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  1. #1
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    Q-AM Strap, Bustiness, and Bags

    Coming out of lurking because, alas, as much as I've looked through the forums, there are a few questions I cannot find answers to. But, everyone is so friendly on here, I'm sure someone can help. =) And I'm going to address the title in reverse order, as that makes more logical sense. Please bear with me.

    I have a wonderful backpack (different manufacturer), but now that I've downsized my MBP and live close enough to ride my bike to the university, it's too large. And if it's empty, I will find a way to fill it. So, I want to downsize. My thought is to build myself some panniers which will carry the odd textbooks (to/from the library), lunch, and the new bag. The new bag will carry a 13" MBP, water bottle, small spiral, mini first aid kit, various electronics cables, GS3, and other sundry items even tomboys have on them (I am a mom, after all). Plus winter gear when the weather changes =(. I want a bag that will work for grad school now and once I become a professor (*fingers crossed*), can do conferences (which will have my laptop in it almost constantly), and can be used in general when I don't have enough pockets or want to run errands. If I need to carry more stuff, I'll go with the backpack I have now as, alas, I am a poor grad student, and can't justify getting something in a format I already have.

    The bags I've narrowed down to atm are:
    - Large Cafe Bag
    - Imago

    Shockers, I know! This seems to be the biggest conundrum on the forums! Moreso that I'm a backpack person by habit. Shoulder bags tend to hurt me very quickly. But then again, I'm pretty sure all the shoulder bags I've tried in the past are crappy. And by shoulder bags I mean cross-body. Which I know look stupid on me because I'm average build and weight (5'6", 140lb and shrinking), but VERY large chested *sigh*. Fortunately, I don't really care that I look silly -- all about the comfort and convenience =)

    With cross-body in mind, and that I do walk a lot across campus/ride a bike, I'm not sure which strap to go with. My automatic thought was the Q-AM, but for it to hit my sternum means either going under a breast or straight across one. I cannot find any images on the forums of a busty female wearing a Q-AM (though I have seen references to them eventually being posted, back in 2008 =P). Or, would Absolute + waist straps work well enough? I'm a cincher and like backpacks tight across my body (the lw backpacker in me) and greatly dislike something flopping around as I'm weaving through human traffic. Oh, and if it helps, I find most straps far more comfortable with just the webbing than the hard brick of a thing called a "shoulder pad". Pad... hah! Pad should mean soft and weight reducing. I swear most of them make the load feel heavier!

    And before you say "go with a backpack", I simply don't want to. I'm tired of constantly taking it off, setting it down, kneeling, and unsnapping it, just to get out a pencil and small notebook to jot down a random idea or get my chapstick (I do the 2 strap thing). I figure if I downsize enough, a single-shoulder bag shouldn't be too cumbersome with the right strap(s).

    Done with the dissertation, sorry it's so long. Open to feedback, and thank you so very much in advance!!!

  2. #2
    Registered User dorayme's Avatar
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    Hello, and welcome. After reading your post have you considered the Buzz? It will hold your list of contents, but be svelte enough that it won't allow for you to end up with a heavy pack. It's a sling design meaning it wears like a backpack (and even has integrated padding for your MBP, yet is designed to be swung around to access the contents without needing to remove the bag.

    As far as Q-AM vs. Absolute/waist strap. I think that probably comes down to preference in the situation you describe. Heavy weight isn't the main issue. And to access the contents with the Q-AM won't you still need to unbuckle it to swing it around? (I don't have one so I cannot answer this question).

    I know your goal is to not have a heavy load, but I can comment that even though I have an Absolute Shoulder Strap and when I need to carry a heavy load over my shoulder it does the job of minimizing the effects, I almost always make out better (less discomfort) with a backpack because the weight is distributed in a more balanced way and across the parts of my body that bear weight the best. Sternum and waist straps allow for me to comfortably carry heavier loads via backpack obviously, but it's still significantly heavier than with either a shoulder straps or cross body carry.
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    my bags: S, LS, KP, mg'11, S, LS, COW, MCB, LS, COW, LSB, SE, LSB, TT, SB, SE, TSS4, PCSB, PCBP-A, SC, BB, SCB, FJN, BB, FoJ, RS, F.O.T., LSB, S25, PCSB K, LS, I w/AS, A, PP FJN, SE, 3-DC, MCB, PCBP-T/WF, PCSB, CQPC, S19, LSB, SB, TT, SE, S, C-P, P, WF, UT, LSB, CQPC, PCBP-T/WF, SE2, MCB, RiPad, SB, LSB

  3. #3
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    Hi dorayme! I did consider the Buzz, but I'm a left shoulder person, and the Buzz is right. I've tried getting used to right shoulder, but it just feels "wrong" and I can't get used to it, even though that shoulder can take more weight. Goofy, I know. Without sided-ness I could switch shoulders depending on which one's aching =). As for unsnapping the Q-AM strap, I ALWAYS have to wear a sternum strap cinched down to get shoulder straps to fit on me correctly, otherwise the shoulder straps sit going out over my shoulders (away from my body) instead of in over my shoulders (towards my back). I'm pretty sure it's for the same reason why I can't wear suspenders So unsnapping the third-leg wouldn't be an issue so much as it's second-nature to me. Also, I'm VERY particular about how a backpack sits on me, so would be incredibly hesitant to order one without being able to try it on and not have to pay for return shipping =P. So far, the only backpack company that feels most "right" to me is Osprey, and that's with a cinched sternum strap.

