Product review: KIKEN custom build laptop shoulder bag from SLAPPA

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I am a backpack guy. Whether I’m going away for a week or heading out for a quick overnighter, you can bet I’ve got my backpack slung across my back for the trip. However, that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate a good laptop shoulder bag, especially for those daily commutes or day-long work meetings where a hulking backpack would just be overkill. Seeing as how my favorite backpack at the moment – and, incidentally, the best one I’ve ever owned – is SLAPPA’s custom build M.A.S.K. backpack, I didn’t hesitate when offered the opportunity to take the KIKEN shoulder bag (billed as the M.A.S.K. cousin) for a test drive.

Now, we’ve admittedly been big SLAPPA fans here at Bullz-Eye for several years, largely because they’ve always delivered high-quality bags that have clearly been thoroughly researched long before seeing the light of day. The KIKEN is no different on that front. SLAPPA spent nearly 20 months developing this shoulder bag, surveying customers and trade show attendees in an effort to, as they say, “develop the best laptop shoulder bag on the market.” Did they succeed? Well, we won’t pretend to have that answer since we haven’t sampled the KIKEN’s closest competitors, but after spending one weekend with the bag, we can say those 20 months of development were very well spent.

I recently left the wife and kids for a weekend and headed up to Traverse City, MI, for my annual trip with some college friends. Typically, this weekend is built for my M.A.S.K. backpack, but I couldn’t pass up the perfect opportunity to really put the KIKEN through the paces. I loaded it up with everything I’d normally throw into my backpack – laptop, iPod, all the necessary cords and chargers, GPS and mount, some snacks, an extra pair of shoes, some cold weather gear, and a few other odds and ends. With its huge center storage compartment and series of handy pockets, along with the TSA-friendly quick-scan 18” laptop section in the back, the KIKEN took everything I could throw at it. Plus, packing everything up was a breeze since you can open both main compartments wide like a book to get to everything you need. And like most other SLAPPA bags, it’s made with puncture-proof and water-resistant 1680D Ballistix nylon, and every zipper puller, clasp and “D” ring is molded alloy. We’ve come to expect nothing but top quality from SLAPPA gear, and they always deliver.

That’s not to say I dig everything about the KIKEN – I’d prefer clasps on the bag flap instead of a long Velcro strip, and I’d love to have a mesh pocket on one of the corners for a water bottle – but those two quibbles are more than offset by the ability to customize the look of the bag with one of the four interchangeable flaps, which allows you to change the look and functionality of the bag at any time. For my trip, I swapped out the Black Blast flap for the Jedi Mind Trix option, which comes with two large Velcro straps that I used tie down my jacket. Handy, indeed. Granted, you have to buy each of the flaps separately, but it’s a cool option to have nonetheless, particularly for a cavernous bag like this that still doesn’t feel too bulky when it’s strapped onto your shoulder. We can’t definitively say the KIKEN is the best laptop shoulder bag on the market, but we’d be surprised if it had much competition for that title.

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