Waterfield Designs, Inc., creates some of the highest quality bags on the market.  Ranging from messenger bags to iPad cases to wallets, the company, which is located in San Francisco, is well known for great customer service and amazing bags for almost any type of gear.  Today I am reviewing one of their many cases for the iPad:  the iPad Exo Sleeve Case.  At the end of the review I will also provide a list of other options Waterfield offers for the iPad.

The iPad Exo Sleeve Case is designed to hold an iPad when it is inside another case.  The Exo Sleeve was designed specifically to accommodate Apple’s iPad Case, but it should fit virtually any other close-fitting case you might have on your iPad.  For example, I’m using the Exo Sleeve with my Vaja ivolution Top SP case (see Macgasm’s review here), and it fits perfectly.

The Waterfield Exo Sleeve with the iPad in the Vaja Case

The Exo Sleeve is not intended for a naked iPad, but Waterfield also makes the Ultimate Sleeve which looks just like the Exo Sleeve but has additional padding to protect the iPad.

Several options are available for the Exo Sleeve. For the trim you can choose between a fabric (lead indium) ($49.00) and brown leather ($53.00).  The case can be ordered in either vertical or horizontal orientation.  If you want a shoulder strap, you have the option of the simple strap mini ($9.00) or the suspension strap mini ($19.00); or, if you have your own shoulder strap, you can just request D rings ($5.00).  If you would like a little more space for carrying accessories (more on that below), you can add a piggy back case with lead indium ($25.00) or leather trim ($27.00).  So, the bag will cost you anywhere between $49.00 (with no additional options) and $99.00 if you choose all the most expensive options.  Shipping costs are additional.

Great for carrying hands free

Now, you might be wondering, “Why do you need a sleeve case if you already have your iPad in a case?” Well, that’s a good question. Certainly if you already carry a messenger bag, a backpack, or have a briefcase, you can simply slip your covered iPad in one of those and do just fine.  But, if you don’t want to carry everything with you all the time, a sleeve case would definitely lighten your load. Or, perhaps you want to take the iPad on the plane with you and you don’t want to have to stow another, bigger bag.

The Exo Sleeve is perfect for occasions when you want to carry your iPad hands free (if you get the strap, that is) or when you want an additional layer of protection for your iPad while it’s in your other bags. I carry my Exo-Sleeve along with my purse when I go to Starbucks to read or surf the Web on my iPad. I like how light the Exo-Sleeve is on my shoulder;  it allows me to have my hands free (to get my coffee, of course); it prevents my purse from assaulting my iPad when my two bags bump together.

The first thing you’ll notice about Waterfield Bags is the excellent craftsmanship and the quality.  These bags are well made and the materials they use are virtually indestructible (unless you have Labrador Retrievers—Labs can destroy anything. Believe me).

The front flap, adorned with the Waterfield logo, is constructed of heavy-duty nylon and velcro.

Flap Closure

The Exo Sleeve has one main felt-lined compartment for your iPad and an outer pocket for accessories.

Main compartment

The bottom of the case (trimmed with your choice of lead indium fabric or leather) has a pull tab you can use to assist in removing the iPad from the case. This is helpful if your iPad (in its case) fits rather snugly in the Exo Sleeve.

Bottom pull tab

If you’ve chosen a shoulder strap, it is attached securely to the sleeve by metal d-rings and lobster clasps.  The clasps attach easily using a push-spring mechanism.  Although I like this mechanism (it helps avoid pinched fingers), I also found that, given the right circumstances, the strap can become disengaged accidentally—at least I managed it whilst pulling my iPad out of my car by the shoulder strap.

Shoulder strap hardware

The outer pocket, presumably there for your accessories, does not offer much room.  If you put your power cord in it, the case bulges out, and the clean, streamlined look of the Exo Sleeve is lost.  Fortunately, the iPad has great battery life, so you may not need to carry your power cord with you.

The outer pocket with power cord inserted

But, if you find that you need more room you can opt for the “Piggy Back” case that attaches to the sleeve for your accessories.  Nevertheless, if there’s anything disappointing about the case it is the tight fit of the outer pocket.  I should’ve gotten the Piggy Back!

What’s Macgasmic:  The Waterfield iPad Exo Sleeve is a beautiful piece of workmanship.  It is a lightweight but solidly built bag that houses your iPad when it’s in another case. You can carry the Exo Sleeve by itself using the shoulder strap or you can put the Exo Sleeve in another bag.  Its streamlined shape and light weight make it ideal for travel on airplanes (and the bag is checkpoint friendly).  Waterfield offers lots of options so you can personalize the bag to your liking.  And, you are always guaranteed great service when you deal with Waterfield.

The outer pocket bulges a bit with the power cord inside

What’s Not:  My only real criticism of this bag is the tight fit for the outer pocket.  This makes the outer pocket almost useless for anything other than flat items unless you’re not bothered by a bulging bag.  The only other thing I would suggest is for Waterfield to offer more choices in fabric and leather colors for the Exo Sleeve. Some of their other bags come in a variety of colors, and it would be nice to have a splash of color for this bag too.

Waterfield’s makes some other fantastic iPad bags as well:

The iPad Ultimate Sleeve Case (starts at $55:00). This is a padded case sized for a naked iPad.

The iPad Suede Jacket (starts at $19.00). A super thin ultrasuede sleeve that protects from nicks and scratches.

The iPad Smart Case ($59.00).  A pocket case with a rigid exterior and soft, padded interior. Comes in several colors.

The iPad Slip Case ($29.00).  A soft pocket case with lined interior.

The Muzetto (10″ Portable $189.00).  A drool-worthy, multi-pocket messenger style leather bag with a variety of trim colors. These are very popular, and Waterfield’s site indicates that all Muzettos are sold out until mid-July.

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