backpack be gone ...
October 26, 2009 10:16 PM   Subscribe

Help me find the get rid of my backpack!

I am a student, but one of those older professional students, and I keeps catching glimpses of myself in windows with my huge backpack and I grimace.

I should no longer have a backpack.

So, I need a bag that I can bring to school and work placements. It needs to be:

1) Functional - (it should be able to carry at least one textbook and binder, and have room for the equivalent of a thin jacket.

2) Strong - my textbooks are heavy and it needs to be able to handle that.

3) Sleek - I want this to grow old with me so it needs to be of classic style.

4) Waterproof - would be nice. Not completely necessary.

I am in Vancouver, BC, Canada. I am willing to spend up to $250.

I like the look of these, but they should be used as a starting point rather than a rule.

posted by ouchitburns to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (30 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
A Tumi bag helped me make a similar transition from kludgey backpack to something functional and more grown-up looking.
posted by quadog at 10:51 PM on October 26, 2009

Response by poster: ummm, just for the record - I can spell, form coherent sentences and understand basic grammar, despite what my mangled question above may indicate.
posted by ouchitburns at 11:13 PM on October 26, 2009 [2 favorites]

have you considered crumpler bags? I hear lots of good things about them.
posted by krautland at 11:47 PM on October 26, 2009

I was using one of Freitag's F12 messenger bags throughout university and years on the job to carry around books, a laptop and other stuff (and still am today).

They are made from truck tarp and seat belts, so they are waterproof and extremely robust. Also each model is unique and you can even cut and design your own if you want to.
posted by starzero at 11:49 PM on October 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

Chrome messenger bags, specifically the Mini-metro or Citizen. Waterproof, strong, stylish. I use my Citizen for everything from commuting to biking around to my "big" carryon for trips.

Get an insert if you want to put a laptop in there.
posted by zippy at 11:54 PM on October 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

May not be what you're looking to hear, but I would NOT try to make the next purchase The One. Rather, I'd use it as a tranisitional item, where you learn all the nuances and subtleties of exactly what you want in such a bag as you continue to get smart about what's available. Give yourself up to one year (?) for these forces to converge, and if nothing knocked your socks off by that time, just go with the front runner at that time.
posted by c, as in "kitchen" at 12:03 AM on October 27, 2009 [3 favorites]

ID or SuperEgo by Tom Bihn. Review here.

Jack Spade Tech Field Bag.

Those are two of manufacturers that I think might have a big which fits your criteria. Otherwise, you might want to check these previous threads: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6.

Be prepared to see the names Manhattan Portage, Timbuk2, and Chrome repeatedly.
posted by sophist at 12:13 AM on October 27, 2009

I don't honestly know if these are available outside of Japan, but have you considered bags by Porter? I'm not a big brand-name fan, but there's something about their bags, very simple, not gaudy, and very functional, that I really like. This page is in Japanese, but you can just click on bags to get a bunch of pictures of each bag. At the bottom, click on [ 次の25件 ] to go to the next page. If these aren't available outside of Japan, feel free to ignore me. They are great bags though.
posted by Ghidorah at 12:17 AM on October 27, 2009

I always have an eye open for an old tool bag like this.
posted by col at 2:23 AM on October 27, 2009

I would actually recommend against a messenger bag, as stylish as they are. They are great for bike messengers, but not practical for regular everyday use. They will get very uncomfortable when carried for more than short sessions; the straps are often not padded and get tangled. A loaded bag is also difficult to balance and will put strain on your back.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:14 AM on October 27, 2009 [4 favorites]

If you like using a backpack but feel that the material makes it look too young, you can look for leather backpacks. They look nicer because of the material, but are comfortable for toting books because they have two straps.
posted by Houstonian at 3:43 AM on October 27, 2009

One of the advantages of using a backpack is that it will distribute the weight to both of your shoulders. If you walk a lot with your textbook-filled heavy bag you might want to just stick with the backpack or risk shoulder and back problems.
posted by mareli at 4:51 AM on October 27, 2009

Like you, I wanted a more mature and professional look, so I transitioned from my much loved Targus Deluxe Laptop Backpack to a Bag of Holding. I look MUCH more mature now! (And I'll NEVER go back!)
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 5:02 AM on October 27, 2009

