In Search of a Better Backpack, Review of The North Face Electra


Despite being labeled for “Women,” I recommend The North Face Electra backpack for anyone needing a compact, EDC bag that can accommodate a 10.5″ tablet. This is my new work bag that carries the things that I need daily without incurring too much added weight.


In a previous blog post, I wrote praise for the Magnoli Clothiers’ British Mark VII Gas Mask Bag reproduction, because it is a good everyday bag for carrying an iPad mini, notebook, lunch, and thermos. It is still a good bag, but I sold my iPad Mini after I got Apple’s new 10.5″ iPad Pro, which would not fit in the Mark VII without the removal of the supporting material stitched through the center of the bag. As you can see in the photo above, TNF Electra is slightly larger than the Mark VII. The Mark VII has just shy of 6L capacity whereas the TNF Electra has 12L capacity.

I use the TNF Electra to carry the same, essential things as I used the Mark VII to carry, but the difference between the kits is the iPad upgrade from mini to Pro. Above, you can see the various pockets that differentiate the TNF Electra. It has a padded tablet sleeve in the main zippered compartment, the front flap has a Napoleon-style pocket that I use to hold my cellphone, a small zippered compartment in the lower left for change, keys, or another small item, and a slightly larger zippered compartment at the top of the back beneath the grab handle that holds all of my small, regular use items like hand sanitizer, eye drops, pen, pocket knife, etc.


The TNF Electra weighs the same as a Jansport Superbreak–12 oz. However, the Superbreak has more than double the capacity–25L. The difference between the two packs is that the Electra has a smaller surface area against the back, and it has more substantial padding in the back and around the tablet sleeve. The Superbreak has thin back padding and no laptop/tablet sleeve. The TNF Electra’s zippers are more subtantial YKK brand than what Jansport uses on the current Superbreak packs.


The TNF Electra features “Women-specific back panel and shoulder straps.” These have worked fine for me, too. The pack rides high on my back, which I prefer to a pack that is lower, because it allows my back to breathe more and remain cool on my long walks to-and-from work.


The TNF Electra that I have is black heather and burnt coral metallic (it reminds me of Apple’s Rose Gold). Y liked my bag so much that we got her one in dark eggplant purple dark/amaranth purple.

I like the TNF Electra, because it holds just what I need, is lightweight and compact, and helps me stay cool on my daily long walks.

While its labeling and colors might signify its use by a specific gender, I think its better to focus on one’s needs than on the social signifiers made into a tool–in this case–a useful bag.

Travel Light With Only a Regular JanSport Backpack, From My Experience at Dragon*Con 2011 in Atlanta

When I flew to Atlanta for Dragon*Con 2011 this past weekend, I only carried a regular sized two pocket JanSport school backpack [pictured above]. Like many other folks, I have discovered the joy of lightweight traveling.

As Y and I discovered during our trip to Europe over the Summer, carrying fewer things makes travel a lot easier and less stressful.

In order to succeed at lightweight travel, you have to critically evaluate your travel needs and plan ahead for ways in which you can reuse, repurpose, and clean your things on the go.

This is what I fit into the JanSport: two days of clothes, toiletries, 13″ MacBook, iPhone, compact digital camera, chargers, snacks, travel documents, and Mr. Bread (for photos).

For the trip to Atlanta, I knew that I would be staying there for two days, so I had to bring enough clothes for that. I wore a polo shirt, Lucky jeans, and Teva hiking shoes on the trip down. Despite the heat, I knew that a nice pair of jeans are a great all-purpose and all-setting garment. Also, I needed my laptop for the SFRA panel on Sunday and a camera for the parade on Saturday. This meant that I also needed chargers for my laptop and camera batteries. I knew that I would bring my iPhone, but that doesn’t necessarily need its own charger–only a USB adapter to connect it to my MacBook for recharging.

In addition to traveling light, it is smart to organize your things so that you don’t have to hunt for things on the road. I used a clothes washing bag to hold two polo shirts, underwear, and socks. I used another bag to hold electronic support gear (screen wipe, camera lens cleaning pen, chargers, thumb drive). My MacBook went into its own neoprene sleeve, which also carried my travel documents. Liquids went into a quart ziplock bag, and my other toiletries went into a small zip-up bag. The types of bags that I employed did require a little extra weight, but the sizes and colors allowed me to immediately recognize what bag held what things. Grocery bags and ziplock bags would work if you are weight conscious.

Having only the backpack of things to carry around meant that I could easily board the puddle-jumper aircraft that I knew that I would be flying without having to gate check anything. Also, a backpack fits easily underneath the seat in front of you, which means that you can easily grab things without having to hunt through the overhead bins. Also, I knew that I would have to check out of my hotel before the SFRA panel on Sunday, so I didn’t want to have to carry a roller bag through the 40,000+ crowds at Dragon*Con.

I am very pleased with my single backpack traveling experience to Atlanta. The con was certainly stressful enough for me, so having one less thing to worry about made me more relaxed.

Considering it from another perspective, my choice to travel with less things meant that I made a lower impact on the environmental costs of getting me from Ohio to Atlanta and back again. Less weight means less fuels/energy consumed by my car, by the aircraft, by the Marta train.

Planning and organizing might save you some travel stress, too. And you can contribute to less pollution, too, especially if more of us choose to travel with fewer things that we probably don’t need to travel with anyways.