What's in a Bag?

I'm always carrying a book or two with me. Whenever I go out, I always have to bring along some bag that is usually filled with books and pens. I've been this way since I was a child. These days, of course, all I really need is a hipster and pen to be entertained, but when I go on vacation or away for the day I need to have a few other things with me. Therefore bags have become necessary extensions of my "writing/artist" kit. Which bag I choose usually falls under one of the following 3 categories: everyday use, computer use, and specialty usage. Depending on where I am going and what I plan to do, I'll select one of these three bags.

My daily bag is a small, black messenger bag, featuring my favorite cartoon character Gir from Invader Zim. It measures 12" x 13" so it's not insanely big but just big enough for the few things I need to take with me, either to work or to the next gaming session. Inside, it contains a small book or two, my hipster, a tarot deck and a pen or three. Sometimes, I'll slide my iPod in it as well, but mostly that slides into my jacket pocket. On the weekends, everything comes out of this bag and I convert it into my gaming bag. During this day, it carries my dice bag, my player's manual and my outrageous neon green clipboard that holds my character for D&D.

On longer trips, I need to bring my computer as well as books with me, so I use a computer bag. Computer bags are an interesting breed of bag. They can be as large as luggage, allowing you to take everything with you, or as small as a slipcase that offers minimal protection for your system. I carry a Powerbook 12" G4 laptop, named Smudge, with me. Therefore the long trip bag not only needs to carry books and pens but now needs to include space and protection for Smudge and a travel power cord. My search for my preferred computer bag ended at Tom Bihn. I chose a slingback bag called the Buzz, that was made almost exclusively for my system. Not only does it provide adequate storage and protection for Smudge, but it also contains enough space and pockets to carry 3 books, my tarot cards, my travel power adaptor, hipster, a few pens and my iPod.

The third type of bag that I use, is a specialty bag for those few occasions when I get invited to an all-weekend art-fest or long distance art classes where I need to bring just about every piece of art supply I own. In this case, a normal backpack just doesn't cut it. That’s why I bought my ideal "artist" bag. The Weekender by Generations is an excellent weekend bag for the book or paper artist. This bag is huge. As my husband told me, "It carries everything AND the kitchen sink." I was able to fit everything I felt I needed to have with me to make art, including the following: a 9 x13 200 page book, 6 glue sticks, scissors, rubber stamps, markers, pens and pencils, as well as all the assorted paper and paper collage materials to fill the book's pages.

The Weekender also has big, deep, mesh pockets on the inside of the front and back of the bag that allow me to organize and put even more things into. Dividing the bag into thirds is a plastic folder with even more plastic pockets and holders that allow me to slip paper into the backpack so it does not fold or get ruined; there's even stretchy loops on the backside to secure pens and scissors and glue sticks down so they don’t get lost in the bottom of the bag. This backpack saved me from having to use a multitude of plastic bags and boxes to haul all my book art gear on a 6 hour drive down into Oregon two weekends in a row. If you are into altered arts, scrapbooking or are planning on attending a large art festival, I highly recommend you look at this bag or other products like it as a way of hauling all your gear around.

I'm also a tinkerer, so I’m constantly refining and trimming down my lifestyle and the things I want to carry with me. I used to own large backpacks to haul my daily needs with me. I'd cram 3-4 books into it, even though I knew there’d be no time to really read them all. Bills and papers were slipped between the books so they didn't get smashed. And for awhile this worked just fine. Until important bills or paperwork started getting lost or folded over themselves. And I started feeling guilty for not having enough time to read the books. Carrying all that weight also started hurting my back as I struggled to carry it to my car and the office. Therefore I allowed my inner tinker out and with a bit of planning, I refined my bag systems down towards the smaller and lighter versions.

