Best daily carry tips for the professional commuter
March 12, 2018 12:26 PM   Subscribe

Starting a new job in a few weeks (yessssss). I am going to be using mass transit to get to my job, which is wholly new to me. As a woman who likes to have access to ALL MY STUFF at any given time, what do you typically have in your bag and what makes your commute easier/more enjoyable?

I am in the process of either buying one biggish professional-looking work tote, or outfitting a current tote to work for me. If you have a favorite bag, that would be a nice tip too. I like the idea of a backpack but I don't know if it would work for my style.

I am trying to consolidate everything to one bag, that is, no separate purse. Still trying to figure out shoes - there's luckily not TOO much walking, but I can't hack it with heels all the time, and I have to stay biz-cas once I'm at work.

Mostly looking for the things that you bring with you on the daily that you find useful. My commute will be about an hour and change, depending on how close-to-schedule NJTransit is on a given day. I am trying to move closer, but that's another question for another day.

Here's my shortlist of bag contents:
Power brick
Mini deodorant/basic cosmetics (blotting papers, lip balm, moisturizer)
Medication (I need to carry motion sickness and IBS meds with me)
Small snack (crackers or other plain item)
Water bottle (thinking flat or collapsible bottle)
Wallet, keys, phone
Bag organizer?

The bags I'm looking at or own are pretty big - can fit a 15" laptop, but of course, trying to keep the weight in the bag as low as possible. I likely will not need to carry much work stuff with me in addition, maybe a small leather portfolio with paperwork is all.

What am I missing? I am open to spending money to get things that will make my commute more streamlined, more comfortable, more efficient.
posted by rachaelfaith to Travel & Transportation (45 answers total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
- tissues (impromptu sniffles attacks on the train are no fun)
- hair twisties
- plastic holder for transit card connected by lanyard to wallet for easily showing to conductor
- umbrella
posted by loquacious crouton at 12:30 PM on March 12, 2018 [2 favorites]

- lunch
- body glide if you are a skirt or dress person
- podcasts
- audiobooks always help me feel as though I accomplished something
posted by nathaole at 12:35 PM on March 12, 2018

Spring for noise-cancelling headphones, if you can. They are amazing. A little keychain-style holder of hand sanitiser hooked to your bag strap is nice when you're on public transit, because every surface is gross. See if you can stash a pair or two of goes-with-everything shoes at work, so you can just change into them upon arrival.

I've actually given up on style and started living that backpack life, and it's done wonders for my neck, back, and shoulder pain. I look like a dork, but it's worth it, particularly for a longish commute like the one you describe. Try to carry as small a bag as you can get away with, to force yourself to pack light.
posted by halation at 12:35 PM on March 12, 2018 [4 favorites]

I carry mini/travel sizes of cosmetics and maybe two days' worth of medications in a tiny pillboxy thing.

I'd look to see what you can duplicate/leave at work. Can you get a second power brick for your office?

When I had a super-long commute I realized I basically wore the same three pairs of shoes to work and just left them there to slip on when I arrived. I had a spare drawer, but you can get an attractive storage box to go under your desk.
posted by lalex at 12:39 PM on March 12, 2018 [8 favorites]

I just got a bag with a cross-body shoulder strap at Target and it's great. It's big enough to hold my 15.6" laptop, it lets me keep the top open for convenience or fold the flap over (with outside pockets for other convenience), and it's fairly light too. I wish the strap were padded, but it's not been an issue so far (though I haven't had a lot of weight in it yet, and it's gone over my thick coat, so our MMV).

Having the dang bag just stay on me without having to use a hand to hold it is WONDERFUL, and even more so when riding transit, where holding on with the closest hand to the handhold, with very little advance warning of movement, is super helpful.
posted by amtho at 12:39 PM on March 12, 2018

I've done the tote thing; as far as brands, Dagne Dover and Lo & Sons are the popular ones for the carry-everything crowd. I had the former, and it was waaaay too heavy and I eventually started to hurt my shoulder. I have since switched to a slim, nondescript backpack and it's significantly better for my body even though it's less beautiful.

I suggest a very small water bottle, with a bigger one stored at the office. Otherwise, weight can get out of control fast.

A kindle (e-ink type, for the battery life) is awesome for getting some reading in from anywhere/anytime (even one-handed).

