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MacBook sleeve – should I buy it? (checklist)

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Tactical MacBook sleeve from Helikon-Tex

Go through this quick list of possible reasons to buy a MacBook sleeve, and compare it with your needs and expectations

Do I need a case or sleeve? The answer is obvious when you have an iPad. It’s not that obvious if you think about getting some sort of protection for your MacBook (or any other laptop).

Using a laptop is much safer, you may say. Most common places are the desk, the bed, and the sofa. And a laptop, although portable by definition, is also less portable than an iPad, as it’s bigger and heavier than a tablet. Therefore, you carry it much less often.

Now, read this passage again. The desk, the bed, the sofa… To me, the safety of using a MacBook is the same as an iPad. 

I have written this short guide after an extensive (and successful) search for a protective sleeve for my new MacBook Pro. I have started from looking for a cheap, third-party neoprene sleeve, and ended up investing in a much more durable and advanced solution that I’m sure I will be using for several years (to be seen at the end of this post).

Should I buy a sleeve for my MacBook? (checklist)

1. If you don’t have a laptop-safe bag or suitcase

Some bags or suitcases are not suitable for carrying a laptop. 

For instance, I have a rolltop backpack from Ortlieb. It’s a solid, durable, waterproof bicycle bag, but it has a one-layer design with an internal pocket that’s too small to accommodate a laptop. What’s more, inside there are large screws that could scratch my MacBook.

A proper bag or suitcase should have a dedicated, multi-layer compartment for a laptop. It will provide protection when you accidentally drop the bag, but it will also separate the laptop from other items in the bag. These things could damage your MacBook. A tiny scratch on the top lid of your MacBook counts as a damage, doesn’t it?

If your bag is not suited for electronic devices, you can get a basic neoprene sleeve that you can put inside the bag, but also use separately.

Example: Basic neoprene MacBook zipper sleeve

Simple neoprene MacBook compatible sleeve

This affordable and customer-favorited sleeve is available in four sizes, so you will find the one that fits your current MacBook model. 

The sleeve is made of durable, thickened, water-resistant neoprene. It’s slim and lightweight enough to be used inside a bag. ⇢ More details.

Alternative solutions

  • Replace your current bag with the laptop-ready one that you could use for years and with several mobile devices. Here are premium and fashionable laptop-safe bags and backpacks from BagSmart.
  • Before putting your MacBook into a bag, wrap it in a piece of clothing. For instance, I always carry a waterproof coat with me – and I often use it to form a “sleeve” for my laptop.

2. If you don’t need a bag or suitcase

Many people don’t have a bag and don’t even think of buying it. Bags are bulky, heavy, and in most cases you won’t use their entire space.

Sometimes, however, you will have to carry your MacBook. You don’t have to buy a bag to use it once a month. A sleeve is a much more reasonable choice. It’s not only for protection. It will make it easier to carry your laptop.

The best sleeve to meet this particular need is the one that features a handle and a shoulder strap.

Example: Affordable MacBook-compatible shoulder bag with handle

Affordable MacBook sleeve with handles and shoulder strap

From Mosiso comes a highly popular briefcase-like laptop sleeve that features solid handles, as well as removable and adjustable shoulder strap. 

There are also two front pockets for small accessories. You can choose from four sizes and over twenty colors. ⇢ More details.

Alternative solutions

  • Use a tote or shopping bag that you already own.
  • In emergency situations, you can use a large-size bubble envelope. Bubble mailers are usually water-resistant and come in different colors.

3. If you are concerned about water damage

Even if you have a laptop bag, you may still need a sleeve. People who use a bike to commute will agree how much harm a rain can do. And it doesn’t even have to be a heavy rain.

The rain is dangerous, especially when you assume that if you have a laptop bag, your MacBook is protected against water. Most bags or backpacks are not waterproof. Some of them are water-resistant.

You can obviously buy a waterproof bag or backpack with a dedicated laptop compartment, but you can also get a waterproof laptop sleeve. The latter solution is usually cheaper and definitely less bulky.

