Review: 3 TSA-Approved Laptop Bags Compared – Belkin Flythru, Skooba Checkthrough Brief & Tom Bihn Checkpoint Flyer

Belkin “Flythru” Laptop Bag

First up in our review is the Belkin Flythru Laptop case. As the least expensive bag in our review, it was also the smallest of the four. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as it was the easiest to live with when placed under the seat in front of you on the airplane, taking up less of your valuable foot space. It also was the easy to fit into the smaller overhead bins found on the smaller commuter planes. However, that limited size also meant limited storage space due to its smaller overall volume. Not so limited that you couldn’t carry your laptop and papers and such, but we couldn’t fit anywhere near as much in it as we could the other bags in this review. Still, we managed to fit our laptop, power adapter, a change of clothes, a very large textbook, pens, digital camera, and some other small items without any problem.
Our testers found the main non-laptop compartment was the easiest to access. They also liked that there were specific pen/pencil holders and a spot for items such as a subway token card and business cards. The front pocket was relatively large, big enough to store the AC adaptor for our Dell D820 laptop, allowing for quick and easy access.

The laptop compartment was relatively roomy, and easily fit our test machine. (Belkin claims a 15.6” widescreen will fit.) On the side that normally would be facing the inside of the bag, Belkin used a clear vinyl panel to allow TSA to see the laptop with the bag splayed open.  The zipper that opens up this butterfly capability zips around the bottom of the bag, which we like as it keeps us from thinking that it’s the zipper to another pocket, accidentally placing items in that space which would fall out as soon as we got to the security checkpoint and opened up the bag for inspection. (The Skooba bag does the same thing.) We do question why Belkin chose to use a different non-metal zipper pull (it’s plastic/rubber) for just this one zipper though. We suspect that the zipper pull will break if used repeatedly and it’s nowhere near as sturdy as the nice metal ones used throughout the rest of the bag.

About the vinyl window – we’re conflicted about it. We like it because it allows you to keep an eye on the laptop and see that it’s in there while dealing with the checkpoint. But on the other hand, it also means that everyone else can see it too, and think “Oh, nice laptop, I’ll snag that bag..” The TSA rules don’t require any sort of capability for visual inspection of the laptop, just that there’s no zippers or pockets obstructing the X-Ray machine’s view through the compartment and it’s contents. We’ll leave this to the reader whether the window is a good or bad thing.

While the bag contained numerous pockets and compartments, we found most of them to be somewhat small, and they tended to flop open rather than keeping items tightly secured, especially when maneuvering the bag around in the overhead compartment on a plane. We also ran into trouble with the strap for attaching the bag to your roll-aboard luggage. Several of the testers found the width of the strap too narrow to be used with their luggage.

We had several other small concerns with the Belkin offering. While the padding for the laptop itself was adequate, the overall construction of the bag was in-line with the lower price point compared to the other bags we examined. For instance, the thickness of the fabrics was noticeably thinner than the other bags. The shoulder strap was lightweight, lightly padded, and certainly wouldn’t hold up to any routine traveler’s use for more than a year or so. After using the strap for several weeks we grew to absolutely hate it, as it would regularly slide off or dig into your shoulder. If you buy this bag, seriously consider finding a different shoulder strap for it.

The zippers were your standard variety but did have some decent metal pulls (with the previously mentioned exception.) Additionally, the handle at the top of the bag wasn’t particularly well padded (certainly nowhere near as much as the Skooba bag below), so carrying any sort of substantial weight that way might prove uncomfortable for long periods of time.  Finally, Belkin didn’t include any sort of 3-1-1 bag or pouch accessory for holding your liquids and gels.

We did feel that the bag had its good features though, and if you don’t travel frequently, and don’t need to carry much in your laptop bag beyond the laptop, accessories and some papers, the lower price of the Belkin is certainly attractive. If you are a weekday warrior and know every restaurant in every concourse of every airport on the eastern seaboard, we’d suggest moving on. As a lightweight, inexpensive daily carry bag, it’s fine, and in fact, in that regard we think it’s the best of the lot for that task.

The Belkin Flythru carries an MSRP of $59.99, includes a carry strap and a lifetime warranty. It comes only in the one size, so if you have a smaller laptop you might have need to add extra padding around the laptop compartment to keep the machine from sliding around.

5 thoughts on “Review: 3 TSA-Approved Laptop Bags Compared – Belkin Flythru, Skooba Checkthrough Brief & Tom Bihn Checkpoint Flyer”

  1. Thanks. Great, thorough review. The chart is very useful too. I want to recommend another to consider for your next review. I've been using the Cozmo Mambo Combo from Waterfield Designs ( It uses the TSA sleeve + bag system and has served me exceptionally well for years. I highly recommend checking it out.

  2. Thanks for the feedback and I'm glad you enjoyed it! If we end up doing another eval of bags in the future I'll be sure to include your recommendation.

  3. I second the recommendation for the Cozmo bag. TSA friendly, sturdy, great pockets and stylish (which…ahem…is more than I can say for the ones in the picture.)

  4. Too bad there is no such thing as a TSA approved bag. Was the TSA even consulted before writing this??? The TSA does not and will not approve any mfgrs bags. They at their discretion can still make you take your laptop out of the case.

    1. Lenny, if you REALLY want to pick nits, yes, you're right…

      TSA gave specification that the manufacturers could follow to create bags that would allow laptops to go through the screening devices without being removed from the bag.

      So, no, they're not "TSA Certified", but they are "TSA Compliant". So if you want to pick nits, fine…

      And I DO say in the article that TSA ALWAYS reserves the right to make you remove the laptop… But so far the couple of times I've travelled with these bags (and the others here in the office that tested them as well) we have YET to be asked to remove the laptop… TSA haven't even so much as asked me if I had a laptop in the bag (they have asked another tester that, but didn't ask him to remove it.)

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