Always-in-the-bag backup headphones if you're anything like me (particularly if you usually use bluetooth headphones that can die).

A small nylon bag (like a baggu bag) is a lifesaver sometimes.
posted by mosst at 12:43 PM on March 12, 2018 [2 favorites]

Besides noise-cancelling headphones or in lieu of them, I love to carry around some good earplugs. Sometimes I'm reading (ooh, make sure you have some good reading material) and don't want to listen to any music to block out the noise around me, and it's been a godsend on NJ Transit when someone just isn't following the quiet car rule or otherwise. (Just be careful walking around with earplugs in, just as you would with loud headphones).
posted by knownassociate at 12:51 PM on March 12, 2018

(and just saw the tag -- if your new job is with EDC, congrats! Super cool.)
posted by knownassociate at 12:52 PM on March 12, 2018

Also, for me: a few band-aids/blister pads, hand sanitizer (for stain removal more than its intended use), ibuprofen & claritin (in a contact lens case), tampon, backup battery for bluetooth mouse, pen, business cards, umbrella (the tiniest one that totes makes is small enough to be unnoticeable at the bottom of even a medium-sized bag), single-packaged nail polish remover wipe. I also rely on the microfiber screen/glasses wipe, the backup toothbrush, the spare shoes, the lip balm, and the hand cream at my desk.
posted by mosst at 12:54 PM on March 12, 2018

I had assumed the EDC tag was for "everyday carry" but maybe not?
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 12:54 PM on March 12, 2018 [3 favorites]

I keep a thing of Tide to Go in my bag as well as a Swiss Army Knife. The tweezer and tooth pick in the knife get a fair bit of use and the knife itself is useful for opening packages.

As far as shoes, I generally leave my dress shoes at work, along with polish and the like, and wear weather appropriate shoes on my commute. It isn't as fashionable but it keeps my shoes and feet in better condition. I also keep a toothbrush and toothpaste in my desk.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 12:57 PM on March 12, 2018

Yes, EDC was meant as 'everyday carry,' sorry for the confusion!
posted by rachaelfaith at 12:58 PM on March 12, 2018

Seconding the leave-stuff-at-work suggestion, if you can.

When you say power brick, do you mean "giant battery" or do you mean the power adapter for your phones and such? Power adapters should be duplicated, not carried, whenever possible. Batteries are good for carrying.

At my last office job (also a public-transit commute), I had deodorant, toothbrush/paste, floss; I had pain pills and allergy pills together in a little pill box that snaps shut. Antacid, bandaids, tissues. Haircomb. I do not wear makeup but if I did, I'd probably have some of that too. My general rule was: Have I ever had, or can I imagine having, something go wrong at work (or on lunch break from work) which would cause me to need some hygiene stuff. And that generally guided my purchases on that front. Specifically in the bag, I had a second pill box for the same reason, kleenex, a tube of antacid, more bandaids, and another comb.

Also in the what-can-go-wrong category: spare (wired) headphones, spare earbud cushion things, spare charging brick and cable for my phone/tablet (which ended up being an elaborate setup with a USB power unit and 4x 10' cables). In my bag I've got another spare wired headphones set, spare lighter/cutter for cigars.

Entertainment: tablet and phone covered that for reading and listening (podcasts, ebooks, audiobooks). Pen and a pad of paper or notebook.

Disaster prep: Flashlight, particularly if you'll be commuting late or underground. The only possible downside to carrying a flashlight involves the batteries going bad and ruining the flashlight. 10 feet of black paracord, which weighs so close to nothing, but can replace shoelaces or be some emergency rope/string. A plain handkerchief, useful for carrying stuff, bandaging small injuries, or, you know, dabbing your forehead or blowing your nose.

As usual with EDC, lots of it won't get used because of where it is, so rotate things over time to even the wear. Also, stuff in your bag may get damaged, dried out, leak, break open, whatever, so check through your bag and office stash every month -- every 3 months at least and see what needs cleaning/replacing/refilling/rotating.
posted by Sunburnt at 12:58 PM on March 12, 2018

I carry a little pouch that has a hairbrush, epi pen, lip balm, lipstick, advil, etc. that I can take from bag to bag if needed, but normally lives in my work bag. In addition to a water bottle, I also carry a coffee thermos that keeps beverages hot, because having a good cup of coffee on my commute to work makes the crowded NYC subway commute that much better.

