Simon Crompton writing for the style journal Financial Times:
The vogue for men’s bags has now hit full stride,” says Alessandro Sartori, creative director of menswear brand Berluti. “It has taken a decade to get here but bags are now an essential part of every menswear collection. Men carry them; we design them. They are everywhere.
Oh, hell to the yes.
My life outside my home has always been the most convenient when I am commuting to work, when I am traveling, or when I am on a day outing with the family. And the reason for that is simple: I have a bag with me during those times, for the entirety of those times, and said bag has things which make my life (and my family’s life) better in small and sometimes large ways. So, after thinking about it, and looking through Reddit at what other people do, I decided I should try carrying a purse.
And yes, purse is the correct word here, not man bag, not murse, not man-purse, not EDC bag, or dad bag, or my kit: purse. Purse is the word you are looking for, you can get over it or not, I don’t particularly care. Because you should carry one, regardless of what you call it.
Anyways, long story short: I decided that I want to carry a bag most everywhere.
The next step then was deciding on what type of bag I should carry everywhere. Being a huge proponent of backpacks, my Bullet Rucks seemed a natural fit. Except — no that doesn’t work to well. It feels weird to make this bag be a backpack as it feels like overkill and it looks like overkill.
So what about slings? Those one strap backpacks which are ever popular. Well, slings are dumb, the worst of all worlds. They are a compromised bag. Not as convenient as a shoulder bag, not as comfortable as a backpack. And stupid looking. Don’t carry slings.
So I wanted a shoulder bag. Shoulder bag it is, as they are practical, easy to access while on the go, and easy to move out of the way. They work really well for a small carry like this.
And Then A Pandemic
You see, the thing is, I started this long before the Pandemic hit. I started getting geared up for this back in mid-to-late February. I had trips planned and I wanted this bag for those trips, as well as for the coming months with my family. I wanted a bag I that would withstand my kids, but also one that looked nice enough to carry on trips with just me and the wife (particularly a now cancelled ten year anniversary trip we were planning to Switzerland). I did take it on my trip to Mexico, just before returning to Texas locking down. (I came back from vacation to go into the office for one day before the lock down.)
The thing is, I think such a bag is even more prudent post/during a pandemic than it ever was before. Before it was about me making my life generally a little easier. Now this is a bag which can carry critical items to help keep us safe as we try to return to a world lived in more areas than just our home. If this was a smart addition to your life before the pandemic, it’s a no-brainer now.
So, having said that, let’s get back to the gear…
Ok, so the big thing is: what do I carry in this bag? This started because I wanted to carry wipes, hand sanitizer, and my sunglasses. Oh, and battery backups, a notebook, small first aid kit. Basically, some simple and helpful items for everyday life. And yeah, maybe an occasional thing I bought, or sweaters for the kids because the AC is strong in restaurants and life is too short to hear them complain about something so simple to fix. Normal stuff, stuff that would otherwise require cargo shorts and cargo vests to accommodate without a bag. Life stuff.
That was my original thought, and now putting the bag through its paces here is what is actually in it:
- Small fixed blade knife (I go back on forth on this one, it’s great for walks in the woods, but not for much else.)
- Lochby Tool Roll
- Biolite Battery Backup (Not recommended, I just have it already)
- Pill case with Advil
- Small Titanium Prybar
- Brass Compass
- Dyneema Cord
- Native Union Charger
- Zippo (I prefer Zippos because they are somewhat wind resistant, but also provide a flame, which can be more handy than a torch.)
- FourSevens Flashlight
- Kershaw Pocket Tool
- Rite in the Rain Pen
- Grafton Pen
- Lightning Cable
- Lockpick Card
- Nite Ize S-Biner
- Extra AAA Batteries
- Extra pill case with Advil
- Lens Cloth
- Rite in the Rain Notebook
- American Optics Sunglasses
- Sunglasses cleaning kit
- Altoids Smalls (not as good as the big ones, but there’s no dust with these ones)
- Kleenex (these packs are awesomely sized)
- 1 pair Disposable Nitrile Gloves
- 4x disposable surgical masks
- Wet Ones travel pack, antibacterial
- Wet Ones travel pack, sensitive skin
- GoToob with Hand Sanitizer
- aLokSak sized for my phone
- Travel Contact Case — I keep this filled with fluid which is clean, and don’t pack extra. This is only if I need to remove a lens on the go for some reason.
- Small First Aid Kit in Heavy Ziploc
- 2x cough drops
- 2x Aleve Cold & Sinus
- 2x triple antibiotic ointment
- 5x alcohol wipes
- 6x bandaids in various sizes
All of that takes up about 20-25% of the bag, and leaves plenty of room to stuff jackets, sweaters, water, sunscreen and other items of life that you may acquire along the way. And it’s not too heavy. Basically the main compartment of the bag is mostly empty, which is how it should be.
To some, that might seem like too much, but it is also decently modular. I ditch that fixed blade knife if I am going around the city or traveling — it’s there mostly for walks through the nature trails should I take that bag. I can pull out the tool roll if I am just going out to dinner. Only the stuff in the front two pockets really are items that don’t leave.
