Can you recommend a messenger bag/laptop case for me to abuse?
March 9, 2015 7:28 AM   Subscribe

Hi, I've just destroyed another bag. Can you recommend a strong laptop case/messenger bag for me? I'm looking for something strong and professional-looking (I work in a somewhat conservative industry.)

I wear out straps by putting lots of heavy things in my bag and then carrying it everywhere. I put strain on the fabric and zippers by overstuffing pockets. I'd like to have a bag that can handle that sort of use. I'm looking for a bag that I can use to cart around my laptop, various files, and (sometimes) my lunch. I no longer care about having a stylish bag, but it does have to look professional for when I meet with clients. I don't want a roller bag because that doesn't work well for me walking to the bus stop in the winter or on a rainy day.
posted by Area Man to Computers & Internet (16 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
 
I absolutely LOVE my Timbuk2 Messenger bag. I have the small size of the custom laptop messenger bag and it's perfect for my 13" MacBook Pro and pretty much anything else I've put in it. I have carried to and from work and elsewhere as a teacher every single day for the past 4 years and it doesn't even have a frayed seam.

There are so many customization options, I'm sure you can make it professional.
posted by ThaBombShelterSmith at 7:34 AM on March 9, 2015


I have a Timbuk2 messenger bag and a big tote bag, both of which have stood up to years of overloading. They don't show any wear or tear at all. There are a lot of options, style-wise, but I think something like the Command series would work for you.
posted by neushoorn at 7:42 AM on March 9, 2015


Mr Otter Handler has this bag and has used it for six years to carry a laptop, peripherals and all his other essentials in his extensive travels for work throughout Asia and Europe with nary a tear or strap needing replacing. Highly recommended.
posted by Otter_Handler at 7:45 AM on March 9, 2015


I would recommend something from Mission Workshop. Spendy, but as far as I can tell, cannot be injured, and can be incredibly overloaded and abused, and are also actually comfortable.
posted by rockindata at 7:46 AM on March 9, 2015


I've been really disappointed with the quality of Timbuk2's bags since they moved production overseas; they're still better than quite a few out there, but quality has dipped pretty significantly since the switch. I gave a friend my last waxed canvas one that was part of their domestic production line, and it is still going strong; the foreign made one that I purchased to replace it failed after 6mos of regular use. Total bummer. Considering the price of entry to a Timbuk2, you can get other, better bags for not much more.

I used to churn through bags at an alarming rate until I got a Bailey Works bag and an Ortlieb messenger. I would probably peg out the bailey works as being a bit more professional if you chose the right fabric for it. I've linked to this comment before in backpack threads, but I stand by it. I'm still using both those bags on a super regular basis, and they work great.

They're not cheap. But they're really cheap if you consider that they're 8 and 6 years old. The Bailey Works bag also has the added value (to me at least) of being made in the US. I bike to work everyday, and my 3 year old has put some serious stress on my bags (which have not only acted as backpacks, but diaper bags, overnight bags) and they're holding up fine. I will say that the bailey works bag looks like its holding up better in terms of aesthetics, the ortlieb is a bit rougher around the edges, but functions fine.
posted by furnace.heart at 7:47 AM on March 9, 2015


I have the Think Geek Bag of Holding (currently out of stock, but there is a pricier leather version in stock). While I have not stressed it too much, it has worked out pretty well so far and it looks relatively innocuous.

While I've not hefted it, Duluth Trading company makes a messenger bag out of heavyweight canvas with a leather bottom.
posted by plinth at 7:57 AM on March 9, 2015


I have this Filson bag and it's great. I overstuff it all the time and have never had any problems with it. There's a padded laptop version as well if you prefer that, but I opted for the vanilla style (which I still cram my work laptop into for business trips).
posted by backseatpilot at 7:58 AM on March 9, 2015


Definitely check out Tom Bihn bags. I have several and the quality is fantastic. I'm tough on bags and they still look new.
posted by angelchrys at 8:10 AM on March 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


Re-posting because my link didn't work: the Trotter Jr. You mention that you have a conservative dress code, so not sure if the big red tag would be a distraction, but if it helps Mr. Otter Handler is an executive in a large global corporation and gets nothing but compliments on his bag.
posted by Otter_Handler at 9:03 AM on March 9, 2015


