Gear. It’s an essential part of workshifting. While you don’t want to be that guy or gal, you do need to carry a few things with you when you’re working away from the office. And I don’t just mean a laptop or netbook or tablet, either.
Whether you carry a little or a lot when you workshift, a good bag for all of that gear is essential. Here are a few pointers for choosing the bag that’s right for you.
Up to a point, anyway. You’re probably not carrying everything and a microwave oven. But you’re also probably carrying more than just your smartphone and wallet.
Look for a bag that has enough room to carry the tools of your workshifting day. At the very minimum, the bag you choose should have space for a notebook or netbook computer, your phone and MP3 player, some physical files, a paper notebook and pens, and a USB flash drive or two. You might also want to make sure that the bag has space for a book (or an ebook reader), your wallet, a bottle of water or travel mug, and some snacks.
The bag itself should have as slim a profile as possible, though. I’ve lugged bulky bags around and they’ve been an inconvenience to me and to people on transit. Duffle bags are out, as a some backpacks – way too bulky. A good messenger or courier bag is a worth holding on to. More about this in a little while.
I don’t know about you, but I usually need to get to the things in my bag in a hurry. Whether it’s pulling out my wallet to pay for a hot chocolate at a cafe, putting away my netbook, whipping out a USB flash drive, or getting to my Moleskine and pen to jot down a note, I don’t want to struggle with too many zippers or clasps.
A usable gear bag should have enough easy-to-access pouches of varying sizes – small for things like your wallet and phone, and larger for … well, for larger items. Velcro covers or straps for those pouches make getting to what’s in them easier.
No one like a bag (or anything else) that doesn’t last. It’s more than annoying; it adds another expense to your balance sheet. Over the years, I’ve owned a few bags that didn’t last 12 months. Straps frayed and broke. The outer shell tore. Pockets wore out. And I’m careful (almost paranoid) when it comes to my stuff!
You’re going to pay a premium for a durable bag. Even then, you’re not always assured of getting one that will last. There are a few things to look at when choosing the right bag.
First, make sure that the fabric is thick but not heavy. Thin nylon doesn’t cut it. In fact, it’s easy cut. Heavier nylon is good, and it’s lighter than canvas. Canvas, on the other hand, is tough and it’s a lot more resistant to water than nylon.
Next, look at the zippers. Are they thin or thick? Plastic or metal? And how strongly are they stitched to the bag?
Chances are you won’t just use your gear bag for … well, just lugging your gear. If that’s the case, then the venerable laptop bag just doesn’t cut it.
My gear bag (more on this in a moment) is also my carry on when I fly. And I use it as an overnight bag when taking short trips. So I need something that can carry my gear and my travel items. That means a bag that’s big, but not too big, and durable.
A few choices
There are a lot of bags on the market. Here are a few that I recommend, based on all of the factors I discussed earlier.
My favorite, and the bag I use daily is the Carry On Travel Pack from Mountain Equipment Co-Op (a Canadian outdoor and gear retailer). I’ve used that bag daily for over five years, and it’s been everywhere with me from around town, throughout Canada and the United States, and to China. Best of all, whenever I need to I can turn the Carry On into a backpack.
The Tom Bihn ID, while pricey ($140 USD), is well worth the price. If I wasn’t so attached to my Carry On I’d seriously consider one of these. The ID big enough for a laptop and your other gear. It also has enough pouches for any and all of your accessories. The main portion of the bag is also well reinforced with foam, which will protect your laptop.
While the design isn’t quite to my liking, I’m impressed with the Ogio Hip-Hop. Once again, it’s a bag that has more than enough space for your gear and offers quick access to your phone, MP3 player, and even your laptop’s AC adapter. There are also a pair of pockets on either side of the Hip-Hop for bottles of water or a travel mug.
What gear bag do you use? Share your favorites by leaving a comment.
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