My own personal Lord of the Rings quest: to find a backpack for adults
March 6, 2013 7:17 AM   Subscribe

Professional laptop case with straps, a.k.a. a backpack for adults, please?

Hi Mefis with bags,

I'm going through the 4,302 threads of people looking for their ultimate work bag, but still haven't found what I'm looking for. The one requirement is that it's a 'convertible' - ideally I want a bag that has back straps so I can use it as a backpack - but *also* take off/hide the straps, and just have it as a normal briefcase style when I'm at work. I'm really looking for ergonomics here and style - might be asking too much, but help me find it! The whole large strap that comes with a messenger bag isn't ergonomic from what I understand since it's cutting into your shoulder area. I also have a medium sized purse, so the ability to distribute weight on my shoulders with a backpack would be awesome.

Other factors, in no particular order:

- durable: doesn't have to be leather, but something weatherproof would be good. I dig the Freitag recycled look, but need something a bit more professional unfortunately.

- price: ideally in the $100 dollar range (although if something cheaper comes along, I'd love it; if something in the $200 range is something like a Tumi that lasts forever and is awesome, I'll consider it).

- roomy: I usually have a 15 or 17 inch laptop and a binder or something thicker - I would love to find something large enough to carry that extra work stuff (and laptop cord etc.) but not moving into the thick, rounded gym bag territory.

- style: Other things like handles and external compartments and all that bells and whistles don't matter as much. Looking for clean lines (like the Batchel: or anything Swiss design-y or Jack Spade). Preference for black, but can deal with other stuff. Definitely no gym bags, bike courier bags, etc. etc. as I'm going for slim and ergonomic.

It's the convertible, hide straps thing I'd really love to find, as my back is killing me :( If you don't know of a specific bag that has straps you can hide, any sites that can help me find it or even any major brands I should look into would be appreciated. Also preference for any that have stores in the NYC area would be a big big help.

Thank you Mefis!
posted by rmm to Shopping (21 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
GoRuck bags are very durable, and stylish but out of your price range. They also aren't convertible but I wouldn't feel silly carrying mine by the top handle around an office. 5.11 Tactical makes similar backpacks in the $100 range, but they are a little more "busy" with straps and are also not convertible. They are also super-durable.

I have both and love them equally, but in the future I don't think I'll buy many more GoRucks just because I can get four 5.11 Rush backpacks for the cost of a single GoRuck.
posted by InsanePenguin at 7:26 AM on March 6, 2013

Brooklyn Industries.

It's not just for hipsters anymore. Really, it never was, but their bags are both feature-laden and cool looking without being quite as much of a look as Freitag, Crumpler, etc.
posted by Sara C. at 7:49 AM on March 6, 2013

Timbuk2 has this bag you can customize most of the colors/styles as well.
posted by Captain_Science at 7:50 AM on March 6, 2013

It isn't the sleekest thing in the world, but I have been using a Hamptons Hybrid by BBPBags for the past few months, and it's pretty great. My dad recently switched to one as well, and he's enjoying it.

For those who don't feel like clicking through, it has a top handle as well as a strap that converts between backpack style carrying and messenger style carrying with 2 steps.

The backpack bit is really comfortable, and you can completely remove the straps if you want, or have it as a messenger bag if you still need to carry, but need it slightly more professional.

When its stuffed full with whatever, it's not terrrrribly slim, but you can cinch up the straps at the bottom to keep it close when it has thinner items in it.
posted by HermitDog at 7:51 AM on March 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

I don't think the Brooklyn Industries bag linked above is convertible, but this one is.
posted by beyond_pink at 8:03 AM on March 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

TomBihn dances around your needs with Travel Bags and other sundry things. They're more expensive than your price range, and their only retail outlets are in Washington state. Great bags though, high quality, made in the USA.

