Red Oxx: CPA/Metro Briefcase?
I know there will probably be a one-sided response, but does anyone have experience with Red Oxx's CPA or Metro briefcases? Any sense of how they might compare with an Empire Builder? I do a large amount of non-urban, developing world travel for work, and need something very rugged.
I have bags from both companies, so here's my 2 cents' worth.
What are your office needs? The Empire Builder is more traditional-office friendly; with the file organization and pocket design, if you carry a lot of papers you must keep in perfect shape the EB is the best of the 3.
I prefer the RedOxx bags when I need to multitask; it's easier to rip everything out of their briefcases and use one as an overnight bag, or stuff in non-business stuff. That said, the 'floating' divider is nowhere near as secure a slot for a laptop as an integrated Brain Cell in an EB. Even with a neoprene sleeve in my RO bags I am dreadfully careful where I put my bag!
Weight is about the same; if you don't already have one, an Absolute Shoulder Strap is necessary, even if you go with the RO bags. The very first thing I did upon seeing an Absolute Strap was to buy one and toss my Claw from RO (I have 2 or 3 Claws, and I don't use them!).
I like the ROs for the sleeker (read: fewer pockets to lose stuff in) styling, but the water bottle holders are too low for what I prefer (Nalgenes or Sigg aluminums) and they fall out. The bellows pockets are useful, and there are two hidden pockets behind them, but if the pockets aren't big enough for you, there's a slip pocket on the front, and not much more. The EB has more pockets and organization.
You have more color choices with RO than with the EB due to the ballistic. If seeing your bag possibly growing legs is important, you can see the saffron RO bags at perhaps 1000 miles (just kidding). If someone tries to steal the lone RO amethyst bag in a sea of black, you can bet it's yours...
Anyway, it comes down to what you really need. I've bashed my AirBoss for almost 2 years now, and it doesn't have a mark on it. I usually toss my electronics into a Brain Cell and pop that into my AirBoss' center compartment. With files? I switch to a Zephyr on the side, complaining mightily. I hate to tote 2 bags.
One option you might consider is using an Aeronaut. You could still use a Brain Cell, add a Freudian Slip or sleeve for files, get the ballistic nylon, and have space to tote clothes on top of it all. The reason I don't own an Aeronaut is that my usual travel clothes won't fit - I'm large-sized.
One other thing to consider is that the Empire Builder (or Zephyr) have sleeves for putting in on a rolling bag. If that's a necessity RedOxx doesn't add that sleeve.
So what would I recommend? Both bags have outstanding warranties. Both are made in the US. Both bags are hell-for-stout and will survive anything. The Tom Bihn are more business-friendly if you carry a lot of paperwork. If you prefer one open compartment with a minimum of preselected storage the RedOxx briefcase bags excel. The Tom Bihn strap is best. I won't carry my AirBoss without it.
What I carry on a regular basis is a Tom Bihn Swift as an on-site tote (with a gazillion inserts and pouches), an AirBoss with a Brain Cell (and the must-have Absolute Shoulder Strap) en route, and use the Absolute strap with the Brain Cell once I arrive if the Swift is full. I carry the Metro from RO if I need a 'traditional' bag. I rarely carry the Zephyr any longer; I just don't need that much space and my shoulders hate the two-bag thing.
I hope I've been of help.
Oh, noticed I'd forgotten a couple things.
Why do I carry a Red Oxx Metro (when I do)? Simple. It will fit inside the AirBoss center compartment so I only carry one bag until I arrive. The Swift takes that space if I'm using it with the Brain Cell. The Zephyr will not fit.
I hate and despise hauling two bags... just about as much as I hate wheeled ones!
As far as the Red Oxx Metro/CPA choice? The CPA has more padding, is wider, and has the exact same inside layout as the Metro. If you don't need the extra padding (mostly on the top flaps, which is superfluous with a Brain Cell), or the slightly larger dimensions, don't spring for it. If you don't use a Brain Cell (or even a neoprene sleeve) the CPA will pad your laptop adequately. If you're using a milspec field laptop, you could darn near run over a CPA holding it with your deuce-and-a-half of choice and it would probably jump up smiling (ha - just kidding - barely!). I actually returned my CPA for a Metro - any situation requiring the use of a Brain Cell inside a CPA is one I shouldn't be in!
I would recommend you not use the Metro without some sort of secondary laptop protection, though. The unpadded top (similar to the RO Gator) won't protect the contents if it's accidentally dropped upside down.
And, just to be the true devil's advocate: if the Aeronaut seems too large to play briefcase/suitcase, there's always the Western Flyer to consider...
I think the point of the Toughbooks are that you could run over them with your deuce-and-a-half WITHOUT any sort of protection and they'd still be fine ;)
I have the RO Gator which should be identical to the CPA and Metro except for size. I think aiethabell did a good job on explaining the RO bags. They are more utilitarian imo where the TB bags (which I don't have yet) would be more specific to a briefcase.
For example, with my Gator I can pack my digital SLR, snacks, water on the outside, iPod and misc, book and general stuff for a flight. Then I can turn around and still pack the DSLR but carry it around for sight seeing while walking the dog. If I were to go with the Metro or CPA I might have a slight issue on how professional it looks but that's being picky.
I think the bottom line for me on the RO Gator design is how it's easier to adapt to my needs. I really like the open design of the Gator - a very fun bag to carry around. I would assume the CPA and Metro are the same just sized differently. I might also agree with aiethabell that the TB strap would be better than the RO one.
I just discovered this thread and read it with interest. I would add that in my opinion Red Oxx bags don't look very professional. The Red Oxx logo is very prominent and in red even on the black bag. So if professional appearance is important, I would shy away from Red Oxx.
I've purchased RO stuff before, too heavy and over enginered for urban use.
I'd argue that there is no such thing as over engineered. Unless the maker of a bag publishes strict guidelines to how the bag can be used, just about any bag will eventually find a user who is going to over stuff it or abuse it. If the bag isn't designed to accomodate that user then it will be labeled as poorly constructed. I'm sure Tom does things with his bags that others do not yet his bags are labeled with a stigma of "over" engineered and instead are called good quality.
Originally Posted by PM4HIRE
I'd agree the RO stuff has a rugged look but it's really hard to tell what is professional anymore. I'm amazed how many backpacks I see going into my office building. I admit a backpack and a suit look silly, but is it really any less silly than a briefcase with a shoulder strap that pulls the coat in the same ugly and unprofessional manner?
We are conditioned to say "yes" because a laptop bag that is briefcase style is given a pass because it's based on a briefcase. It's like the strap was just grandfathered in. The reality is any time you mess up the jacket with a strap you are ruining the professional look.
If you really want to get technical you could even say zippers, flaps, and pockets are unprofessional.
pretzelb: Your post was very helpful to me. This is an issue I've been thinking about. I am in my mid-50s. In the 60s and 70s a professional would not use a backpack for business and would have no need for a shoulder strap. A briefcase was an accessory as much as a practical way to carry a modest amount of papers and a few other items. Things have changed. Fewer professionals wear suits. Shoes are more casual. Having said this, your post made me realize that if one really wants a polished suit and tie professional appearance a bag with a shoulder strap really isn't the way to go. Yes, there is a place for it in 2009 (e.g., when traveling) but a normal day in the city calls for something more elegant in my opinion. I wasn't able to express this before your post. Thank you for helping me clarify my own thoughts.
Originally Posted by pretzelb
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