Mon sac de choix: STM Alley Case

~ 09 January 2008 ~

Choosing the right laptop bag invariably becomes a lifelong endeavor for some, and I’m no exception. About a year ago I finally settled on a bag I absolutely love. I’m not entirely sure why, but I receive compliments at work and on the road about my bag pretty regularly, enough to prompt me to share my choix if merely to help others choose theirs.

The STM Alley Case 13” (Olive) is the bag pictured here. Manufactured in Australia, this model is a vertical messenger bag. I originally purchased it for travel, given I speak at conferences regularly. I figured the vertical displacement of weight and material would work better as a carry-on when pulling other luggage, making my way down the aisle on the aircraft, and stowing under the seat. Fortunately, I figured right, and the bag has stayed by my side ever since for everyday use.

My work machine is a 15” MacBook Pro, but this a 13” bag. However, the MacBook Pro still fits nicely inside. Plus, it allows me to carry my 13” black MacBook when traveling, as this is my “speaking” machine.

You’ll note the bag is rather compact, and that’s part of the reason I chose it — I’m forced to travel light. And yet, I’m able to carry everything I need for daily work. (Click the final photo showing contents for additional mouseover notes on Flickr.)

So, for what it’s worth, that’s my bag of choice. What’s yours?



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1   beth ~ 09 January 2008

This looks like a great compact bag! I typically carry something medium sized that I can use as a day bag to carry my work stuff, or a weekend bag if I have to go out of town on a quick business trip.

I swear by Chrome messenger bags, which are hand-made in San Francisco. They have heavy duty hardware, a reinforced shoulder, and are waterproof. The shell comes out so you can wash it, and you can purchase a matching padded laptop sleeve. Additionally, you can get a lot of accessories for attaching your iPod or phone to the shoulder strap.

2   Tim Van Damme ~ 09 January 2008

I carry a Knomo Ixopo, which also stores my MacBook Pro (15”) Vertically.

Really happy with it!

3   Matt Williams ~ 09 January 2008

I’ve been eyeing up this Swiss Army laptop bag for weeks now, which is longer than most of my consumer lustings go unassuaged.

4   Hugh ~ 09 January 2008

Your bag looks great, and the buttons complete the ensemble.

I’m pretty happy with my Marware Sportfolio II (12”). It fits my little old PowerBook like a fine glove.

5   Ara Pehlivanian ~ 09 January 2008

The bag looks awesome, but a practical question: if you pack a lunch, how do you manage it? Do you carry a separate bag, or is there room that I don’t see in the pictures?

I’m using the 8050-45GY from High Sierra right now (company swag). It’s got plenty of room (for lunch and all), but is also kind of boxy because of that very same reason.

6   rey ~ 09 January 2008


Just placed an order.

Id been looking for a small, compact bag for my MacBook Pro for ages and you’ve done it!

Good work.

7   Marla Erwin ~ 09 January 2008

I bought a messenger bag from HRC about 11 years ago and it has been the perfect laptop bag. Tons of pockets inside and out, padded bottom and very sturdy. I’ve considered getting a new bag, as it’s showing some wear, but haven’t seen anything better for a 17” laptop. It’s the only bag I’ve seen that will let me carry a 17” MBP in a padded skin, notebook, power cords, etc., PLUS all the daily accessories such as wallet and glasses.

8   Rick Moore ~ 09 January 2008

My Bag at Flickr

I think you’ve seen mine…Marware Sportfolio.I have had it for years. I originally bought it to carry my PowerBook G4 Titanium. (It’s awesome that the laptop sizes a few gens later are basically the same.)

9   Josh Tilton ~ 09 January 2008

I just posted a blog reviewing a laptop retailer yesterday! I own a few laptop bags from EMS to Booq.

Currently the Booq Boa XL is a great match for my 17” macbook pro!

10   Zelnox ~ 09 January 2008

I remember reading about this bag at 43folders. It looks quite compact and nice! Good price too.

I fell in love with the timbuk2 bags for a while now and promised myself I would get one once I had a notebook. Luck has it that work provided a MBP 15”, so I ordered the timbuk2 laptop messenger bag. It is probably too big to travel light, but I like it so far. Feels sturdy, can fit my lunch and more too. However, I probably wouldn’t be able to attach cool buttons like you for fear of damaging the material T_T

If one encases a MPB 15 with a foofbag, would it still fit that STM Alley Case 13?

