Looking for a Bag that Doesn’t Bite
June 25, 2017 1:13 PM   Subscribe

The time has come for me to invest in a new everyday bag, and I’ve searched high and low but can’t find a bag that meets my basic requirements (see below). I’d like something like a messenger bag, but my current ones have been chewing up my clothes something fierce. Can you help me find a kinder, gentler bag that’s still tough enough to survive life in the big city?

Must:
• Accommodate my work computer, which I bring home occasionally: a 15” MacBook Pro.
• Stop chewing up my clothes, so NO Velcro inside or out to catch on sweaters and scarves, and NO nylon strap to wear through delicate shirts.
• Be at least somewhat water resistant. Rain happens. Snow happens.
• Hold a reasonable amount of stuff in addition to the laptop (i.e. no laptop sleeves).
• Have a long enough strap that I can wear it cross-body, but can also wear it on one shoulder for short periods.
• Not be too heavy — I have chronic pain so hauling the laptop occasionally is already pushing my limits. A leather bag is probably out unless it’s very lightweight for leather. I'm also not a fan of waxed canvass.

Would be nice to have:
• A good interior organization scheme, especially a place to safely stash keys and phone separate from other things.
• A built-in laptop sleeve (but if not, it needs to be big enough to hold one).
• An outside mesh pocket for a small umbrella would be brilliant, but I know that’s rare.
• Super water-proof (beyond just water resistant) would be great.
• A dark color that doesn’t immediately show all dirt (black, maroon, plum, etc.)
• I would love to find something durable and very well made and am willing to save up to pay for quality.
• I am a fan of simple, clean styling — no giant buckles or logos, no loud prints, no shiny textures.

Does such a bag exist? Can you point me in its direction?
posted by rafaella gabriela sarsaparilla to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (16 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
If you have chronic pain and carrying a bag is difficult, I'd actually suggest switching to a rolling briefcase. That's what I do! It's not the coolest thing in the world, but it's helped my neck pain so much.

My fave bag company, Queenbee Creations, just came out with a line of laptop bags. Their stuff is super durable, the material is lightweight water-proof faux leather, the seatbelt strap is comfortable and non-snaggy, and the designs are simple but cute. Their Trucker bag (which comes in a regular and more-pockety "diaper bag" version) is also a good option. I love my Trucker!
posted by radioamy at 1:35 PM on June 25, 2017 [2 favorites]


Pricey, but Hardgraft might have something you'd like. What would you accept for the strap material?
posted by rhizome at 1:42 PM on June 25, 2017


I asked more or less this question 2 years ago and ended up getting a medium-size WaterField Designs Cargo bag. It's sitting beside me in a cab right now and is worth everything I paid for it. I basically live out of it while traveling for work, and it still looks new.
posted by limeonaire at 1:51 PM on June 25, 2017 [1 favorite]


There's a Korean brand of bags called Rawrow that might be worth a look. I am not sure about availability in the U.S., but it does seem available in parts of Europe. Most of their bags are made of waxed canvas, so somewhat water resistant. Designs are simple and attractive.

This model appears to meet a lot of your criteria - can fit 15" MacBook Pro, and can fit some additional stuff, although I don't know what you consider 'a reasonable amount of stuff' in addition to the laptop.

My daily work bag is this model, which looks a dark charcoal grey. It wouldn't be super water-proof, since it opens at top. The strap is not nylon and has not chewn up my clothes so far, and the design with multiple large compartments allow for easy organization. I am considering getting this model next time I am in Korea - the flap top would better protect the contents from rain or snow.
posted by research monkey at 1:57 PM on June 25, 2017 [1 favorite]


NO nylon strap to wear through delicate shirts.

I don't think we should blame that on nylon. Maybe you can explain more about this damage?

Maybe you need sturdier shirts or need to look for straps separately. If a nylon strap is wearing through your shirt I think so would leather and faux leathers and all synthetics and maybe even cotton or silk. And even if wide thin cotton doesn't hurt your shirts, the cotton itself would wear out in a year or so of heavy use.

A silk strap might be your best bet for being strong and gentle, but I've never heard of a messenger bag coming with one.
posted by SaltySalticid at 2:14 PM on June 25, 2017 [1 favorite]


If you are willing to use a backpack,that might reduce both your pain and your clothing-ripping problems. I have an older version of this one which has a laptop compartment and is professional enough for my office, though that of course depends on your style.
posted by metasarah at 3:01 PM on June 25, 2017


Baileyworks! The Superpro fits most of your requirements. I have the 'Large' but the medium might actually fit your needs. They're made in america! They employ single mothers that can work from home! The bag is bulletproof! Worth every penny! I love mine so much that I wish I needed another one for some reason. They have some other models that might fit your requirements, but again all of my experiences are based off of the superpro buddy.

• Accommodate my work computer, which I bring home occasionally: a 15” MacBook Pro.
It does this easily.

• Stop chewing up my clothes, so NO Velcro inside or out to catch on sweaters and scarves, and NO nylon strap to wear through delicate shirts.
You can customize your bag with them to leave off the velcro. The strap has a padded cordura piece that rests on your shoulder, it does have a nylon strap, but it doesn't contact your body much. This is going to be the hardest part of your ask I think. If you go through the custom process, you can omit anything from the bag. It's damn sweet. The lack of velcro might require a phone call to them, but they'll probably accommodate.

• Be at least somewhat water resistant. Rain happens. Snow happens.
Not quite throw-in-a-lake waterproof, but I used mine for years in PNW weather, rain or shine and it only soaked through a couple times (like, litterally two or three times).

