Well, it's now time to choose a bag. I know I'll be getting an Aeronaut, so I'm covered there. Now I have to pick out a everyday bag, along with a Tote or Lux for trips to the market, grocery shopping, etc. I'd appreciate all the help I can get as far as feedback, advice, experiences, from people, especially those that have (or had in the past) the same bags I'm interested in.
What I'm currently using: a detachable day pack off the Dana Designs "Far Flung"
25 Liters-I think, I had to go to an old review to get the capacity.
18' H x 12" W x 3" Deep (8" expanded)
Wide and minimally padded shoulder straps
One large main compartment w/two lockable zippers
One pocket 7" H x 7" W outer pocket on the front w/ one zipper
Pack is angled so, when seen from the side, it's shaped like a capital letter D. It does not have a flat bottom, so when you go to put it down, it has to be propped up against something to avoid falling over. The back (the part resting against your back) is padded. Inside, against the back, is one 6" W x 6" H pocket, which I can store CD's, or my 5 1/2" H x 4 1/2 " W passport ( Here in Hong Kong, you use your passport a lot for identification purposes, so it gets used a lot), and three pen pockets. It has one 7" H x 5 1/2" W mesh water bottle holder on one side.
I've carried a cell phone, jackets, clothes, sandals, a small umbrella, thermos and food for a picnic, an impressive amount of laundry to the cleaners, books, magazines. It's great for carrying (upright) paper copies of my resume, and other important papers that you can't fold. It's even carried my 13" MacBook and cables. Not all at one time of course, but it is versatile. I like the small pocket on the inside to conveniently carry my passport and pens. There's also a detachable key fob on the inside.
What doesn't work:
When I go out, I start by carrying it by one shoulder, but I constantly have a problem with it slipping off my shoulder, so I have to get a grip on the strap with one hand while walking. The pack keeps slipping off, loaded and empty. I'll be carrying it by one shoulder at say, McDonalds, and as I go to set the tray down on the table, the pack will fall off my shoulder and slide down to my wrist, almost upsetting my grip if I'm not careful. If I use it backpack style, with both straps, then it feels like I'm carrying a cylinder on my back, which is uncomfortable and annoying. In Hong Kong, it's MASSIVELY crowded, everywhere you go. The sidewalks are narrow, so you're trying to thread through hundreds of people in a small space. The double decker buses and trams, the mini buses, and the subway are crowded also, especially during rush hour. The apartments/flats are small and cramped, as are the elevators, especially if they are full of people. Wearing the backpack, you're more conscious of hitting/bumping into someone. I've been in a crowded elevator, and had to stand with my back to the doors, facing the people to avoid bumping somebody with my pack. The mesh water bottle holder is basically useless. It's too short and too wide to carry a 770mL bottle, which is mainly the popular/convenient size here. I've had the bottle of water go shooting out of the holder more times than I can remember. Now I just carry it on the inside of the pack.
Tom Bihn bags:
In thinking about a everyday pack, I need/want to be able to carry my 13" MacBook with some protection. I've looked at the Brain Bag (too big and too unwieldy for me) , and the Ruck's Sac (I really don't like the styling for me personally, plus I'm afraid it's too small, same with the Buzz). The Ego and SuperEgo are way too large. The Zephyr and Empire Builder are nice, but too "briefcasey" for my tastes. I do like the aerodynamic styling and clean lines of the Smart Alec, I think it looks really good, but it is a backpack, and it's current not available while it's being redesigned.
The bags that offer this that I'm interested in are the Imago, the ID, and the Large Cafe bags. What I'm looking for is this:
A bag I can carry my 13" MacBook in easily in, to work if I need/want to, the coffee shop, and going to another country/city. And all the necessary cords, power supply, and adapters in. (MacWorld is coming up in San Francisco in January, and there's currently rumors on the web that Steve will unveil a laptop with a smaller/lighter form factor. Hey, we can dream right!? But that may be a factor to consider in the whole scheme of things.).
BUT, if I'm NOT carrying the laptop, and if I'm just bumming around town, and only carrying small, everyday items, I do not want a huge bag! We've all seen people carrying bags that are obviously to big for them, proportion wise. I want whatever bag I choose to fit me proportionally. I'm 5' 4", 160 lbs. I want something that can carry a sizable load if need be, but also work well with carrying only smaller, everyday items. Something that is smaller and more easily out of the way in crowds and tight spaces. It should be like I'm carrying nothing, like it's part or an extension of myself. I think a well designed, well thought out bag "disappears" when you're carrying it. You're not really conscious or aware of it (you're certainly not fighting with it).
