Two Bags for the Office

The two bags I’ve settled on for heading in and out of the office at the start of this year.

I’ve managed to standardize on two bags I rotate between for heading to the office day to day. Back in October of 2021 I told members about this setup, and it’s still my setup, so it’s time to go a little deeper on this, why these two bags, why two bags, and how I shift between them.

Those are the two bags, the Filson Original Briefcase, and the Mystery Ranch ASAP. I tested a lot of bags last year and wanted to make so many others work, but in the end these two bags are it. Most days, it’s the ASAP, because backpacks are always better for comfort and capacity. However, some days you feel like needing a little more professional look, and for those days the Filson fits the bill.

If I had to slim down to one though, I’d have a hard time because I find both these bags to be outstanding. So rather than dwell and my need for two bags to rotate between, I ask for you to focus on the amazing feat that I was able to whittle things down to just two bags.

Filson Original Briefcase

It should be no surprise to regular readers how much I love this bag. I’ve had it for just shy of five years now, and it still looks nearly new. It’s a stellar bag, even if the price and features don’t remotely look as though it would be. Much in the same way that some of the simplest bags on the market fill your needs the best, this the case with the Original Briefcase.

I need a shoulder bag for work. There’s some days, some circumstances, and some general vibes I have that I want to carry a shoulder bag occasionally. It’s not in any way better than a backpack, and yet for me fashion and style do matter at times. I tried a lot of different bags over the years to fill this particular void, and while some came close, only this one meets the need.

Amazingly, it holds everything I want/need in a very small package. Despite it having no padding built in, I’ve never had an issue with a device in it. It is, my perfect shoulder bag, and it’s proven (as of yet) impossible to beat. This bag is a chameleon which is what makes it so hard to beat: it’s fancy without being stuck up, and rugged without needing to prove itself.

Mystery Ranch ASAP

If you read the site at all last year, you might have a sense how highly I think of this bag. It is tremendous. One thing which makes it even better is the versatility it gives you for laying things out inside the bag, while being trim on your back and light on your shoulders.

The only reason I ever tried to use another bag over this one, is because this bag is covered in PALS webbing and I thought it looked too tactical for the office. Then I realized how many people carry in 5.11 Tactical bags, and I said screw it and owned the bag. It’s been perfect ever since. Yes, there’s no device sleeve, but you can add your own, or get a custom one.

If I am using a backpack I want it to be extremely comfortable to wear — otherwise I can use the Filson Original Briefcase and have better style. So if it’s a backpack, it’s going to be the one that carries weight the best. That’s the ASAP.

Once I realized that’s what actually matters the most, the ASAP fell right into place as my bag of choice. I use it 4 days out of the 5 work days — and if I actually left the house on my free time, I would probably use it more there too.

Every other office bag might look better, have more clever features, but not a single one carries weight as well as the ASAP does. The closest option is the GR1, but that has PALS too, or it’s too plain to want to own, so back to the ASAP I am. And even then, the ASAP is more comfortable than the GR1 for sub-25lbs weight. This bag hugs my back, has just enough room, and allows me to organize however works best for my needs — and the looks have grown on me, not a single person has ever commented on the looks of this bag.

ASAP, enough said.

Notes On Moving Between Bags

Last year I moved between these bags and others using one of two methods:

  1. Complete tear down: remove all the shit from one bag, and transfer it to another.
  2. Fully stocked / duplicate gear: where I would kit out each bag with everything I need, and thus be required to have multiples of each thing.

There’s benefits to both systems. With the first you tend to always know where stuff is, what is and is not in your bag, it’s cheaper, and you end up carrying fewer items overall. However it’s very cumbersome and restrictive if you want to test a different bag each day — which I did at one point over the summer and it took a good 10 minutes each night to get the bags ready for the next day.

Duplicating gear has long been my preferred method. It’s not that expensive when you already buy a ton of stuff for a review website, but in being not expensive it means I don’t often have the best gear in each bag. It also means I often forget what is in each bag, or have a harder time maintaining all the parts, so over time I’ll find that I never could remember if I had a pocket knife in the bag and end up with six in the bag. But generally it meant I could grab any stocked bag, and take off with the bag without worry about adding things to it (except the iPads, needed to add them).

For this year I am doing a hybrid approach:

  1. I am keeping a small kit of gear in each of these two bags, things like pens and other specific-to-the-bag-gear. Items which I can easily duplicate, and do so with a high quality. The battery packs are sized appropriately to fit in each bag, stuff like that.
  2. I have crafted a transfer kit to move the main kit itself (as a whole unit) between my bags.

To make this kit, I had to get a few things in place:

  1. A setup I could move between bags
  2. A place to store that setup in each of the bags.

This has been tricky, and I’ll write more about it later. But I am mentioning it here because I found rotating between the two bags a little frustrating at first when they each had different things in them. Now that I standardized the core of my kit between them with this little setup, I’ve been much happier.

The Goods In Each

Here’s what I am keeping in each bag right now:

– RZ Mask M2
– Shemagh (some generic amazon one)
– 1x RZ Mask Extra Filter
– 2x Surgical Masks
– 1x Powecom KN95
– 1x Wellbefore KN95
– 2x HL0001 Kids Masks
– Kleenex Pack
– Field Notes
– Business Cards
– Lens cleaning cloth
– Montblanc Rollerball
– Sharpie Ultra Fine Point Pen
– Boo-Boo Kit (bandaids, contact case, Advil, stuff like that)
– Outlier Grid Linen Wash Cloth
– USB-C Cable
– Lightning Cable
– Micro USB Cable
– Anker PowerCore 10000 PD Redux

– RZ Mask M2
– Lip Balm
– Listerine Strips
– Boo-Boo Kit (bandaids, contact case, Advil, stuff like that)
– Kleenex Pack
– 2x Kids HL001 Masks
– Aer Cloth Mask (for over top KN95
– 2x Powecomm KN95
– RZ Mask Filter (extra)
– GORUCK Shemagh
– Hand Sanitizer
– Lens Cleaning Cloth
– Business Cards
– DCF Cordage
– RAVPower PD Pioneer 10000mAh 2-port Power Bank
– 4” Orange Chem Light
– USB-C Cable
– Lightning Cable
– Tactile Turn Short Bolt Action Pen
– Hip Belt & Sternum Strap (removed and loose in bag, just in case I guess?)
– Ultrapod Tripod with Studio Neat Glif
– Vortex Solo monocular

Transfer Kit:
– Muyshondt Maus Copper
– Swiss Army Tinker
– Lock Picks
– 1x CR123 Primary
– 4x 1.5” Chem Lights
– Brass Pocket Compass
– 2x 4” Chem Light (green and orange)
– Bigidea Design Pen
– Ceramic sharpening rod
– Machine Era Field Pen Brass
– Rooth Earplugs
– Zippo w/ Butane Insert
– Nitrile Gloves
– Sanitizing Wipes
– Lens cleaning cloth
– 2x 8” Zip Ties
– Field Notes
– Vaccination Card
– Emergency Contact Card
– AirPods Pro

You’ll notice that the list for the Briefcase is shorter than the ASAP, and that’s by design. I can carry more in the ASAP, yes, but I can also carry more without noticing the weight of it all. And typically when I choose my briefcase, I do so to stay a little lighter/trimmer on my gear.

All of this is in flux and will be slimmed down and revised over the next few months. I am not even settled on what pouches I am using in each right now.

I’ve been struggling since going back into an office to find what bags, what gear, works best for me. With the above, I feel tantalizingly close to having it settled.

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