Commuting Bags

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For quite a while I’ve wanted to write a follow-up to my “Defending a Man’s Bag” article, one of the most popular I’ve written. Well, here it is and I now suspect that these updates will be an ongoing project. As I am now expecting my first child, due sometime this summer, the bags I carry will soon serve a totally new purpose. I now have to reevaluate their functionality with new eyes. I’ll be moving around not only with my own stuff, but roughly a ton of baby supplies as well.

This got me to thinking about the kinds of bags best suited to commuting, an equally daunting task usually measured by how hard it is to get home should something be forgotten. The further away from home base equals the amount of stuff you stuff in the bag.  When I speak of commuting here, I’m excluding those of you who travel by car. You don’t factor into this one; just those (me included) who must tote their worldly possessions slung over a shoulder day after day.

Currently, I have an olive drab Jack Spade Day Bag that I use for day to day commuting. It’s essentially a small messenger bag, perfect for a book, wallet, agenda, mobile phone, Blackberry, etc. It’s simple and neutral – fine for business related travels. The problem is that I also have a laptop with me every day and with that added to the mix, the Jack Spade bag is too small.

So, I actually carry two bags.  The laptop goes into an ever changing variety of other bags – currently a very cool helmet bag from Flyboys.com, a supplier of armed forces pilot gear. It’s light and has a great military feel to it. As it’s designed to hold a fighter pilot’s helmet the bag is also cavernous. It was inexpensive and meets my needs for an informal commuter bag. Namely, it carries a lot without being bulky, has a good number of well placed pockets and is very durable. All key points for a good commuter bag.

That said, I really need a single bag that does it all. In a few months I’ll have to pare down to only one bag so it better be a good one. It needs to act as a classic “man bag” and hold all the stuff I need every day (which will now include spare diapers, bottles, etc.), as well as a business bag that can handle a laptop, files and other work materials.

The other issue is that when it is loaded up, there should not be any physical discomfort; no shoulder strains or aching back. Oh, and it needs to have some good, classic styling that can take me from errands to office.

How hard can that be?

I’ll let you know, because over the next month or so, I will be searching for that elusive commuter/dad bag and will report back on my findings. After some preliminary scouting a few have come to my attention.

Jack Spade (no, I’m actually not a paid endorser) has a pretty good version in the “Field Bag.” He also produces a specific dad bag, but so far as I can tell, it’s just a Field Bag that comes with a changing pad.

On the casual side, Timbuk2, the classic messenger bag maker, also has a good option with its large original messenger bag. The great thing about this brand is that you can choose your own colors when ordering online.

Of course, if you don’t want to carry a shoulder mounted bag, the granddaddy of classics is the LL Bean Boat & Tote. Perhaps one of the simplest yet versatile bags, it has achieved iconic status for many folks.

Whether you are looking for a basic everyday man bag, a commuter bag, or a dad bag, the same rules apply for all. It should meet your functional needs, be sturdy, have enough interior pockets to keep things organized, and have a distinctly masculine look to it.

I’ll let you know how my search goes and let me know if you have any suggestions of your own.


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Chris Hogan, an association executive based in Washington, D.C., blogs at OffTheCuffDC.com. A lifelong interest in style and clothing led to sales and management positions at several Ralph Lauren stores and an active wardrobe consulting practice