Here's some tips I've used and thought about when I'm hunting for the next best bag:

  • Plan ahead. Think about all the items your bag will carry. Will one bag be enough, or should you think about multiple bags, like I did?
  • Style matters. Do you want a backpack or messenger bag? I prefer backpacks over messenger bags because my shoulders are not wide wide enough to have bag straps sit on them comfortable for long periods of time. The straps inevitably cut into my skin and only irritate me. Yes I love my Gir bag, but it's not something I'd take with me to the airport or on long commutes where it needs to be worn.
  • Try before you buy. Make sure the bag fits your body and feels good and that you can carry it when it’s filled with heavy books.
  • One open space or a million pockets. Does the bag contain enough internal compartments to fit all your stuff? I love bags with pockets and pouches. When I need a pen, it's always right there in it's slot. They also save me time, everything is where it should be, and I am not digging deep into the bag just to find that one item.
  • Price and fabric. How long will that nylon bag last as opposed to the ballistic nylon or neoprene bag? I prefer shelling out a little more for a bag that will last me 5 years as opposed to the bag that lasts 6 months of heavy use.
  • Ergonomics. How well does the bag fit your body. Are the straps padded? Does the bag strain your body in anyway? If it does, you may want to consider a different shape or style.

Remember, a bag is a nice accessory that keeps your books, planners and computers safe for when you need to be mobile. Don't let it become a sinkhole for storing more than you need at any given time. Make your bag work for you and not the other way around. And above all, carry simple; don’t let the things or the bag get in the way of what is most important to your life and your goals.

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What's in my bag?

Over on Filckr, many people are posting the content of their bags, complete with the pop-up description of the single items. That could satisfy curiosity but the comments to the photos are also useful. Have a look in this group: http://www.flickr.com/groups/19253565@N00/ ;-)

Sore Subject!

The subject of "bags" is verboten in my house. I don't know how I ended up this way, but I have a mild bag fetish. I'm always looking for the next best daypack for hiking or laptop bag for travelling. In fact, I'm using an upcoming trip to FL for work as an excuse to buy a backpack laptop bag... I really like that Tom Bihn "Buzz" bag you linked to, but it's a little steep if I want to stay married!


I'm the same way. My

I'm the same way. My boyfriend was rolling his eyes at me as I was reading this post yesterday. He doesn't understand why I need a light bag for going out, a large tote for my school books, and a medium tote for when I'll be out all day nor why I can't help but browse through bags whenever we're shopping.


Being a male makes it worse.

Being a male makes it worse. It's generally more societally acceptable for a woman to have a bunch of "bags," but men get more strange looks...



"Man Bags"

I know the feeling. If it isn't a unisex backpack, it seems the key is to get one that's khaki or olive colour, or with a "manly" logo like Swiss Army, Jeep, or WD-40. ;-)

Barring that, just look like you're having a very bad day, so no one will comment on your "purse" without fearing your manly retribution. Bonus points for not shaving, combing your hair, or covering up one's natural manly scent with something as wimpy as cologne or deodorant. (Well, except Old Spice... that's allowed.)


(another man-bag addict)

A manly bag -- Eagle Attache


Ballistic nylon, roomy enough on the inside -- and a secret stash pocket for your pistol.

Yes, I do live in Texas, why do you ask?

Do you procrastinate?

Statute 30.06

You can get fined if you don't have a conceal carry permit.

Brokeback Bag


So if your shoulderbag is green and yellow and sporting the John Deere logo, people will make less assumptions than if it is purple? It would probably help to have a copy of The Wall Street Journal or Field & Stream sticking up from the rear pocket.

I should open a store on eBay selling imprinted bags and other crap from outfits like MATCO TOOLS, Peterbilt, Kingsford Charcoal, Black & Decker, Winchester, Lorcin(9mm pistols) and so forth.

Shipping is free if you use my link to subscribe to Wall Street Journal, Field & Stream, Car and Driver, Maxim, STUFF, Truckin' Kiplinger Financial, Scientific American, Wired.

I should shut up, I guess. Mine is a black canvas bag from Rothco, who sells military knock-offs.

There's a good business idea there...

Although most of this thread has been decidedly tongue-in-cheek (or so I'm assuming... I'm a little dense at times), there does seem to be a market niche yearning to be exploited... er, served. So I'm sure someone is already pursuing it....

Meanwhile, for those manly men still flailing around looking for something that looks less like a fashionable accessory from Sex and the City, check out the It's not a purse! page.

