Ask LH: What Bag Should I Get For Work?

Ask LH: What Bag Should I Get For Work?

Dear Lifehacker, I’m starting a new job as a graduate engineer soon. Among the new items I will need for such an endeavour is a new bag, as I don’t think my uni-style backpack will cut it. What styles and bags would you recommend for carrying a 15″ laptop and other useful accessories for work? Thanks, Bag-less

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Dear BL,

My name is Anthony and I’m a bagaholic. I have purchased more laptop and work bags than I care to admit and have come to a conclusion – there is no “one size fits all” answer to your question. But there is a reasonable process to follow to find the best bag for you.

Start by laying out all the gear you think you’ll need to carry to and from work. Then take a ten-minute walk, come back and look at the pile and critically evaluate whether you really need all of that gear. Is it all necessary? My experience has been that I carry more gear than I need most of the time.

Having established what you’ll be carrying, you need to decide on a form factor. I think there’s still a place for the backpack – particularly if you’re likely to do some traveling. But I like to have a satchel for every day use. Although it’s probably less healthy to carry as I tend to just sling it over my shoulder, satchels tend to provide easier access to your gear than backpacks.

With a satchel, pay particular attention to the width of shoulder straps. I have a really nice satchel that can comfortably handle my MacBook Air, power adaptor, some papers, a notebook, iPad mini and a few accessories but the shoulder strap is quite thin and gets painful if I carry it around all day.

Satchels can either be carried portrait or landscape. I have a personal preference for portrait but try both to see what works best for you. Also, make sure you open the bag while it’s over your shoulder to see how easy it is to grab your phone, wallet or other object you might need quick access to. With a 15″ laptop, I’d look for a bag with a wide, padded shoulder strap. When you shop around, put your laptop and a couple of books in the bag so that you know how it feels when fully loaded.

With materials, leather bags will last a lifetime if they’re well made and maintained. They also can look both casual and business-smart depending on how you dress. Less expensive bags can also look good but look for colours and styles that don’t scream “I’m a laptop bag – please steal me”.

I’d advise that you try a few bags and styles out before buying.

Cheers Lifehacker

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  • I get my bags from surf shops – often have proper padded sections for tech – and often a little more rugged. Can be plain / or colorful. Last one i got was a plain pleather one with a non obvious side zip which fits my tablet or a small laptop.
    I prefer backpacks because a satchel can be a little uneven in weight distribution and it doesn’t have to look like a school bag.

  • I commuted with a PC shoulder bag for about a year before I switched to a backpack and haven’t looked back.

    Go to a proper luggage shop and get something that’s solid but understated.

  • A great bag brand is Timbuk2. Build for tech people, very functional and durable. I had a clasp break and their customer service express posted a replacement to me without any fuss or hassle. Mine is a TSA approved bag, if you do traveling its great to not have to take your laptop out of the bag at security.

  • Dear lifehacker

    I just completed a four year engineering degree, but appear unable to make a simple decision on a portage device. Please burn my degree for me and find me a job at Macca’s

    • Ah yes, the cries of woe that emit from new graduates as they face working life for the first time are palpable 🙂

  • I think that backpacks are fine for an engineer, just as long as it’s a good one.

    I bought an Ogio Renegade backpack about 3 months ago, and love it. It has a padded pocket for the laptop, and dozens of little pockets within pockets to hold things like a computer mouse or headphones. And, because of the way the straps are, I can carry way more gear than I probably need, and it doesn’t feel heavy at all on my back.

    Gizmodo did a write up of a similar bag. They are hard to find in Oz, but well worth it.

  • Dakine Heli Pro. Great bag with lots of pockets, padding for your laptop, can’t go wrong.

  • FIRST determine if you will be getting a laptop given to you by the company, maybe just wait and see what they give out, I’ve always got given a laptop bag and either way, you want to see what kind of gear you’ll be carrying around before investing in a new bag.

    Otherwise, go for the suggestions above, backpacks are ok as long as they look somewhat professional.

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