Example: Aqua Quest Storm laptop sleeve

Waterproof MacBook sleeve by Aqua Quest

This sturdy sleeve from Aqua Quest is 100% waterproof. It features as much as 20,000 mm of hydrostatic resistance. Your MacBook will stay dry regardless of weather conditions.

The sleeve comes with a removable 5 mm neoprene sleeve to give a minimum shock protection. Five sizes are available, from 11 to 17 inches. ⇢ More details.

Alternative solutions

  • Use a large-size bubble envelope. Many available bubble mailers are water-resistant.
  • Put your laptop into a plastic (shopping or garbage) bag.
  • Wrap the laptop in a wrapping or bubble foil.
  • Use a travel dry bag, if you have one.

4. If you are concerned about data loss

Latte coffee spilled on the display is nothing compared to your sensitive data being stolen from your MacBook.

If protecting the content of your MacBook (and iPhone or iPad, as well) is on the top of your priority list, you should consider getting a Faraday cage.

A Faraday cage bag blocks external electromagnetic fields and therefore protects sensitive electronic equipment that’s placed inside.

Nowadays, Faraday bags are getting more and more popular among consumers as a way to protect against data theft or enhance privacy. It’s worth noting that one Faraday bag fitted for your Mac will protect all devices that are inside, be it your iPhone, iPad, and/or external drive.

Consumer Faraday cage bags usually offer protection against RF (Radio Frequency), blocking Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, RFID, and cell signals. Plus, they may offer EMP (Electromagnetic Pulse) and CME (Coronal Mass Ejection) protection.

Here is the full list of Faraday bags for iPad and MacBook, and below we share our recommendation.

Example: Water and fire-resistant Faraday cage bag for MacBook

Faraday cage bag for MacBook and iPad waterproof and fireproof

This bag features a shielding metallic fiber layer to block signals and protect against data theft. It will also stand up the temperature reaching 2000℉. 

The cage is waterproof and features a Velcro closure. The size is 15 × 10 in, so it will accommodate all MacBook models that are up to 14 inches. ⇢ More details.

Alternative solutions

  • You can invest in a RFID backpack or briefcase, but compared to a Faraday cage, it will protect only against radio frequency signals.

5. If you have many accessories

In today’s life, we heavily depend on technology. It’s a normal thing, and there is nothing to feel guilty about.

If I take a MacBook and an iPhone, I would probably need a charger(s) and charging cables. I usually also take a powerbank. Plus there are all other accessories that you may want to use: connectors, hubs, or earphones.

This is a lot of stuff. Enough for a bag. But a multi-compartment sleeve would also do the job, even if you plan to take both your MacBook and iPad.

On Amazon, you can find laptop sleeves that come equipped with detachable accessory bags. It’s a smart solution that gives you more flexibility. However, I prefer a simpler solution: a laptop sleeve with multiple internal and external pockets.

Example: Tactical, multi-layer laptop briefcase with detachable shoulder strap

The sleeve from Helikon-Tex comes with two internal compartments, and three large external pockets. It’s large enough to accommodate the 16-inch MacBook Pro.

The bag is made of rip-stop nylon (padded with foam for better shock protection), and comes with a shoulder strap. ⇢ More details.

Alternative solutions

  • A travel pouch or travel organizer for all your accessories.
  • A small dry bag for accessories (it’s the solution I’m currently using).
  • A travel toiletry bag – it’s a surprisingly good replacement for a dedicated tech organizer. You can get the one in a neutral color (gray or black) to use it for several purposes. This toiletry bag from Amazon Basics is a great example of cross-category usage.

6. If you live an active life

If you are an extraordinarily active person, you need to give your gear extraordinary protection.

You probably already have a shockproof and waterproof bag, but even that might not be enough if you want to be 100% sure no damage will be done to your gear. 