Me, I'll probably just stick to my discontinued Eddie Bauer guide bag (town use) or my rugged leather and canvas WWII Swiss Army haversack (woods use) for now. Though, I must admit, those Victorinox laptop/gadget backpacks are singing their sweet siren song every time I visit the local Staples....



In parts of Europe it is exceptable for men to carry what looks like a wash bag rather than spoil the line of ones clothes and I would love to see this practice extended. I think the answer really is to make it more Gung-ho perhaps in urban camo with an inbuilt holster; sorry, I'll get my coat...

totally agreeing here

I agree with the under-ratedness of bags. Although the first thing my husband said after reading this article was "you forgot to add the dillo." Which, if you knew me, is a reference to the armadillo handbag I carry around as a purse. I told him that if I wrote about "purse" bags I have (2 of them, a cat and the dillo), I would not be connecting with the audience. And as you all pointed out, if it's not a big bag... men will shy away from it.

I also debated on writing what my husband uses to lug his equipment around in. But decided against it. He's a budding industrial musician and computer/gadget boy, so not only does his computer bag carry his 15" powerbook, but he's able to stuff a small controller keyboard (sometimes 2 of them), his proDJ headphones, a wireless mouse, and all the cords to run the equipment in one single bag. It's amazing what a bag can carry.

Of course, I think it's perfectly fine and natural to have more than one bag, I mean... it makes sense to tailor them to fit the experience. Not the other way around. :-)


Purse shopping

I don't carry a purse right now, but I am shopping for my first (two) post school purse.

I carry these things with me to look at purses
. A standard size and a trade size paperback
. My favrorte quatro pen (it is too chunky for a lot of pen loops)
. My fat cell phone
. My planner book

I expect a bag to fit all of these things, although I do have flexabilty on fitting two books, one and my planner is usually enough.

I also think a bag should not hold much more then this, what you carry expands to fit the space available, one way to lighten your load is to keep your bag small.

When I find a bag I like I like to buy the same bag in black and brown if possible so that I can change up without cponfusion.

Post school purse?

You're right Melissa nature, politics and bags abore a vacuum but what is a post school purse?

Post School Purse Defined

I post-school purse is something you can carry with a breifcase, is made of leather or the like and matches your dress shoes.

Basically it is a dressier bag use with a suit.

Fred and Ginger bag...

Thanks for the definition sweetie. Hmmm, this gives me an idea. Instead of macho man-bags we need something more conservative... I give you the Fred and Ginger patent leather he + she purse the hight of sartorial elegance... Still think it needs a Swiss army knife pocket tho' ;)

Justifying a Tom Bihn Bag

Check out the Kevin Kelly review site:


Think, justify, rationalize and plead!

Oh yes, every trip almost

Oh yes, every trip almost cries out for a new bag.

My wife has her shoes and I have my bags; and once I
pointed this out her commentary about by 'bag-i-fi-cation'
has gone almost to zero.


Bags within Bags

I understand Innowen's interest in bags, as I share it, but I also am as interested in good bags to hold all the little odds and ends I put in my major bags. I am using a 25 year old daypack (being a scientist lets me get away with this), but I need to organize the flash drives, etc., so they don't swim about in the top flap pocket and the main compartment bag. I use CLC bags, a cheap nylon zipped bag source you can find at the big-box hardware stores like Home Depot, in the tool belt section. Much much cheaper and as effective as the zippered ditty bags you can get at the outdoor sports stores. I also use a plastic box clipboard that opens to hold 8.5 by 11 documents without getting them all smushed. Available at office depot etc.


ps. This probably identifies me as a tinkerer.

Mesh bags


Great addition to this. While I don't use a lot of tinier sacks for dividing my things in my bags further down. I know a lot of my craftier friends who take mesh fabrics and sew them into their own bags or create inner bags for their packs. Other than my small purses or bags, I really don't use small organizer pouches.

I second the idea of using plastic folders to keep papers safe. I purchased a pack of 10 folders designed for my 12 x 12 papers and other ephmera safe from the confines of bags.