L.L. Bean Underseat Commuter Bag Review

Running from one gate to another at the airport with minutes to spare. Laptop, jacket, bag of chargers, kindle all stuffed into my Tumi messenger bag. By the time I made it to my seat, my shoulder hurts, my back aches. That is no way to start a 15 hours flight to Shanghai. It is time to get a small wheeled carry on bag.

Here comes L.L. Bean

Tumi makes a few wheeled brief cases, but the cheapest one, the T-Tech network is US$400. When I found this $169 L.L. Bean Commuter Underseat bag, I bought it.


A bag is all about organization. Too little pockets and everything gets lump together, making retrieval difficult. This is particularly bad while traveling. Sometimes I just need to get to my headphones, or passports, or whatever while standing in the TSA line or stuck in a cramp seat on the airplane.

Too many pockets is not good either. How would you remember where things are? And if any of the pockets are too large or too small, they just become not useful. How does this L.L. Bean bag perform?

Main Storage Area

The main storage area zips open like a mini suit case. On the "bottom", it has a deep storage space complete with a tie down strap on the bottom, useful for holding down clothing's. This is where I put most of my travel items. A package compression thing  just fits inside.The area is covered by a zip around mashed cover. The main area is just large enough to fit an Eagle Creek Travel Gear Pack-It Folder 15 (the smaller one). I managed to pack for a two day business trip, travelled by train in China, using this bag with the Pack-It kit.

The "top" of this main area has a padded computer storage area, and a smaller lined area, perhaps for an iPad. The computer area is quite large. My 13 inch MacBook Pro fits in it with a lot of room to spare. I think you can fit two 15 inch MacBook Pros in there if you need to.

There are a few issues with this main storage area:

  • If you place the bag on it's back and open the main area, the laptop and any thing else tends to slide down and out of it's space (see picture). So you should make sure you strap down the velcro tab to protect the laptop.
  • It seems natural at first to put any paperwork, folders etc in between the front and the back of this main area. But because the meshed cover of the back area, if you try to insert anything stiff, like a file folder, into the bag while the bag is upright, it will likely get caught by the mesh cover.

One big improvement for L.L. Bean will be to add another document pocket, or a stiff divider, in this area.

Small pockets on Top

The bag has two horizontally zipped small pockets on the top. One is lighted with a soft white water resistant material. This pocket is quiet deep. The other is lined with a felt like material. Both area is great for phones and other small items. I use them to hold small items like headphones, phone and wallet when I have to empty my pockets going through metal detectors.


One side of the bag has a grab handle and a hidden luggage tag. The grab handle is really handy when you have to retrieve the bag from overhead bins. This is one of the great little design touch of the bag.

The other side has a zipped pocket that is slightly too small even for a small water bottle. Maybe it is for a compact umbrella?

Front Section

The other storage area is a zipped open front section that contains the usual organization pockets for pens, business cards etc. There is a small zipped meshed pocket at the front, good for storing more valuable things like passports and wallets. The sides of the half entire front section has "wings" that prevent things from falling out while the section is opened - good design.

Miscellaneous Features

One very nice thing about this bag is that both handles are very well padded. When you have to lift the bag to a overhead storage bin, or pick it up to walk up long flight of stairs much easier.

There is a little attachment point on the front of the bag, presumable good for attaching a small flash light or something. I have yet to use it.

There is a pass thru strap on the back of the bag that allows you to slide the bag over the pull handle of another luggage. I find that it does not fit over the very wide handle of my travel pro roller board.

The zipper pulls on the main compartment have eyelets for a lock. The zipper pulls on the smaller front compartment do not.

Telescopic Handle

The telescopic handle is hidden under a zipped opening, which is nice. The handle pulls out easily, but I find that I always have to give it an extra tug to get it fully extended and locked in place. Once extended, together with the very smooth rollerblade type wheels, it rolls easily. I dragged the bag over a mile of cobble stoned sidewalk of shanghai and it worked fine.


I have taken this bag on a few long haul flights, a few short haul flights, and one train trip. It has been holding up. It is definitely better than a messenger bag in terms of comfort and capacity. Even with the minor issues noted above, I recommend this bag.