Get a shockproof sleeve for your MacBook and iPad, and put it inside the bag. This way you will do everything to protect your gear no matter how crazy the trip or ride you are about to start.

A soft sleeve is obviously not a solution for you. You need a case that’s made of hardened material, possibly with military-grade quality.

Example: Shockproof and waterproof EVA protective laptop case

The case is made of premium thickened EVA material. EVA is the copolymer of ethylene and vinyl acetate. It provides stress-crack resistance, hot-melt adhesive waterproof properties, and resistance to UV radiation.

Offered by Domiso, the case comes in four sizes, and features internal pockets and holders for accessories. ⇢ More details.

Alternative solutions

  • Wrap your MacBook in a piece of fluffy cloth (for instance, a polar fleece pullover) and put it inside a dry bag.

7. If you want a long-term solution for your tech gear

The life cycle of a laptop sleeve is much longer than an iPad case. The latter usually “dies” the moment you replace your iPad.

You can use a sleeve for several years, with several models. Two things you should keep in mind are the size and expandability.

Size: Buy the sleeve that’s larger than your current model. I currently own the 14-inch MacBook, but I have bought the sleeve that would fit even 16-inch devices. Who knows what my next MacBook will be?

Expandability: When picking up a sleeve, assume your needs over the next few years will evolve. Most probably, you will need more space for your mobile tech, and more flexible solutions to organize it. Your gear is growing with you, but it doesn’t mean you have to buy the bag every two years.

Example: Expandable MacBook bag with retractable straps

Here is a clever idea for an expandable laptop sleeve. Unzip the front panel to increase the depth of the bag to almost six inches! The sleeve comes with straps – you can’t remove them, but you can hide them.

The main compartment is devoted to a laptop and lined with soft, fluffy material. Plus, there is a USB port for charging your devices on the go. ⇢ More details.

Alternative solutions

  • Don’t get rid of your old bags and sleeves unless they are in a really bad condition. You may find them helpful when new pieces of equipment appear.

MacBook sleeve – conclusions

Checklist results

Here are the possible reasons to buy a MacBook sleeve:

□ If you don’t have a laptop-safe bag or suitcase

□ If you don’t need a bag but need a protection for your MacBook

□ If you are concerned about water damage

□ If you are concerned about data loss

□ If you have many accessories and need them all the time

□ If you live an active life

□ If you want a long-term solution for your tech gear

□ …

What else would you add to the list? Take your time and think of what should give you a piece of mind when it comes to protecting your MacBook. Is a sleeve an answer to your needs?

If you have checked one or two boxes, it might not be reasonable enough to buy a sleeve, especially if you have an alternative solution that you can use right away.

If you have selected three or more boxes, you need a sleeve for your MacBook, there is no doubt about it. The only question is which one will fit most of your needs and for which price.

I have made an Amazon store list of all the above-mentioned MacBook sleeves, plus over 20 more. Please keep in mind that if you buy anything from that list, I may earn a small commission, usually between 1 and 3%.

My choice

Giving advice is easy if you don’t have to spend a penny. Which sleeve did I choose, then?

I have a 14-inch MacBook Pro, but I wanted to invest in a sleeve that would be large enough for 16-inch laptops, too.

The sleeve had to be durable, with higher than average water and shock resistance. I wanted the sleeve to include one main compartment for a MacBook, and another large compartment for a book, iPad, or Kindle.

The sleeve had to feature several pockets, small and big, for accessories, cables, and powerbank.

Most importantly, I wanted to have a detachable shoulder strap so that I could use the sleeve separately, in case I preferred not to take my backpack.

Tactical MacBook sleeve from Helikon-Tex

I have found an almost perfect answer to all my needs: Helikon-Tex Urban Line laptop briefcase. My score after two months of using it is 8/10.

The sleeve is not cheap (it costs almost $50) but it’s worth its price. It’s highly durable, so I will use it for years. And it’s still compact enough to be placed inside my bicycle backpack.

⇢ MacBook sleeves

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