WaterField Designs' Outback Solo Case for Surface is a superb leather bag that'll last a lifetime
When it comes to consumer products, these days affordable often rules the roost. Nonetheless, there is a push for premium, hand-crafted products that won't break down after a few years. WaterField Designs is one of those companies which is based in San Francisco, where they also handmake the bags to order.
Today, I'm reviewing their Outback Solo Case for Surface Book, Surface 3, and Surface Pro 4, and while it's not cheap, it's the kind of bag that will outlast your hardware.
WaterField Designs describes their Outback Solo case as "rugged minimalism" due to the materials used and the simplicity in design. Like my other favorite bag by Brenthaven Collins, the Outback Solo is made for day trips when you just want to pack your Surface and not much else. For my needs, this category is much more relevant now with the Surface Book with Performance Base, which lets me get around 10 hours of real-world usage. That's good enough not to have to pack a charger or much else.
The difference with a WaterField Design's bag is they go beyond just cloth and low-cost materials. The Solo is made with high-grade neoprene for the interior lining, a full-grain leather flap, and a waxed canvas exterior. While it's not completely waterproof if you are caught in the rain you shouldn't have to worry about your Surface getting damaged. The neoprene is there to offer shock protection, and the distressed leather gives each bag unique personality.
Each bag is handmade and sewn in San Francisco in small batches. While that means you sometimes need to wait a few weeks for a WaterField Designs bag, you're getting something more than a mass-produced bag shipped from overseas.
Additional features of the Solo include:
- Two exterior pockets for power adapter, phone, wallet or other quick-access items
- Shock-absorbent neoprene interior
- Includes non-removable shoulder strap
- Rear pocket for storage
I've owned a few of these bags from WaterField Designs and have always been happy with their customer support and the quality of their products.
Functionality – What you get
The Outback Solo is a light day bag, but you can easily pack the Surface's charger – even the larger 102 W one with the Surface Book with Performance Base – in the front accessory pocket with room to spare. The smaller front pouch is good for your smartphone up to six inches like the HP Elite x3 or iPhone 7 Plus.
There is no dedicated slot for the Surface's pen, which would have been a nice addition. Nonetheless, you can just clip it to one of the front pockets.
The Outback Solo comes in three sizes for the Surface with one for the small Surface 3 (previously reviewed) another for the Surface Pro 4, which are both $139, and the most expensive one for the Surface Book at $149. You can, of course, order one for the Surface Book and use it for the Surface Pro 4 and have some extra room if you desire. I had no issue putting the heavier Surface Book with Performance Base into the bag.
Compared to their more expensive Field Muzetto bag, which is also one of my favorites, the Outback Solo has a magnetic snapping closure to keep the lid closed. I prefer that style for when grabbing the bag from my car knowing that nothing can slide out.
I like how their logo is on the inside sleeve and not emblazoned across the bag or in the form of a cloth tag. Clean and minimal.
Finally, the rear pocket is large enough to fit a Kindle, some paper, a notebook, or anything else that can lay flat.
There's something to be said about a bag that will last you 5, 10, or 20 years. At three times the cost of some non-US made sleeves the Outback Solo is comparatively expensive. Still, you're getting something handcrafted and made in the USA. The company can even do repairs on your bag years later should you have any problems. I think that stuff matters and that type of craftsmanship is hard to come by these days. If you're already dropping $2k on a Surface Book getting a stylish quality day bag is not the craziest idea.
Personally, I like the leather Indiana Jones-like look of the Outback Solo, and it's perfect for when I head to the city and want something that doesn't look cheap. I love the personalized size of the Outback Solo versus a full backpack or something larger. The design and features are excellent as is the quality.
If you're looking for a beautiful day bag for your Surface, look no further than Outback Solo. It's the kind of bag that five years from now you'll still be using.
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Daniel Rubino is the Editor-in-chief of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft since 2007 when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, laptops, next-gen computing, and for some reason, watches. Before all this tech stuff, he worked on a Ph.D. in linguistics, watched people sleep (for medical purposes!), and ran the projectors at movie theaters because it was fun.