My Backpack's got Jets?
November 1, 2012 6:54 AM   Subscribe

Help me find the perfect Backpack/Bag! (Snow Flurries after the jump!)

I resisted the urge to put this in the grab bag category. ;)

All righty, Hivemind. I currently carry a Victorinox Slingbag. It's about 5 years old and I can see the handle starting to finally pull away. Being a slingbag it's only got the one strap. Main compartment, and side pocket and small front pocket.

Things I like about it:

Size, It is relatively small. I don't carry around a giant laptop. I've got the tablet + keyboard, kindle, chargers, pen case, notebook, but nothing gigantic. I usually do throw my lunch in it. Mine is bigger than the current Victorinox offerings I am seeing.

Color: Black with subtle red highlights. I'm not married to black, but it is preferred. Feel free to wow me.

External Net/pouch for thermos/coffee mug/water bottle. I REALLY like having this. I easily carry my (small) thermos, but don't risk an internal spill.

Things I don't like about it:

Single Strap. This can go either way. Most times it's OK, but when I need to fling it over my head I feel like it's a bit of a neck bag. I'm a big guy and at times I feel this bag was made for a 14 year old girl.

So what I am asking is very broad suggestions on bags/backpacks you love! Under $50 would be a nice price range, but I am up for convincing if the bag costs more. Amazon availability a plus due to Prime membership, but not a deal breaker if I have to get it somewhere else. I'm open to pretty much anything.

Bonus points: What new item, thing, device, tool have you found to be very useful in your bag? This is my every day carry bag, building a bug out bag will have to be another time.

posted by PlutoniumX to Shopping (12 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
I'm a fan of CourierWare bags. I have one that is nigh indestructable. They're a little higher than your ideal price range.

Most useful thing I've put in my bag is to take a piece of cardboard that's about 5 inches long and the width of masking tape or duct tape and wrap said tape around it over and over so you've got like 10 feet of tape that takes up almost no room in your bag. Masking tape is perfect for "let's label this stuff" and temporary marking of things, while duct tape is, well, duct tape.

For bug out bags, btw, I love my CountyComm bail out bag. I know several people who use them as diaper bags, too. (Seriously, it's a tough task for a bag.)
posted by rmd1023 at 7:31 AM on November 1, 2012

I recently got This Osprey Comet backpack and love it!


Outer mesh pouch for water bottle or umbrella - there is a cinch/buckle to tighten around this pouch so my umbrella doesn't fall out! Very awesome.

On the other side, there is a zip pouch. that is also water bottle sized. This is usually where i carry my 32 oz Nalgene.

The 'vents' on the back are very deep and have mesh covering them - provides really good ventilation.

There are straps/buckles that can be tightened on different places of the backpack to 'shrink' it when not full.

The main compartment is a little deep, if I have my wallet in outside of one of the inner compartments it can be tricky to fish out quickly.
posted by effigy at 8:02 AM on November 1, 2012

Custom may be the way to go. There are plenty of companies that will do custom orders, or you could go with an independent crafter, such as (self-plug) my wife or someone from the Pennsylvania Guild of Craftsmen. Custom will be more than $50, most likely, but it will more closely fit your criteria, if not exactly match them.
posted by me3dia at 8:24 AM on November 1, 2012

The one thing I'd add to the mix would be some kind of admin pouch to hold all your cables, chargers, and other miscellaneous crap. My daily-use holdall is the TADgear OP1, but for extended use, I change to the Zulu Nylon Mega admin pouch. GORUCK also do some nice pouches.
posted by evoque at 9:14 AM on November 1, 2012

You should look at the awesome Tom Bihn's awesome backpacks and messenger bags, which work fine on a big guy and are truly sturdy yet light. My three favorite things inside mine are my Ipad2, my Nissan coffee thermos which is incapable of leaking when locked, and my lunch bots/salad blasters.
posted by bearwife at 9:14 AM on November 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

I am one of the folks that used the BOB as a diaper bag, and it has held up better than any other bag I've ever used. It has external water bottle holsters, it has a long shoulder strap (it's designed for military and law enforcement personnel), and it has pockets on the outside that can hold an ammo clip, an 8 oz baby bottle, or probably all your chargers and cables.

My favorite thing to keep in a go bag is lots and lots of plastic grocery bags. Babies produce all kinds of things that need to be sealed up before throwing away.
posted by KathrynT at 9:22 AM on November 1, 2012

Seconding Tom Bihn bags. I have a Smart Alec backpack that is 8 years old and looks brand new. Made in the USA, and superb quality.
posted by Fleebnork at 10:26 AM on November 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

Thirding Tom Bihn. I have the Synapse (which would likely meet your requirement for small) and I've been carrying it every day for 9 months. It's holding up beautifully.

From your description, it would hold what you need very well. The only thing it doesn't have is an external mesh pouch for bottles: the pouch is a vertical interior pouch accessed through a separate zipper on the outside. I wasn't sure how much I'd like this, and it turns out that I don't use that section for my bottles. I find it easier for me to put them in one of the side pockets and I use that center pocket for my umbrella, a couple of energy bars, and a spare pair of socks. (If your thermos is large, it might not fit in a side pocket, though.)

On a daily basis, I carry workout clothes, a pair of vibram five fingers, a quick-dry towel, my lunch in a small REI lunchbox, my kindle, and a book. Sometimes I also squeeze my MacBook air (11") or iPad in there, too, but not both at once. (I'm a small person, so my workout clothes are reasonably small.)

Favorite thing to keep in my bag? Turns out there are two. One is a small garbage bag, tightly folded. I've been caught in downpours recently, and this provided extra assurance that my tech would stay dry. The other turns out to be that spare pair of shoes. I was able to swap out my leather shoes for the vffs during a downpour, and when I got to my destination my good shoes were dry. Both of these items now have a permanent home in my bag.
posted by metarkest at 11:14 AM on November 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

Just an update. Small is better than large. I love the big bag suggestion, and I may pick one up for the bug out bag where I will want to carry everything and the kitchen sink.

The main reason I picked the slingbag last time was it was big enough to carry the things I needed but not a huge blackhole to suck in things.

Thanks everyone for the thoughts so far!
posted by PlutoniumX at 11:19 AM on November 1, 2012

I think the smaller courierware bags might be small enough for you.
posted by rmd1023 at 11:44 AM on November 1, 2012

2nding plastic grocery-type bags - good for keeping your lunch from leaking, saving a leftover roll/cookie/fruit for later, giving things to friends, and picking up interesting free things (I've scored clothes, fruit off trees, and wild mushrooms). Can also put on over your socks if you know your shoes are going to get drenched on the way home.

I also carry a carabiner on my bag's strap for capacity-enhancing purposes.
posted by momus_window at 1:12 PM on November 1, 2012

I too carry a carabiner-- my city just banned plastic grocery bags, and the reusables I have dig into my large hands, so I carry a basic $9 carabiner, and it carries the bags.

I also carry a Leatherman Micra-- ti's a small fold-up leatherman with little scissors, knife, and the usual stuff. It's $21 at Amazon, and about 2.5" long. I used to carry its bigger brother, but I use the micra more. Mine is the all-silver kind, but they sell a couple small ones that can clip into a bag easily.
posted by Sunburnt at 8:01 AM on November 2, 2012

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