They say you can't reinvent the wheel and most bag manufacturers don't even try, simply throwing together a collection of black nylon shapes with zippers and Velcro. So when a bag comes along that is somehow different, either in features or in color, or, in the case of the STM Linear Medium, shape, it tends to stand out. The Linear is the second vertically-oriented messenger that we've reviewed lately (the other being Ogio's Covert), and there's a lot to be said for it. Suffice it to say that we're quickly becoming fans of both STM, and vertical bags.
Also referred to as a north/south bag, vertical bags such as the Linear are generally taller than they are wider and feature a thin, streamlined profile. In this the Linear is no different: Measuring in at 11 inches by 15.7 inches by 3.1 inches, and weighing in at 1.1 pounds, and constructed from 300 denier velocity polyester, the Linear is a good example of a vertical bag done right.
The Linear features one main padded compartment for a laptop; in addition to this, it also has a padded tablet sleeve, and an additional (non-padded) sleeve ideal for magazines, paperwork, or notebooks. The front of the bag has a zippered pouch that encompasses two additional pockets, a key ring, and three pen slots. The front flap of the bag features a sizeable zippered compartment that would easily fit bus passes, passports, plane tickets, or smartphones; the rear of the bag has a slip pocket, and a strap that acts as a luggage pass-through so you can hook the Linear over a wheeled bag.
Using the Linear was for the most part a pleasant experience- I always felt like my 13 inch ultrabook had plenty of padding (the Linear can fit laptops up to 15 inches), and the additional sleeves were quite handy. The Linear--which comes in black and grey--is obviously intended to be a professional looking bag with a slim profile, and in this it succeeds. However, that slim profile will not afford you a ton of room to cram in wallets, make up bags, lunches, or awkwardly shaped items. Similarly, while the pocket on the front flap was very useful, the other pockets were a bit tight for many of my rounder items.
However, those are some pretty small complaints for a bag that still managed to haul all my day-to-day gear across town easily for a few weeks. Granted, the bag did get pushed into some interesting bulgy shapes when I added in round items but everything still made it to its intended destination in once piece--this likely wouldn't be a problem if you kept the contents more minimal. The shoulder strap was always comfortable, even with the bag packed full, and was easy to adjust--it also features the swivel clip that I was so fond of on the STM Velo 2. Overall this is a first-rate bag that, like most vertical messengers, is intended for those who carry the basics. If you're interested in a carry-all that's capable of handling a wide range of gear and gadgets, stick to a traditional, horizontally oriented messenger like the Velo 2 or the Slappa.