i was looking for as big of a bag as i could get, that also had a laptop sleeve (for school purposes). i used the north face jester for >5 years as a school backpack, but on too many field trips the bottom ripped out and it didn't have a laptop sleeve. at 52 liters, the icon 3.0 is definitely spacious enough. however, i feel like 3 things could be improved. 1) the front pocket is a bit exposed to the elements, having just a velcro closure. it's also a tad annoying to have to unbuckle the 3 straps to get to the front pocket (in my opinion, front pockets should be easily accessible). however, the 2 roomy side zipper pockets more or less make up for this defect. these 2 side pockets are great for your wallet, keys, gum, phone, but not really big enough for pens and a notepad. 2) the lumbar straps are a bit long and are a little uncomfortable when not in use, but this could be more an issue of my body size/frame (i'm pretty small, 5'3, 95 pounds, and htis is a huge bag). so that shouldnt be an issue for bigger and taller people. 3) the holes in the bottom of the main compartment are a good idea if you intend to use this bag for surfing or water sports and have a lot of wet things, but for books (especially books with dust jackets), the holes can do a little damage if youre not careful. however, the fabric is really strong and i think will hold up for many geologic field trips involving carrying sharp rocks, etc. a few pros: the digital device compartment sleeve on the top is really nice, it's like chamois lined and i can just stick my ipod in it without worrying about it getting totally scratched up. the 2 side zip pockets are great. the 2 water bottle pockets are OK, but you probably couldnt fit a 1 liter nalgene if the pack is filled to the brim (well, maybe, but i use siggs and those fit fine). the laptop sleeve is PERFECT if you have the smaller macbooks (12 inch). i can easily fit my 12 inch macbook in its incase neoprene sleeve in the laptop pocket, and the sidezip access is a bit tight, but works fine enough through security (a big plus so you dont have to open up your whole bag to extract your laptop). all in all, this bag is a big plus over the north face jester because it accommodates a laptop and it has a lot more space, but there are just a few minor things that dont make it the most ideal school backpack. however, i think it will be GREAT in the field, and i still use it everyday for school.
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