11   Jon ~ 09 January 2008

This exact bag was what I first bought for my 15” MacBookPro, and it was a great, sturdy bag, particularly for the low, low price. For my own purposes, though, I came to realize it didn’t have quite enough storage space in it. Also, as I walk to work (just a couple of blocks), I was looking to trade out the shoulder strap for a Skooba strap.

However, as it reached the 1-year anniversary of my purchasing it, the bag developed ‘rips’ in several places, including the top handle and the shoulder strap, all through fairly light use. I decided it was time for a new bag, and wound up with the BooqBag Mamba Sling, and I am loving it. It feels much sturdier than the STM Alley bag, has a more ergonomic feel and fit; the shoulder strap is quite a bit more padded, and thus, comfortable; and it has some excellent pockets and compartments. Also, the laptop itself fits more snuggly (and due to some removable Velcro padding, it can fit multiple sizes of laptops quite snuggly).

On the downside, it is about 3x as expensive as the STM bag, and it is MUCH larger (although BooqBag does make a smaller version).

I really couldn’t recommend the BooqBags Sling more highly than I do. It is an excellent product. Having said that, I don’t want to knock STM: the Alley Bag is a great bag, with an excellent price point, and it does have a lifetime warranty; in fact, my own STM Alley bag is currently on its way to be repaired/replaced, under said warranty.

Cheers to all.

12   Brad Dielman ~ 09 January 2008

I’ve been using the Incase Portfolio Maharam series bag for a while now. It is a bit on the bulky side, but it does the trick. Tons of room for just about anything I need.

13   Cameron Moll ~ 09 January 2008

The bag looks awesome, but a practical question: if you pack a lunch, how do you manage it? Do you carry a separate bag, or is there room that I don’t see in the pictures?

Nope, just carry it by hand. I can fit a small book and a couple magazines in the bag, too, but not much more. Again, I’m happy to carry extra stuff by hand on occasion if it means having a more compact bag. (Truth be told, there are enough places to eat near work that I eat out nearly every day.)

14   Jason Reed ~ 09 January 2008

I had that same bag when I had my 15” Macbook Pro… but when I upgraded to a 17” I needed something a bit bigger.

I wish they made more bags like this for the 17” models.

My camera bag has a spot for the laptop, which works well when I’m traveling with all my camera gear and lenses and whatnot, but it’s way too bulky for light travel.

15   Joe ~ 09 January 2008

I love this bag! I have the red one from the same manufacturer

16   Nic Rosenberg ~ 09 January 2008

Some of the reviews of this bag talk about space at the top flap that allows rain and dust to get in. Has that been an issue for you?

17   gb ~ 09 January 2008

I’m using the applesac 15” Colcasac (brown basketweave canvas) sleeve, which is then put in my extremely cheap (bought it at Ross) Columbia messenger bag.Works pretty well, but the overt “Hey! This is a laptop!” look of my bag defeats the purpose of the unlaptop look of the canvas sleeve. At least the bag isn’t shiny, reflective or glow-in-the-dark…

18   rob ~ 09 January 2008

This is awesome. Too bad you didn’t post it a month ago - everyone would’ve added it to their Christmas list…

Off-topic… Thanks for sharing your knowledge, thoughts and, well, this site. Your design tips have been invaluable and you’ve taught me a lot. This is my first post, but I have been (and will continue to be) a long-time reader.

To a great ‘08.

19   Ronnie ~ 09 January 2008

I had the STM Alley Case for quite a while. It’s a nicely designed laptop bag. Loved it.

However, recently the Oakley one caught my eye and I couldn’t resist!

20   Nate Klaiber ~ 09 January 2008

I have the same bag and love it. I also carry much of the same: pen, moleskine, necessary adapters. This bag is the best bag I have ever used and its very convenient.

21   Jonathan ~ 09 January 2008

Hey Cameron, great post because I have been trying to find the “perfect” bag for years, just like you said. I still haven’t found the perfect fit for me but these vertical bags are looking like a great idea.

I would love it if I could see the bag in action, like on a person. Just to see how it lays and looks. Do you have any pics of it in use, or would you mind doing a little modeling? I’m sure you are a natural!

22   Cameron Moll ~ 09 January 2008

Some of the reviews of this bag talk about space at the top flap that allows rain and dust to get in. Has that been an issue for you?

It certainly isn’t rain or dust proof, but I’ve trudged through enough falling snow to verify it keeps things protected enough.

