Ryan Jordan

A 3.7-Ounce Ultralight Laptop Sleeve Case for Macbook Air 11


This laptop sleeve case has one third the volume of what it replaces – a Domke F-803 satchel, which weighs 54 ounces with a shoulder strap and padded sleeve from a popular bagmaker in California.

This sleeve weighs 3.7 oz.

So while the Domke bag can store 3 times more stuff, it weighs 14.6 times as much.


This is a short post that features a final product only – there are no patterns or instructions published here, because I haven’t had the opportunity to make them up (yet, perhaps!).

Therefore, I only hope that this inspires a few DIY readers to make their own ultralight laptop sleeve that doesn’t cost a fortune or weigh more than the computer that’s going into it. If you’ve tackled a project like this, I’d love to hear about it, please post!

Why I Did This

For years my laptop was housed in some type of third party laptop sleeve, and then dropped into a Filson briefcase. I enjoyed as much shoulder strain as a pro mall shopper on Black Friday.

As my laptops lightened up, so did my needs for a briefcase.

As of last year, I had commissioned my Domke F-803 reporter’s camera satchel from a camera bag to an MBA 11 case. However, it weighed, almost obscenely, more than three pounds (including the strap and a sleeve for my 11-inch MacBook Air). I say obscene because the weight of the briefcase was heavier than the contents.

This should sound familiar to those of you who are ultralight backpackers. Remember the days when we lightened our load so much that the weight of our backpack was more than the weight of the contents of the gear we packed into it?

While lightening my laptops, I also lightened my needs for “office tools, supplies, and accessories”. (I talk about those tools in more depth, and how I use them for running my company and personal life, in the Ultralight Gear for the Ultralight Life Letter.)

So in the process of lightening my briefcase contents, and radically changing how I work, I simplified the Domke F-803 into obsolescence.

After searching high and low for a Macbook Air sleeve that had pockets, was simple in design, and accepted a shoulder strap, I failed to find anything light, or anything that reflected what I most loved: the outdoors. Most of the quality cases out there were made out of boring black Cordura or ballistics nylon, expensive leather, or cotton canvas that screams “I’m not a photojournalist but I really want to look like one, so I have this neat canvas case”. Besides, they were all really heavy.

Then I realized: I had light fabrics, sewing skills, and I knew exactly what I wanted.

This laptop sleeve is the fruit of those efforts – enjoy.


  • Sized to fit a Macbook Air 11
  • Tricot-lined open cell foam padding (1/4″)
  • Dimension-Polyant sailcloth fabrics
  • Two bellowed front pockets
  • One rear magazine sleeve pocket
  • D-rings for shoulder strap
  • Shockcord system for securing contents
  • Weight: 3.7 oz (sans shoulder strap)


The purpose of this section is to prevent non-ultralight-backpackers from posting to the comments below with obvious criticisms, like:

  1. “Dude, it’s not waterproof! My MBA is gonna get fried in the SFO fog!” That’s right, mac fanboy – you’d do well to spend a little time in the ultralight backpacking community; just wrap your MBA in one of these as needed, if you have to live or travel in SFO or SEA.
  2. “A measly quarter inch of open cell foam? Bwahahaha! I can’t wait to see what happens when you drop your MBA and start cryin’ your eyes out while you pick up a thousand dollars worth of parts!” This question comes mainly from PC owners and those who use 4-season tents for summer hiking, and I’m not sure I can help you guys. For those of you that fear the wind, do what the cowboy does: “Hang on ta yer hat, pardner.”
  3. “There’s no pocket flaps, or velcro, or snaps, or clasps, or buckle closures, or…or…or…my stuff’s gonna fall out!” This bag cannot be used on the monkey bars. The ultralight shockcord actually goes a long way at securing contents (not tiny stuff, obviously, but those can be secured easily enough with some creativity (see the Letter). My goal was to keep this as simple as possible – and closures aren’t simple. I find most closures pretty irritating.
  4. “This is really cool. Where can I buy one?” This is a DIY project (for now, at least).


The front view shows the side-by-side bellowed pockets where I store accessories.

The rear view shows the nearly full-height slip pocket for magazines, etc.

The top view shows the main sleeve compartment (tricot-face foam-lined), and the opening to one of the side bellows pockets.

Learn More

If you subscribe to the letter, “Ultralight Gear for the Ultralight Life,” you can watch the video tour of my mobile office to see what’s in the bag.

More details about this case, what goes in it, and how I use the case, its contents, and mobile technology to run my business and personal life without the need for permanent physical home or professional offices, please consider subscribing to Ultralight Gear for the Ultralight Life. I will be featuring this topic specifically in the issue that will be sent to subscribers as of Saturday, May 7 at 9:00 AM U.S. Mountain Time. If you missed the deadline, and subscribe, please drop me a note and I’ll be happy to send this letter back issue to you.