I change shoes when I get to work, so I dont really need to travel with an extra pair of shoes - plus wearing sneakers to and from, and up and down the stairs just makes life that much easier.

I too had a Lo and Sons OMG, but now that I generally go to the gym after or before work, I just have a large Lulu Lemon duffel (not worth the money - was a birthday gift) but I do wish it had a designated spot for my laptop. I think there are some pretty stylish backpacks out there that might do the trick for you (Everlane, etc.).

Good luck and congrats on the new gig!
posted by something_witty at 12:59 PM on March 12, 2018

There are a lot of beautiful backpack options out there now in a range of aesthetics, so I'd definitely recommend looking around at the possibilities for the sake of your back. The main things to keep in mind are 1) you want a slim profile so that you aren't backing into people and 2) you have to be a bit more mindful of pickpockets, which means not storing anything valuable in the small outer pockets.

Apart from that, I'd strongly recommend keeping a few pairs of shoes at the office (everyone I know keeps a few in their bottom file drawer). You'll be much more comfortable, and also won't damage your nice shoes during bad weather.
posted by veery at 1:02 PM on March 12, 2018

I've walked to work every day for years & years, and the my daily bag for the last ~7 years or so has been the LL Bean Boat & Tote Medium w/ Long Handles. A zippered-top one might be better for public transportation where there's risk of it tipping over and/or pickpockets. My daily carries include: zippered pouch with an assortment of feminine hygiene products (at least 3 days' worth, in case I forget to refill mid-cycle), Totes compact umbrella, water bottle, lunch, book, and purse with the usual wallet/phone/etc. Boat & Totes are not the trendiest things ever but they are very sturdy and the shape works great for my needs.
posted by jabes at 1:04 PM on March 12, 2018

How good are you at keeping your phone charged? If sometimes you find yourself with no battery life, I might keep a mini power bank/charger.
posted by beccaj at 1:06 PM on March 12, 2018

Since your commute is an hour long and has the potential for screwups that turn it into 2 or more hours, I'd advise getting however large of a water bottle is comfortable for you. (Having a water bottle holder in my bag is really important for me, also.) For the same reason, I carry snacks that have a good hit of protein in them (nuts or whatever works for your health). It makes a huge difference in a stressful situation.
posted by wintersweet at 1:09 PM on March 12, 2018

Nintendo Switch / Nintendo 3DS
Bluetooth headphones
JBL Clip 2 Portable Speaker
Extra phone charger plug
Extra cables and power bank
Notepad + pen

I bought an Everyday Backpack 20L a few months ago and it has totally revolutionised my travel. Fantastic access to all my stuff. Comfortable, even when crammed full. The most versatile bag I have ever owned. You can grab them on eBay or Amazon for well under RRP.
posted by 0bvious at 1:10 PM on March 12, 2018 [1 favorite]

Once you total all the recommendations, weigh the lot. If the final weight is significant, it might be worth it investing in a small purse + tote - that way you can switch arms or distribute the weight mostly-evenly, and it's safer during a public transit commute than a backpack, plus more accessible in a crowd.
posted by I claim sanctuary at 1:12 PM on March 12, 2018 [1 favorite]

I used to carry a large bag, but found it awkwardly big, and it was only half-filled most of the time. So I switched to carrying a smaller bag, and keeping a larger empty one inside it for days when I needed more room. (I think your needs are different from mine but FWIW here is my everyday bag and here is the extra one; I adore them both.)

Here's what I carry every day:
-- phone & Airpods
-- laptop
-- mini umbrella
-- water bottle
-- medication & supplements in this excellent compact & durable box
-- lip balm
-- spare phone battery and cable
-- scarf for drafts
-- a few napkins for spills

I would aim to keep the weight down as much as possible, especially if you prefer a tote to a backpack. I find that six pounds total (including the bag) is about my limit: after that I start to get shoulder and neck pain. And a phone is all you really need for an enjoyable commute IME.
posted by Susan PG at 1:12 PM on March 12, 2018

For what it's worth, I commute with:
- this Leatherman multitool (You never know when you will need to open a bottle of wine on the subway.)
- a little bottle of hand sanitizer
- a little LED flashlight (the quality varies widely... camping equipment stores are a good source for flashlights. Check the batteries frequently.)
- a cigarette lighter
- a bandanna or a little hand towel... whatever is clean this week
- a sealed package of tissues (keeping them sealed is a formality. I carry them just in case I need to offer them to other people.)
- mobile phone, ear buds, and power brick
- notebook, pen, pencil, eraser
- reading material, usually a magazine or a paperback novel

I carry it all in a Samsonite brief case similar to this one.

