Waterfield Designs Zoom Crossbody review: A premium day bag for the discerning Surface user

If you're looking for a new day-bag for your Ultrabook or Surface Pro PC, the new Zoom Crossbody looks fantastic.

Waterfield Zoom Crossbody
(Image: © Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

I've been covering laptop bags by Waterfield Designs now for many years. Based in San Francisco, it is one of the rare bag companies that designs and makes its products right in the U.S. Made in small batches, the bags command a larger price point for the quality, uniqueness, materials, and a lifetime warranty. In short, you buy its bags and keep them forever.

The new Zoom Crossbody just came out and is part of Waterfield's "vertical laptop collection," which I find the most practical for daily commutes, short travel hops, or wandering around the city. The bag is simple, but with deep pockets, a colorful yellow inner layer (to help you see better), and Red (or Blue) Forza colorway, it's one beauty of a bag.

If you carry a Surface Pro 7, Surface Pro X, or any modern Ultrabook that's 14-inches or under, you'll want to know the pros and cons of the Zoom Crossbody.

Here's what you need to know after I spent the last two weeks using it.

The perfect day bag

Waterfield Zoom Crossbody: What I like

Waterfield Zoom Crossbody

Source: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

Waterfield always goes out of the way to deliver top-notch designs and features. The Zoom Crossbody has a full laptop compartment that is padded and lined with a soft material to ensure you won't scratch your device. This bag also appears to be a refresh of the original Bolt Crossbody, a bag I still used regularly up until the Zoom arrived.

What makes the Zoom so interesting is it is one of the few vertical bags instead of the more traditional horizontal ones (or a backpack). This design is much more casual, discreet, and comfortable, especially for traveling light since there is less flopping.

The zippers are splash-proof, so if you are caught in the rain, the water can't leak in through the zippered openings. Likewise, on the inside is Waterfield's famed gold water-resistant liner. While that color may seem an odd choice, its reasoning is brilliant: when you look in the bag for any smaller items, there is actual contrast letting you see better. Many bags have black compartments making it hard to find that pen, a key, or anything that's not highly visible. That's not an issue here (plus, it looks classier).

Besides the dedicated laptop compartment, the main center area can hold another laptop, tablet, or a book. There's a smaller sleeve area that can fit an Amazon Kindle Oasis perfectly. There are two dedicated pen holders and a key hook that lets you attach your keys for easy access.

Turning to the outside, on the front is another zippered pocket. This one has a slot for your smartphone (even a Surface Duo fits), another pen slot, and a larger compartment for any other items. The rear has a non-zippering pocket ideal for papers or magazines. Both these front and rear pockets allow quick access, letting you grab essential items while still wearing the bag.

Like all of Waterfield's bags, this one comes in waxed canvas (chocolate leather), ballistic nylon (black leather), and two new colors Red Forza and Blue Forza. Waxed canvas has a beautiful "classic" look that ages nicely with a typical patina, whereas the ballistic nylon is stealthier. But the new red or blue options add a bit of style and vibrancy. For this review, I am using the Red Forza, and it is akin to a slightly lighter red burgundy making it stylish but also not too flashy.

As the name implies, this bag has a strap that you sling around your shoulder, preferably across your body. The strap is detachable and seatbelt style with a padded (and grippy) shoulder section to ensure the bag doesn't slide around while also reducing pressure points. Seeing most Ultrabooks are about three pounds (1.3kg) and less, the Zoom Crossbody never feels heavy when fully packed.

There are also two sizes to choose from when ordering: compact ($209) and tall ($229). The compact size is ideal for small tablets like iPad Pro 11, Surface Go with Type Cover, or Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold. The tall version, reviewed here, takes any 13-inch laptops, including Surface Pro X and Surface Pro 7. Many modern 14-inch laptops can also fit, e.g., HP EliteBook 1040 G7 or Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon.

