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Thread: Looking for advice on a business bag...

  1. #1
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    Looking for advice on a business bag...

    Hey, all!

    I'm trying to downsize my daily office carry, and I'm hoping to get some guidance here! I love my brain bag, but I find it to be a bit too big for my daily needs. I'm also looking for something specifically for the professional environment. He's my daily gear:

    - Lenovo think pad t410
    - iPad
    - iPhone
    - assorted organizer pouches w/ sundries (chargers & such)
    - sunglasses
    - camelback water bottle & travel coffee mug

    The challenge for me is that I am trying to be careful about overall weight (back/shoulder strain issues), and I'm having a tough time finding a backpack-style bag that has that professional look. I've been eyeing up the Zephyr (I'm afraid I'll overstuff an empire builder), but the cadet looks like it might be a good streamlined choice as well. Not sure about capacity for a water bottle in either of these, though.

    What say you, gang? Thanks in advance for your thoughts!
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    Bob P.
    Magic Tiki Studios

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  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by MagicTiki View Post
    Hey, all!

    I'm trying to downsize my daily office carry, and I'm hoping to get some guidance here! I love my brain bag, but I find it to be a bit too big for my daily needs. I'm also looking for something specifically for the professional environment. He's my daily gear:

    - Lenovo think pad t410
    - iPad
    - iPhone
    - assorted organizer pouches w/ sundries (chargers & such)
    - sunglasses
    - camelback water bottle & travel coffee mug

    The challenge for me is that I am trying to be careful about overall weight (back/shoulder strain issues), and I'm having a tough time finding a backpack-style bag that has that professional look. I've been eyeing up the Zephyr (I'm afraid I'll overstuff an empire builder), but the cadet looks like it might be a good streamlined choice as well. Not sure about capacity for a water bottle in either of these, though.

    What say you, gang? Thanks in advance for your thoughts!
    If the aim is to go for a professional look, but still use a backpack-style bag (or a bag that can be carried backpack-style), why not get the Western Flyer with the backpack straps option in black/steel? That will carry all of the above, have a water bottle pocket, and look professional. Unlike the Cadet or the Zephyr, you can convert to carrying this on your back if you want to. If you're carrying the LenovoThink Pad T410 in a Brain Cell, you'll also be able to clip the Brain Cell in to the bag. And if you want to, you can shift to either carrying the Western Flyer in your hand, or over the shoulder using an Absolute Strap.

  3. #3
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    I have to wonder if it is really possible to achieve a professional look with an exposed water bottle of any kind?
    Sort of like wearing a Suit and Running Shoes?

    I have both an E.B. and Super Ego(ask anyone)and the E.B. has a more conservative look in general I would have to say.
    I love the SE and its capacity and I like the twin bottle holders on the ends but I have stuck a bottle inside the EB many times and it is concealed entirely and Stealthy.
    In the Western Flyer the bottle holder is right there on the front and also not real minimal in design which can sort of scream out that it is there.

    Another nice feature of the EB and I would have to assume the Zephyr too is the stiffness or structure of the bag which allows it to retain its shape whether full or not which I think also lends it a more professional look? This also means that a Bottle inside the bag will not get bent and twisted inside as it might in a bag with less structure,I have not had any problems carrying water inside the EB although I was certainly wondering if it would work when I started.

    I have not seen the Cadet in person and am doubtful it can carry the Water Bottle at all?
    They are a great looking bag though and seem sized almost perfectly for your needs aside from the bottle issue.

    If you do need to stick with a Back Pack then the Synapse might be a good choice?
    In Black it is a good looking bag to me and the Water can be stashed away too.
    I think a briefcase that has backpack straps will look complicated in a way that you don't really need or want it too?

    I also understand your fear of the EB and overpacking and I truly feel your pain!
    You will and you will like it!
    It is nice to have the space when needed and I imagine the Zephyr will be just as tempting to overstuff.

    Overall though as a business bag,the EB/Zephyr family seems tough to beat to me.

