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Review: Collins Convertible Backpack by Brenthaven

For over 30 years Brenthaven has been making high caliber products rooted in their heritage of outdoor backpacks. Their Collins Collection consists of 9 products that range from an iPad folio to this Convertible Backpack – all of which sport a sleek “heather gray” tweed appearance.

The Look

From first glance, the Collins Convertible Backpack shows Brenthaven’s attention to a classy design. The black leather trim on the front and top carrying handles complement the highbrow gray exterior. The strong stainless clasps and buckles at bottom of the shoulder straps, and the gray / white pin striped interior liner add a stylish contrast to the subtleties of the elegance and sophisticated look of the Collins Collection.

Stylish Collins Convertible Backpack

The Design

What sets the Convertible Backpack above many backpacks is the high craftsmanship – as well as the its named ability to convert from a backpack to a tote back: unbuckle the shoulder straps, tuck them in a large rear panel, and you have a portrait oriented computer bag.

Collins Convertible Backpack – as a bag

There are 4 external pockets: two velcro clasped pockets on the side (for water bottles) and a zippered, a cavernous velcro front cover pocket, and a lined pocket in that front cover. Oddly the small front pocket has a second zipper at the pocket’s seam that is sewn inside out (see below). With no easy way to unzip from the inside – except by pulling the pocket apart – it seems to be either a defect or design flaw. Given that both the Collins Convertible Backpack and the Messenger Bag (review pending) had the same condition, I’m scratching my head and wondering what the thinking was behind the design.

Inside the Collins Convertible Backpack

The appearance matters very little if a computer bag doesn’t adequately protect its contents, and here the Collins Backpack excels. The liner covers high density foam that cushions and suspends a notebook (up to 15.4″) slightly off the bottom of bag – protecting it from the bumps and jars of setting the backpack on hard surfaces. The foam also wraps lines the entire bag and safeguards all interior contents.

So What’s Missing?

The drawback I have with this bag is the same I have with most backpacks: it’s a cavern. It’s a geek’s “purse.” Since there are only a few nooks and crannies – two pen holders, a small inside pocket, and three card holders is the advertised interior “accessory panel” – everything tends to migrate to the bottom. During my last trek through airports, traveling, and trainings, I found that I had to dig for my occasional lost pen and suddenly missing metal business card holder. And maybe I’m too picky, but in advertising as a computer bag, I want some additional places to store the small things and accessories, as well as a dedicated place for a laptop brick and cord.

And I am not asking too much: I am speaking from experience with Brenthaven. My daily computer bag for the past three years has been their own previous generation of convertible backpack bags, the discontinued Brenthaven Crossover, that is crammed with pockets, zippers, handles, and padding on the back to slide over a telescoping luggage handle.

Discontinued Brenthaven Crossover

Discontinued Brenthaven Crossover

Collins Convertible Backpack is a Keeper

Regardless of the minor complaints (and flaw?), the Collins Convertible Backpack is a definite keeper. Even if it’s slightly higher on aesthetic design and form than on function, it has the Brenthaven caliber of construction, a 100% lifetime guarantee, and a company devoted to crafting products with minimal impact on the environment. And at $89.95 for protecting and carrying your high-tech devices, the Collins Convertible Backpack an investment worth making.

Keep your eye on iSource for my review of the Collins Messenger Bag next weekend!


The Collins Convertible Backpack was provided by Brenthaven for review on iSource. For further information regarding our site’s review policies, see the “About” page.

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  • Is the second zipper accessible from inside the rest of the bag somewhere? That seems like the only reason to have a zipper on the seam – and would explain why it’s “inside out,” since it would be intended to open from the other side.

    • Jay

      Hey Tonei, That was my initial thought too. But search as I might, there was no internal way to access that darned thing! I even emailed the contact at Brenthaven but haven’t had a response.

      • Kevin

        Any response yet on the function of the zipper?

        • Jay

          No, not yet. 🙂 If I do, I’ll update the post to reflect their thinking in design.