I found a vintage leather schoolbag, with a handle on top and a messenger-style strap. I was getting sick of replacing my school bag every few semesters because the fabric ones fell apart. This one has lasted very well, looks sleek, and can carry textbooks, work stuff and a laptop.
(For the class that requires I bring in two dictionaries and a textbook, though, I revert to the monster-backpack.)
posted by OLechat at 6:21 AM on October 27, 2009

I'd recommend sticking with your backpack, perhaps upgrading it to something that you feel offers a more appropriate image. The backpack is going to be a lot friendlier to your shoulders. I love bags of all sorts, but I've found that shoulder bags, messenger bags, and anything else that puts all the weight on one shoulder all end up being uncomfortable if I have to wear them for any length of time.

I've used Chrome Messenger Bags (mentioned above) in the past, and they are very high quality -- well built and waterproof. Fortunately, Chrome also makes backpacks!
posted by larsks at 6:53 AM on October 27, 2009

I'll bite sophist's bait to mention that, as someone who looked for a backpack alternative, mr. kitkat would recommend a messenger bag from Timbuk2. Very strong and sturdy. Even if you are carrying a lot of weight, the bag strap is padded and is designed to be easily shortened so some weight is distributed across the back rather than entirely on the shoulders. Get one in all black (I think if you design your own, you can even get the logo in black stitching) and it looks suitably professional.

I own a Manhattan Portage messenger - between the two brands, I would say Timbuk2 is more likely to have something that suits your needs.
posted by kitkatcathy at 6:56 AM on October 27, 2009

Messenger bags are stylish, but walking around constantly with a heavy one on my shoulder left me with a pinched nerve in my neck that I've been dealing with on-and-off for nearly three years. Not fun. If you do get one, make sure you move the strap from shoulder to shoulder regularly so that you're not putting too much strain on one.

I have camera bags from Crumpler that are very well-made, water-resistant, tough, well-padded, and still look pretty great after a lot of abuse. If you look on eBay, you might be able to get one of the cooler-looking ones from Europe (which are different than the ones they offer in the US).

I agree with the poster above that says you should get something cheap and try it out, see what you like. Better looking bags are not always very functional, and functional bags usually look dorky.
posted by aabbbiee at 7:21 AM on October 27, 2009

I use my Timbuk2 medium classic messenger bag as my daily bag to and from work. I agree with kitkatkathy regarding making it look more professional, though. Mine is not of the "professional" appearance, and I kind of look like "one of those older professional college students" instead of, you know, an actual professional. However, my Timbuk2 is damn near indestructible and I bought it on clearance from REI ($40!), so I'm willing to care less about the appearance.
posted by LouMac at 7:37 AM on October 27, 2009

I have had several Timbuk2 bags, and absolutely love them. I'm not ready to carry a grown-up brief case yet, but have found the Timbuk2s to be a good intermediary solution.

Because of the strap-shortening ability, have been able to make them all comfortable for carrying around a lot of weight. Right now I carry a laptop, a bunch of file folders, a few books, a calendar and a coffee cup around in my medium laptop messenger, and I don't notice a lot of back strain.

All black might be a good, professional look. Mine are not so much professional looking (navy-blue-navy and navy-orange-navy), but I get a lot of comments and compliments on them. Actually, the navy matches my blue raincoat, so people think I've put together an outfit and accessorized!
posted by elmer benson at 8:01 AM on October 27, 2009

just to add to the various recommendations, I would suggest a look at PAC Designs. I have owned one of their Pro Ultimate messenger bags for eight years and still utterly love it. It boasts fantastic construction, is totally waterproof and has great features. The Professional series is way too much bag for your budget, but PAC's new basic series might be worth your attention, especially with the padded strap option and especially if you travel by bicycle.

With that said, if you never plan on actually riding a bike around town, I would stay away from messenger bags and stick to a shoulder bag. While my PAC is and always will be my first love, for business trips where my bike gets left behind, I've been porting along a Tom Bihn ID and it's been fantastic. The internal organizer pockets are nicely thought out and it fulfills most requirements that I have for a trip (ample space, strong, comfortable on the shoulder, etc.) . It is, however, a terrible bag for cycling with.

