I am a big fan of backpacks, all shapes, sizes, and purposes. Like everyone’s father told them growing up, there is a right tool for everything. Backpacks are no different. About two months ago, we took a close look at the B7103 Lance Daypack by ECBC. It was a larger, bulky bag that I would hardly call a “daypack,” as you read in the review. However, ECBC has taken a step back and produced a new bag that is truly top-shelf.

The new K7102 Hercules is a slimmer, more agile pack that, most importantly, boasts dedicated iPad and iPhone pockets and TSA FastPass computer pocket for jet setters. We are pretty excited about the changes ECBC made with such a quick turn around and more excited to offer one as a giveaway to a lucky reader! Check below the fold for all the details…

Design

Wrapping the K7102 is 1000d Kodra material, which helps prevent abrasions and weatherproofs the pack. Weatherproof, however, is not waterproof, which is important to note when toting around expensive Apple products. Designed to fit up to a 17″ laptop, if you have a legacy MacBook Pro with that size screen, you will be safe to pick up the pack. At 18.5″ x 12.1″ x 10.1″ (47cm x 30.7cm x 27.7cm) it will still be a tight squeeze. To ensure it would fit, I stuffed my 9.8lbs Toshiba Satellite P25 (the 2004 reason I converted to Mac) inside the K7102 and it fit particularly well in the main compartment.

Outside

Taking a step back to the Kodra material, it is woven fiber with a canvas like texture. It is used in higher end backpacks for durability and its lightweight, yet rugged density. The weather proofed Kodra pairs well with water resistant YKK zipper seals, which covers the actual zipper teeth in a rubberized material to repel rain. It reminds me of zipper systems on Mountain Hardwear and Arcteryx jackets, but not as superior.

Dual collapsable water bottle pockets make sure you stay hydrated and are located on either side of the pack, distributing weight evenly across the back. Carrying a heavy load is made more comfortable with a molded back panel, adjustable sternum strap, padded and adjustable shoulder straps, and a nylon foam handle.

I loaded it up and it felt good. If you’ve ever shopped for packs or consider yourself a bit of a connoisseur, you know what I am talking about. It sits properly on my back and feels right. Of course, that is determined by personal size. There are no adjustments to the straps except the standard adjustments, after all, it is not a camping pack, so do not expect a complete set of multi-adjusting buckles.

Inside

Two main compartments, excluding the FastPass, iPhone and document pockets, open to reveal six additional storage compartments, pen holders, and a keyring. Overall, the pack boasts ten dedicated storage areas, depending on how one might count “dedicated” storage. It is safe to say, you will be able to find a place for just about every one of your tech gadgets.

The foremost pocket is a small shallow pocket with a dedicated fleece lined iPhone sleeve sewn into the wall. The fleece is appreciated as I carry my iPhone naked. The first main compartment is a dedicated accessory pocket with smaller inside pockets of various shapes and sizes. Larger, the second main compartment, is big enough for school books with a separate tightly formed pocket for folders or loose documents and the biggest improvement, an iPad pocket.

The iPad pocket is surrounded with dense foam to prevent bumps and knocks from other back contents. An additional safety measure is how the pocket is placed. Suspended above the bottom of the bag, the iPad never rests on the seated surface. If you plop your bag down on the ground, the pack may very well prevent your iPad from smacking the floor. Keeping everything inside the tablet pocket from moving, an inch wide “seat belt,” holds a a full size iPad upright, even in a BookBook case, or an iPad mini on its side.

Finally, the compartment closest to the user’s back is the TSA approved FastPass padded laptop pocket. To be TSA approved, it is a designated laptop-only section that lies flat on the X-ray belt and contains no other pockets, metal pieces, buttons, or buckles. I can personally vouch it worked in both the RDU and MCO airport terminals.

Conclusion

Clocking in at $139.99 the K7012 Hercules Laptop Backpack is certainly priced as a premium pack. It is always hard to pay much more than $75 for a backpack, but if you are interested in bells-and-whistles, there is always an extra charge. With weatherproofed material protecting a gadget-oriented interior, this would certainly qualify in my personal bells-and-whistles category.

The fold-down TSA FastPass compartment is perfect for travel and will keep your aluminum MacBook from scraping around in the bottom of a stupid gray bin at the airport. A padded pocket protects iPads and fleece lined pocket keeps an iPhone from scratching. The myriad of pockets and zippers will keep my external Wi-Fi HDD, thumb drives, power blocks, cords, and adapters all secured without knocking around in the bottom of the bag.

I would recommend this pack to someone who is looking for a step up from a completely minimal pack. This is a great day pack or weekender and, consequently, may very well be my CES 2013 travel companion… more on that as we get closer to January. Thanks to ECBC for sending over one for review and check below to win your own.

Pros:

  • New iPad specific padded pocket
  • iPad pocket will accommodate a case
  • iPhone fleece lined pocket
  • Adjustable laptop compartment with TSA FastPass approval
  • Padded straps and handle
  • Weather resistant

Cons:

  • Expensive as far as regular packs go
  • Not for a minimalist
  • The iPad pocket accommodates a case, so if using your iPad naked, it will not be held tightly in the pocket, but it will not come out thanks to the seat belt

Giveaway

What do you have to do to win?

One lucky United States or Canada reader (sorry to our international friends) who follows the next steps will be chosen to win a K7102 Hercules Laptop Backpack:

  • Friend iDownloadBlog on Facebook
  • Click the LIKE button at the top or bottom of this post
  • Follow @iDownloadBlog on Twitter
  • Click here to retweet this post
  • Let us know in the comments below where you will be taking your MacBook, iPad, or iPhone in your new backpack if you win! Don’t forget, include your Twitter handle, as this is how we will contact the winner.

Thanks again to ECBC for the chance to draw a winner from our readers! The winner will be contacted via Twitter DM by week’s end.

Winner announced!

And the winner is @juanr1vargas. Congrats Juan, your backpack is on its way. Thanks everyone for entering the contest. Keep your eyes opened for another giveaway very soon. Thanks also to ECBC for allowing us to give one of their backpacks away.