I keep two or three pairs of dress shoes in my desk and change into them when I arrive. I also keep a phone charger at my desk so I don't have to carry one around.

I keep a card in my wallet with emergency contact information and a list of the prescription medications that I am taking, just in case.
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 1:17 PM on March 12, 2018

Seconding the Boat & Tote vote! Just be sure to get the long handles so you can put it on your shoulder.

You don't need a separate purse, just get a really small clutch-type container that will fit wallet, keys, phone and a lipstick (if that's your thing). I actually use an Orla Kiely cosmetics bag from Target because it's pretty. That comes out of my regular bag and is what I grab to go on a mid-morning coffee run or to go to lunch. There also are some portfolio-style wallets (think Vera Bradley) that have a slot to hold your phone ... in that case you might have to skip the lipstick.

It will be worth it to invest in "copies" of things so you can have one at work and one at home. Def. leave your 2-3 pairs of work shoes at your desk instead of toting them back and forth every day.

I also like to wear gloves even in warm weather while using public transport. I grab all the poles with abandon and then remove the gloves when I arrive where I'm going: unsullied hands! Doing this correctly requires buying 5-10 pairs of plain cotton gloves and committing to washing them regularly, but I find that it's worth it for my psychological happiness in re: public germs and nastiness.
posted by mccxxiii at 1:18 PM on March 12, 2018 [1 favorite]

Another thing to think about is outerwear. A cute but bulky wool trench coat is a huge pain on a long commute. A down coat that squishes up and can be shoved into your bag is much easier. Pair with a lightweight wool cardigan or a rain shell/light windbreaker as needed. If you're like me and you tend to lose things: always put your hat, gloves, scarf, etc. into your bag when you're on the bus/train. If you put them on your lap or on the seat, you might stand up and forget them. It might also just be warmer on your way home than it was on the way in, so make sure that there's extra bag space to stash outerwear.

My every day essentials: hand lotion, chapstick, spare hair tie, spare pad, a couple band-aids, tissues, headphones, comb, e-reader. The really important things (wallet, phone, keys) have designated pockets so I can give those a quick pat on my way out the door and be sure I have them.

Bluetooth headphones are really nice. No getting your cord tangled up in your scarf or caught on a bus armrest or something. I keep their charger on my desk at work so they get plugged in every day as soon as I get in.
posted by mandanza at 1:23 PM on March 12, 2018 [1 favorite]

Nthing the idea that you should think about what you need during the commute (headphones, water bottle) vs. what you could leave at the office (a phone charger, some neutral shoes), depending on your space.

Regarding the bag itself, I had the same thought you did about the idea vs. style of a backpack, and wound up getting a convertible backpack/crossbody bag so that I have multiple options, depending on how stuffed the bag is.
posted by trixie119 at 1:26 PM on March 12, 2018

An umbrella, gum, hair ties if you need them, and tissues are the obvious things you're missing. I also carry a pouch with pens, business cards and a tiny notebook, but that's not strictly necessary.

I keep both a resuable tote and a plastic bag or two in my purse (as a person prone to motion sickness, it makes the moments when you feel like barfing less stressful to have a plastic bag on hand - I've never had to use one for that purpose but have rescued dog walkers short on poop bags). On a similar note, I'd recommend using a large, wide-mouthed water bottle (like a nalgene) that you can fill halfway with water and ice before leaving home. I find icy cold water super helpful if I start feeling nauseous on public transit.

I have one of those ubiquitous free people totes. It's held up pretty well (still looks decent after at least 2, maybe 3 years), and I really like the interior pouches it comes with for organizing my stuff.
posted by snaw at 1:30 PM on March 12, 2018

If you are interested in possibly getting a backpack, OGIO makes several backpacks that I think look a little dressier and more stylish that you're typical backpack. I personally used this one for several years, and it's still in nearly perfect condition. There's also this one and this one. They also have several cross body, messenger, and tote bags.