I also have a Crumpler Soup-And-Sandwich that was given to me as a prize in a bike commuter contest. Definitely strong and waterproof, but features left me kind of 'meh'.
posted by bl1nk at 8:06 AM on October 27, 2009 [1 favorite]

If the backpack is "huge" and mostly full, then you would need to have a very large bag slung over one shoulder. I agree with the "just get a smarter backpack" brigade (but I don't see a campus as the place for a $250 bag anyway).
posted by Idcoytco at 8:06 AM on October 27, 2009

I LOVE LOVE LOVE Chrome bags; I use my messenger bag every day for a bike commute with occasionally heavy things, and it is more waterproof and more comfortable than the Timbuk2 bags I've had. I was never impressed with Timbuk2's straps, but Chrome seems to have it figured out.
posted by craven_morhead at 8:54 AM on October 27, 2009

There's always Saddleback Leather if you have enough money. Their motto is, "They'll fight over it after you're dead." Myself, I want a large briefcase in dark coffee brown.
posted by wenestvedt at 9:24 AM on October 27, 2009

aabbbiee wrote "Messenger bags are stylish, but walking around constantly with a heavy one on my shoulder left me with a pinched nerve in my neck that I've been dealing with on-and-off for nearly three years."

This is why I have a nice Trager messenger bag, but have moved back to using a backpack. I probably could use the messenger more often now that my commute is shorter, but the red color of the fabric seems to rub off on anything thrown inside it, which doesn't look so nice given that Apple insists all accessories for a laptop should be made out of white material that seems to love love LOVE soaking up the red.

My backpack is getting old, beat-up and should probably be discarded, but I haven't found my ideal bag yet: I want a convertible messenger-style bag, one with a strap that is easily removed and a backpack-style set of straps that can be snapped on instead. If it exists, I haven't seen it yet.
posted by caution live frogs at 10:07 AM on October 27, 2009

Freight Baggage backpacks!!!!, my girlfriend was shopping for a messenger bag/backpack and got the Rolltop after looking at the options from others:

Under the weather (Canadian bag company) so it may be cheaper for you.

Seagull Backpacks are really awesome but you have to wait for them to custom make you one. I think these may be the best second to Freight but Freight was in a store to look at so my gf bought it instead.

Chicago WIG

Chrome has been mentioned.

Bailey Works makes great messenger bags but I'm kinda iffy on the backpack.


there are more but I have to get back to work.
posted by wcfields at 10:09 AM on October 27, 2009

Oh, also, if my Chrome bag ever dies, it's getting replaced with a custom jobbie from ReLoad.
posted by craven_morhead at 10:21 AM on October 27, 2009

posted by Iron Rat at 1:02 PM on October 27, 2009

It seems like you're going to get a quality bag one way or the other and you've probably got this covered, but just be careful of the following points when moving from backpackland:

1 - messenger bags and their ilk sometimes have sections that aren't closed or are partially closed. This is fine but it can result in the dreaded full-spill: as you pick up your bag to sling it casually across your shoulder, it does a strange and seemingly unnecessary flip, dumping the contents of your bag on the floor. This usually happens as your exiting a plane, about to get on a bus or leaving a restaurant after a first date.

2 - the nicest looking bags sometimes have the the sharpest shoulder straps, they feel fine in the shop but one laptop, two books, a journal, an ipod and a phone later...

3 - even nicer looking bags don't have any shoulder straps. Avoid these completely.

4 - in case you're in any doubt, compartments are totally cool. Secret compartments are the coolest.

Good luck, personally I've been stuck on the saddlebackleather site for 30 minutes now...
posted by HopStopDon'tShop at 2:06 PM on October 27, 2009

Best answer: I think something from the Jack Spade collection is a nice balance between professional and practical. I use his gym bag when I am lugging lots of books or photo gear around, because the crumpler bags are a bit young for me. There is pvc between the canvas exterior and the inside, so your stuff can stay dry.
posted by shothotbot at 2:16 PM on October 27, 2009

Response by poster: so, my family offered to get me a bag for christmas (and next birthday, christmas and birthday). I gave them a selection of bags:

the crown hill bag from Jack Spade and then a couple of black leather bags from Fossil. I expect to be pleasantly surprised!

thanks for all the suggestions.
posted by ouchitburns at 4:40 PM on November 29, 2009

« Older Copyright question   |   fees plees? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.