• Hold a reasonable amount of stuff in addition to the laptop (i.e. no laptop sleeves).
I haul an ungodly amount of stuff around in my bag. When furnace.kid was a baby, it held all his stuff for diaper-maintenence in addition to my normal work stuff. These days it holds a couple toolkits, laptop, couple binders of paperwork, water bottle, coffee cup, first aid kit...and other typical bag-detrius that builds up.

• Have a long enough strap that I can wear it cross-body, but can also wear it on one shoulder for short periods.
Fully adjustable strap. Over the shoulder sometimes is a little slippy. Cross body is pretty solid.

• Not be too heavy — I have chronic pain so hauling the laptop occasionally is already pushing my limits. A leather bag is probably out unless it’s very lightweight for leather. I'm also not a fan of waxed canvass. Pretty light. I don't want to unload everything right now, but I should clean it out and if I do, I'll weigh it.

• A good interior organization scheme, especially a place to safely stash keys and phone separate from other things.
So many pockets!

• A built-in laptop sleeve (but if not, it needs to be big enough to hold one).
My wife has the lap top compartment on hers, and I opted not to have it included. It sits a bit weird, and you need


• An outside mesh pocket for a small umbrella would be brilliant, but I know that’s rare.
Not mesh but I throw an umbrella in the outer pocket, and it works just fine. Drys out quickly.

• Super water-proof (beyond just water resistant) would be great.
Again, it's not a dry bag, but it'll be good against all but the worst weather.

• A dark color that doesn’t immediately show all dirt (black, maroon, plum, etc.)
Take your pick. They've got tons of colors.

• I would love to find something durable and very well made and am willing to save up to pay for quality.
I am very abusive towards bags, and mine is only showing minor wear after almost 10 years of destructive bag behavior.

• I am a fan of simple, clean styling — no giant buckles or logos, no loud prints, no shiny textures.
The front buckle is large, but blends in.
posted by furnace.heart at 3:54 PM on June 25, 2017 [1 favorite]


I have had a Crumpler Dreadful Embarrassment for over 5 years. The strap is nylon, but with the shoulder pad I've never noticed any problems with clothing. It holds a ton and wears like iron. The Moderate Embarrassment might be a slightly better fit for your needs?
posted by goggie at 4:22 PM on June 25, 2017


2nding the BaileyWorks bag. I loved mine - its organization is superior. It has very handy and sizable but secure pockets. For some dumb reason I got a Timbuk2 bag after the Bailey and I wish I hadn't. The Bailey had it all and is understated and stylish, too.
posted by Miko at 6:46 PM on June 25, 2017


My favorite bags in the world from Kinies. I have three, of varying sizes and styles, and can't say enough good things about them. The waxed canvas is water resistant, but I only have the the standard canvas, and have been pleased at how dry the things inside the bag remain, even when the outside is quite wet. The insides have a bunch of pockets, the bags are generous and unbelievably durable. Durable like, one time I got my purse closed in the car door--purse on the outside of the car--and accidentally dragged it along next to my car for a mile. It was dirty, but fine. (This was the standard canvas, not the waxed.)

There's no velcro or rough bits, no nylon strap. The exteriors don't catch on things, even when I carry a purse while wearing things like lace shawls. I also have chronic pain, and while the I've had issues with heavy bags because they're so full (they seriously hold so much stuff), the bags themselves are pretty light.

Also, right now you can get a lot of their bags for $30 including shipping, which is, in my opinion, hard to beat.
posted by mishafletch at 6:58 PM on June 25, 2017


• Accommodate my work computer, which I bring home occasionally: a 15” MacBook Pro.

How often is occasionally? If it's less than once a week or so, I think you should buy a laptop sleeve or bag that you keep at work (and maybe commit to taking a ride share rather than transit on those days), and a Holy Grail bag for the rest of the time. That way you aren't hauling around extra bag 85% of the time and you have more flexibility on size and shape.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 7:59 PM on June 25, 2017


I love my Aunts & Uncles bag. It's leather but featherweight and rugged, with a retro plaid lining and so many awesome pockets! But entirely distinguished, no roughness. I live in Seattle and the rain has only given the bag more and more character. Mine's seven years old! It's the Buddy - but only big enough for my 13" Macbook. I think you'd need the Big Fella or one of their shiny vertical cross body bags. I'll have this bag the rest of my life - it's wonderful how the leather is aging. I bet this checks all your boxes.
posted by sweltering at 4:24 AM on June 26, 2017


It also has a laptop sleeve!
posted by sweltering at 4:25 AM on June 26, 2017


My current work bag is Kenneth Cole. All your must-haves and some of your nice-to-haves. It has the advantage of looking like something an adult would carry. It's made of leather and is designed without a lot of bells and whistles and jangly bits.

(I recently saw them at my local DSW. I might go back and buy a few for the future.)
posted by booth at 11:17 AM on June 26, 2017


I know exactly what you mean about straps/velcro chewing up and destroying clothes. I use a couple different Matt and Nat bags for carrying my laptop (but it's a 12" laptop). They're gorgeous and vegan, so much lighter than leather. I've been super-pleased with the quality. The larger ones I have have both handles and a crossbody strap. They're not much for interior pockets, but I use pouches anyway because I change bags almost daily.
posted by crush at 10:31 AM on June 27, 2017


I don't know what your aesthetic preferences are, but I love Freitag bags, and get lots of positive comments on mine everywhere I go (people stop me in the street to talk about how great these bags are). They're made from old truck tarps + seatbelts, so they are super durable, completely waterproof and don't tear up your clothes all. They also come in all permutations of "bag" you might want, so if you're into the look, they probably have something that will work for you.
posted by annie o at 9:32 PM on June 28, 2017


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