    My thought was to use a cross-body bag more "messenger-style" so that the weight would be generally centered at my back. And I also have the hips so that any waist strap can effectively become load-bearing if I need it. Which also goes back to my dilemma about the Q-AM, as I don't think that would be a simultaneous option. But hypothetically I could cinch the straps enough so that a bag sat tight against me if the load was irritating, then quick-adjust to access the bag without having to take it off.

    Of course, I'm also making the assumption that all the straps as quick adjust like a backpack's straps are (tug to tighten, flip tab to loosen). Maybe I'm completely wrong there?

  4. #4
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    Um, I think I have all of the pieces to the Q-AM strap that came with my LCB at home. I'm rather busty as well (probably more so than you) and will try to take a picture for you tonight. I wear my MCB cross body with the strap going in between. Probably not the most flattering look, but it is the most comfortable. I've been doing it for so long, I don't even think about it now. The only thing I don't like about the Q-AM is that the "shoulder pad" doesn't really sit on my shoulder no matter how I wear the bag. It is an odd length that just doesn't work for me, but may work for you. You might just try using the Absolute strap and adding the waist straps so that your bag doesn't flop around. Also, when you aren't on your bike, the AS will still fit correctly.

  5. #5
    Registered User nukediver's Avatar
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    Hi earth5, and welcome! I understand your *issue* - I am also "large across the top" ;-) I've got both the Imago and LCB, but do not have a Q-AM strap. The pictures of the Q-AM attached to the Imago remind me of my Timbuk2 small messenger I often use when cycling (gasp, I know, a non-TB bag!). I find the cross-strap works really really well at holding the bag tight and at an angle high on my back, which is why I prefer the T2 bag when biking. If you're looking for stability and a non-backpack, the Imago/Q-AM combo will probably be your best bet. As far as where the strap goes across the chest, I've long since stopped caring how it looks (it goes diagonally between the boobs) because it works really well. I can also tell you that almost every woman I've seen wearing one in NYC (I'm there a lot) wears the strap this way. Just my 2.....

  6. #6
    Registered User Rocks's Avatar
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    If I still did messenger bags I'd totally go for the Imago and the quick-adjust messenger strap. That's a cool looking bag. I think the horizontal orientation stays more stable than a vertical bag when you're on a bike. Let us know what you decide!

  7. #7
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    I don't have a Q-AM strap so can't really comment on the strap issue (though the Absolute strap is pretty "grippy"), but as for the LCB vs Imago issue, I would say LCB. The more vertical nature of the bag feels more secure to me - it is not quite as wide and is deeper, whereas the Imago is wider and shallower. I'm a big pen person- and perhaps you're not so this won't apply to you- but the LCB has pen slots. I LOVE em! And the pens don't fall out! The Imago doesn't have separate pen slots and I find that my pens slide around a lot in the front pockets and have even fallen out a time or two. I know that Imago's stats say it's slightly larger than the LCB, but, at least for me, in practice they are about the same. Everyone is different and has different needs/uses for their bags, so hopefully you'll find just the right set up for you! Good luck!

  8. #8
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    I have 4 Large Cafe Bags, all with an Absolute Strap and Waist Strap. I have hips and nicely sized front girl's attributes.

    I wear my Absolute Strap on my left shoulder and it goes in the valley between the mountains (my version of cross body) so the Large Cafe Bag rests on the front side of the right hip or on it or on the back.

    Before finding Tom Bihn Inc, I tried numerous bags to use on public transport which always involve a fair amount of walking and the need to access passes, tickets or change, as well as route guides, fairly quickly.

    The Large Cafe bag is perfect, I usually wear it without fastening the waist strap.
    It stays put, never flopping around when I board a bus. metro or a train but when traveling I use it with my Brain Bag and the waist strap assure it stays where I put it even while sprinting for a gate.

    I am also in love with the Imago but figured I was more into a portrait style than a landscape style bag.

    I am also a big backpack person, I guess the nickname gave it away, and the Cafe Bags are the first shoulder bags which I really really really love to wear.

    If you want to look cuter on a date or an interview, it is just a matter of unclipping the Waist Strap from your waist then reclip and cinching it tight to the body of the bag then move the bag fron cross body to shoulder bag.
    You can even use the grab handle to carry it as a hand purse before putting it on a chair so you can take your stuff out.
    Last edited by backpack; 08-29-2012 at 12:44 PM.

  9. #9
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    @darbs: Thank you so much! I would really appreciate it. From the male pics I just can't tell if the third-leg goes over the boob (squishing it) or under (hitting the sternum or not). A pic would be fantastic! As for the shoulder pad, is it that it won't slide back far enough? I've noticed that bags like the Timbuk2 have the straps start below the top of the bag, which I think is what helps get them in position messenger-style better, while others, like Patagonia and Osprey, have tabs that lead up from the bag to the straps, which are what keep me from getting the bag cinched right with the shoulder pad in place. Hrm, I think I need to go back and look at the pictures in more detail!

