normal rules. For those lucky enough to have a checkpoint friendly laptop bag, the bag need only be opened and put through the x-ray machine without having the laptop itself removed.
What makes a laptop bag checkpoint friendly?
The basic idea is that the bag has to be designed in such as way that the operators of the x-ray machines have a totally clear and unobstructed view of the laptop. They don’t want things like power cords and accessories obscuring the view. Nor do they want parts of the bag causing confusion, such as metal zippers or buckles or the like. A couple of examples are simple laptop sleeves, butterfly style bags that open up in two halves and so-called trifold bags that also unfold into a flat configuration.
To meet the requirements there should be nothing on the laptop section such as pockets or bits of metal that would interfere with the operators getting a clear look at the inside of your laptop.
Who makes checkpoint friendly laptop bags?
There is a long list of manufacturers that makes these bags. The TSA itself doesn’t actually approve any. It has just set out the guidelines that manufacturers follow. Quite a large number claim that their laptop bags are checkpoint friendly, but there is no independent verification of this. This is why it is essential that if you buy one, that you check that it really meets the requirements.
Some checkpoint friendly laptop bag reviews
Here are the names of a couple of bags that claim to meet the requirements.
- Skooba R101-101 Checkthrough Checkpoint-Friendly Laptop Bag: The Skooba is a really well priced bag that is designed to hold 15 inch laptops. It has a dedicated laptop compartment that folds flat and is see-through so that the security officers can clearly see there is nothing else in the compartment. It also has 20 other pockets and compartments scattered about including one that is accessible and designed to hold your tickets and passport. A lot of the internal pockets are made of mesh, so you can see at a glance what you’ve stowed in them (USB cable, flash drive, whatever). The downside is that it doesn’t have a huge amount of padding to protect your laptop and it is too big for everyday use.
- Targus Zip Through Corporate Traveller Case: This is a bag made by a really reputable laptop bag manufacturer. Who hasn’t had a Targus at least once in their lives? It also has a dedicated laptop area and the whole bag butterflies out for security. Its list price is lower than that of the Skooba, but depending on when you look it actually comes out more expensive sometimes because of the great deals that Amazon has on the Skooba. It also has a bunch of compartments but they aren’t mesh, so if you are looking for something small then you’ll have to open each one.
Checkpoint friendly backpacks
There are also a couple of checkpoint friendly backpacks out there such as the Case Logic Security Friendly Backpack. It also has a zipper that allows you to butterfly the backpack for security. The rest is pretty much a normal backpack, but it has given up some functionality to incorporate the security-friendly features so it probably has fewer usable internal compartments and dividers than you are used to.