Need me a man bag that is both a backpack AND messenger bag
January 30, 2014 2:11 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for a bag that can be all (or most) of the following: laptop/messenger bag, airplane carry on, backpack, and diaper bag. My Google-fu is failing me, but I've come across the terms "travel bag" or "convertible". I like the look and durability of canvas bags or a similar type material. I'm not too big into leather, mainly because the good quality ones are mostly out of my price range (eg, Saddleback). I'd like to stay under $300, but can go higher for the right bag.

I'd love to be able to bring it to work (conservative-ish Big Pharma) with my laptop and papers, and on the weekends dump everything out and put baby stuff in it. It'd be great if it could it could be considered a "personal item" on an airplane and fit underneath the seat in front of me.

I want a backpack for when I'm carrying a lot of stuff; but I'd love to be able to convert it to a messenger bag if I don't want to look so backpacky.

Some examples of what I'm looking for:

I love the functionality and practiality of this, but something more stylish: Red Oxx Sky Train

That seems to be similar to the BagJack NXL Blue Travelbag and Bag Lab Travel Bag (need to scroll down for both)

I like the style of this, but I think it's a little too large and don't really like the tote-style bag: Sons of Trade Tactical Tote (does putting the word "Tactical" in front of tote make it more manly?)

That company also offers this bag, but it is a little too small: Sons of Trade Nomad Knapsack

Not even sure if the back I'm looking for exists, but I'd love to see some options. Thanks!
posted by photovox to Shopping (19 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
I recommend spending a fair amount of time browsing the Tom Bihn site.
posted by bearwife at 2:14 PM on January 30, 2014 [7 favorites]

Filson might have something you like.
posted by jangie at 2:16 PM on January 30, 2014

Cool Tools recently featured the Mono Producer bag.
posted by megatherium at 2:19 PM on January 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

Would you consider used leather? Leather I think would be your most durable option. I agree that a quality new one would likely be out of your price range, but I'm pretty sure I've seen what you're looking for used on Etsy/Ebay...
posted by ClaireBear at 2:47 PM on January 30, 2014

I've had a timbuk2 version of this for almost 10 years now. this appears to be the updated current version, and actually looks a lot nicer than my old one.

I feel like it would meet all your requirements. It's pretty roomy, but slightly smaller than a bag i've used as a carry on several times(and that bag was pushing it, size wise for that). It has a nice laptop pouch, but the "Main" compartment also fits quite a bit of stuff.

Most importantly, it lasted me all through highschool and most of college. It's freaking indestructible. Barring the chintzy messenger strap(which i swapped out early on, but the new one looks nice in the first place) it's still at 100% despite all kinds of abuse.

It's also the cheapest good option like this i've ever seen.

Personally after having had a bunch of bags, i'd much rather have a nice dedicated two-strap backpack and just use that all the time. But that's mostly because i got tired of the strain on my shoulders one-strap bags could enact. If you really only want to use it that way when it's lightly loaded though, you should be fine.
posted by emptythought at 2:56 PM on January 30, 2014

I like the Head Porter 3Way bag. It's more of a briefcase than a messenger bag, though. It's hard to find outside of Japan but I've seen it twice in the past year at men's boutiques in Portland and San Francisco.
posted by BabeTheBlueOX at 3:00 PM on January 30, 2014

Qwstion makes some beautiful bags. This one is marketed as a briefcase that turns into a backpack.
If you need something bigger, they have a weekender that's also convertible. The last photos in both links will give you a sense of size.
Modern Industry makes a totepack. You can use it as a tote or messenger but might not be conservative enough for the office.
posted by mlo at 3:11 PM on January 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

I love the quality and design of Tom Bihn bags, but if you want something convertible between messenger and backpack, maybe BBP?
posted by asperity at 3:13 PM on January 30, 2014

The Hazard 4 'Switchback' seems like a good fit.

Excellent build quality, fairly light, and lots of organizational features.
posted by BrandonW at 3:13 PM on January 30, 2014

I have a strategy that I like a lot: just get a bag you like, don't worry if it has the special features you need, and then get those special features as add-ons.

For example, you're just NOT going to find a bag that you like the style of AND will protect your laptop. So just get one of these and put it whatever bag has great style.

Ditto with the diaper bag. Dedicated diaper bags are a waste--just put all that stuff in the bag you like.
posted by Murray M at 3:15 PM on January 30, 2014

Copied and pasted from my answer on a similar thread last March, mine is still going strong, as is my dad's afaik.

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 3:22 PM on January 30, 2014 [2 favorites]

I have this.

It's a messenger back that converts to a backpack. I mostly use it as a backpack, as it's way too burly for me to carry comfortably as a shoulder bag.

I've had it for three years and it's in perfect condition. I don't anticipate buying another laptop bag for many years.
posted by Sara C. at 3:27 PM on January 30, 2014

I always recommend Chrome bags. I think they probably have something suitable. Tend to err on the casual side but there are some more conservative looking bags as well.
posted by mlle valentine at 4:23 PM on January 30, 2014

The folks at SSCY were kind enough to add a removable messenger strap to the Tack bag for me.
posted by evoque at 5:10 PM on January 30, 2014

I encourage you to consider the Chrome Citizen in all black. I use this bag daily for everything from work to the gym to picnics and hiking. It has a unique strap that can really only be used one way, but that said, it is pretty much perfect.

There are just enough pockets to keep things organized without being fussy. The inside liner comes apart from the outside of the bag (attached with velcro) so that you can stash things in the "secret compartment" - which is also waterproof, so if that is needed (diaperbag . . .) you are covered. Bonus: Made in America!
posted by ainsley at 6:49 PM on January 30, 2014

Merrell has this bag that might suit your needs:

I don't have it, but I've been eyeing since REI had it as their deal-of-the-day where it was on sale for ~$70. It doesn't appear to be available anywhere else. Also, make sure to check the sole review.
posted by zaphod at 8:03 PM on January 30, 2014

Topo Designs makes a bag that does just what you want. It's a briefcase that converts into a backpack or a messenger bag. I've wanted it for awhile.
posted by rensar at 8:21 PM on January 30, 2014

Seconding/thirding Tom Bihn. Pricey but good.

Specifically, look at the Western Flyer or the Co-Pilot, although maybe you want something as large as the TriStar.
posted by RedOrGreen at 8:16 AM on January 31, 2014

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