I've recently become a Tom Bihn fan thanks to mefi, but I think there stuff might be a little too casual for what you're looking for.
posted by litera scripta manet at 1:32 PM on March 12, 2018

I use a Tom Bihn Maker's Bag in black. It's a crossbody, which I find highly preferable over a tote for commuting. I think it's fine for business casual. It won't hold a 15-inch laptop, though.

iPad mini, earbuds, tissues, ultra-tiny multitool, a small notebook, a refillable tube full of Advil, lip balm, a few assorted lipsticks, a couple of hygiene products, a battery and its cord, multiple pens and pencils, a tiny change purse, a Flip & Tumble nylon bag that elastics up into itself so it's only about the size of a fist in case I go shopping. I use a TB Travel Cubelet to corral the battery/cord and a Travel Wallet to hold my most commonly used cards (Metrocard + ATM + credit cards + cash) that is clipped to one of the O-rings near the top so that they're very easy to fish out when needed. The Travel Wallet also has a wrist strap so I can take it out of the bag if needed and carry it with me separately. Another, real wallet with less commonly used stuff helpfully migrates to the bottom of the bag.
posted by praemunire at 2:24 PM on March 12, 2018

A neutral-toned smaller bag (clutch-type, envelope with strap, or pouch) within the larger bag, to carry makeup (and menstrual supplies, if applicable) to the restroom. It's also handy if you want to run errands on your lunch break (or even go out to lunch) sans the commuter bag.
posted by Iris Gambol at 2:35 PM on March 12, 2018 [1 favorite]

I commute (by car, so slightly difference scenario) between 2 offices that are 50 miles apart, and my weekly commute is about 500 miles total, so I am a pro at living out of your work bag! I keep a couple different zippered pouches in my work bag--I've also used a bag organizer in the past, but if the bag tips over or otherwise ends up upside-down, pouches mean everything goes back where it was much more easily!

I keep medications, band-aids and moleskin, nail file, small sewing kit, a pair of latex gloves (seems like overkill, but I have been very glad for them), mini eyeliner and mascara, hair ties, bobby pins, safety pins, travel toothbrush + paste in my "Oh shit!" kit, which is basically a big-ish pencil case.

I keep headphones, extra pens and pencils, other odds and ends like coupons or whatever, and some post-its in another little zippered pouch.

My third little pouch has business cards, my work nametag, which I rarely wear but would never be able to find if it didn't have a place to live, and has my work key and digital fob on a keyring that is sew into it.

In the main compartment of my bag I keep my wallet, planner, Kindle, and a notebook, plus my laptop if I need it, resusable shopping bag (I have way too many of these already, otherwise I would love to have one of those cute ones that goes into a stuff sack instead).

I have started keeping certain things at work so I don't have to take them back and forth: pretty scarf lives on the back of my chair, my work mug/spoon/snacks live in a drawer, etc. Because I drive, I keep an extra outfit and a couple of pairs of heels in my car, but if I have also, at times, kept a pair of flats in my bag. I just put them in a shoe bag and it's fine (just make sure they aren't smelly!)
posted by assenav at 2:47 PM on March 12, 2018

I carry small bottles of hand cream and cuticle moisturizer in my bag. If I can get a seat, I moisturize my hands during my commute. It's the only time during my day when I can put on lotion and actually let it sink in!
posted by radioamy at 2:53 PM on March 12, 2018

For specific bags, I really love my Fjallraven Totepack No. 2. It is canvas, with a zipper top, and it has long tote handles that can adapt into OK backpack handles, plus short handles for carrying like a briefcase. Handily totes my 13-inch MacBook in a neoprene zipper case plus paperwork and a change of shirt/lightweight jacket/stuff like that.

And for general advice, I third and fourth and nth those who say to try to keep more stuff at work and jettison some of the stuff you're planning on carrying. Mini-deodorant is adorable, but it will be very nearly as useful in your desk drawer (exception, I guess, if you routinely forget to put on deodorant in the morning).