    Ed

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    Quote Originally Posted by moriond View Post
    If the aim is to go for a professional look, but still use a backpack-style bag (or a bag that can be carried backpack-style), why not get the Western Flyer with the backpack straps option in black/steel? That will carry all of the above, have a water bottle pocket, and look professional. Unlike the Cadet or the Zephyr, you can convert to carrying this on your back if you want to. If you're carrying the LenovoThink Pad T410 in a Brain Cell, you'll also be able to clip the Brain Cell in to the bag. And if you want to, you can shift to either carrying the Western Flyer in your hand, or over the shoulder using an Absolute Strap.
    I thought about this one as an option... the WF certainly checks many of my boxes. Am I correct in saying that the EB and Zephyr have some padding/structure, and the Western Flyer does not?

    Does anyone know of any comparison photos anywhere between the WF and the EB? I have only ever seen the WF compared to the tri-star and Aeronaut... I'd be interested to see how it looks in comparison to other business-style bags...
    ----------------
    Bob P.
    Magic Tiki Studios

    Empire Builder (black/steel), Brain Bag (steel), Small Padded Organizer Pouch, Clear Wallet, Soft Cell, Snake Charmer (cayenne) and assorted trimmings.

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    Quote Originally Posted by AVService View Post
    I have to wonder if it is really possible to achieve a professional look with an exposed water bottle of any kind?
    Sort of like wearing a Suit and Running Shoes?
    OK... that made me chuckle this morning. Well played!

    That's a good point about the external bottle holder... the more features that are added, the more you stray away from the professional look.

    How is the protection in the EB for your laptop without a brain cell? Do you find that the padding/structure is sufficient for the daily commute?
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    Empire Builder (black/steel), Brain Bag (steel), Small Padded Organizer Pouch, Clear Wallet, Soft Cell, Snake Charmer (cayenne) and assorted trimmings.

  6. #6
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    What I love about my Zephyr is the nice sturdy foam on the sides (in wasabi), and the thick plastic dividers that work like Bihn-elf Pendaflex. I can keep my water bottle separate from my electronics with those dividers, keep books separate from folders or other stray items. The Zephyr is not light like an IMago is, but the structure is fantastic. It stands on its own when open, no worries. The organization panel under the front flap is generous (far bigger than you'd expect). I use my Zephyr when I teach - it carries the heaviest of reference books when I need them. Absolute strap works great - but the Poron handles are plenty, when I'm just moving it from room to room, or car to classroom.

    I'd be hard-pressed to choose between a Zephyr and WF. If I were doing mostly office/biz stuff, I'd stick with my Zephyr. It's way more organized for work. If I needed a bag with flexibility on occasion to double for travel, carrying clothing or shoes, I'd probably consider that WF. My Tristar is great for carrying clothes and shoes on the outside pockets, with iPad and electronic in the center (I use that center section as the "office" part of my bag).
    kmcg likes this.

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    The EB/Zephyr family is well padded but you would want something to put your laptop in rather than letting it flop around unprotected inside.

    The Brain Cell is bombproof but does tie up a fair amount of space a Cache or another companies microbrief (I use a Waterfield in mine) is a good compromise as you really just want to protect the laptop from the other stuff inside of it.

    Even the Zephyr is almost sinfully capacious and I have tipped close to 30 pounds when I filled it to the brim.

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    The above shows a pile of stuff inside (13 inch laptop in slip case, ipad, grid-it Freudian slip etc) and there was still stuff in the front organizer pouch.

    It still looks tidy and professional but if you are going to load it up do yourself a favor and spring for the Absolute strap...

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    Thanks for the advice, everyone!

    @Tava - I'm running into that challenge now in my deranged little head: go for the office only, or go for the flexibility? The WF does seem to pretty close to office worthy.

    @Jeffmac: thank you for the great pic! That's a huge help! I would absolutely go for the Absolute strap on any TB bag. I had one on my old ID, and it was a lifesaver on more than one occasion!
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    Bob P.
    Magic Tiki Studios

    Empire Builder (black/steel), Brain Bag (steel), Small Padded Organizer Pouch, Clear Wallet, Soft Cell, Snake Charmer (cayenne) and assorted trimmings.

