This past year was chaotic with my office bags. I thought I found the perfect bag for the office multiple times, and to add insult to injury, I had assumed nothing could beat my Filson Original Briefcase — wrong.
Rather than hash out all the nuances of each bag, and knowing that most of you don’t stock an entire closet in your home with backpacks as I do, I thought I would run through where the top office bags land for not only the office, but for other uses too — maybe this will help guide your purchases.
Let’s look at the Mystery Ranch ASAP SB, GORUCK GR1 Heritage 26L, and Filson’s 24hr Tin Cloth Briefcase. Why these three? They are the top three best bags for using in the office, so it’s worth breaking down the highs and lows of each.
I know I started this by saying ‘office bags’, but I think EDC is what most people think of when they think about these bags, so let’s start here. I want to focus on ‘everyday carry’ — what I mean by this is that this is a bag you are choosing to carry with you whenever you leave the house. Could be your dad bag, diaper bag, camera bag, clothing bag, gym bag, or office bag. It needs to cover any generic bag use well enough. That’s what we are looking at here.
This is where the ASAP SB shines. It’s an incredibly versatile bag to begin with, and easy to access in multiple ways. But it’s also very slim — the width is going to be fully contained within the frame of most peoples backs, and the depth is not so deep as to cause issues when you are maneuvering around people. There’s a reason so many people (including everyone else in my family) loves the Urban Assault series — it’s essentially the ASAP SB stripped down. Where the ASAP SB falters a little is on the looks department, with the huge grid of webbing on the bag — it’s hard for it to be subtle in anyway.
A lot of people tell me they think the GR1 Heritage handles this role better, but here is where I disagree. It’s very good for EDC, but it’s much wider and heavier than the ASAP, thus making it a little more clunky to be the go anything, do anything, bag a lot of people hope for.
And a key difference for me between the two, is that if I need to keep a bag at my feet, or stuffed into a footwell next to my legs, the ASAP is always the easier bag to do this with.
The 24hr Briefcase fails this use for me, for a simple reason: lack of structure. Without a laptop or iPad in the bag, it curls around your body in a way in which I simply don’t like the aesthetics. However, if something like a laptop or iPad is always with you, the 24hr is surprisingly not a bad option here. The two large front pockets offer loads of utility when you are out and about, and the general styling doesn’t make it scream briefcase. It would be an odd choice as a primary use case being EDC though, which is why I list this as third place.
Flip the list over from the EDC list, and you have the office list. I’m not a huge proponent of a briefcase for office use generally, but I can absolutely tell you that the 24hr Briefcase changes that equation. But that’s only if you carry a load out which would fit into it. Anecdotally, most people I see in my office would, and even my carry fits into it with ease.
The 24hr wins out, because we are strictly talking about a bag in the office, meaning your carry is when you walk into the building and get to your desk. Then it’s all about using your bag and the gear in it — whether that’s a once per day load/unload, or throughout the day. I’ve yet to meet a backpack which pulls this off in an office as well as a briefcase. And as far as briefcases go, this 24hr is top notch. While basic looking, the magic is in the two cavernous front pockets and how easy they make getting in and out of the bag. Not to mention the overall vibe, which pairs well no matter what you are wearing that day, helping to dress down a full suit, or melding right in with a more lumberjack look. It’s good shit.
The GR1 Heritage stays in second here, but it’s almost a dead tie with the 24hr. That’s how good the GR1 is, because the Heritage variant has amazing looks. And it feels incredible, while still carrying exceedingly well. The downside here is the sheer lack of organization, and it looks large. That large look can have an off putting message/signal with it in some offices. I suspect the larger the city you are in, or the more well known it is that you commute far to the office, and you will be fine. But anything else, and people might wonder just what the hell you are carrying to the office everyday.
In last is the ASAP SB, which falls last here for two reasons:
- The laptop sleeve is the most cumbersome of the three to get gear in and out of. This makes it less sleek in the office when you are trying to get at your most likely to be need bit of gear.
- The webbing all over the bag doesn’t work with a suit that well, and in some office environments may be looked at with a close enough eye that the attention is unwanted.
For me, while I love carrying the ASAP SB, I would say the GR1 gets the most use, simply because I feel the most comfortable with backpacks. But each time I use the 24hr, I know it is likely what I should be using most days — and that’s a hard thing for my to admit if I am honest. I’ll be interested to see which I use more six months from now.
Public Transport / Carpool Commuting
I’ve pulled this out into it’s own section because I think it changes the matrix a little. In that I think the GR1 topples to the bottom of the list if you are taking a bus/train/carpool to get into the office. Here I think the 24hr and ASAP SB are tied. Both are easier to place on your lap if you need to squeeze in a spot. Both offer better means of getting at your stuff in a secure manner when in cramped spaces. And both are easier to maneuver with in close quarters to other people.
That said, what if you are fancy and you walk into the office, or take e-scooters, or a bike? I have no clue, I don’t do that stuff. I’d guess you would want the ASAP SB though, but that’s just a guess. I’ve never done that type of a commute to the office.
