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


First, we’d like to thank each of the manufacturers that sent us samples. We should also state that we tried to get units from other manufacturers such as Targus and Mobile Edge but were unsuccessful. As such, we don’t feel we can adequately give a recommendation or not to their offerings. We did find similar products from both in the local computer store, and got a general feel for them, and they both seemed decent and would probably live somewhere in the middle range of what we reviewed here. We will say that their products use a similar layout as the Belkin and Skooba units, but beyond that, we don’t feel comfortable commenting any further.

We also wanted to say that while each of these bags had some limitations that we found disappointing, we also found a lot to like about each of them. So which do we recommend? That’s a tough question. Each bag had different strengths and we really think it depends on your personal needs. Each was well constructed, and each can do what they claim to do (from a TSA security checkpoint perspective).

For instance, while we really liked the simplicity and compactness of the Belkin Flythru, we didn’t feel it was really well suited for travelers that needed to carry more than their computer and maybe a large book and accessories. However, it excels as a daily carry bag, especially given the price point. Conversely, the Skooba Checkthrough Brief looks and feels like a quality piece of luggage, able to carry all your gear, plus a lot of your clothes – enough for 2-3 day trips easily! But that capacity comes with the price of size and weight. We wouldn’t want to have to try to cram the Skooba bag into the overhead on a little commuter plane, or worse have it down at our feet. We would suggest looking into the smaller Skooba Checkthrough Messenger if you don’t need the larger capacity of the Brief.

In many ways the Tom Bihn Checkpoint Flyer was the compromise between the two – good capacity, and good portability, but we found the layout a bit funky. Not funky in a bad way, just different enough that you really had to consider how to pack your stuff in it effectively. We loved the quality of the Checkpoint Flyer’s zippers, but wished they had used nicer pulls. It would work well as a daily carry bag (although, given the high price, that would be a tough sell for only daily carry use), but also as a regular travel bag. We also loved the interchangeable laptop compartment, allowing us to get a proper fit no matter the laptop we used. We just wish the price wasn’t so high, and at that price, not including at least a basic shoulder strap was questionable. But if you’re a heavy-duty traveler, and willing to spend the money, we felt the Checkpoint Flyer was quite possibly the best solution.

(We’ll caveat that by saying that the Skooba Checkthrough Messenger’s reduced size vs. it’s bigger brother might move it into the same category as the Tom Bihn Checkpoint Flyer, but at less than half the cost.)

In terms of our experiences dealing with the bags through TSA security, the bags all worked as advertised. We traveled through Atlanta, Denver, Dallas, Orlando, Tampa and D.C., as well as smaller airports like Pensacola, FL, and the most we every got from TSA was the question of whether we had a laptop in the bag. We were never asked to remove it. So, in that regard, we were very happy. (Note, even with these bags, TSA has the right to request that you remove the laptop… So don’t get snippy with them if they do, that is unless you enjoy body cavity searches…)

In the end, we think you can’t really go wrong with any of these bags. They’ll each serve you well provided you pick one that fits your needs.

Comparison Matrix

Belkin “FlyThru” Skooba “Checkthrough Brief” Tom Bihn “Checkpoint Flyer”
Zippers Good Adequate Excellent
Zipper Pulls Good (1) Excellent Adequate
Shoulder Strap Poor Good Excellent (1)
Pockets Adequate Excellent Good
Storage Space Adequate Excellent Good
Laptop Protection Adequate Good Excellent
Max Laptop Size 15.6” 15.6” 17” (2)
Total # pockets 1 main area with 7 pouches, 2 pen holders and 1 zipper area, + Laptop area. 4 main areas with multiple pockets in each+Laptop Area 2 front, 2, under the front flap, main compartment with 2 pouches inside, 2 pockets on back, 2 small edge pockets+Laptop sub-bag.
# Quick access pockets 1 large front zipper section. 2 front pouches, 2 front zipper compartments with multiple pockets in them, 1 larger front zipper section 2 zipped, 2 end pouches, 2 rear pouches
Price (as reviewed) $59.99 $139.95 $303 (3)
Overall Rating 3/5 4/5 4/5
Recommended For Daily carry, limited travel. Economical. Heavy travel, need to carry a lot of stuff. Best of both worlds. Great for travel, but small enough for daily carry as well.
Notes (1) – With the exception of the clamshell pull which was rubber/plastic. If you like the design, but don’t need as much space, check out the Checkthrough Messenger (1)– Not included with the bag.

(2)- Depends on which laptop compartment size ordered. Check sizing chart on website.

(3)- Price includes accessories. $220 without.

(Disclaimer: Gizmos for Geeks received a complimentary review copy of these products.)

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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