Some of it was added because it turns out I needed it. In Mexico I added the sunglasses cleaning kit, because it was a constant struggle there. Everything in the kit, except the notebook, has been used in the bag. It’s just all so damned handy.
Some stuff I add on the fly as needed:
- Glasses, if I am out in the woods I try to bring those, but not always.
- AirPods Pro, only if I am traveling.
- Wallet/Cash: I use a two wallet system, so often my second wallet would go in here for a long day.
- Phones…work or personal I might stash one in the bag.
- Water: I tend to toss in a water bottle when i head out.
- Jacket/Sweater: for me, or for the kids, or even my wife. This is the primary reason for the size of the bag.
Two items I need to source and put in the bag still:
- Nail clippers, probably these (I keep a pair these in my DOPP kit now, so I need another one).
- Tweezers, probably these (I keep a pair in my briefcase, they work well).
That does it for gear…
It is magic to have something to carry these goods in, and they make my life easier. The bag I chose to carry this all in is the Filson Medium Field Bag, for you it could be something else. But the Filson is top notch, so don’t discount it. I went with the Brooks Brothers edition, but that is no longer made (partly because of the branding, and partly because it was on a clearance sale for $149).
I’ll review this bag later, but instead let’s talk about what to look for in a bag generally. Here are important attributes:
- Shoulder & Crossbody carry: you’ll want to be able to alternate between those for both comfort and for differing situations.
- Make sure the bag can secure well enough that it can be tossed around without the contents spilling out. I took mine on a pirate ship cruise thing and was glad it held everything securely.
- You need some level of organization, but be sure there is one big area which can hold 90% of the bag’s volume.
- Looks: you need either a bunch of bags to match the environments you are taking them into, or you need something with versatile looks. Natural fabrics are going to be better here for versatility: canvas, twill, and leather should be the go to fabrics. You should be able to take it when dressed business casual, as well as on a hike.
- Durable hardware. Looks for things that are not going to give out over time. Thin metal, cheap plastic — it will all break.
- Ease of access. If there is one area the Filson struggles, it is that the buckles are real buckles so they are a tad fiddly to use. You need to get used to them, but they will never be fast. You want something that you can use, open and close, relatively easily. It simply cannot be bothersome to you. And ideally should be workable with one hand.
I would avoid:
- Anything tactical looking.
- Anything with too much padding (hard to clean, soaks up odors, adds bulk).
- Waxed goods: that wax will sometimes come off when it gets hot.
- Bags with structure. You want something floppy.
- Strong colors: the plaid on my bag is borderline. Stay neutral.
When it comes to size, you are going to be at your own mercy. I would try figuring out what you want to carry, see how much stuff that is. And then add a jacket and a water bottle. If your bag can carry all that — you are good. 14-16L is probably the max you want.
I initially wanted the small variant of the field bag, as it would be easier to carry around, but it would not have worked. In Mexico I found myself carrying a water bottle, sunscreen, my wife and kids’ sunglasses, and sweaters for all of us. My bag was stuffed to the gills. Nothing worse than carrying a bag and running out of room in it to carry what you actually need to carry — that’s pointless.
Bags to Consider
I have not tried all of these, or really most of these:
- Filson Small Field Bag: I would have got this, but I knew I couldn’t fit my jacket in it with everything else.
- Filson Medium Field Bag: I did get this, just a special variant. But I’ll likely be buying the basic tan at some point soon. It’s a great bag. The plaid on mine is just a little less versatile.
- Millican Nick the Messenger Bag: Looks clever, without looking like it is a clever thing.
- Tom Bihn Maker’s bag: probably the most minimal of the lot, but if you want something nylon, this is the one to pick. My one caveat here (my wife has this bag) is that it is not the most secure closure and my wife often says some things will slide out on plane flights.
- WP Standard Vintage Leather Messenger: tell me that doesn’t look killer.
- WP Standard Canvas Briefcase: for those who hate flaps.
- NutSac TacSac: Ugh, I included this just so avoid emails about this. I can’t stand the branding.
- SDR Traveller Field Satchel: what to buy if you want something modern, and light weight, but super subtle. Very cool bag.
- J.Crew Abingdon Messenger: don’t buy at full price, wait for sale. Deals can be had.
- Hardgraft Laid Back Messenger: for a laid back way to spend all your dollars.
Thing is, there are plenty of options, just don’t waste your time searching for anything more clever than ‘shoulder bag’.
Get on Board
Look, this type of bag, and use, made a lot of sense to me before the shit hit the fan and pandemics and hygiene became top of mind. It’s hard enough for me to go out into the world and keep my hands clean, but exponentially more difficult once I add kids into the mix. For that I need stuff to clean them up with, and keep them healthy and safe.
Add to that: this type of bag makes my life way easier with water and snacks and stuff for the kids to let me have an easier time. Chargers and little goodies to help me. To be really honest: having a place for sunglasses alone is a boon.
So worry less about what this bag is called (again this is a purse) and go get one to make your life better and easier.
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