For your hybrid needs, the term that I most often find them under is 'Travel Pack'. REI or Campmor might be worth browsing through or visiting.
posted by ZeusHumms at 8:04 AM on March 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

I've searched for the exact same bag for months. The only manufacturer I've found is Tumi, but it's out of our price range.
posted by R2WeTwo at 8:11 AM on March 6, 2013

beyond_pink, I have that same bag and for some reason didn't think to link to that one. It's a great bag -- I've had it for years to use as my "portable office" since it holds a laptop, keeps filey papery things reasonably neat, holds a zillion other things, doesn't bother my back, and looks nice enough that I don't come off as a school kid or a bike messenger in professional situations.

I didn't necessarily pick the bag I linked originally as a Best Bag for rmm. I just wanted to link to something other than the girly floral 90's Jansport-esque thing that was the main page image for the general "BAGS" section.

Brooklyn Industries has a lot of bags that might suit rmm's needs. I think they are even starting to do some leather stuff.
posted by Sara C. at 8:12 AM on March 6, 2013

Here's something on the very low end of your price range but still fulfills requirements.
posted by R2WeTwo at 8:28 AM on March 6, 2013

I have a BBP bag too and it's great. Mine is quite sleek (different model) and had held up very well to years of abuse.
posted by fshgrl at 8:32 AM on March 6, 2013

I take it that Tom Bihn is right out, then? The Western Flyer has the hide-away straps down, and checks off durable, roomy, waterproof, but fails your price limit by quite a bit. I'm not sure about sleekness, I guess.
posted by RedOrGreen at 8:35 AM on March 6, 2013

Mine is large enough to carry all my stuff and my purse btw and it's pretty water resistant. I bought it when I had a huge laptop so I think it's a large. It's cavernous.
posted by fshgrl at 8:37 AM on March 6, 2013

I recently got a Gravis Metro backpack, after doing a lot of research on this subject. They're surprisingly roomy. What tipped it was this review on Carryology - a sort of bag-nerd site. I could do a weekend with it, so it might be too large for you, but it might be a good stopgap whilst you consider the other options.
posted by The River Ivel at 9:42 AM on March 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

Possibly out of your price range, but I have a lovely leather backpack from Mutsaers. They are incredibly popular with the professional crowd around here, but I can't find anyone selling them outside the Netherlands.

The detachable straps convert it into a shoulder bag, but I almost always wear it on my back. This is the model on a website that looks like they'll ship to the US.
posted by Elizabeth the Thirteenth at 9:47 AM on March 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

I saw this in a store, and it was really nice, upscale, but discreet.
posted by mumimor at 10:45 AM on March 6, 2013

nthing Hamptons hybrid or hauler.
posted by lalochezia at 2:52 PM on March 6, 2013

I personally covet this one from Golden Ponies.
posted by nonasuch at 4:39 PM on March 6, 2013

This may not be what you're looking for, but after years of looking for that perfect convertible backpack/bag, I ended up buying an all-black patagonia backpack with straps that I couldn't hide, and I've honestly never been happier. It's fantastic backpack, and no one at work has said anything about what I thought would be the dorkiness of a wearing a full backpack. This bag is sleek enough to look cool and still fit a 17inch laptop, and a gym clothes. And my back has thanked me.
posted by geryon at 5:37 PM on March 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Not going to mark any one of these as a best answer but do appreciate everyone's time with this... and judging by the number of favs this has, looks like there are others going through the hunt. I hope one day to find it... The Bag, my Dream Bag... and end my quest. It's shocking how much stuff (zipper, do dads, god knows what else) people want on their bags. The Moleskin one is very, very close, but no shoulder strap is frustrating. I'm not picky - but getting something that's convertible, big enough for at least a 15", and nice, clean design seems to be very hard.

I might end up going with this baby. Something clean lines and black might work. This one might have also been an option, but seems kind of cheap. If I ever see one I'll try and update the thread.
posted by rmm at 10:53 AM on March 7, 2013

I'm on an identical quest, and am considering this Cambridge satchel backpack. There are other UK companies that make similar products (the Leather Satchel Co. is one)--I can't vouch for the quality of either of these, but the form factor seems appealing.
posted by agent99 at 5:08 AM on March 9, 2013

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