I'm a self-professed bag whore, though I don't have the vast collection that some do. I love looking at bags, shopping for 'em, etc., but when it comes to making purchases, I'm pretty selective. I seem to get a fair number of questions from people hunting for the ideal bag, so I thought I'd post some recommendations to keep in mind during your hunt.
- Why are you buying this bag?: What purpose does it serve, what will its mission be? Laptop-hauling EDC bag? SHTF grab-n-go bag? Active shooter bag? Have a specific purpose in mind--it will dictate the features that you need.
- Keep Your Environment in Mind: Is this going to be a bag to take to the office? School? Or only for bugging out? Office bags will need to be somewhat professional looking, school bags can be more tactical and not draw much notice and anything goes for a pure bug out bag.
- How much space do you need?: Are you going to use this for over nighters? Do you need to carry a laptop and five textbooks in it? If you need to carry a fair amount of stuff, you'll need a backpack.
More after the jump!
- How quickly do you need to be able to access the contents?: Messenger bags and other shoulder bags allow you to quickly access their contents while keeping the bag on. To get to the stuff in a backpack, you have to stop, take it off, etc. If you need fast access, a shoulder bag is the way to go.
- How far will you have to carry it?: The further you have to carry it, the more important good straps and suspension come into play. If you're just carrying it a hundred yards from the parking lot to your desk, this isn't a huge consideration.
- What's your budget?: You can spend $20 or $600 on bags.
- Organization: How much internal organization do you want/need? I love bags with admin panels and little electronics or sunglasses pockets.
- What brands do you like?: Buy a bag from a brand that you trust, and one that you think looks cool too. Don't buy knock-off crap because you can't afford the real deal. Good bags last a long time, so don't be afraid to invest a bit.
For general EDC, I would recommend a quality messenger-style bag if you will carry under or around 10 pounds of gear. Messenger bags are easy to carry, easy to get stuff out of, and just generally pretty damn handy. I've heard good things about Timbuk2 and Chrome bags, and have a Mountainsmith messenger that's about 5 years old and still going strong. If you're on a budget, the Jack Bauer bag in the "Recommended Items" section on the right is a pretty great bag for around $20. I lean more towards black/subdued bags that blend in well.
In our laptop-centric world, those will most often be a big source of your weight, and may dictate the kind of bag you carry. A fullsized laptop plus cords usually weighs in at around 5.5-7.5 pounds--add a 32 oz water bottle and a few small essentials and you're getting into backpack territory. I know you CAN fit a lot into some messenger bags--I've done it--but do you want to carry that load very far? I mean ya, in some kind of get-home scenario, you could leave the laptop behind...but if your bag sucks to haul around on a daily basis, what's the point?
Much more than 10 pounds and I would recommend a backpack. I've done the 20 pound messenger bag, and it sucks for anything longer than a short walk. My current EDC bag is a Camelbak Urban Assault, which has worked well for me.
What's your EDC bag? Your favorite bag of all time? Looking at picking up something new? Drop us a line in the comment section.