23   John ~ 09 January 2008

I use the INCASE 15” Canvas Vertical Slung for my 15” MacBook Pro, which works beautifully.

I stumbled across it while purchasing my computer and it is holding up amazingly. It zips shut for extra protection. There’s a slim pocket on the ‘hip side’ for papers or other thin items, as well as a pocket on the opposite side of the bag, where I carry my AC Adapter, headphones, etc. There is a very nice lining in the pocket that holds the computer, as well as another pocket that is adjacent, which can also hold other slim items.

It’s not so great if you want to carry your lunch inside, but overall, it is very sturdy.

24   Franky ~ 09 January 2008

Anything that is slim, velcro, and doesn’t look like sci-fi gets my vote. Thanks for the tip.

25   Arnaud ~ 09 January 2008

Mine is a Tanns Mangouste. I love it !

26   Simeon ~ 09 January 2008

I bought the same bag! Although there’s a few small differences as I got mine 4 years ago (yeah, before they were cool).

Don’t know about yours, but mine has a floppy rubber handle on the back that just loves to dig into you as you walk. If I’m walking for a long time I turn the bag around the other way…

27   Les Reynolds ~ 09 January 2008

I’ve got the same one and love it! Something else that is great about it is the price, other bags might be nicer, but the $50 pricetag is great.

but mine has a floppy rubber handle on the back that just loves to dig into you as you walk.
STM has redesigned that recently. My first one developed a tear in one of the seams, and was replaced by STM for free. The old one had the small floppy handle, the new one is thicker and not so floppy.

28   Matthew Pennell ~ 10 January 2008

Since my last bag fell apart, I’ve been using the (rather expensive) Firefox Messenger bag. It’s been great so far; very sturdy, loads of pockets, and big enough for a large laptop plus lunch and a few books as well.

29   Kyle ~ 10 January 2008

I’ve been using a Marware sleeve to protect my macbook and I slip that into my backpack. I’m about to make a messenger bag similar to this one. I haven’t been satisfied with any other affordable messenger bag yet because I ride my bike everywhere and I like the bag actually on my back. I’ve seen one of these bags built before, and they’re roomy, yet surprisingly compact

30   Bermon Painter ~ 10 January 2008

I’m a big fan of the Booq Bags. I’ve had mine for a year or so and just love it.

31   Chris ~ 10 January 2008

I’m another devotee of the Timbuk2 bags. Living in Portland, something waterproof was key for me and these bags definitely hold up well under heavy use (and heavy rain).

There are laptop inserts and shoulder pad accessories but the one thing I love the most are these little guys (which would probably work for other manufacturers bag straps as well: Timbuk2 accessory case. They’re the perfect fit for an iPhone, a Blackberry, a Razr or a small digital camera. The fact that you’ll see everyone walking around Portland with these is testimony to their durability (if not their fashionable colors, patterns, etc etc).

32   Sam Hardacre ~ 11 January 2008

My 13” MacBook lives in a simple black case made from some sort of weird foam/rubber hybrid, which I then carry in an Element Skateboards backpack, which also carries the essentials - camera, power pack, books, magazines and of course a skateboard.

The laptop case is great for keeping it away from the threats of cat scratches while is sleep but it is a bit of a pain to have to carry a big backpack with me whenever I want to take my computer out. I may have to invest in one of these beauties : )

33   Drew ~ 11 January 2008

I got my Quiksilver Boulevard bag about a year ago, and love it.

Check it out here

34   Ryan Koral ~ 12 January 2008

timbuk2 xl for my macbook pro 17”. love it.

35   Thomas ~ 13 January 2008

That’s a great looking bag!

36   orionlogic ~ 14 January 2008

I use Love Messenger XL from
Also for slave type macbook cover is Black Crystal Book Pouch again from

37   Shane ~ 14 January 2008

First I need a laptop, then I will worrie about the bag. However your bag looks really nice especially with the added buttons.

38   Jenny ~ 15 January 2008

You said olive, but it looks more like the carbon color on Amazon’s site?

39   Cameron Moll ~ 15 January 2008

Correct. Mine is olive, the one linked to is carbon. They didn’t appear to have mine in stock when I wrote this post.

40   Michelle Flynn ~ 16 January 2008

I also have a 15” MacBookPro which I carry around in my Acme Made Plural Olive Designer Slim bag, (mouthful!).

