Need a new bag for school!
July 22, 2008 8:29 PM   Subscribe

What bag do I get for going back to grad school?

Here are my requirements:

-Must fit my new shiny macbook (in its protective sleeve)
-Must be able to carry a few books, binders, and my lunch
-I'm living in Washington, D.C., i'd like it to be waterproof (and be able to fit my umbrella with the rest of the stuff)
-I'd like to avoid velcro if possible, I like the size of chrome bags and crumpler, but don't want to rip open velcro in the middle of class if i have an alternative.
posted by senseigmg to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (15 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I like my Jack Spade bag a lot. PROS: Waterproof, very well-built, nice color selection, clean modern design, lots of useful pockets and loops and stuff. CONS: pricey (I linked to their cheapest bag by far), no dedicate umbrella or water-bottle pockets, velcro. (Fine by me, but a minus for you.)

I also own a Brooklyn industries messenger bag that I've had for about 5 years now, and its great. PROS: plastic clip closures, messenger-style strap cinch (useful if you bike), lots of little pockets in and out plus a huge volume in the main sack. Bombproof. CONS: It looks a little on the techy side.

I also hear really good things about Timbuk2 Bags, although I've never owned one. You can design your own color scheme and even add a handle at the top to make it a messenger/attache.
posted by Cranialtorque at 8:48 PM on July 22, 2008

This one is cool and sleek.
This one is more explorer-adventurer-ish

For other commenters, the OP is a man (based on his other questions). Please correct me if I am wrong.

Also, senseigmg, how much do you want to spend?
posted by rmless at 8:52 PM on July 22, 2008

Banjo Brothers make Chrome-like bags. I have a backpack model and it closes with a clip, not velcro. It works well when I bike with it, as well.
posted by Camel of Space at 8:57 PM on July 22, 2008

Try Levenger. I have this bag and it holds my mac (12 inch powerbook) with room to spare. It's not waterproof per se, but with the help of a little leather protector it survived the humidities of Seattle and Houston so far. Plus it looks a little more refined than your average nylon tote.
posted by jschu at 9:00 PM on July 22, 2008

Response by poster: I'm not looking for a dedicated umbrella holder thing, but just some space to fit it in, its a small one anyway.

My friend had 2 timbuk2's and i feel so-so about them.

I'd like to keep it under $200
posted by senseigmg at 9:04 PM on July 22, 2008

Check out Overland Equipment.
I've had one of their bags for ~15 years and used it heavily, it has very little wear.

I also have a newer and larger bag by them and it holds everything.

My mother has one of their smaller bags which she uses as a purse and its lasted her several years which is a record for her.

A friend of mine has one of their laptop type bags and loves the way it holds her computer but doesn't scream "laptop in here...steal me".
posted by Confess, Fletch at 9:25 PM on July 22, 2008

Some of the Keen styles are velcro-less. Same goes for Tom Binh bags.
posted by chez shoes at 9:37 PM on July 22, 2008

Best answer: I just went through this too and ended up with a BBP Hybrid Messenger/Backpack Laptop Bag.

It doesn't have velcro, fits my macbook pro well and has lots of pockets [pocket geek]. The bag is messenger style but can also be converted in to a funky but super functional backpack. Oh, and it has a place to hold your umbrella!

I used the bag in Paris and commute daily via train with the bag and it is magical. Check it out!

Flickr photo of bag in action
posted by tarthur at 10:03 PM on July 22, 2008

I understand the Velcro problem, but still I think you should go for a Chrome bag.

What I've done in the past is to go to sewing stores and buy strips of half-fabric, half-velcro (very common and very cheap) and attach them on the existing velcro areas of my Chrome bag. This way, the bag closes and opens silently, and I just use the buckle-clips closures.
posted by suedehead at 10:17 PM on July 22, 2008

I understand the velcro concerns you're having, but I really can't recommend anything other than courierware's bags (velcro included). They're indestructible (seriously), hold a lot, and are waterproof. I've had the same messenger bag for 6 years of every day use in college and grad school and it's still in perfect condition. After seeing three bags break down in her first year of grad school, my girlfriend finally gave in and got one of her own. Courierware is a a small company that doesn't advertise much or have a lot of publicity, but I think their quality is unparalleled.
posted by eisenkr at 11:48 PM on July 22, 2008

Best answer: Don't get a messenger bag unless you plan on spending more time on a bike than off. They're not exactly comfortable to walk with when fully loaded. They're meant to distribute loads in a much different way than a backpack style bag.

Get something with shoulder straps. Your back will thank you. As far as brands, see above.
posted by onedarkride at 3:31 AM on July 23, 2008

My boyfriend has this bag, which he uses to bring his MacBook on his commute between home (Boston) and school (Providence) and he loves the hell out of it. It's a good size - fits everything you need but isn't too bulky to carry around.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 3:41 AM on July 23, 2008

I finally broke down and signed up for an account here just to second onedarkride's advice: don't get a messenger bag unless you're going to be biking most of the time! Maybe I'm just more sensitive to this than most, but I find that walking around with even a modest amount of weight over one shoulder gets unpleasant, fast. Wearing a backpack is so much more comfortable (I even prefer it when biking, really).

Several manufacturers of messenger bags also make backpacks. I've got one of these from Chrome bags, and it's been great. I use a laptop insert to keep my laptop happy. Everything stays bone dry, even in heavy rain. I like having the outside pockets, which aren't available on their "messenger" packs.

Timbuk2 also makes backpacks, although I haven't tried them out. I have a Timbuk2 laptop bag that, other than the whole only-one-strap issue, I've been reasonably happy with (waterproof, two water bottle pockets on the outside -- good for umbrellas). Mostly this has been converted into a diaper bag, since it hangs nicely off the stroller and keeps things dry inside.
posted by larsks at 7:24 AM on July 23, 2008

Nthing onedarkride. I have a Tom Binh Brain Cell inside of a Trager messenger bag - and while I love the combination, not having backpack-style straps is a MAJOR liability when traveling with it. Just spent about 20 hours traveling in and out of airports on Monday, and my left shoulder and neck still hurt - even though all I had in my bag was a paperback novel and my MacBook.

On the other hand, if you can find a bag that will accommodate the Brain Cell, I recommend it. Velcro, sure, but the hard-side protection is really nice. Guy at the Apple store a few weeks ago was impressed enough to jot down the name, he hadn't seen one before.

Piggybacking on the thread - anyone know where I can buy a backpack-style harness to convert a messenger bag into something more comfortable?
posted by caution live frogs at 7:24 AM on July 23, 2008

I second Tom Bihn, particularly The Buzz. Doesn't hold a huge amount but it's sleek, fits very well on the back, is a sling pack which allows you to put it on with one hand (great during a commute here on the DC Metro when getting on and off) and fits a MacBook. I love mine.

It can carry a few books but not a lot and I have squeezed my lunch in there too.
posted by Taken Outtacontext at 10:31 AM on July 23, 2008

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