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Buyers Guide

Eight Versatile Office Bags

by , March 30, 2012

New contributor: Say hi to John. Now let John tell you about office bags…

Why an office bag?

For those of us running up the corporate ladder (or at least trying to keep our paperwork tidy), a casual messenger or backpack just doesn’t cut it. Enter the office bag, the phenomenon that has been more iconic to business than stocks, skyscrapers and #OccupyWallStreet.

What does an office bag do?

To keep yourself together in the board room, you need a versatile bag that can carry the usual tech (laptop, phone, headphones, etc), cables, some paperwork, a notepad, pens, a snack, sometimes an umbrella, and sometimes an extra tie. If you’re old school; add a beige calculator.

Easy access and multiple compartments (you don’t want to fiddle around in your bag while your CEO is discussing your KPI’s), comfort in carrying (3-7 kilograms on a shoulder strap or in your hand) and protection for tech and paperwork are all key in an office bag.

Depending on your commuting needs, there might be some form of bicycle attachment, resistance to water, and/or light-weighting, which are all bonuses. There might even be an “up cycled” or environment-friendly material choice. Otherwise, it doesn’t have to be designed for running up mountains, crawling through mud or carrying your mom’s laundry. It’s an office bag.

What does an office bag look like?

Here’s the crux of it… an office bag has to look like you respect your fellow workers more than your trip to work. If it looks too sporty or comfortable, it looks like you care more about your trip in than fitting in, and if that was the case, you shouldn’t be wearing a suit/shirt/tie.

That means there’s a risk of being too techy, too funky, too bulky/outdoorsy/dull or bright. You bet it depends on what your office wears, so take it as ‘the more navy the suits, the blacker the bags’. We’ve picked a selections of bags that are both versatile and well built, but should look the goods in a variety of office environs. Check ’em out…

KILLSPENCER Courier

KILLSPENCER of course manufactures great quality bags with military-grade materials. Though mostly known for their weekenders and backpack, there’s the KILLSPENCER Courier. Though a bit far right on the expensive-spectrum, this is a well made bag, stylish and very functional.

Positives: military grade materials and a look that can survive both the board room and special ops
Negatives: limited space with 2″ width

Crumpler Dederang Heist

Crumpler are not well known for their office bags, but with the Dederang Heist they found an interesting angle. Really easy access compartments, highly water resistant materials including zippers, soft and solid handles. My only problem was the squeaky shoulder strap, which I had to replace to keep the neighbors from complaining.

Positives: highly water-resistant zippers, comfortable handles, easily accessible pockets, that slight hipness that separates it from the rest of the “normal” office bags
Negatives: squeaky shoulder strap, limited space

Hedgren Itto E

Hedgren used to be rad, then went a little south, but still have some well thought through designs. They’re a moderately priced brand with very functional designs. We’ve picked the Hedgren Itto E, because it also functions as a backpack.

Positives: doubles as a backpack, lots of pockets, competitive pricing
Negatives: slightly boring, slightly techy design

Tumi

Tumi make lots of high quality bags with well thought out pockets, materials and carry comfort. In the west, they are perhaps the closest equivalent to the salaryman’s carry of Porter Japan. They use LOTS of DuPont ballistic nylon in their products, which has been murdered in the last few years, but is still a legitimate material (if a bit shiny). Their design has been fairly conservative over the years, however Tumi has recently introduced some new collections that are more interesting.

For this post we went for the “Small screen expandable laptop brief”, which is from Tumi’s basic Alpha line. Being the “small screen expandable laptop brief”, it’s…. expandable (!), adding a ton of versatility. If you’re sporting a refrigerator sized laptop, the “large expandable organizer laptop brief” is also available. If you’re looking for more current styles, the Cornwall Triple Business Brief might be your catch.

Positives: indestructible materials, expandability, well organized
Negatives: techy look, price

Freitag’s Ben

Admittedly, Freitag’s Ben can be awkward if you’re a lawyer or a banker, but there are some elements that stand out in the Swiss manufacturer of bags. First, they use upcycled materials such as truck tarpaulins, seat belt straps and bicycle tires. Second, the compartments and carrying comfort are well thought out, and third, they make for unique and stylish bags. As for quality, this bag will hold its own. Also check out their Reference collection, which is limited issue.

Positives: funky look, up cycled materials, simple yet functional
Negatives: might be a bit out of sync in some corporate environments

Leather bags

We’re not always big on leather bags here, because most of them are sold for either the fact that they’re made from leather or that they’re design bags made from leather. They are rarely sold for being versatile and well built, although there are some exceptions.

Mywalit is an Italian maker of wallets. Some years ago they got into manufacturing bags and have done a pretty good job at it with their briefcase.

Positives: colorful frills, lots of pockets
Negatives: price, shoulder strap without soft pads

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BeauBags is a Dutch firm that specialize in making leather laptop bags. Their characteristic blue lining, along with some built in versatility and quality leather, make for an exceptional bag.

Positives: chique and stylish look, well built
Negatives: top zipper makes for less waterproofness

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Knomo is a London-based bag manufacturer, that has also teamed up with Apple to provide bags for the Apple Store.

Positives: design, easily accessible front pockets
Negatives: top zipper makes for less waterproofness

As always, this is just a small selection of office bags. We’d love to hear your suggestions, thoughts on what we’ve pieced together, what you love and what we’ve missed. Comment away!

Note: You’ve been reading the work of a new contributor, John. Who is this John? 

As an IT project manager, John is well up the corporate ladder. Commuting from Antwerp to The Hague daily, he is personally responsible for thousands of e-mails processed, documents read and paperwork carried. Did we mention he attended over 700 meetings last year? In his free time, John likes to carry stuff up mountains, on bikes and through airports. Although superhuman in many ways, John remains a really nice guy, and modest too! Unfortunately, he’s not as available as Lincoln…

www.twitter.com/johndog

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