In search of the perfect purse-backpack
March 18, 2014 10:14 PM   Subscribe

I am really getting tired of carrying a purse and am thinking a purse-backpack would vastly improve the quality of my life.

I would love to hear suggestions for any that people have used or at least heard wondrous stories about.

And of course there's criteria! In order of importance:

1) Security. The obvious downside I can think of is I don't want the zippers to all the important pockets to be on the outside, begging to be unzipped, while I'm walking around obliviously. So if it can have at least one compartment that can be accessed on the inside or on the sides, that would be great.

2) Fashion. I will mostly carry it as a purse for errands and daily life, but I would like to carry it as a backpack for hikes and long shopping days and stuff. I also don't want to raise suspicion in every major department store and museum for carrying a backpack. So I'd like it to look mostly like a purse.

3) Bonus if it's sold on Amazon.

Thank you.
posted by madonna of the unloved to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (15 answers total) 32 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I carry this Marley Teardrop backpack from Levenger, in brown. It's small, just big enough to fit my iPad mini and other essentials, but the small size also makes it look more like a handbag and less like shoplifting gear. I get lots of compliments on it, curiously often from men. It has nice soft leather that's wearing well, and there's a big panel pocket on the back side. It's very comfortable to wear with one or both straps. You do have to be selective in the crap you choose to carry, though.
posted by HotToddy at 10:31 PM on March 18, 2014 [5 favorites]

What is it you dislike about a purse? I carry a Wristlet - no shoulder strain and hands free. Plus it forces you to streamline what you carry. Maybe a small wrist bag for daily use and a large backpack for hikes?
posted by 26.2 at 11:14 PM on March 18, 2014

I used to have a Bagg Lady wallet pack. In a black ultra suede it was quite nice looking. It carried everything under the sun, I could always find my stuff, and it was comfortable to carry or wear. I used it as a day pack on short hikes, a shopping bag at the county fair, and mostly as a purse. Incredibly well made. It still looked like new the day it was stolen.

OTOH that Marley Teardrop is flat out gorgeous.
posted by SLC Mom at 12:44 AM on March 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

I long ago replaced a regular purse for a backpack, much better for my back and neck, even though I rarely wear it across the back (big bosom self-consciousness) and instead sling it like a purse over my shoulder.

If you search Amazon for leather backpack I think you'll get a range of bags that don't shout "backpack!" and are definitely suitable for all but the most formal occasion.

This most closely resembles the one I have (Ebay circa 2010) but mine has good internal pockets for keys, wallet, phone, etc. and has plenty of room for an iPad, paper, pens without being too large. I also really like having that small middle handle in addition to the backstraps. In fact, if I were to replace mine now, that would definitely be in the shortlist.
posted by humph at 1:41 AM on March 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Yes, I feel like I develop a stiff neck throughout the day as my bag keeps feeling heavier and heavier. I keep "paring down" things, but I was caught the other day without sunscreen as I had just pared it the day before, and I was cursing myself that I kept my hand sanitizer in there. (Of course, if I had pared that, I would invariably have needed that instead.)

So I just decided "Screw it, I'm going to beat my purse at its own game and turn it into a backpack hybrid."

That Marley Teardrop is amazing, but the price is a little steep. Still, it's so beautiful... perhaps...
posted by madonna of the unloved at 1:58 AM on March 19, 2014

As someone who prefers carrying a bag that has quite a lot of stuff in it, I could not really find a backpack that didn't continue to make me look like a student even when I wasn't (at least, not that I could afford), and I've found contentment in a bag with a wide strap that goes cross-body. The weight carries a lot better that way, and it's hands-free, and it's not stuck behind me where I can't see it or whoever might be getting at it.
posted by Sequence at 2:20 AM on March 19, 2014

It's not a backpack, but I own two of these Brooklyn bags - and I tend to carry enough stuff that I want a backpack too. The wide strap makes this very comfy to carry, it has a padded for devices inner pocket, it is lined with light coloured fabric so it's easy to find things in, and *gasp* now it comes in pink, too. Ahem. It's separated into a front and a back by the padded zipper pocket and has another small zipper compartment, as well as another "Hidden" one under the front flap. Great bag. I find it more usable than the Healthy Back pack I own, that is technically larger.
posted by Kaleidoscope at 3:12 AM on March 19, 2014

I just got this with an eye toward some overseas trips coming up this summer. It converts from backpack to shoulder bag without any fiddling with the straps required. I wanted something that I could use hands-free, yet didn't give me too much of that horrid 90s mini-backpack vibe. One potential issue though is that the "buckles" are purely ornamental and the outside pockets are actually secured with magnetic snaps. But it looks like it would be pretty hard to get into the main zippered compartment without the wearer noticing.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 5:23 AM on March 19, 2014

If someone's looking for the same sort of thing but with an even crazier price tag, the Ellington backpack/tote is nice because it's a purse and a backpack.
posted by theredpen at 5:39 AM on March 19, 2014

Best answer: I'm a devoted backpack purse user. This is my current one and I'm very happy with it. Because of the way it's configured with pretty high gussets on the side, it would be impossible for someone to unzip the bag and steal something while I'm wearing it. Plus, baggallini customer service is great: the handle on mine split a little bit in the first year, I sent it to their warehouse, and received a brand new bag by return mail.
posted by DrGail at 5:54 AM on March 19, 2014 [3 favorites]

My daily carry bag is a Fjallraven Kanken Mini. It's big enough for my Kindle in its Timbuk2 case plus all the other required oddities. It has an internal sleeve that would be difficult for a pickpocket to get to without your noticing but no pockets that are accessible only from the wearer's side.
posted by workerant at 9:00 AM on March 19, 2014

Right, I got it because a regular purse bothers my shoulder. It's worked out great. If you're on the fence, I can tell you that the leather goods from Levenger are top quality and I've been buying from them for 25 years. Seriously, you could pay three times as much at Nordstrom for a designer bag and not get the same quality. The only thing is that it might be too small, but you can always return it if it is.
posted by HotToddy at 9:05 AM on March 19, 2014

I love my Fjallraven totepack #1. I am a fan of the Kanken but wanted something a bit more grown up. It works well as a tote - hand or shoulder carry - and turns into a backpack. I wish the straps were adjustable but hasn't really been a big issue. It also zips at the top, which really sealed it for me.

Some others which came up in my search:
BCBGeneration purse backpack - very summery and cute
Vince Camuto Cris convertible backpack - More purse than backpack
Amerileather backpack purse - Leather, zippered, and $67
posted by mlo at 9:58 AM on March 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

I have the Amelia bag from Ellington; it converts to a backpack easily, and is big enough to carry your full-size laptop and a a bunch of other stuff. It is forever the source of amazement at supermarket checkouts: "Can you fit all of this in there?? Really???" Yes. Yes, I can. And two bottles of wine, too.
posted by Ender's Friend at 7:52 PM on March 19, 2014

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