If you own a notepad (aka laptop) computer you care for, you probably own a well designed, strong and sturdy laptop bag, with all the appropriate protection your investment requires. I get the impression people aren't that worried about what bag is going to protect their notepad. The additional cost is perceived as too steep. Considering you are going to carry all your data, digital media, e-mail etc., a descent bag seems essential. At least to me it does. And if the bag is pleasant to look at, comfortable to carry and practical to use, it's all bonuses. Nevertheless, I do get regularly asked what bag I recommend, what features to look for, where to buy it and so on, so I hope this post will answer a few of them.
What I look for
- Strong notepad protection (weather and shocks) and ease of use. I want to be able to extract my notepad in confined areas (economic class air travel e.g.) and be able to slide it back with a minimum of contortion;
- Pockets to hold my external Firewire drive, power supply, extra battery, pens, business cards, and other accessories. I don't want to mess around looking for a cable;
- Enough room to carry folders, a book or two and other papers related to the business underway;
- A large external zipped pocket (back) to slip a newspaper, bloc-note with pen or whatever without having to open the bag itself;
- Good looking. The design must rock. Very personal, but nevertheless important.
The carrying method is another personal matter. Some people favour the messenger across the chest style, while other look for a more business style way of carrying the bag. Others will prefer backpacks which balance the weight over the back. I personally like the messenger style, but what is important is that you feel comfortable wearing your bag.
I happened changed last November when I acquired my MacBook Pro. I opted for a Timbuk2 Commute. I didn't really need a new bag. My Tom Bihn's ID served me well, and is still in pristine condition. I acquired it together with a Brain Cell that fits neatly in it when I bought my first PowerBook Titanium back in 2002. The Brain Cell is probably the best notepad sleeve I've happened to use. Unfortunately, it is just too narrow to comfortably embrace my new MBP. I need the new 15.4" model.
The Commute is a brilliant bag. Top quality, it offers both an optimal protection and an ease of use I have seldom met. Unlike the ID, it has a built-in computer sleeve that secures and protects your notepad while you travel around. It offers a myriad of zippers, pockets and sleeves that defies all your needs. I ordered the optional strap pad which secures the bag when carried on your shoulder as opposed as across the chest.
The devil is in the details
Nothing was left out. The material, the seams and stitches, zippers, velcro straps, buckles all are top quality. I took to this new bag immediately. There is an indestructible vibe about it. I wear my bag on a daily basis, so it must meet my requirements, match my mental structure and answer my needs. I must admit I develop an emotional attachment to my notepad, and hence to my computer bag. There's a bond that grows between it and me. This might sound weird to some, but I'm sure others will relate to this concept. It has every kind of pocket you'll ever need. Outside, inside, and even a small centered strap to hook your bicycle's backlight on. The back straps bear reflectors too. Brilliant.
Another brand that attracted my attention was the Waterfield Cargo bag. Douglas Bowman (Stopdesign) wrote an interesting post on this bag back in 2003 which remains relevant today. I hesitated, but the Commute's messenger style appealed to me more.
Whatever bag you fall for, make sure you trust it with your notepad, and that it doesn't get in your way. If it's design matches your outlook on life or not is up to you, but don't under estimate the additional peace-of-mind and harmony a well chosen notepad bag can bring in your life.