If you're a person who menstruates, one or two of your product of choice is well worth the weight! And lip balm is a non-negotiable necessity for me.
posted by mskyle at 2:53 PM on March 12, 2018

Honestly, the best tip I can give for commuting (especially as a woman) is to get good at advocating for yourself and calling out bad behavior (often by men). If a guy is manspreading and taking up half of an empty seat, I've perfected this move where I sit down in a sort of swooshing motion and use my outer thigh to close his legs. I've also straight-up asked people to pick up the backpack that they have taking up an entire seat, or asked people to take off the backpacks that are inadvertently smacking me.
posted by radioamy at 2:55 PM on March 12, 2018

I have been using a large Timbuk2 messenger for almost eight years. It is not for everyone, but it works for me, as it has the advantage of being lightweight and expandable.

I carry:
- wristlet wallet with cell phone sleeve for when I want to go out for lunch.
- Pusheen accessory case with my chargers and headphone. (Linking because it is awesome and makes me happy)
- collapsible lunch bag
- Zojirushi mug
- Kindle Paperwhite
- Pill box with necessary medications
- a second accessory case holding my inhaler, lotion, painkiller and other miscellaneous sundries.
- 15" laptop (when necessary)
- fingerless gloves
- full size umbrella (when necessary)
- scarf, gloves, hat and other odds and ends (when necessary)
posted by theBigRedKittyPurrs at 3:48 PM on March 12, 2018

Oh, and I switched to a backpack and have gotten so many compliments on it! I actually have two: a smallish Michael Kors one (via Ross/Zulil) for when I don't have to carry my laptop/bigger notebooks, and a bigger one similar to this (but purchased at Ross, so $30 and a random brand) that has a laptop space.
posted by assenav at 3:51 PM on March 12, 2018

If you wear socks to work, keep a spare pair at work. Nothing like getting feet wet on the morning commute and having to have cold wet feet all day.
posted by 92_elements at 3:56 PM on March 12, 2018 [1 favorite]

Can you buy another power brick and keep one at home, one at work? I do this immediately anytime I get a new work laptop and it's such a relief to not have to a) remember and b) carry it everytime I go to/from work.
posted by Coffeemate at 5:27 PM on March 12, 2018

These are all really wonderful and helpful. I love the idea of having a small clutch packed with just enough for a lunch run, inside the bigger bag. I'll come back and update the thread in about a week with what I decided to pack.
posted by rachaelfaith at 5:28 PM on March 12, 2018

I refuse to carry an umbrella anymore. They’re heavy, they break, and anything that allegedly fits into a handbag doesn’t actually provide real meaningful rain protection if the rain is serious. Instead, I use a plastic rain bonnet that lives in my bag. It weighs practically nothing, and keeps my head warm, which has the greatest impact on my personal comfort. I could be soaked to the bone as long as my hair is dry in summer. For winter, my coat is wool, which is sort of water repellant but also doesn’t feel wet until it’s well and truly soaked.

My other suggestion for all people who menstruate is pantyliners and a slim tampon. I don’t carry a menstrual cup with me all the time and sometimes you or a friend/stranger will have a period emergency.

The thing I’m always stressed out about is the rats nest of cords. I have little plastic cord winders from kiklerland that are great but not sized rift for my headphones, and the laptop cord is it’s own nightmare. I’m thinking about a silly DellaQ bag for it.

I did a thing a few weeks ago where I made a list of the things I carry and I’m keeping track/being mindful of which of those things I use. Spare nylon bag from Flying Tiger, allergy meds, ibuprofen, and some other things have gotten a lot of mileage over years. Some other things literally never got used. My bag is still too heavy when I have a computer in it, but carrying less has made things easier to find.
posted by bilabial at 6:14 PM on March 12, 2018

No one has suggested sunscreen! Even if you put it on in the morning, it's very handy to have an extra tube in your bag in case you need to reapply it. I keep some in my office too, but it's amazing how often I am out during the lunch break, or (in summer when it's light later) stop off somewhere on my way home and realise I am out in the sun and haven't reapplied it since the morning. You can get tiny tubes of it on carabiners that look like this for clipping onto your bag somewhere.
posted by lollusc at 7:38 PM on March 12, 2018

I use a tote bag with a purse that fits inside as it doubles as airport carryon. The laptop goes in a neoprene sleeve before going inside. I keep in mine my passport, Nexus, business cards, tissues, gum, umbrella, maybe some meds. My tote came with a little pouch for the small items.

My purse is large enough for sunglasses, keys, phone, wallet, badge, etc. The purse is cross-body strap so I typically wear it and carry the tote separate (unless the airline is counting personal items!)

