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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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.
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