Help me schlep my stuff!
January 5, 2015 8:54 AM   Subscribe

I recently started commuting by public transit and need help carrying all my stuff.

I need your best commute bag recomendations! Here's what I carry on the bus every weekday:

Contents of large handbag: walllet, notebook, makeup bag, lunch, water bottle

Backpack: coat, scarf, yoga clothes, yoga towel, change of shoes

yoga mat

current difficulty: No locker or towel service at the yoga studio, strong aversion to borrowing a mat, I go directly to yoga from work.

Bag recommendations and thoughts on how to pare down gratefully accepted!
posted by Space Kitty to Shopping (20 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
If you get something more like a hiking backpack (sorry, no recommendations) you should be able to lash your yoga mat to the top like a sleeping bag.
posted by Night_owl at 9:01 AM on January 5, 2015

I'd ditch the Water Bottle, just get water when you get where you're going. It may cost a bit more, but water is heavy. Or tote an empty bottle and fill it when you get to work. Do your makeup at home, and go home barefaced after yoga so you can skip the make-up bag. Use wipes to get your makeup off before yoga, and splash warm water on your face. You can do your cleansing routine at home.

Put your handbag in the yoga bag. Having multiple bags is just asking for hassles. If you want to keep your money close to you, a very slim and light cross body bag would work.

This bag looks like it'll hold all your stuff.

You don't really need to tote everything with you, you know what they say, "the bigger the bag, the bigger the crazy."
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:05 AM on January 5, 2015

Ah! Should have clarified: I carry my mat with a yoga strap so there's no storage there.
posted by Space Kitty at 9:16 AM on January 5, 2015

I have the Patagonia Arbor backpack for my transit commute, which I really like because it's relatively stylish (for a backpack), comfortable, and fits A LOT of stuff (I've used it for weekend trips). It would definitely fit all your stuff but doesn't feel heavy even when it's full.
posted by lunasol at 9:22 AM on January 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

Is yoga close enough to work that any of those things can be kept there and dropped off after class? Can the change of shoes be left at work? Is the backpack large enough to hold the purse and so reduce the number of things hanging off of you? Is there a smaller/lighter towel you can bring instead? Basically if you can come up with a way to carry these things back and forth less often, life will be way easier.
posted by tchemgrrl at 9:29 AM on January 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

Instead of a yoga mat, would yoga gloves + yoga socks work?
Can you double up your makeup at work so you don't need to carry any/as much in your bag (I guess you'd still need some if you plan to go out after yoga, but you could lessen mid-day touchups)?
There are water bottles that roll up when empty, which save on space and weight.
Can your work shoes just live at work instead of coming on each commute? I used to keep a couple pairs stashed in the bottom drawer of my filing cabinet at work.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 9:29 AM on January 5, 2015

Since you carry the mat separately, everything else should be able to work within the regular constraints of a regular backpack or a messenger bag; you should ditch the handbag entirely. I personally like to/have to carry alot of 'gear' on me because I work between a couple different job-sites. I pay more for miniaturized versions of regular sized things when it comes to my workweek.

Nothing on your list really needs a total deletion, but I would instead focus on actually downsizing the items that you're carrying to smaller versions of themselves. If you decrease the size and weight of that stuff, the bigger bulkier stuff won't seem as cumbersom. Search for a minimalist wallet (i prefer the little buddy from Machine-Era, but there are tons out there). My wife really likes hers too 6 cards and cash, its perfect for day to day action. The towel could get replaced with a micro-fiber towel; they're designed more for backpackers, but they work great, dry fast and are most importantly really thin, so they take up minimal room. The shoes should be flat-packable slip ons of some sort, or canvas TOMS style shoes or something. If you're hauling it around all the time, pay the cash to make it small. Find the smallest acceptable notebook for your needs. Just make things smaller and lighter.

I would suggest also focusing on what exactly the items are and how to make them smaller; look to backpacking stuff, look to tour-cycling equipment, or serious traveling kits and supplies.

