TEST LAB

Indestructible, Eh? We'll See About That

Companies love to brag about their latest invincible gear, but can any of these items survive our battery of tests? We push them to their limits...and keep on pushing.

By , Tuesday, Aug 18, 2009, 12:00 AM

Drop-proof laptop bag

DROP-PROOF LAPTOP BAG
The claim The Brenthaven MetroLite BP-XF backpack's five-sided high-density-foam protection system "cradles your laptop from damage."
Test 1 I dropped the Brenthaven from the height of a TSA checkpoint table, with my wife's 1997 Dell notebook packed inside (low stakes). The computer powered up fine.
Test 2 My sons played catch with the bag, and it landed in the sprinklers. I then hurled it like a discus and shot free throws with it. The Dell stayed dry and functional.
Test 3 Much to my kids' enjoyment, I tossed the backpack out a second-story window. No problems.
The verdict The bag guards your laptop from the roughest handling. brenthaven.com, $100. —Brad Tuttle

WINDPROOF UMBRELLA
The claim With its aerodynamic, asymmetrical design, Senz's Mini Windproof Folding Umbrella resists winds "up to 40 mph and never goes inside out."
Test 1 On New York's Staten Island Ferry, cruising at about 16 mph, all went well until I lowered the umbrella to close it and a gust of wind flipped it—ahem—inside out.
Test 2 Again, the spokes popped up when I lowered it, this time on Rockefeller Center's 70th-floor observation deck.
Test 3 The canopy went inside out once again as I hung it out the side of a convertible going around 40 mph.
The verdict It's good for typical rainy weather, but it tends to catch the wind wrong. totes-isotoner.com, $50. —Amy Chen

WATERPROOF-POCKET SHORTS
The claim The North Face's M Desolation Hydro shorts have a "fully laminated" pocket that's "waterproof to a depth of 3.3 feet." The zippered pocket fits a camera, keys, and a wallet.
Test 1 Before I risked my valuables, I stuffed a paper towel in the pocket and got in the shower. After 10 minutes, the towel was still perfectly dry.
Test 2 With my wallet and point-and-shoot camera in the pocket, I sat in a full bathtub. Nothing was damaged.
Test 3 I waded into Long Island Sound with my wallet, keys, and camera in the pocket. Again, no leaks.
The verdict Awesome, but we can't fathom why the shorts cost so much. thenorthface.com, $150. —Michael Mohr

SPILL-PROOF MUG
The claim The lid of the Contigo Autoseal Stainless Steel Mug opens only when you press the button, so it's "impossible to spill and 100 percent leak-proof."
Test 1 I tossed the mug in my backpack upside down and carried it around for a week. Everything stayed dry until one of the other items in my bag jostled against the button, releasing my coffee. What a mess!
Test 2 Despite a tumble down a staircase in a subway station, the mug kept my drink safe.
Test 3 The mug survived two falls from my speeding bicycle, but the third time, the lid popped off.
The verdict Absurdly reckless or careless scenarios aside, this mug doesn't lose a drop. gocontigo.com, $20. —Sean O'Neill

Don't try this at home
We're constantly poking and prodding the latest travel gear so you don't have to, and we will only suggest products that live up to their hype (and deliver on their price).

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