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The Net Takeaway: Messenger Bags without handles...


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Messenger Bags without handles... · 10/08/2006 10:53 PM, Personal

Its a sad thought, but I actually admire a well designed carry bag. Traveling as much as I do, lugging a laptop, Blackberry, iPod, and all the rest of life’s modern gadgets (and cords and dongles and adapters and cetera…), a good bag becomes essential.

I’ve tried lots of them, and they vary in usability, style, and professionalism. You may not believe it, but walking into a CMO’s office with a fat messenger bag is not such a great idea. Even if its comfortable and ergonomically efficient, without some professionalism, your sloppy look might kill a deal before you even get started.

Timbuk2 gives a good history of the growth of the messenger bag into an urban style from a working tool, if you are curious to see who the originators were. One thing they don’t cover is the messenger bag handle. Most of the “authentic” bags do not have one (just a strap across the chest). Well, it may not be authentic, but messenger bags NEED a handle in the modern world of business travel. You need to be able to move the bag out of the way when hopping onto a subway or in a cab, or throwing it into the top of the airplane, or linking it to a suitcase. So don’t get annoyed when I keep harping on messenger bag handles in my below reviews. If no handle, then its not gonna work for long… unless you really are a bike messenger.

Leather vs. Canvas? Leather looks better in the beginning, but it gets ugly over time unless you take care of it. The canvas, though cheaper, will hold up better, and if lined, is waterproof. Of course, you also look like every other workaday guy. And the Halliburton aluminum look is only good for dropping off ransom or detonators.

Laptop Protectors/Sleeves? Well, they can be helpful, but honestly, unless you beat up your bag substantially, your probably don’t need one. That being said, almost every bag these days include the padding.

Tops? Messenger bags have full flapovers. Traditional bags have a partial flap cover, or just a zipper top. Some bags allow expansion, others have lots of pockets. The more widgets in the bag, the more likely one will either break or just go unused.

So, some bags:

Timbuk2 Messenger Bag

Waterfield/SF Bags Cargo Bag

I asked a person on the train about his bag, and he loves it. So, N of 1, and given how great their suitcases are, I suspect the bags are good too… but look for a sale.

So, lots of good bags out there. In NY, you often see Crumpler, Manhattan Portage (but only a few have handles!), and Jack Spade (No handles, husband of Kate Spade, look sleek but ergonomically poor).

Notice that I have avoided talking about Kensington, Samsonite, and the other basic brands. These are all fine options, and tend to be very affordable… The real issue is: do you want to buy a new bag every year, or just spend the money and know that your investment will last? If you like the fashion, or are willing to swap between bags depending on the situation, its probably worth spending the money on the good bag. Any of the ones mentioned here will be safe bets, but there are tons of stylish and hip bags. If you aren’t in NY, eBags is one of the better options.

And, if you happen to be in Europe, look at bags there. Different brands do different things. Look for interesting bags like be.ez, Mandarina Duck, and (surprisingly enough) Samsonite, which is way cooler in Europe than the stodgy cheap stuff you see over here.

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