I've put in my two cents on bags before, and I still stand by both of them. Both would work well for you.
posted by furnace.heart at 9:37 AM on January 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

Switch out the large handbag for a smaller cross body or clutch bag that you can put inside the larger backpack or sling over your shoulder, to keep your phone and wallet handy. That also lets you go out for coffee or errands etc. during the day without bringing your entire large bag.
posted by MadamM at 9:58 AM on January 5, 2015 [2 favorites]

The SSCY Tack is ridiculously capacious and can hold a yoga mat via the straps. Alite Designs' Bike to the Beach bag is a little smaller, but has similar features.

You could use compression bags and/or stuff sacks for your clothes and towel, and maybe even your coat. Packable down and rain jackets are also available.

Put the liquids in your makeup bag into smaller containers and refill as needed. Bonus points if you can condense your on-the-go makeup needs into a refillable palette.
posted by evoque at 10:01 AM on January 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

I don't prefer backpacks on transit--they take up too much room and you're constantly either smacking the people sitting down in the face with it or shoving into the people standing around you. I find commuter bags better for transit because it's easier to adjust how you're carrying them as the bus or train gets more crowded so it's comfortable for everyone.

Personally, I love this commuter bag, which would carry everything you've got listed. The Moop Porter is also great for toting the amount of things you carry, but I find the snaps don't stay closed (I keep meaning to replace them with a top zipper); I keep my purse zipped into the zipper pocket for added security. This Longchamp nylon tote gets great reviews and the brand is solid.

I agree with the suggestion to either stash stuff in your desk or try smaller versions of what you carry. Hauling stuff on transit every day gets old pretty fast.
posted by crush-onastick at 10:06 AM on January 5, 2015 [5 favorites]

I recently switched from a messenger bag to a Crumpler Condo Tote, which would hold all of your stuff except maybe your coat. I like it because it's not as wide as a messenger bag (good on crowded public transportation); I can carry it in my hand, on my shoulder, or cross-body; and the outer pockets give me quick access to things like my phone, keys, train pass, etc.
posted by neushoorn at 10:11 AM on January 5, 2015

Just get one of those rolling carry-on luggage deals. It may not be fashionable, but it's the best way to commute with a lot of stuff.
posted by jeffamaphone at 10:22 AM on January 5, 2015

No bag suggestions, but a few ideas for paring down. Mostly you need to figure out what you can keep at work, and also analyze what you really need.

Do you need the waterbottle on the commute and/or at yoga? Or just at work? Could you keep a larger one at work and a little one for the commute?

Why are you schlepping makeup back and forth? If you really need to reapply at work, get doubles of whatever you need and leave it there.

Personally I don't carry a separate purse anymore. I have a little mini clutch that I keep in my desk in case I need to run out during the day and don't have pockets.

How big is your wallet and can you pare it down?

Why do you need a change of shoes?
posted by radioamy at 10:58 AM on January 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

Would you consider disinfecting a borrowed mat before using it? Clorox wipes might be handier to carry than the mat. Or you could even ask the studio to make those available if they don't.

2nd ensuring the bag itself is as light as possible - nylon or canvas (or very expensive leather, I guess), and paring everything else down. Definitely leave the shoes at work, if they're work/dress shoes.

(Why are you carrying your outerwear in your backpack, though? Are your things too warm for where you live? If so, maybe consider swapping your current coat for layers you could just unbutton if you get too warm.)
posted by cotton dress sock at 11:20 AM on January 5, 2015

2nding the Longchamp Le Pliage as a surprisingly useful and versatile tote. I've had mine for a couple of years now and it looks like new. This is after daily use to cart my laptop, paper notepad, pencil case, assorted handbag content and often lunch/travel mug and shopping to and from work on public transit. It is also my go to hand luggage when flying. In that capacity, in addition to the above, it also contains a make-up bag, tablet computer, charger, pashmina, travel documents as well as anything else I realise I forgot to pack as I run out of the door. Cost per use is now approaching zero.
posted by koahiatamadl at 12:28 PM on January 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

Those rolling bags... ugh, they get stuck in every moderately-sized pavement irregularity or any space that's too narrow for them. I travel regularly on Amtrak and I see the effects of folks with the rolling bags not being hands-free.

