The perfect laptop bag

The laptop has made us mobile – both free and enslaved – by the fact that we are able to work elsewhere. Not anywhere as even this technology has its limits. And mobility has its costs, among which is the need to carry our technology with us when we are practising the art of mobility.

Before ever leaving my home I check to make sure that I have the three basic necessities of life: keys, wallet and cell phone. Most often I carry more but this is the minimum of equipment needed to survive the city. But life is almost never lived at a minimum level and leaving the apartment usually entails a long list of equipment.

  • Keys, phone, wallet
  • Laptop (power source, VGA adapter, wireless presenter)
  • headphones
  • second cell phone
  • Memory stick, whiteboard markers, pens, highlighters, post-its
  • Cables to connect iPod, Camera & cell phone to laptop
  • Assorted work papers, at least one book & notebook
  • Work keys & key cards
  • Small digital camera (canon ixus 750)

in my bag

And this is just an ordinary day. If I am travelling to give a lecture outside my home university I will usually have an extra book for the trip and small portable speakers (my lectures often require sound). If I am travelling further afield (or to an intersting local location) I will also have my other camera if the trip is going somewhere good I will also have a large second lens. If I am going abroad the case will include travel documents and a guidebook in addition to everything else.

The best way to cart all this stuff around is with a laptop bag since I travel a lot I can honestly say that I push my bags high on the endurance scale so durability is probably more important than style (even though style counts). Another important characteristic is that the bag should be reasonably discreet so as not to attract attention while travelling. A bag filled with expensive technology should not look like a bag filled with expensive technology.

But what makes the perfect bag?

Lifestyle & transportation choices: If you wear a suit, never travel far and usually in your own car then a backpack or a messenger bag are not really for you. My work means that I rarely wear suits, usually use public transportation and walk/bike over relatively long distances. Which means I need my hands free and a comfortable strap.

Obviously the backpack is a very good choice for the heavy bag, it works well on a bike but is not too much fun on crowded buses or stores. So I prefer the messenger style. Its over the shoulder good for heavy loads and can be quickly taken off – also slightly more formal (huh?) when this is required.

Color and patterns: It’s up to you – but never pick a bag with a dark interior… it’s amazing how much can be lost in the dark corners of a laptop bag.

Size is everything!

Obviously the bag needs to be large enough to carry everything you need. But not too big! Spinoza said “Nature abhors a vacuum”  to express the idea that empty or unfilled spaces are unnatural as they go against the laws of nature and physics. The same applies to bags. Bags are never empty and if there is space for yet another book then it will be filled with yet another book (weight be damned).

Right now I use a Crumpler The Sophisticator 15 Inch Brown/Orange Laptop Bag which they have stopped making. The bag

is excellent and durable and fits all of my needs. But (you knew this was coming, didn’t you?) It suffers from the enormous drawback of being too large. So much too often I end up carrying to many books and slowly killing my shoulders.

Being too big is a very big deal. As is being too small. I am a big fan of Crumpler the Sheep Scarer backpack. But unfortunately this was too small for any situation where you needed to carry documents without ruining them.

So now I am begining to look for a new cool bag. The LAbesace Classic looks pretty good for carrying the tech stuff but I think that any books you attempt to shove in will be spoiled by the experience.  The Cantour Messenger bag looks like an intriguing choice – what it loses in usability it makes up for in mystery. The Australian company STM makes a whole line of bags which look good (Small Loft, Cargo, Brink and Alley). Booq makes the slightly boring yet cool Vyper Exo M[system] and the cooler Mamba Sling. MacCase looks like a big leather handbag. On the more odd side Renaissance Art makes a very cool and unusual leather laptop bag while Fuchs makes them in wool (very nice)! ZeroHalliburton does it in aliminium so does MacTruck.

Ah, the agony of choice!

The problem is that it is impossible to have a one-size-fits-all laptop bag solution since whatever I chose will be too much and too little depending on what I need to do.

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