" />

Review: STM’s Nomad bag and sleeve are good for all of your mobile gear

stm-nomad

Having a bag to keep all of my mobile devices and accessories in didn’t used to be such a big deal, because I didn’t use to own that much at any given time. However, with the advent of the iPad and other Android tablets, and all of the keyboards, cases, and other accessories that go with them, my mobile setup isn’t always so “mobile.” Then there’s also the fact that I now have three kids who have grown up a bit, and each have their own iPod Touches. They need cables and backup batteries when we are on family trips, so now I need all of the extra storage I can get, so that I don’t have to carry multiple bags.

I started off with a Targus CityGear Mini messenger-style bag over a year ago, and it worked well for me for a long time.

 

targus-citygear

 

It was capable of holding a lot of gear for its relatively small size, it was durable, and was also reasonably priced. However, I finally got to a point where I just had too much gear to fit in it. I picked up the new Samsung Chromebook on sale right after Christmas to play with, and its 11.6″ screen just wouldn’t fit. The Targus bag was meant for tablets, so anything beyond that isn’t going to work.

Next up, I got the Mobile Edge Mini Messenger Bag, and was very pleased with it when I got it.

 

mobile-edge-mini-messenger

 

At the time, I thought it was the perfect solution for me. It comfortably fit to Nexus 10 that I used to own, my iPad Mini, my Chromebook, a full-sized Logitech Bluetooth keyboard, and all the cables and accessories I needed to make it all work while on the road. It was a bit snug, but everything fit with a little room left to spare. The bag topped out at 13.3″, but fit all of the things I was looking to carry in it.

After getting back home from one of my road trips a little over a month ago, I received the STM Nomad bag to review. I was interested in this bag for a few different reasons. First, you could choose from multiple size options, and the fact that it has a special padded iPad/tablet pocket that will fit up to a 10″ device. Second, the Nomad comes with a removable padded sleeve that can be used to provide extra internal protection for a laptop or tablet. Lastly, and while I am typically a function over form kind of guy when it comes to gear bags, the Nomad looked really cool in the pictures that I saw. The design was simple, but I really liked the color selections. Sometimes its nice to get something OTHER than black. I choose the Mustard version, and am very happy with that decision, and have also gotten several compliments on it while carrying it.

 

First Impression

 

stm-nomad-empty

 

When I first pulled the Nomad out of the box, my first impressions were a little mixed. I had ordered the small size, which is geared toward 13″ devices. However, the first thing I noticed was how big the bag was. It was much larger than necessary for a 13″ device. However, after getting in contact with STM’s PR person, I got some clarification. The bag is the same size, no matter what. The removable sleeve is actually what varies per your order. That was fine with me. I had preferred carrying a smaller bag, but the Nomad looked great, and it would definitely hold all of my gear. Also, STM was kind enough to send me an extra small sleeve, as well, so I could have one to test with smaller devices. Let’s take a closer look at what I have found using the Nomad over the last month.

 

Exterior Design and Construction

Despite any issues right off the bat with its size, I immediately loved the look of the Nomad.

 

 

stm-nomad-exterior-material

 

The color looks even better in person than in the pictures I saw on the STM website. It has a really nice balance, in that it definitely isn’t boring, but it still looks professional and well put together. The little accents, like the gray edging, stitching, handle and shoulder strap also add a nice touch of variety, as well.

The feel of the Nomad is different than I expected, but in a good way. I expected the exterior material, which is water-resistant santori according to the STM website, to feel more like canvas. However, it has a rougher texture and is also thinner than canvas. However, despite the light weight and relatively thin exterior material, it has held up surprisingly well so far. I often work in mechanical rooms that are not so clean, but the Nomad’s material still looks great. Even though it seems like the mustard color would be a real dirt magnet, I’m honestly surprised at how good it still looks after a month of constant use. If you are looking for a bag with a little color that will KEEP that color over the long haul, then you should definitely give the STM Nomad some consideration.

My favorite part of the exterior of this bag is the shoulder strap. I absolutely LOVE how it is designed and constructed. First of all, it is wider than the typical laptop bag that I’m used to, which is a very good thing for me.

 

stm-nomad-clip

 

I have fairly narrow shoulders, so laptop bags tend to slide off while I’m walking around. That’s a big reason why I switched to a backpack for carrying my work laptop and multiple accessories several years ago.

Between the Nomad’s wide strap and its even bigger and wider adjustable pad, there is plenty of material there to comfortably hold the bag in place while on the go, even when it’s loaded with gear.