I'd opt for a backpack if I were you. Also, consider keeping dress shoes at work. My nickname has been "Imelda" in the past. ;-)
posted by Sheydem-tants at 12:58 PM on January 5, 2015

Just get one of those rolling carry-on luggage deals. It may not be fashionable, but it's the best way to commute with a lot of stuff.

Jesus Christ, please don't do that. If I had a dime for every time some inconsiderate twit who thinks that carrying luggage on public transit, unless they're going to an airport, is a good idea has tripped me, bumped me, or bashed me in the shins with their roll-on, I'd be able to afford a private helicopter and not have to deal with them any more.

Yes, we all have to carry stuff around, and yes, sometimes your stuff will get in someone else's way, it's just what happens on transit and it's something we all need to live with. But we also have a mutual obligation to make our infringement upon each others' space as minimal as possible, and a rather large, hard-edged case that can't easily be picked up, held to your chest, or moved around as needed in a crowded car is not the way to do it.

Commuter bags and messenger bags are great, I'd definitely look at those, pick one of reasonable size, and either reduce or logistically re-organize so that your stuff fits in one reasonably sized such bag, with the exception of the yoga mat. Those are compact, and soft, enough to not pose much of a hazard to the people around you. If you do decide to go with a backpack rather than a messenger/commuter, do everyone a favor if quarters are tight and take it off to rest on the floor between your legs. Wearing a large backpack on a crowded train is essentially taking up the standing-room of two people.

(Yes, excessive luggage on public transit and its oblivious bearers are an ignition point of mine, sorry.)
posted by jammer at 1:04 PM on January 5, 2015 [6 favorites]

I take my backpack almost everywhere. What I do on public transit is take it off and put it between my legs--standing or sitting.

Most have a smaller pocket in front with zippers one can lock or twist together for valuables.
posted by brujita at 1:22 PM on January 5, 2015

I just took this $55 ebags brand bag to California for 3 days as my only bag and my SOLE complaint is that it doesn't have a handle in addition to a cross-body strap. (Before now I've mostly used it to carry work stuff when my regular briefbag wouldn't work.) Not much bigger than a large handbag; carries full-size files, has a yoga-mat set of strap on the bottom, has a zip-out water bottle pocket. It's not fancy or stylish, but the fabric holds up really well and washes easily!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:09 PM on January 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

I heart my Longchamp Le Pliage. When I have my business together, I carry a smaller purse with my wallet, phone, keys, etc. and Le Pliage with gym clothes, groceries, etc. Another awesome thing about Le Pliage is that it folds up so if it turns out you don't need that bag after all, you can just fold it up and stick it somewhere. I love it.

Alternately, check out the Everything Fits bag by Gaiam. The name works. I also like this bag - it doesn't have a ton of storage but if you have a bigger purse, you can put small items like your wallet and phone in this bag and everything else in the larger purse.

I'd just leave some makeup at work. I try to be strategic about shoes - if it's cold and I want to wear boots, I pack leggings for yoga so I can put the boots on after. If it's a little warmer, I can wear Toms and shorts/yoga pants/whatever. Why are you carrying a coat and scarf? I don't know how cold it is where you are but maybe consider a packable down coat - look at Lands' End and Uniqlo. I hate to say it because I schlep a ton of stuff around but the easiest way to deal with this is to carry less stuff.
posted by kat518 at 9:23 PM on January 5, 2015

« Older Looking for Crownfunding and Venture Capital (for...   |   Find this movie, please. Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.