Bags I Have Known
I'm an engineer and I travel a lot for work, which means that I need a bag that works well as carry-on and will hold various and sundry bits of electronics safely. I started out, as a lot of people seem to do, with the Bag of Holding. As advertised it holds a tremendous amount of crap: Laptop, headphones, iPod, books, magazines, misc. bit and pieces. And it organizes them fairly well. However, after about a year of use I ended up having 3 complaints:
- The construction is good, but not great. The ends of the zippers aren't as firmly anchored to the rest of the bag as they should be, which means that all of them derailed after 9 or 10 months of moderate use. Also, the padding in the laptop compartment wasn't tacked it place, resulting in it getting irreversibly folded over on itself.
- The shoulder strap needs work. There's no padding and it needs to be anchored more tightly to the hardware which connects it to the bag.
- It doesn't wear particularly well. The grey canvas ends up looking dirty pretty quickly.
When I was getting ready to change into a sales job I decided to ditch the Bag of Holding and find something that had better construction and was perhaps a bit more stylish. Searching for laptop bags turned up:
- Backpacks that were sturdy and capacious, but ugly as sin.
- Reasonably nice-looking messenger-type bags that weren't quite big enough.
After a prolonged period of searching I eventually realized, though I don't recall what sparked this epiphany, that what I really needed was a "DJ gear bag". Incanting those three little words to Google unleashed a torrent of "just what I was looking for". I ended up getting the EFX Producer from Mono, a product with which I've been superbly happy. It holds almost as much as a Bag of Holding, more than enough for even long flights, has ample pockets/compartments for organizing my stuff, and has so much structure that I worry not at all about anything getting damaged. It was even big enough to hold the monster HP EliteBook that I was issued for work. In comparison to the Bag of Holding my complaints with the Producer are few:
- Getting a laptop in and out of the bag requires completely undoing the top flap, which is generally not a problem unless you go through airport security all the time like I do. It would be nice to have zipper access to the laptop compartment from the outside of the bag.
- The bag itself is almost 20" wide when you include the external pockets, which means that it sticks out significantly on both sides when you wear it messenger style. This leads to bumping of people/things, especially when walking down an airplane aisle. It would be cool of there were an option to wear it long-dimension vertical like a backpack.
In generally it has held up well over 18 months of hard use (lots of international travel). But I recently started another job with a different set of requirements, a much smaller laptop and single day/overnight trips. The Producer is great as a carry-on if you've got a second bag, but it's the wrong size and shape for an overnight bag.
After having such a good experience with the Producer I decided to go back to Mono and see if they had something that would fit the bill. Sure enough they've got a larger, backpack-like model call the FlyBy which can hold my reduced volume of gear and a change of clothes comfortably. And it looks pretty nice as well. I'm currently putting it through its paces and expect that it will suit my needs well.