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    Quote Originally Posted by MagicTiki View Post
    OK... that made me chuckle this morning. Well played!

    That's a good point about the external bottle holder... the more features that are added, the more you stray away from the professional look.

    How is the protection in the EB for your laptop without a brain cell? Do you find that the padding/structure is sufficient for the daily commute?
    I just call 'em the way I see 'em.

    I would only carry a computer not in a sleeve if it is a ToughBook which I do carry most days. That makes the sleeve even more important as it protects my Macbook Pro from the ToughBook!

    I use a Waterfield sleeve too if going for space and a Brain Cell if not.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by MagicTiki View Post
    Thanks for the advice, everyone!

    @Tava - I'm running into that challenge now in my deranged little head: go for the office only, or go for the flexibility? The WF does seem to pretty close to office worthy.

    @Jeffmac: thank you for the great pic! That's a huge help! I would absolutely go for the Absolute strap on any TB bag. I had one on my old ID, and it was a lifesaver on more than one occasion!
    If you are wanting more in depth on the zephyr I did a full review at http://restlesstech.com/tom-bihn-zephyr-review/

    Odds are you would be thrilled with either bag ( they are TB after all) but I might lean slightly to the WF if you want to double it as a travel suitcase as well.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by MagicTiki View Post
    OK... that made me chuckle this morning. Well played!

    That's a good point about the external bottle holder... the more features that are added, the more you stray away from the professional look.
    The current Western Flyer design uses the zipped closed pocket format of the Tri-Star, so this is relatively discreet. (When not traveling with an external water bottle you can use this to hold a folded umbrella. Very respectable item for professional business use these umbrellas! And you could transfer the bottle to the inside of the bag if you wanted to be even more discreet.)
    Quote Originally Posted by MagicTiki View Post
    I've been eyeing up the Zephyr (I'm afraid I'll overstuff an empire builder), but the cadet looks like it might be a good streamlined choice as well. Not sure about capacity for a water bottle in either of these, though.
    MagicTiki, are you planning to carry your ThinkPad T410 in a Brain Cell? If so, the Zephyr will accommodate it through the normal clip on attachments. If this is the model with the 14.1" screen, then I'm guessing that you're using the size 4 Brain Cell. You asked about the padding on the Western Flyer. This is an unpadded bag, but it has the clips to carry a size 4 Brain Cell, as well as the 6T models that are a better fit to the earlier ThinkPad T series (T20-T61) models with 14.1" screen. The Cadet is lightly padded (front, back, and bottom).

    I'm attaching a picture of the main compartment 13"/15" Cadet with 13" MacBook Pro in a cache, iPad in a cache, miscellaneous letter size papers in Levenger file folders, and an empty file box sized for A4 paper, just for comparison purpose. That's a 22 oz. Life Factory water bottle beside the MacBook Pro in its cache.


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    That's the vertical cache holding the MacBook Pro (pulled, along with some folders and papers, from my Synapse). In real life, I'd be using the thinner MacBook Air in a horizontal cache, but the 13" MBP is about the same thickness as the T410. I'm not sure how easily the T410's length would fit in the Cadet. Quoted dimensions for the T410 are 13.1 x 9.4 x 1.1" vs the 12.8 x 8.9 x 1.0" of the 13" MacBook Pro. That would make your laptop 0.3" longer, and it would probably be a better fit to the Zephyr, if you wanted to carry a water bottle inside.

    I'm planning to use the Cadet as a laptop bag for conferences, with easy access for stowing papers and handouts in the main compartment, the back pocket, the internal pocket in the main compartment (which can hold legal size folders where the A4 file box is stashed in my photo), and with the front organizer pocket for smaller items, pens, etc. (There's a separate lined iPhone pocket, too.) For these purposes I want something lighter and slimmer than the Zephyr, because I don't plan on toting around that many papers -- otherwise I'd use my Synapse.

