One bag to rule them all
December 1, 2017 6:51 AM   Subscribe

Another "help me find the perfect bag" question. Seeking a bag suitable for work and personal life. Details inside.

My current setup is a wristlet inside a cloth tote bag that says Wonder Woman. I am taking a new job where I need to be a bit more professional than that.

I like a convertible backpack idea. Something low profile, vegan (negotiable for a really solid choice that lasts a long time), around $100 or less. I would like something that comes in camel, taupe, grey, silver or rainbow so it goes with everything. Something easy to keep clean.

I have a healthy back bag and it actually has too much dedicated storage, as this prevents times I want to transfer my things into something else. I don't like the bulk of professional-looking totes. Messenger bags annoy me but a backpack that converts to crossbody would be ok. Well-designed Messengers that won't slam my thigh when I walk are also ok. I have a small (overstuffed) wristlet with essentials that I would like to put in the bag and still have room for my tablet, maybe a legal pad, and a few other things. Hit me with your best shot!
posted by crunchy potato to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (14 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
I'm a big fan of the Chrome Yalta, which can be had on sale in your price range, and is available in olive or gray.
posted by aspersioncast at 8:03 AM on December 1, 2017 [2 favorites]

I'm not the biggest fan of their clothes, but do really like Lululemon's bags. They are fairly simple and streamlined, so can get away with them in some professional environments, but a little sporty and great for everyday personal use.

They often have backpack/crossbody convertible bags (though I don't see any available at the moment). I recently purchased their Festival Bag and love it. A lot of the butt/thigh clanging in crossbody bags can be mitigated by adjusting the strap and what you put in it. I think most are vegan (or not obviously made with animal materials), and can confirm that the 3 bags I have are pretty easy to clean, particularly as a clumsy and not very dainty person.
posted by raztaj at 8:07 AM on December 1, 2017 [2 favorites]

I just got a this daypack from North St bags. It comes in many colors, including black and kaki. They're waterproof, vegan, and slim but can carry a decent amount.
posted by kendrak at 8:10 AM on December 1, 2017 [2 favorites]

With the caveat that it is not vegan (mainly canvas but with leather handles and accents) I recently got this Fjallraven Totepack and I really love it. You can use it as a long-handle tote (not cross-body but it will sit comfortably on your shoulder), a backpack (surprisingly comfortable considering the narrow straps) and a short-handle tote. If you wax it it should be pretty easy to keep clean.
posted by mskyle at 8:19 AM on December 1, 2017 [1 favorite]

Have you looked at baggu? I like the basic shapes of their backpacks and totes; the colors are neutral and great; and they have lots of canvas options that don't make you look like a schoolchild. Not seeing a convertible backpack/crossbody but I haven't seen that option much in the world. They have a duck bag with shoulder or hand straps that looks nice.
posted by Lawn Beaver at 8:28 AM on December 1, 2017 [2 favorites]

Longchamp has some nice canvas options.
posted by aquafortis2 at 8:51 AM on December 1, 2017 [1 favorite]

I've gotten a lot of mileage out of my Tom Bihn Maker's Bag, which I think should be vegan (performance fabric, no leather) and does not bang against me when I walk (I think mostly a matter of the completely adjustable strap). It's a messenger bag, but can be worn cross-body or on the shoulder. It's of a good size to enforce discipline about what you carry. It is also very customizable--for instance, it's got several o-rings, so you can probably clip your wristlet into place inside with one of the keystraps they sell. If you choose one of the more conservative fabric/color options, it should be fine in all but the most formal professional settings (I take it into court, but I probably wouldn't take it to the Supreme Court).

I really like the look of this Metro Backpack and my other Boarding Pass (fka Owen & Fred) bag is nice and sturdy, but it's a step up from your price range.
posted by praemunire at 10:03 AM on December 1, 2017 [3 favorites]

I recommend checking out Kipling. They have a lot of practical designs. I was recently on a search for what seemed like the impossible bag, and they're the only ones who sold anything I liked. They offer lots of different types of bags, including a few convertible backpacks/crossbodies. Lots of color options too.
posted by bananana at 10:21 AM on December 1, 2017 [1 favorite]

This doesn't meet the vegan requirement, but the convertible backpack I've been most impressed with for messenger / backpack / professional looks has been this one: The Sak Ventura. It comes in different colors and looks fairly attractive in both backpack and messenger/crossbody form. I've tried one on on a couple of occasions but didn't buy it because I needed something that fit a laptop.

The Pacifica looks similar but is mostly canvas with leather accents (and cheaper, too).
posted by beyond_pink at 10:23 AM on December 1, 2017 [1 favorite]

I posted about my hacked SSCY Tack bag in this thread.
posted by evoque at 11:05 AM on December 1, 2017 [1 favorite]

I really love my LeSportsac Everyday Bag. Like: Really really really love it. Like: Will never need any other kind of handbag again love it.

It has just enough but not too many pockets on the outside for me to keep my wallet, phone, keys, and miscellaneous stuff handy and separate. It has one pocket on the inside for secrets. And I can fit my MacBook Air, my tablet, my notebook, and a book or two in it just fine. It's a crossbody, but the strap is wide. The strap is also adjustable and the range is sufficient for changing it into a bag that I carry over one shoulder or ensuring that if I wear it as a crossbody, it sits right where I want it to high up on my hip (and I'm very short). I like that it doesn't have a fold over top but rather a zipper, making it easier for me to get and out of that thing and fast. I have the red gingham one, and it goes with pretty much everything. It's not the fanciest handbag or anything, but I teach at a university and think the bag works just fine as a slightly quirky but still professional-looking accessory.
posted by pinkacademic at 11:33 AM on December 1, 2017

Yes, Baggu! Or Everlane (though I don't think they offer vegan leather). There's a brand called Deux Lux that I've seen at Nordstrom/Nordstrom Rack and they make cute vegan leather backpacks. I'd also browse
posted by blackcatcuriouser at 12:24 PM on December 1, 2017

I love my backpack from Danny K. Vegan and made in USA!
posted by MichelleinMD at 3:52 PM on December 1, 2017

I agree with Tom Bihn bags and as much I like the look of leather it's pretty heavy. I own a medium cafe bag and it's very durable for travelling around the city.
posted by chrono_rabbit at 1:06 PM on December 2, 2017

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