The GR1 struggles here because of its size more than anything. You’re going to find that you will need to put this down on the floor a lot more, and given the fabrics, I am not sure that’s what you want touching the floor as they are going to be harder to clean. So while the 24hr has a similar fabric, the small size there means you can lap carry it pretty easily.
This is another 2-in-1 section, but what I am not talking about is single bag, pack clothes in this bag, travel. I am talking about a more standard setup where you have a checked bag, or carryon bag (or both for savages), and this bag is your ‘personal item’ which will sit at your feet. But I am also assuming you need to use the bag when you arrive where you are going. So two fold, but both integrated so I’ll comment on both sides for each bag.
This is where the ASAP SB excels. Yes, you still have the looks issue, but the nylon wipes clean easily, the straps carry any load comfortably all day. The bag closes up very securely, and everything is easy to get to. It’s large enough, without being too big once you get to where you are going. And yet, it works great at your feet for a flight.
Second to this is the GR1 Heritage. It’s almost as comfortable to carry, and works well through a wide range of needs and uses. But it’s not at the top for two reasons:
- Waxed canvas is hard to clean, and airplane floors are disgusting. Say you don’t care about putting it on the floor, do you care if someone in front of you dumps their beverage, or food all over your bag? I cannot count the number of times that’s happened on my flights (either missing or hitting my bags). Cleaning waxed canvas would not even be possible in most cases, at least not without some sort of mark being left.
- The GR1 Heritage looks big. Even though it’s not actually that large, it looks large both when sitting, or on your back. It looks stellar, but it looks large, which means it might not be ideal when you get there — and depending on what your second bag is, could raise a bag sizer check with the gate agent. Don’t carry bags that look big if you need to get two on a plane.
However, the last place here goes to the 24hr Briefcase, because despite it’s name it suffers from similar flaws to the GR1. It’s also a waxed canvas, so you have all the same problems there. It is slightly awkward looking to carry a briefcase when you are traveling for non-work — though the 24hr mitigates that somewhat by looking slightly shoulder bag in vibes. But more than any of that, this is by far the hardest bag to carry any beverages in, which means that you’ll have to leave a decent amount of space in the already small bag if you want some non-gross water on the flight.
If I were traveling for work, the 24hr would go with me, but anything else and it is staying at home — there are better options. I can’t see how I would use it effectively for non-work travel. Both the ASAP SB and GR1 Heritage cross both worlds more easily here.
This isn’t something I typically consider for these types of bags, but I do know from my emails that some people refuse to buy a bag if they can’t use it on a day hike — either out of principle or financial constraints. I get it. I’ll keep this short: the ASAP SB is the only bag of these three that I would want to use in this scenario.
I think you could get away with using the other two, but they both would be less than ideal for a variety of reasons. The 24hr is a shoulder bag and wouldn’t be very comfortable while hiking. The GR1 would be comfortable, but the material makes it a heavy base load, and it’s going to soak up sweat fast, and run the risk of being hard to divest yourself of that stench later (let alone sweat stains).
If this is a must, then ASAP SB of these three.
I think intuitively you know what I mean here, but the best I can put this in to words: you want a bag to cover the things which you can’t account for, and thus your bag needs to be highly versatile.
In this vein, the GR1 Heritage reigns supreme. Because of the shape, and ability to swallow up not only bulky items, but items with a large footprint, the GR1 will always be the most versatile bag for handling shit you could not plan for. The waxed canvas doesn’t have a downside here for most reasonable scenarios.
The ASAP SB is a lagging second place, becuase of the lower capacity, but mostly the shape of the bag will feel harder to pack out with more stuff.
The 24hr doesn’t handle this type of stuff well at all, and is a distant third place. It’s small, and not well equipped to pack clothing or large items at all.
Let’s back up and remind what I am really trying to talk about here: you need a new bag to take to the office. The other stuff is just ancillary attributes which speak to whether, or rather how easily, you will find using these bags outside of the office.
So in that vein, it’s very clear to me that the 24hr Briefcase is the best overall office bag. It works so much better than the others in the office.
Having said that, the GR1 Heritage is my favorite to take into the office, because of my overall preference for a backpack and the spare capacity the GR1 gives me. The Heritage keeps the looks classic, while giving me almost everything else I would get out of a nylon GR1.
But, if I could only have one bag in this size class, I would pick the ASAP SB, because the only true downside for it is the styling. And if you can get past that, or you like it, then it’s clearly the best bag of the three for most of the scenarios.
And really, this is why I have all three, they are each so good that I can’t decide most days. The 24hr is great, but needs better carry comfort. The GR1 gets you that comfort, but trades off on a slight bit of looks, while adding a lot of volume for better or worse. The ASAP SB helps you with the large looking bag, but completely disregards the fashion aspect of the other two bags.
Tough call, but it’s clear Mystery Ranch really should make an ASAP SB in a slick variant — that’d be swell.
Review and (buy) links:
- GR1 Heritage (buy)
- ASAP SB (buy)
- 24hr Briefcase (buy)
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