Seconding the Timbuk2 messenger bag. I've had mine for about 4 years, and it still looks brand new after almost daily use, hauling a laptop and books (often at the same time). Plus it has many, many pockets in which to lose things and then find them six months later.
posted by stampsgal at 9:42 AM on March 9, 2015


They're discontinuing it--which is a shame because these are solid bags, but is great because the clearance price is good--but the Nau Motil commuter bag is solidly constructed and very low profile (no logos or loud design elements). I've been dangling mine off my bike rack with binder clips or carabiners for years without wearing it out, though I don't tend to overstuff it.
posted by crush-onastick at 10:12 AM on March 9, 2015


I am profoundly in love with my Tumi Alpha Bravo. It comes in different colors; I think the Hickory style is quite professional looking.
posted by elf27 at 10:12 AM on March 9, 2015


Before I switched to a Timbuk2 backpack I used a Waterfield bag for many years. Super sturdy.
posted by radioamy at 10:35 AM on March 9, 2015


I have the Timbuk2 Command and it's really sturdy and attractive. I load it up every day with laptop and clothes and notebooks and other stuff. I've only had it since November, so I can't attest to its longevity, however.

The Anchor one (pictured) has a cloth flap instead of a nylon one, which I think is a bit more conservative-looking.
posted by clone boulevard at 10:43 AM on March 9, 2015


If you are going to do a Timbuk2 then I recommend that you get it custom from their website to guarantee the build quality. My older Crumpler bags have held up but they are not accessorized very well but you can stuff them silly. Rickshaw makes a good bag BUT it cannot be oversuffed at all. I wish other bag makers would allow you, like Rickshaw, to switch between velcro and magnetic openings on a bag at the user's discretion.

Manhattan Portage was 'meh' for me. Since I feel like a poseur with a Freitag or Chrome bag (I no longer bike) I have not ponied up for their bags though, I think that Chrome's belt buckle release is sweet.

The Tumi backpacks seem to work well though I feel that one never can look stylish with a backpack, but what do I know, I still carry bags with dangly, jangly things on them and wear Jesus sandals all year long.

An alternative is to have a bag built at etsy but I only recommend this if you can provide examples of what you want and are very clear in your vision.

Oh hey, you live in Minneapolis? I can loan you one of my MANY Timbuk2 bags. I have loaners out to other faculty at my office. Memail me if you want to try some bags out.
posted by jadepearl at 6:27 PM on March 9, 2015


Timbuk2 bags suck now. I'm amazed it seems like there's only one other person here saying it.

I've had the same chrome bag(an XL version of this they no longer list) since high school, seriously. Well actually it's my friends from back then, but we traded well... back then. I'm 25. It wasn't new when i got it, so it's probably over a decade old at this point. Before that i had another chrome bag.

I ordered a new one for my partner as a christmas present a couple years back, and it's exactly as good.

I don't have a single damn bad thing to say about either of the bags. I mostly use hers now(because i like the color more), but mine is still going strong. It's been through Some Shitâ„¢ and while its stained and covered in stupid drawings and stuff, it isn't frayed or in any way falling apart.

The newer one had an issue with one of the strap tensioners, and they responded incredibly quickly, had me mail the bag back, and had it back to me within a couple days immaculately repaired.

I only like backpacks now, but i'd feel comfortable buying pretty much any style of bag from them. I've had the single straps and the roll top pack style ones, and coworkers and friends have had other styles of the packs. They never die. And i've overstuffed mine to the point that i couldn't even really lift it and every compartment was maxed out, then sat on it and crammed in more. They've been all up and down the coast, to the playa, in the snow, in the mud, soaked with liquor, filled with ice. And if i wipe it down, you can't tell.

$200 might seem like a lot of money, but even their basic $100 bags are made the same way. And you only have to spend that $200 once.

Make sure you like the one you get and the colors and everything, because it's like buying one of those parots that lives for 70 years. Like the REI bag my dad bought in the late 70s he still uses, i bet i'm going to have this thing for the rest of my life.

Oh, and it's really comfortable too. Really, really comfortable.
posted by emptythought at 4:03 AM on March 10, 2015


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