    @Nukediver: I'm hoping the Q-AM strap sits more like a Timbuk2. I've tried one and fit well on my back and came up to my sternum, but lacked organization and just seemed horizontally huge, even though it was shallow. Other 3rd leg straps I tried, however, pulled on the shoulder strap weird and the whole setup started to buckle before I even had the bag tight to my body.

    @Tlacltme: I like pen slots too! I hate digging for a writing utensil. I usually end up sliding/clipping them to a pocket because there's never enough slots =). That's actually one of the reasons why I'm leaning more LCB. If the volume feels the same in practice, then that's very useful information!

    @backpack: Very helpful! With the absolute, can you have the bag on your back and still have the strap engaged? How short can you get the strap, and is it quick-adjusting like a backpack's shoulder straps are?

    @ALL: You guys are wonderful!!!

  10. #10
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    @darbs: Thank you so much! I would really appreciate it. From the male pics I just can't tell if the third-leg goes over the boob (squishing it) or under (hitting the sternum or not). A pic would be fantastic! As for the shoulder pad, is it that it won't slide back far enough? I've noticed that bags like the Timbuk2 have the straps start below the top of the bag, which I think is what helps get them in position messenger-style better, while others, like Patagonia and Osprey, have tabs that lead up from the bag to the straps, which are what keep me from getting the bag cinched right with the shoulder pad in place. Hrm, I think I need to go back and look at the pictures in more detail!

    @Nukediver: I'm hoping the Q-AM strap sits more like a Timbuk2. I've tried one and fit well on my back and came up to my sternum, but lacked organization and just seemed horizontally huge, even though it was shallow. Other 3rd leg straps I tried, however, pulled on the shoulder strap weird and the whole setup started to buckle before I even had the bag tight to my body.

    @Tlacltme: I like pen slots too! I hate digging for a writing utensil. I usually end up sliding/clipping them to a pocket because there's never enough slots =). That's actually one of the reasons why I'm leaning more LCB. If the volume feels the same in practice, then that's very useful information!

    @backpack: Very helpful! With the absolute, can you have the bag on your back and still have the strap engaged? How short can you get the strap, and is it quick-adjusting like a backpack's shoulder straps are?

    @ALL: You guys are wonderful!!!

  11. #11
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    earth5 what do you mean by having the strap engaged?

    My LCB's Waist Strap is always on the bag but seldom on me, I only use it when I know I have to run.

    I also don't change the length of the Absolute Strap on my LCBs, why mess with perfect?


    But, when I use my Small Cafe Bag, I like the Shoulder Strap shorter when I bike than when I use it otherwise, it takes a couple of seconds to slide the Shoulder Strap up and down.
    Last edited by backpack; 08-30-2012 at 11:57 AM.

  12. #12
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    So I received a LCB and Q-AM strap today. For those wondering, the third-leg does hit correctly at the sternum while having the bag (loaded with laptop) high up on the back ala bike messenger-style. Granted, for me, both sides of the shoulder strap are cinched down as tight as they'll go, which is causing me different problems (contortionism trying to get out of the bag *chuckle*. Yes, I should probably loosen the strap first but I keep forgetting as I'm testing it inside the house). As long as that's how the bag is carried, you're good with the third leg. For me, if I want to wear the bag lower though, I have to wriggle out of the bag and lengthen both sides of the shoulder strap or else the bag hangs incorrectly. Using the waist strap effectively turns the bag into a fanny pack with regard to where it sits on your body. Hopefully that helps someone else.

    I wish I had gotten the Absolute strap too for comparison of load carry. Maybe next time

  13. #13
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    As an update, I ended up ordering the Absolute Strap (I HAD to know!). Honestly, it's a toss up for different reasons. Q-AM great fr securing the bag to your body. By creating a "y" with the straps, you can effectively feel as though the weight is distributed to your abdomen (almost like a waist strap). But, not as comfortable when not engaged. Absolute strap wonderful for hanging the bag off your shoulder, but obviously, it flops around. And, it's not quick adjust. So if you like to tweak the length depending on where you're wearing the bag on your body, not so much. But, you can swap shoulders without having issues (unlike the Q-AM). I tried a quick mod of converting the Absolute Strap into a Q-AM (had an extra slide buckle and webbing to play with). While doable, and the best of both worlds, there's not much wiggle room at either end of the strap. The stretchy portion of the Absolute Strap is flanked by hard-feeling ends. These are not comfortable when they hit your collar bone =P. If only the strechy part were a few inches longer either way, this would be almost doable for mid-height persons (I'm 5'6"). Darn.

    So, if you don't need your bag cinched to your body, I'd suggest the Absolute. If you like it cinched to your body, or are really used to backpacks (like me) but like the messenger format, go with the Q-AM. The weight distribution's about equal when the third-leg is engaged =)

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