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

Skooba “Checkthrough Brief”

The second bag we received came from Skooba Design. Skooba makes a number of different TSA approved bags in a variety of styles. In order to keep the review a fair as possible, we requested one of their Checkthrough Brief models. (In hindsight though, their Checkthrough Messenger bag model would have been a more direct comparison.)

To say that the Checkthrough Brief is spacious is an understatement! This bag is BIG!!! Not so much in that it’s dimensions are large (although it is noticeably thicker and slightly taller than the Belkin) but more in that the main compartment is just huge. We had no problem fitting all of our test gear PLUS additional clothing and gear into the bag. In fact, we felt this bag would probably be the best of the ones reviewed for people who needed to travel 2-3 days and didn’t want to have to carry a 2nd bag, or for those who have to carry a lot of items with them (demo materials, hand outs, whatever.) That being the case though, all of our reviewers felt it was just too large for their daily carry use.

Skooba uses nicely contoured zipper pulls that are easy to grab

Regardless, there was a lot to like about the Skooba offering. First off, we absolutely loved the contoured heavy metal zipper pulls used throughout the unit. They made opening and closing each pocket effortless and comfortable. Additionally, many of the compartments used elastic materials to help keep items inside the pockets secured. While not essential, this is a nice touch when you consider how much bags like this get jostled around. Nothing is more annoying that having to dig through a bag for a small item that has fallen out of a pouch inside of a larger compartment when there’s other items in that compartment as well.

The well padded handle on the Checkthrough Brief

We definitely preferred the shoulder strap on the Skooba over the Belkin. The metal clips that attach the strap to the bag were well constructed and heavy and certainly felt like they could handle the weight that could be put in a larger bag like this. Likewise the strap itself was comfortable. One thing we particularly liked about the strap was that the padded part that actually goes over your shoulder was stitched into place, rather than just a movable sleeve over the strap itself.  We’ve had issues in the past where those moveable sleeves would slide or get twisted or otherwise rotate on us. That can’t happen with the Skoobas. We also really liked how thickly padded the handle was on the Checkthrough Brief. Even fully loaded with gear, the handle was comfortable and didn’t cut into our hands.

Skooba also included a 3-1-1 gel/liquids clear bag (zippered) that fits nicely in one of the two front compartments. While not an essential, it does show that Skooba realized the purpose of this bag and at least made some effort to address the other needs of travelers.

Layout wise, the Checkthrough Brief features 2 small zipper pockets on the front (each with slip pockets in front of them for items like your boarding pass), each containing elastic and web pouches for small items like pens and your iPod. Behind those lies another larger compartment that would be a good place for putting your laptop accessories, or papers. There are two pouches in this compartment, but strangely, they are the only two in the bag that don’t have a zipper or elastic mechanism for holding items in place. A spot to clip your keys is found in this compartment as well.

The cavernous (did we mention this bag is big?) center compartment contains a divider and numerous zipper and elastic pockets. If you’re going to pack for a trip, this is the compartment you’d put clothes in.  This compartment is a good 3.5” deep and easily could fit a pair of shoes along with several shirts, underwear, toiletries, etc.  Some of the reviewers occasionally find themselves having to carry a second laptop with them, and this compartment could easily accommodate that second machine (although it would have to be removed when going through security.) We honestly were blown away by how much space there was in this compartment.

Lastly there is the laptop compartment itself. We won’t dwell on this much. It’s very similar in design to the Belkin unit, although the clear plastic window isn’t as large, and there seems to be slightly more protective padding for the computer than the Belkin had. Like the Belkin, Skooba chose to go with a reverse-clamshell design for meeting TSA’s guidelines, again with the zipper wrapping around the bottom of the bag to join the two sections.

Finally, the Checkthrough Brief has a strap across the back for sliding the bag down the handle of your roll-aboard luggage. Unlike Belkin, Skooba made theirs wide enough to fit every piece of luggage we tried it with, so we give them an A+ for getting that feature right. We also give them a thumbs-up for a slick little semi-hidden ID tag that slides out of a dedicated pocket on the side of the bag. Pull the tab labeled “ID” and the tag holder slips out of a slot. Release it and elastic springs it back into the pocket quickly.  No more tags flopping around on the outside of your nice bag!

One thing we did want to call out though, was the zippers themselves. While the Belkin and the Tom Bihn bags used zippers that cover themselves when zipping/unzipping, the Skooba does not. Why is this a big deal? Zippers tend to let water through when they’re not covered, and everyone who’s been stuck standing out in a torrential downpour while waiting for a taxi or rental car shuttle bus knows that having water get into your bag is not fun! The other bags cover the zippers, which helps resist water seepage. While not a huge issue, we would have liked to see Skooba do this as well.

Skooba sells their Checkthrough Brief for $139.95. The bag is made from 1680 Denier Ballistic nylon, so it’s quite durable.

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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