- Buyer's Guide
The Carry Awards :: Wirecutter Selects…
The Wirecutter is a guide to the best gear for your life. They spend hundreds of hours each month researching and testing products – so it was a no-brainer when it came to this guest post, they clearly have exceptional taste.
Daily Commuter — Mission Workshop Sanction HT500
The Mission Workshop Sanction VX has been my go-to bag for over three years because it strikes the perfect balance between minimal style and practicality. First off, it’s tough as nails. Three years, thousands of miles, countless hikes, and a dozen countries later, it still looks new when I take a minute to actually clean it. Its open-top foldover design keeps a slim profile when almost empty, but can be packed well beyond its 20L capacity when called upon. It has just enough easy-access pockets for small things on the front to be useful without dictating where you need to put every individual pen, keychain, and doodad. And while my bag is too old, the latest models have Arkiv rails on the shoulder straps to accommodate accessory pouches for holding a phone or other small items. Finally, while most bags of this style tend to go for looks over comfort, small touches like a mesh backpanel, slightly curved shoulder straps, and a sternum strap make the Sanction legitimately comfortable to wear across a variety of body types. There aren’t many other bags that fit my 6’2″ frame as well as they fit my partner’s 5’5″ frame.
The Sanction HT500 is the latest addition to the Sanction line and it has everything I love about my old Sanction VX, but adds a few neat features that make it the better choice for many people. The HT500 material is as lovely as it is tough. It has the durability of a 1000D ballistic nylon material, but the hand and appearance of waxed canvas. In fact, Mission Workshop says it will patina over time, much like waxed canvas. And while the VX costs $285, an $80 premium over the regular Sanction, the HT500 is just $225, yet still has the sleek Arkiv closure system. For just $20 more, it’s a no-brainer upgrade over the original.
Style for Techies — Incase ICON Slim
The Incase ICON Slim is the bag that has a designated place for every gadget, charger, and cable you can think of. But while past attempts to fill this niche end up looking like they were designed by and for IT administrators who rarely see the sun, the ICON Slim strikes a sleek profile that looks great with almost any outfit. But its looks are just gravy on top of a thoughtfully designed work backpack. In addition to the large organizer pocket, you get a decent-sized main compartment with a faux-fur-lined laptop sleeve and tablet slip, a zippered front slip pocket, a fur-lined glasses/gadget pocket at the top, and a waist-level pocket on either side that’s easily accessible while walking—perfect for a USB battery pack or some gum. Additionally, the whole bag is semi-rigid so it stands up on its own and maintains its profile regardless of how full it is.
Despite lacking some of the ergonomic features and separate laptop compartment of the full-sized ICON, we prefer the Slim because its sleeker profile makes the difference between a modern cut and “What’s he hiding in there?” Also, saving a chunk of change is never a bad thing.
Travel Companion — Patagonia Lightweight Travel Tote
If you want a companion bag to your main carry-on when traveling, it’s tough to beat the latest version of Patagonia’s Lightweight Travel Tote. It has all the features you’d want from a dedicated backpack, yet can also function as a tote thanks to its comfortable webbed shoulder straps. Despite its ample 22-liter capacity (about average for a daypack), it folds into a pouch that’s about the size of a $3 bag of chips and weighs just 14 ounces – that’s several ounces lighter than “ultralight” packs of similar capacity, let alone normal backpacks. That’s despite the fact that it has a padded back, straps, and bottom; waist, sternum, and compression straps for better load distribution; and several smaller pockets in addition to the zippered, weatherproof main pocket. Its ultralight material held up well over the last year of regular use, but should anything go wrong, rest assured that it’s backed by Patagonia’s legendary lifetime warranty.