 

stm-nomad-shoulder-pad

 

The Nomad also goes bigger when it comes to adjustment. Rather than the typical small strap adjusters, STM added an oversized plastic mechanism with cam adjuster that allows the strap to move freely until the clip is locked down.

 

stm-nomad-buckle-clip

 

It stays securely in place while moving, so the strap stays exactly where you want it.

Another major design feature of the Nomad’s exterior is the messenger style flap that folds over the front of the bag.

 

stm-nomad-flap-zipper-cover

 

It has a zippered pocket that spans its length, which contains several additional storage pockets, as well as loops for pens or styli.

 

stm-nomad-front-flap-pocket

 

In another cool touch, STM added a flap that completely covers the zipper, and also added nylon pulls to the end of this and the other zipper on top of the bag to make opening and closing easier.

Speaking of the top zipper, this was probably my second favorite feature of the Nomad bag’s exterior.

 

stm-nomad-top-zipper

 

I wouldn’t have been nearly as much of a fan of this bag without this addition. All of the contents in the front flap would be subject to falling out of the pockets if it had to be opened and closed every time you needed to get to the main storage compartments.

 

stm-nomad-front-flap-open

 

Thanks to this top zipper, you can get to all of the gear stored in the Nomad, even while the front flap is closed.

In another bit of interesting industrial design, STM used very basic metal hooks to hold the front flap in place, rather than buckles or clips.

 

stm-nomad-buckle

 

This is dead simple to use and also adds to the look of the front of the bag. However, there are also a couple of drawbacks. First, the straps sometimes get loose at the buckles, leaving extra slack. When this happens, especially when the bag is sitting, it can be easy for the hooks to come loose. This is one of the very few negatives that I found with the Nomad, but is a small complaint in the face of all the positives. It’s only a minor annoyance for me, since I almost always use the shoulder strap. Loose hooks are more of a problem if you pick the Nomad up by the handle.

Speaking of the handle, this is another small complaint with the Nomad. I appreciate the fact that STM included it, since not everyone will want to use the shoulder strap. However, due to the thinness of the exterior material, and the inherent give that it has, picking up the Nomad by the handle can feel a little “mushy,” for lack of a better word.

 

stm-nomad-handle-flex

 

However, as you can see here, it is double stitched on both sides, so it is will hold up just fine.

 

stm-nomad-handle

 

Just make sure the hooks are attached before you pick it up, and you’re good to go.

All things considered, the exterior of the STM Nomad bag is very well designed and constructed. It looks great, it’s durable, and shows the results of a lot of time, effort, and attention to detail. This bag isn’t some thrown together product. The quality of the design and construction are immediately evident both when you lay your eyes, and put your hands on it.

 

Interior Design and Construction

The interior of the bag isn’t as much to look at as the exterior, but is still well laid out and very functional. The majority of the interior is lined with gray cross-hatched nylon, which is smooth and easy on the gadgets that it holds.

 

 

stm-nomad-interior-compartments

 

The Nomad has two main interior pockets that will each fit up to a 15″ laptop sleeve (but possibly an even wider laptop without the sleeve. I didn’t have one to test with). Remember what I said about size in the beginning? The bag obviously has to be fairly large to fit a machine that big. These pockets are quite generous in size, and can be used not just for tech items, but also for almost anything you might want to carry. This is where the flexibility of the bag’s material is an advantage, as it will accommodate many different kinds of items. Also, remember that the primary reason for the roominess of the Nomad’s main compartments is to hold a laptop inside of an included sleeve, which we will look at in a moment.

Whether you use the sleeve or not, the center of the bag has enough room to fit two laptops, provided that they aren’t massive desktop replacement or gaming rigs. I’ve carried both my new Lenvo Yoga 13.3″ machine, and my old Dell E5420 (which isn’t super thin), and while the fit was tight, the Nomad did the job. I have even been able to get my Yoga and my Chromebook, both in STM sleeves, in the Nomad without issue.

 

stm-nomad-loaded-top

 

This storage capacity is a big plus if you travel with multiple devices.

The bulk of the Nomad’s accessory storage room, and there is a TON of it, is found in the pockets located in the lower front section of the bag. All of these pockets are deep, and again, benefit from the flexible material. Upon closer inspection, what looks like two big pockets is actually more like six. There are two zippered pockets in the front of the bag that are perfect for holding things like cables, chargers, disks, and other smaller items.