I have room in my tote for sweater/shoes but I rarely bring them. I work in a casual office so my Frye’s boots are acceptable office attire all winter. Summer shoes are selected for walk ability. I keep in my desk bandaids, common meds like Tylenol/ibuprofen, sunscreen (it’s not needed in my bag as I apply before work), extra stockings.

Do not buy your bag until you have your laptop. If you are buying fashion bags (I have a hot pink leather tote bought from a Coach outlet at discount), you will want to test it with your usual payload. An older 15” MacBook Pro can be hard to fit sometimes.
posted by crazycanuck at 8:18 PM on March 12, 2018

Oh yeah, I forgot an important one for the office, but not as much for the bag: Cotton Swabs (you know, Q-Tips).

I used them on my ears once in a while (yeah yeah, you medical scolds, I know I'm not supposed to and I'll die of a horrible ear infection someday), but more importantly I used them to clean a lot of various things around my desk and in my pocket. For this, and many other items, I raided the travel-size section of my drugstore, and they came in a thin but hard plastic case. I later refilled that over time using the 10,000-pack one normally buys at the drugstore.

And trust me, you'll never get them lined up in the case like they were the first time, so just move on with your life.
posted by Sunburnt at 11:13 PM on March 12, 2018 [1 favorite]

"I am trying to consolidate everything to one bag, that is, no separate purse. "

I would absolutely find a small pouch/clutch with a strap of some sort that tucks in your big bag to carry your phone/wallet/keys and maybe medications and cosmetics, but that you can use as a separate purse when you're at work. Sometimes you're going to want to go out to lunch or whatever and you won't want to lug your whole EDC tote. You could also keep a purse in your desk at work, but it's just as easy to find a convertible clutch that can be a pouch in your bag but take a shoulder strap when you want it to be a purse. (There are tons of convertible clutches out there, that one's expensive, it was just the first one I spotted.) Generally you can store the shoulder strap in the clutch so it's handy.

I would also buy a cheapish bag at Target or Kohl's or whatever to start, which will wear out with daily use, but will give you an idea of what you want in your EDC bag ... you just don't know until you've used it a while. Once you've got a good idea what a perfect bag for you would be like, you can look for sturdier, more expensive versions that'll last longer and look nicer.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:22 PM on March 13, 2018 [1 favorite]

I'm in the UK so have always taken mass transit to work/college.

I have a Kipling shoulder bag at the moment (very cheap on Amazon) but usually any bag with enough pockets and at least big enough to hold a make-up bag and Kindle.I am rough on bags and tend to use them until they fall apart, at which point I instantly wish I'd bought three back-ups because it was the One True Bag. I've had Cath Kidston satchel bags before which work well. I don't work in a formal office, though.

I don't carry my laptop,so for me my basic every day carry is: oyster card and keys in the front pocket, tablet (8in), Kindle, cosmetic bag (I like something with two sections, I apply my makeup on the way - similar to the Orla Kiely bag linked upthread), wallet, headphones and iPod, extra sanitary stuff if it's needed that week. Things I should be carrying and invariably forget: tissues, my small camera, paracetamol, a water bottle (Ikea do a good twist-off top one, I need to get another as my old one has disappeared), a fold up shopping bag. I've often been tempted to get a Leatherman as I struggle with opening things sometimes, as well.

I manage to pack very very lightly when travelling away somewhere, but my EDC invariably ends up as a nest of receipts and redundant gloves, so be prepared to have a clear-out once in a while.

Something which has really enhanced my commute, though, are particular apps. I have cryptic crosswords, a colour gradient puzzle (at the moment, I Love Hue) and Zinio for magazines. All can be very relaxing at the end of the day. Sitting on the bus home gives me time to myself - I don't need to go anywhere or speak to anyone, all I need to do is sit.
posted by mippy at 6:25 AM on March 14, 2018

A cute but bulky wool trench coat is a huge pain on a long commute. A down coat that squishes up and can be shoved into your bag is much easier.

Heck. Yes. And on that note, if you're looking for commute-friendly outerwear, anything from the Uniqlo Ultra Light Down line is AMAZING and compresses down into a bag roughly the size of a large water bottle.
posted by helloimjennsco at 10:25 AM on March 20, 2018

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