Like any good commuting cyclist who also has to carry a lot of work-related equipment around with her, I realized that holding everything in my basket wasn’t an option – mostly because my bike lacks a wicker basket, but still, the idea that all those TPS reports might go careening all over the roadway and leave me bumbling to my boss about their whereabouts doesn’t appeal. Other options that quickly were deterred for one reason or another included a plastic shopping bag (hey, women are carrying lululemon bags everywhere these days), a paper shopping bag (unfortunately, Trader Joe’s bags don’t come with the ability to hold together if my Nalgene leaks), and a reusable shopping bag (those little guys sag if they get anywhere near heavy; fine for shopping, terrible for biking).
Which meant it was time to go bag shopping.
Runner’s Delight, like any self-respecting lady, has a bit of high-end hipster taste when it comes to bags. I’d noted several local cycling enthusiasts sporting these really neato Chrome Messanger Bags, that were easy to spot based on their seat-belt style buckle. Messanger bags, much like laptop bags in general, tend to be one-strapped, meaning they rest over one shoulder. Me being me, I was excited about the little griffin looking guy that proudly sat on the buckle. It wasn’t until I brought up my bag-desire with my neighbor that he pointed out that a messenger bag meant all the weight would be held on one shoulder, and as a person who already has shoulder issues (thanks, anxiety), any messenger bag was out of the question. Or should be.
It took a few days to come to terms with this, until I noticed Chrome sold backpacks. I noticed this at REI, where I went to scope out their collection of day-packs that would be work appropriate yet discreet and not tempting for someone to clock me down and make me give them my TPS reports (I know how thieves covet spreadsheets). It was here that I realized I needed a checklist of what I required in a bag, and I cannot stress enough I had written this checklist prior to spending an hour in REI (which is my polite way of saying “for the love of all that is holy and right, get yourself a checklist and know what you want from a bag before you shop”).
From my bag, I needed:
2. Appropriate size for my 5’2 frame yet alarmingly broad shoulders (thanks Dr. Dad)
3. Ability to hold a lunch, change of shoes, and possibly gym clothes along with work.
4. Would be nice if had accessible pocked for small items I might desperately want, like chapstick.
5. Must hold at least 13 inch sheets of paper without too much rumpling.
6. Would prefer it to be as small as possible, and as cute as possible (I’m a girl).
7. Water resistent as I’m apt to not bring umbrellas places.
After trying on every bag at REI (and scoping out their Cliff Bar selection because they get all the fun flavors like Maple Nut) I eventually determined I liked exactly none of them. They were either too big and thus didn’t hold onto my back well, too small to feasibly hold a change of clothes and a lunch, not water resistent, or all of the above. So I did what any non-self-respecting hipster would do: hit the mall.
First stop, Eddie Bauer. Their bags come with a lifetime warranty. Like, literally in 20 years if a zipper had broken, they’d refund me or offer me an equivalent. Interesting. Starting with the Trailhead, I began trying on bags (um, please note that so much waste is being put into stuffing bags to make them look full for consumers. This royally irked me). Trailhead was too big. Just too much space, and thus it lay funny on me. Airstream, Cruiser and Adventurer all had the same sort of issues. Too big, and in my opinion, too much branding on them. And let’s be fair: I’m not sure how much I wanted to be branded by EB.
Stop two was Crumpler, a fairly high-end Australian brand that, despite having a logo that looked like the “Life is Good” line that your great aunt loves to wear, actually had some decent bags. They almost had me at the Private Zoo bag – it was slim, discreet, and would hold everything I needed. Despite almost going for it, I wasn’t quite sure. Part of it was the branding, and part of it just didn’t feel super feminine.
On a whim, I left the mall and began prowling the streets of Union Square (home to just about every brand name sporting company) and ducked in and out of Marmount and Nike (yes, Nike). Finally, I found myself in The North Face, probably out of frustration, when I became interested in what they were offering. They had bags specifically designed for women, and a whole slew of sizes. I really wanted the Borealis to work for me but it was actually too big. Recon got denied because I hate exposed pockets-I won’t use them, so they are worthless to me. Finally, I found the Isabella style, and found I could fit everything I wanted to with a teeny bit of extra space just in case, and be happy as a clam.
What I love about the Isabella: she’s a backpack, and always is able to adjust in case I have an unbalanced load. More than that, I carry at least five pounds of weight on me and I never feel strained. She’s deceptively large, to the point that I have lost things at the bottom of her despite checking three times or more as I look for things. Straps are padded and comfy. I have yet to not fit everything I want within her. She’s discreet (got different colors than above) and stylish enough to take out with me if I go out after work. Oh, and ease on a bicycle? Most definitely.
Was spending five hours backpack hunting worthwhile? You bet your sweet bag it was.