 

stm-nomad-front-zippered-pocket

stm-nomad-front-right-zippered-pocket

 

Behind these are two deep well pockets with dividers that come about 2/3 of the way up, making them function like four separate pockets. These are perfect for larger items, such as hard drives and laptop charging cables.

 

stm-nomad-front-right-pocket

stm-nomad-front-left-pocket

 

The left pocket even has a hanging hook, which is perfect for securely holding a key ring or USB drive with a detachable loop.

The real stars of this part of the show are the two special gadget pockets lined with a soft blue nylex material. One is the back portion of the right side front pocket (shown above). This one is sized to fit a smaller device, like a Kindle or Nook reader, or a 5″ or larger cell phone.

The other is just behind the front pockets, in between them and the first main compartment.

 

stm-nomad-ipad-pocket-empty

It goes from the top to the bottom of the Nomad, and will fit a full-sized iPad or 10″ Android tablet.

 

stm-nomad-ipad-pocket

 

The nylex that lines these two pockets is really soft, and provides excellent protection against dings and scratches for even a naked device. Even if you don’t need these pockets for mobile device storage, they can definitely be used to store whatever you choose. However, it’s good to know that your bag has a spot that will protect your fragile screens, and hold mobile devices securely.

 

A Trick Up Its Sleeve

The feature that really makes the STM Nomad stand out is the inclusion of a removable sleeve that can both provide additional protection in the bag, and be used separate from it. I don’t know if I would feel comfortable carrying two laptops in this bag without one of them being in the sleeve. The bag itself has minimal padding and, as discussed earlier, is very flexible. STM was able to pull this off and add versatility to the bag to carry a wide variety of items because of this sleeve, which you can order in your choice of extra small (11″), small (13″), and medium (15″).

As you can see here, this sleeve isn’t just a simple neoprene zipup throwaway.

 

stm-nomad-sleeve

 

It is made with the same quality and eye for detail that the Nomad bag displays. The exterior is made from the same water-resistant santori as the Nomad.

The sleeve also has the same blue nylex material lining its interior.

 

stm-nomad-sleeve-interior

 

Unlike the Nomad, however, the sleeve has more padding on all sides, which feels like a heavy foam.

The sleeve also features a roomy pocket on the front, and a heavy rope handle that forms a 90′ angle.

 

stm-nomad-sleeve-pocket

 

This allows you to carry the sleeve horizontally or vertically, and frankly, just looks cool.

Since I asked some questions about the overall size of the Nomad bag and sleeves, they were kind enough to send me an additional Axis sleeve in the extra small size for some additional testing.

 

stm-nomad-axis-sleeve

 

The design and construction of the Axis are similar to the sleeve included with the Nomad. The color, interior and exterior materials, zipper pulls, and rope handle are all exactly the same. However, there are a couple of subtle differences. First of all, the Axis has even more padding than the other sleeve. Both the front and back have a substantial amount, which is a good thing. Second, the pocket design is quite different. Where the Nomad’s sleeve has a single large, open front pocket, the Axis has two closed zippered pockets.

Personally, I prefer the larger open pocket of the Nomad sleeve, because it basically gives you another storage pocket inside of the Nomad bag. As you can see above, it is large enough to fit a full-sized Logitech Bluetooth keyboard with room to spare. I don’t tend to use the sleeve by itself much, so that’s probably why I prefer the design of the larger sleeve. For those who will use it on its own, the Axis’ design will probably be a little more versatile.

The one complaint that I have with the sleeves is that the stated sizing didn’t quite line up with my devices. The small sleeve that camp with the Nomad is supposed to fit “most” 13″ screens, but isn’t quite wide enough to hold my 13.3″ Lenovo Yoga.

 

stm-nomad-sleeve-corner

 

The Yoga fits in it just fine (and I do put it in the sleeve when I carry it in the Nomad bag), but the sleeve doesn’t fit all the way around the edges, so I can’t zip it up with the laptop in it. The sleeve fits my 11.6″ Chromebook with plenty of room to spare, but not the Yoga.

I have the same issue with the extra small Axis sleeve, which is perfect for a tablet or 10″netbook, but won’t quite fit my Chromebook.

 

stm-nomad-axis-chromebook

 

Well, it will technically, but you really have to force the zippers a bit, and you can see the corners pushing outward a bit. This tight fit also pretty much negates the use of the zippered front pockets.