    The Zephyr is nearly half an inch longer, but it's mostly wider than the Cadet, as well as being reinforced with heavier material, so it's nearly twice the weight when empty.
    • 16.25 x 12.5 x 4.5" / 410 x 320 x 115 mm (Cadet) 1.7 lbs / 780 grams
    • 16.7 x 12.4 x 6.3" / 425 x 320 x 160 mm (Zephyr) 3.21 lbs / 1.5 kg


    Those are the external bag dimensions. I did try an Empire Builder before they designed the Zephyr, but I found that the EB was too large and heavy for me to carry comfortably for long periods of time, especially carrying a laptop in a Brain Cell. This is probably an issue of height, and if I were a few inches taller than my 5' 4", the extra width of the bag carried to one side when walking wouldn't displace my center of gravity so much. There are posts in the forum where some Empire Builder owners carry around 60 pounds in this bag with the Absolute Strap. That's just too large a fraction of my weight for me to carry on one side! (I have no problems carrying a fully packed Aeronaut; so it's really that the design of the EB just doesn't work out well for me. This probably wouldn't be an issue with the Zephyr.)

    I think that either the Zephyr or the Western Flyer would work well for you, depending on how much you want the backpack and travel bag option. The Zephyr could accommodate a water bottle in a separate section, using the file dividers, because the bag is nearly two inches wider than the Cadet.

    HTH.

    moriond

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by jeffmac View Post
    If you are wanting more in depth on the zephyr I did a full review at Tom Bihn Zephyr Review - Restless Tech Restless Tech
    jeffmac's review was a super helpful factor in my choice of Zephyr. My navy/wasabi Zephyr doesn't get to go on cool trips like his does, but it's one nifty bag.
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    Moriond, I think you're right about the Size of the T410... I don't always carry it, but I'm thinking the cadet may be a bit too tight. And I could use a little wiggle room in there.

    Tavapeak, I agree with you about Jeffmac's review (thanks for the link, Jeff!). I'm feeling that the Zephyr is starting to feel (to quote Goldilocks) "just right." I'm thinking that if I need more room, that's what my Brain Bag is for.

    How is the Zephyr when you go without a brain cell? Is the padding good enough for the daily car-to-office commute? I was thinking of the size 4 brain cell (horizontal), so I could switch it between the Zephyr and my Brain Bag when needed. Although I have heard some mixed reviews on the horizontal brain cell in the BB...
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  14. #14
    Registered User TavaPeak's Avatar
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    I don't carry a laptop, just an iPad. I use a Breve (in kiwi) for my iPad and accountrements, and put in a center section between the plastic dividers. Breve has significant padding and structure for what I need - I like its slim profile in the Zephyr. (Note this does not "suspend" the Ipad for protection.) I don't have a Cache or Brain Cell, so can't speak about how they work. Also, I haven't tried this for air travel, but it works well for local stuff or car trips.

    Hope you'll keep us posted on what you decide.
    Last edited by TavaPeak; 04-30-2012 at 09:19 AM.

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    I recently decided on a Zephyr after getting some good feedback from folks on the Forums. I have a Brain Cell for my MacBook Air (I decided to get that after the MBA got slightly banged up in a cache inside an Imago going through airport security) and love the protection and convenience.

    The Zephyr does have more structure than the Western Flyer: no problem standing up, even when empty. When I compare the two side by side (maybe I'll take some pics this week when I'm traveling with both), the Zephyr is noticeably less wide making it look more briefcase-like. The WF is my goto travel bag and I love it for that, but much prefer the Zephyr as a briefcase. It holds a lot, has great organizational features, looks professional, and is quite manageable with the Absolute strap.
    Owner of Crimson/Steel Western Flyer, Forest/Steel Zephyr, Olive/Cayenne Ristretto for iPad, Olive/Cork/Steel and Cardinal/Hemp/Steel Imago, Plum/Wasabi Side Effect, Linen/Steel and Conifer/Steel SCB, Steel Breve, Plum/Black Swift, Steel FJN, Horizontal Freudian Slip, black Brain Cell, Iberian Packing Cube Backpack, Ultraviolet Packing Cube Shoulder Bag, and various organizer pouches, caches, and other odds and ends.


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