A few niggles

Waterfield Zoom Crossbody: What I don't like

Waterfield Zoom Crossbody

Source: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

Compared to the Bolt Crossbody, there are a few design changes that I mostly agree with. For instance, the back pocket no longer zips making it more ideal for carrying a magazine. The front pocket no longer has a magnetic button latch and instead zips, ensuring whatever is in that pocket won't spill out. Waterfield also added that key hook to the Zoom Crossbody (it was missing on the Bolt). It's a handy feature that makes finding your car or house keys less of a mystery since you're no longer just tossing them into a void.

But the Bolt had a nice leather snippet on the zipper to grab quickly, and that is no longer the case with the Zoom. Likewise, the Bolt had a great grab handle on the back, which I found very useful when flying (clutching it from under the seat) or after driving. Sure, I can snatch the shoulder strap, but in tight quarters that could result in a lot of bag flopping. There was just something very satisfying about that grab handle.

The competition

Crossbody Comp

Source: tomtoc (Image credit: Source: tomtoc)

At this price point, there aren't too many bags that check all the boxes of a Waterfield Designs, precisely the vertical and light layout.

Peak Design has earned a famous reputation, but its bags are much larger and more ideal for camera gear and digital equipment instead of just a laptop.

Polare make some excellent "professional" leather bags, but none are the vertical design of the Zoom.

There are also much more affordable brands like tomtoc with a rather tacky giant logo and Targus, but both are different leagues than Waterfield for quality, longevity, and warranty.

Waterfield Zoom Crossbody: Should you buy

Waterfield Zoom Crossbody

Source: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

You should buy this if ...

You want a bag that looks great

Waterfield specializes in quality and professional designs that look great in a pub, coffee shop, business trip, or just walking around the city. With now four excellent colorways, premium materials, and no flashy logos, the Zoom Crossbody is without peer.

You want a bag that will last years

There's something to be said about a bag that won't fade, rip, or fall apart after five years. In a world of disposable accessories, it's nice to see something that bucks that trend. Waterfield's lifetime warranty applies to any "defects encountered in the normal use" (not personal damage)

You want a light day bag with a vertical design

There are plenty of backpacks and briefcase laptop bags out there, but few are vertical and made for smaller tablets or devices like Surface. I always prefer a messenger-style (crossbody) bag, but it's the vertical design I find appealing as it just hugs your body better. If you want a simple bag with plenty of pockets that can even take some rain, the Zoom is going to be your choice.

You should not buy this if...

The idea of a $200 bag freaks you out

When you are living pay check to pay check, dropping over $200 on a day bag will seem ridiculous. That's fair but bookmark this review. When you want something with a bit more panache, Waterfield Designs will be waiting.

You need to carry a lot more

People like backpacks because you could carry an iPad, or a 15-inch laptop, some sneakers, a water bottle, books, snacks, and whatever else. That flexibility is nice, but the trade-off is that you have a bag that is sometimes overkill. Still, if you need to carry a lot more gear, this is not your bag.

Overall, I like the Zoom Crossbody. It's a nice evolution of Waterfield's vertical bag lineup and perfect for the discerning Surface user (13" Laptop, 13" Book, Surface Pro, Surface Pro X, Surface Go) and anyone with a svelte and modern Ultrabook (see our Best Ultrabooks 2020 for more ideas). The new Red Forza is outstanding, but if you want the classic, go for that waxed canvas.

That said, I'd love to see Waterfield bring back that rear grab handle, which seems like a simple request. But if that doesn't bother you and you want something premium and made in the U.S. I can easily recommend the Waterfield Designs Zoom Crossbody.

If you need some other ideas and like Waterfield's design, check out my reviews of its Cargo Laptop bag, Outback Solo, Tech Folio, or its many other designs for all devices.

Daniel Rubino

Daniel Rubino is the Editor-in-chief of Windows Central. He is also the 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 watches. He has been reviewing laptops since 2015 and is particularly fond of 2-in-1 convertibles, ARM processors, new form factors, and thin-and-light PCs. 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.