41   David ~ 16 January 2008

I’d been looking for a new laptop bag - the price was right on this one, so I decided to give it a shot. I, too, have a 15” MacBook Pro, but I can’t say it fits all that well in this bag designed for a 13”.

Yes, it fits, but the inner flap doesn’t even come close to covering the laptop; you have stuff it down inside the pocket or let it flap freely.

Not a huge problem, but if I was going to do this over, I would probably find another bag.

42   Fubiz ~ 17 January 2008

Beautiful case!

43   Zach ~ 17 January 2008

I have an InCase from the Apple Store that I really have enjoyed, although there is not a lot of room inside . .

Oh, and where did you get that case for your cables? I have been looking for something similar … !

44   Cameron Moll ~ 18 January 2008

I believe this is it:

45   Scott ~ 18 January 2008

I was rocking the very same STM bag until my girlfriend gifted this bag ( ) to me for Chrismas a year ago. It fits my Blackbook + incase sleeve like a glove.

46   Christofer Lundstedt ~ 19 January 2008

I just bought the Booq Mamba Sling

47   Brian Wynne Williams ~ 19 January 2008

I’m with you — always on the lookout for a great bag. I did a big search last year. I returned a couple that I didn’t like, and ultimately bought a Booq Folee XL after another guy at Viget picked one up and spoke highly of it. I’m a big fan:

Comfortable to carry, durable, big enough for everything but not overly huge.

48   Isaac Castillo ~ 20 January 2008

I use this liquid force media bag because it has compartments for my nikon camera. the back has an area for my future mactop (3 weeks).

49   Joel Santiago ~ 15 February 2008

Coming to this pretty late, but… my sac courant de choix would be the Timbuk2 Blogger Bag (though I’m not much of one). Holds my 13” Macbook very nicely, power adapter, portable hard drive, buncha stuff for writing and writing on, the odd cable, etc. with lots of space to spare. The laptop compartment also fits a MacBook Air in an Incase Neoprene Sleeve — which I’ve recently switched to for carrying around daily. For more formal engagements I go with a Perry Ellis Full Flap Messenger. Thanks for sharing yours (made me order the STM Alley Case), but what I’m now more curious about is what goes in to your Moleskin. :-)

50   david ~ 06 May 2008

My work machine is a 15” MacBook Pro, but this a 13” bag. However, the MacBook Pro still fits nicely inside. Plus, it allows me to carry my 13” black MacBook when traveling, as this is my “speaking” machine.

Just a note of warning to anyone purchasing a 13” STM bag for a 15” MBP. Don’t do this if the upper two inchs of your laptop are just as important to you as the rest of it, as they will be totally unprotected. On these grounds I would consider revising “still fits nicely inside” to “sticks woefully out and remains totally unprotected”. :-)

As a fellow bag freak on a never ending quest for the end-all bag, I appreciate the idea of getting a slim bag and traveling light. But for me part of traveling light is traveling without concern. Traveling can sometimes be rough and things can move quickly, so I need to be able to wrap up my gear, “strap it on” and then forget about it. I want to toss it into a car’s backseat or let it slam against the corner of the bus door as I bravely hop on at the last second - and I want to do it all of it without thinking about it.

This bag leaves the soft aluminum shell of a 15” MBP horribly unprotected on the entire top (with no padding) and completely exposed (gasp, yes nekid!) on the last two inches of the machine (on both sides).

The bag is otherwise full of awesome, and has some of the best pocketing and build quality of any bag I’ve ever not been able to use. If you are serious about protecting your MBP, get the version of this bag that is made for it. I am passing mine on to a friend with a MB and looking for the larger version.

51   Cameron Moll ~ 06 May 2008

David, first, I recommend you get the bag that fits your laptop. In my case, I have two sizes, so going with the smaller was the option I went for.

Second, and to clarify some of your points, I live in an area where it snows heavily, I’ve used the bag every work day for nearly two years, and I commute to work on the train every work day. I’ve not once had any issues with protection. That isn’t to say you shouldn’t be concerned about covering every square centimeter of your machine, but if you’re *that* concerned about full protection, you shouldn’t be buying a cloth /nylon bag to begin with — try a Zero Haliburton instead.

52   Ryan B ~ 08 May 2008

…try a Zero Haliburton instead.

That’s hilarious!! He’ll look like a secret-agent-man! LOL!

I Live in South Africa… and getting a decent bag is very difficult and expensive.

Why do you make me covet all these “purdy” things.



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