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August 14, 2011 9:39 AM   Subscribe

ISO a simple, inconspicuous backpack.

When I was an undergrad, I bought the perfect book bag at the Gap: a navy-colored, medium-sized sling backpack with a belt buckle release. I've had the bag for 7-8 years now. I use it to carry all sorts of sundries, such as books, gym clothes, a laptop, minor groceries, and so on. But it's starting to wear out, and I want to buy a new one in order to avoid looking like a starving graduate student wherever I go.

There are lots of sling backpacks on (e.g.) Amazon, but I'm very particular and need your personal recommendations. I want the new bag to have the following properties:
  • not a messenger bag
  • dark, plain, inconspicuous color
  • folds flat or expands based on what you stuff inside
  • not a million pockets and compartments; 2-3 is best
  • no slogans, giant logos, crazy "accents," or other affectations
  • fits at least a 14-inch laptop
  • under $100, ideally
Basically, I need a convenient, grown-up looking bag. Thanks for your suggestions.
posted by Nomyte to Shopping (12 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I'm a big fan of L.L. Bean's backpacks. They have a lot of variety from kid's school backpacks to all-leather classic-looking rucksacks. My local hiking shop doesn't carry small packs and I liked that I could order Bean stuff at no risk (and now with no overt shipping fees); their return / satisfaction policy is foolishly generous. You pay a few bucks extra, but I find it worth it; I've ordered shirts, didn't like the collar cut, exchanged them, didn't like the replacement's color, exchanged that one, and ended up with a perfect shirt all while paying nothing extra, no shipping, etc.. I know the exchange cost is baked into the item cost, but damn is it convenient.

I recommend looking at their school backpacks section and check out the day packs, Quad, and Turbo Transit 2. (Mine is old enough that it isn't listed any more; it looks something like the Turbo Transit 2 just a bit more... dated.) One of my hiking friends has one of their day packs and I know he takes it as his one piece of luggage when he gets called up for fireline duty; that's relatively high praise, I suppose.
posted by introp at 10:03 AM on August 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

Jansport makes just about every kind of backpack you could want.

Maybe something like the Superbreak? Or the Right Pack.
posted by royalsong at 10:06 AM on August 14, 2011

I forgot to emphasize my main requirement: I'm looking for a sling backpack.
posted by Nomyte at 10:08 AM on August 14, 2011

Tom Bihn makes a sling bag slightly out of your price range. Currently only comes in inconspicuous colors.
posted by that girl at 10:29 AM on August 14, 2011

Baggu makes some simple well-made canvas bags - This one might be worth a look, even though it isn't technically a sling backpack it might be worth a look since it seems to fit the other requirements.
posted by belau at 10:29 AM on August 14, 2011

That link didn't work - then click on the word "backpack" at the top. Or here.
posted by belau at 10:31 AM on August 14, 2011

How about a 5.11 Tactical Sling Bag? It's technically made to carry small assault rifles (think MP-5's) and handguns for security personnel, but I find it's great for an everyday bag for me. It doesn't have a billion pockets and it's inconspicuous. It is not huge, however.

I highly, highly recommend it. Plus, it's badass.
posted by InsanePenguin at 10:32 AM on August 14, 2011

Oh, and those logo patches like on the Tom Bihn bag? You can often remove them easily with a seam ripper.
posted by belau at 10:34 AM on August 14, 2011

I just wanted to second Tom Bihn as a brand that's worth the money. I bought a Checkpoint Flyer based on advice from my own AskMe, and I am incredibly pleased with its quality, both in worksmanship and in sheer utility.
posted by Andrhia at 11:04 AM on August 14, 2011

The Incase Nylon sling is eighty bucks. I don't have the specific one they're currently selling, but have owned a few versions of it over time. There are sub-pockets in the two main storage areas, for cables and power bricks, but it's reasonable and mostly zipper-free, so no scratching up your stuff if you're putting other things in there.
posted by Su at 1:44 PM on August 14, 2011

Timbuk2 has a lot of different styles of backpack - some simpler than others. And while they certainly specialize in flashy and snazzy, they also have a custom color designer for some models of backpacks, so you can design one as inconspicuous as you want. That may be more than $100, but you also get exactly what you want in terms of color.

They even have a laptop selector for bag sizes; you choose what make and model laptop you want to carry with it, and it shows you the backpack that'll for that laptop. I just got a Timbuk2 bag last month, and it's seriously been one of the best backpacks I've ever owned.
posted by spinifex23 at 10:24 PM on August 14, 2011

I ended up with a black Incase sling. Things I like about it:Things that will take some getting used to:I appreciate everyone's recommendations.
posted by Nomyte at 1:04 PM on August 26, 2011

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