Awesomely detailed backpacks, bags and luggage
June 1, 2021 1:43 PM   Subscribe

I am looking for the Swiss army knife of bags. Things I like or need: a laptop sleeve, lots of places to attach carabiners, organizational pockets with places for all kinds of little things, pencil and pen sleeves and space for other small things like that, wet/dry compartment for wetsuits or whatever, skateboard bungee cables, water bottle holder, and lots of pockets.
posted by jitterbug perfume to Shopping (17 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Tom Binh makes some solid bags with thoughtful features and a lot of accessories to customize them.
posted by mumkin at 1:54 PM on June 1 [3 favorites]

I am finding most of these features - incl. a wet/dry compartment, an insulated compartment etc in a NAPPY BAG ("diaper bag"?) (second-hand from my niblings). SO, SO practical. Has an inside full-width pocket that fits my laptop. Loop for keys. Mesh pocket outside.
posted by runincircles at 2:04 PM on June 1

Japanese brand Nomadic has a lot of great bags (I carried one daily for years!). They're not the easiest to find it in the U.S. (I'm assuming you're in the U.S. -- apologies if not) but JetPens sells some & may ship some to the U.S. That makes them ... not necessarily the cheapest, but they're worth it.

(I did have to replace the shoulder strap on mine but that was after like 5 years of daily use. I still have that bag somewhere and I will likely never get rid of it because it's great.)
posted by edencosmic at 2:07 PM on June 1

I am looking for the Swiss army knife of bags.

Funny you say that. Victorinox makes backpacks. Mine is almost exactly what you're looking for, but unfortunately I got it as a 2-piece luggage set for a longevity gift at work, so I don't have a link to the model.

No specific wet/dry compartment, but there are 3 main pockets and the middle one is almost what you're looking for.
posted by hwyengr at 3:02 PM on June 1

Seconding Tom Bihn - I used to wear out a rucksack every couple of years, and the Brain Bag I bought in 2010 is still going strong in daily use (and abuse).
posted by offog at 3:03 PM on June 1 [1 favorite]

I own this backpack which I think (?) is what hwyengr may have been referencing. FWIW.
posted by forthright at 3:21 PM on June 1

The built-in wet/dry strikes me as the hardest component to find. Keep in mind that you can buy standalone drybags that you can toss into whatever you're carrying (you probably know in advance when you're likely to need one on a trip). TB is good for that kind of thing, as most of their bags come with ample o-rings for tethering whatever additions you might need.
posted by praemunire at 3:29 PM on June 1 [3 favorites]

I'd recommend Chrome's messenger bags, they have a tarp-lined big section that's separate from the laptop and books pockets.

Mission Workshop is another good brand for big, do-everything bags you can customize. I've used several of their backpacks and they're generally very well done.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 5:54 PM on June 1

Cotopaxi's Allpa backpack has a lot of zippered pockets, a laptop compartment, and various lash points. Also lots of colors if you look at the Del Dia option (basically a unique mix and match of colors based on whatever was leftover that day, and the whims of the sewers)
posted by mrgoldenbrown at 6:23 PM on June 1

I have this SwissGear backpack that ticks a fair number of your checkboxes (except wet/dry compartment) and I really like it. Lots of pockets and attachment points for stuff, with a separate laptop compartment.
posted by Aleyn at 8:31 PM on June 1

Maybe bit small (but who knows - gotta be efficient, everything has to do double duty) but I'm tremendously happy with my Gearslinger. I do site surveys in very rough terrain, plus a lot of on-the-road sales.

Gearslingers were designed to carry a laptop and (I understand) a handgun (so american!), but they work great for photography too as your camera is just there, but out of the dust, rain and mud. Tough zips and good buckles. Enough pockets inc. internal zipped, a bladder sleeve, a belt pocket ... room for all my tools and bits and bobs.
posted by unearthed at 11:18 PM on June 1

Mission workshop has a number of bags that work in this space.
posted by rockindata at 4:00 AM on June 2

Nomatic is not as difficult to locate, as mentioned earlier. They have a US-based website.

*EDIT* Apparently there is a Nomadic and a Nomatic. Different brands, but my recommendation still stands for the Nomatic. I have no knowledge or opinion regarding the Japanese Nomadic.

I personally use the Peak Design Everyday backpack as my daily driver and love the functionality of it. No wet/dry but that can be easily dealt with using an insert in any pack.

I would recommend perusing both sites, they both offer some pretty interesting designs.
posted by wile e at 6:31 AM on June 2

I used to yearn for messenger bags - which are built to withstand the urban environment, but never found one that actually suited my needs, but then I saw BlackLeotardFront reviews and now I am back looking at bags. And on a prior mefi recommendation we have a Tom Binh with no pockets, and the spouse uses it daily. This Binh has lots of pockets.

But lately I've just been getting tool bags for use around the house. I've got several Husky bags, which are the house brand at Home Depot (who are admittedly evil), but their bags are by far the most durable and useful bags I own. I've looked closely at the Milwaukee I have a couple of Klein bags, which are also nice but expensive. These are super tough, have tons of pockets and useful features, and come in a massive range of sizes. I have the largest bag in the Husky line, it's seen action camping, and was used for 4 years of baseball as a gear bag. It's dirty but in perfect shape. Many work bags have waterproof tubs for a base. The branding can be oof, but while I planned on putting a patch over the husky, I ended up just accepting it, now I'm fond of my 'work' bags. The magic phrase is "contractor bag", as these often include a spot for laptops.

A totally separate dry bag is how I handle that sort of situation, which has the benefit of irregular use and is essentially brand new and still seals. The prices for a straight dry bag are now impossibly cheap, mine is a 25l which is sufficient for individual use.
posted by zenon at 6:43 AM on June 2

For your "all kinds of little things" there are elastic grid organizers. I haven't used one but am intrigued.
posted by doift at 8:48 PM on June 2

Response by poster: Do any of these have skateboard straps or bungees? Thanks so much for the answers!
posted by jitterbug perfume at 5:18 AM on June 4

I've tried those elastic grid organizers but they didn't quite work. I think the latest innovation is a felt backing where you attach various Velcro-type "compartments" onto it, so you can customize it anyway you want, placement, size, etc. It's called Vertx Tactigami

It's primarily designed for military types but there's nothing stopping you from using it for your stuff.
posted by kschang at 5:36 PM on June 5

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