I want it to be weatherproof. In Asia, when it rains, it POURS! I want it to protect what's inside during tropical downpours.
I want it to be efficient, with good organization. I like the pen holders and the pocket that I can easily keep, and get to, my passport when I need to. I don't want to have to paw through my belongings trying to find something that I need.
I want space to carry my resume, and other important papers in, ideally upright, so they can't be wrinkled or messed up. I like the height and width of the Large Cafe, but I'm afraid of it being to small for everything else I may need or want to carry with me.
As far as that goes, these are the type of things I plan on wanting to be able to carry, maybe not all at once, just combinations, but you get an idea:
13" Macbook and assorted hardware, cell phone, jacket, change of clothes for 2-3 days, toiletry bag, sandals, small digital camera, passport, 8x11 resume or other papers, a 770mL bottle of water (ideally in a designated spot/holder, but I guess I'm willing to take what I can get), space for loose coins (I have a small Eagle Creek waist pack that I bought to carry the digital camera in only, at the time, I'm using for these). I carry my keys, loose coins, and my wallet sometimes in my pants pocket, the waist pack, or the day pack. They're spread out all over the place, and I can't tell you how many times I've left where I live and forgotten my wallet or keys! It would be nice if I could carry them all in one place. Maps of the city I'm in currently, a small umbrella, lunch, and Tupperware containers of food, a thermos. Laundry, books, magazines. A Swiss Army knife, or a Leatherman.
I want to use it on trips to the market, store, shopping. It needs to hold SOME purchases while carrying the laptop. Another thing is, and this is a big one, I want/need to be able to stow it away in a (packed) Aeronaut during a trip, to be able to use it at my destination. So the ability to fit folded up in the Aeronaut would be great. Also, a Utility Tote or Lux should fit (folded) into whichever everyday bag I choose. Ideally, you could fit all two empty bags together into the packed Aeronaut. Or maybe the talked about Dyneema Rip-Stop tote that's on the horizon might be better for my needs. Any new word there? I'll vote for some type of padding on the carry handles (I'm hoping they're long too, my wife's totes handles are short, you can't really fit them on your shoulder, so you end up having to carry them, and they're unpadded, so your hands really feel it after a while!)
Lastly, I want a bag that I like the style/ color combination of, which is very subjective. I like the Large Cafe for that reason, but again, I'm fearing it would be too small. Second would be the Imago, then finally the ID.
As far as random thoughts go, I'll again throw in my vote for Tom Bihn luggage tags. I'll also throw in for zipper pulls. My day pack has them, they're flat pieces of nylon webbing, threaded through the zippers, and then folded and sewn together (think of a Breast Cancer, Aids, Support Our Troops ribbon. The webbing ends are still loose and separate).You could also offer pulls as an optional accessory on the website for those people that want them. But something you can also use one of those small brass padlocks with, on the lockable zippers anyway.
I'm really interested in the new toiletry bag with more organization that yet has to be made, any status in that.
I'm getting the Nikwax too when I order. Is there any reason to purchase and use the Nikwax cleaner before applying the Nikwax gear proof spray, or are the bags "clean" when they leave the factory, and don't need the Nikwax cleaner, only the weatherproofing? I ask because I have in the past "nuked" my backpacks/travel gear with up to three coats of Scotch-Guard, letting each coat dry before I put another coat on. I think it attracts dirt, as now some of the gear is showing sort of a mottled, spotty appearance in some areas. It looks like washing the item will restore it, but you've lost the Scotch-Guard at this point. How does one use the Nikwax for the best protection, and can you apply multiple coats at one time?
I'd love to be able to come to Seattle and spend some time looking over the bags, trying them on, seeing where and how they are made, seeing them up close and personally, seeing what really works, and having someone there who's able to give professional advice. And to meet everyone there at Tom Bihn! But unfortunately that's not feasible right now. It would make for a VERY expensive bag! So, I'm having to rely on myself, Darcy, the website, and your opinions, knowledge and experience when I choose my bag. So thanks for all of your help in advance!
Dave in Hong Kong