This is more significant than the other small issues with the Nomad, because it may possibly limit the usefulness of the bag for owners of 15.6″ laptops. I didn’t try the medium sized sleeve (although I will probably be buying one to use with my Yoga), but if what I have seen with the extra small and small holds true, it may come up a little short for some 15″+ laptop owners. Considering how good the design of both the Nomad bag and the sleeves are, I hope that STM will line up their sleeve sizes with typical widescreen laptop offerings in the future.

For reference, here are the listed sizes for the extra small, small, and medium sleeves, so you can check ahead of time to see of your laptop will fit.

X-Small:  7.6×11.8×0.8 inches
Small:      9x13x0.9 inches
Medium: 9.8×14.3×0.9 inches

 

Performance

At the end of the day, all the design and construction in the world won’t do you any good if the bag won’t safely and easily hold all of the gear that you need. No need to worry about the Nomad, however, because it really delivers. While it isn’t a small bag, it holds even more than I expected, and does it without adding extra bulk or unnecessary weight of its own.

This picture is worth a thousand words. It’s of all the gear that I typically carry around in the Nomad.

 

stm-nomad-gear

 

This has been really impressive to me. We’re talking about a 13.3″ laptop in a sleeve and a 11.6″ Chromebook in a sleeve, chargers for both, an iPad Mini in an STM leather case (not included), a Logitech Bluetooth Easy-Switch keyboard, a 1TB Toshiba external hard drive in a case, an adjustable tablet stand, a backup battery, a multitude of USB cables, 2 Apple Lightning cables, 2 Apple charging bricks, 1 dual USB charger, 1 AirStash media streamer, 1 Jawbone Icon Bluetooth headset, 1 set of Apple headphones, and 2 styli.

I’ve even pushed it further, at times, and squeezed a little more in while heading out on the road. For example, I added my Panasonic Lumix LX5 camera (which isn’t small) and charger to the bag for a recent family trip. I also added an extra backup battery and all of the kids’ iPod charging bricks and cables, as well on the same trip. I can also switch things up by carrying one laptop, freeing up the center compartment to fill with some of my work essentials, such as a surge protector, Bluetooth mouse, wireless router, Ethernet cables, and files.

Here is a look at the Nomad with all of this gear packed inside.

 

stm-nomad-fully-loaded

stm-nomad-loaded-side

 

Sure, it looks full, but can you really tell that all of the stuff in that picture is securely held inside? There’s even a little room to spare if I need it.

While the Nomad is obviously capable of holding a LOT of gear, the best thing about it is how light and balanced it is while carrying it all. This is, again, because the bag itself doesn’t have a ton of extra padding, and because of the wide shoulder strap and pad. All of the components work together very well.

 

Conclusion

If you are like me, and carry a lot of mobile electronic gear for business, pleasure, or both, then you have probably been through a few bags along the way, trying to find that one that “just works.” Well, if you are dissatisfied with your current choice, or are just looking for something with a bit more flair, then you should definitely take a good look at the STM Nomad. It has a great balance of design, construction, style, and substance. It’s always a good thing when you can get form and function in one tight package.

Bear in mind that all this does come at a price. The Nomad sells between $80-$119, depending on the retailer. This certainly isn’t a small amount of money, but considering what you get, it’s certainly not unreasonable in my book. I’ve spent $40-$60 on bags that I wasn’t as happy with, and weren’t as high quality, so $20-$40 extra isn’t too much to pay to be happy with what I get. This price will be too much for some, but look at it this way. If you spend enough on mobile electronics to fill this bag, then it’s worth it to invest in worthwhile protection. The Nomad definitely qualifies.

So, other than some issues that I had with the sleeve sizing, and a couple of other very minor quibbles, I have been extremely happy with the STM Nomad. Honestly, I hadn’t owned the Mobile Edge Mini Messenger Bag for more than a month when I got the Nomad, and I’ve hardly touched it since. I really liked it, too, and was happy using it, but the Nomad is just so much more versatile. It’s worth the extra size for the storage space and versatility return. I made the switch, and haven’t looked back. When I leave the house or hotel every work day, the Nomad is over my shoulder, taking care of all the gear that I need to do my job. As a tech professional who is almost always on the go, I don’t think I could give a more ringing endorsement than that.

The STM Nomad bag is available from eBags, RADtech, and TravelSmarts. You can find more information on the Nomad on STM’s product webpage.

 

The STM Nomad bag was provided by STM for review on iSource. For further information regarding our site’s review policies, please see the “About” page.

 

 

Continue reading:

TAGS: , , , , , ,