Yesterday, on the way home from Port Authority, I had to use the restroom, and we were on a local train (the A) which is notorious for dragging behind on the way uptown. It just got worse and worse. To distract myself, I started thinking about the problem that Steve and I have: we both need new laptop backpacks. Let me explain myself.
On 20 July 2008, I bought this bag. It's become such a part of my life that pretty much everyone who's seen me has seen me (and Steve) with that bag. Why? Because back in those days, to prevent either of us getting jealous of the other's things (a stupid concern, seeing as how we freely borrow each other's things [with permission, which is always granted] all the time), I would frequently buy things in duplicate: one for me, and one for him. This does not apply to clothes, because we share our whole wardrobe. Except my red shoes. Nobody touches my red shoes.
Point is that I bought one for Steve first, because he needed it the most. He was commuting the better part of 1 1/2 hours both ways to work at the time. He needed something to hold his 15" laptop, along with a few other extras. I wanted something that was sleek and stylish, and wouldn't look like a nerdpack growing out of his back. I didn't want a messenger bag, because (1) he already had one or two, and (2) for holding heavy things, like a laptop, for extended times, a backpack spreads out the weight much better than a messenger bag. There comes a point where style becomes bad for your body, and that's where I draw the line. If it's going to cause physical discomfort or pain, I don't want to bother with it, because then it's no longer a pleasure to own that thing.
Anyway. Both of us use our bags fairly frequently, and somewhat roughly. They get thrown in all directions, and both of us, being fairly attached to our electronics, tend to take our backpacks with us everywhere. Here are a couple of reasons why our current bags are so good:
1) When travelling by bus for long distances (generally, greyhound to DC), the bag fits very neatly under the seat, fully packed. This means not having to toss it in overhead or checked baggage. This applies for flights as well. It fits so neatly that no matter how cramped the under the seat storage is (Greyhound bus, subway, city bus, plane, Metro North train, etc), I can still slide my bag into it.
2) It looks really good. Even after (almost) three years of heavy, constant use, it still looks pretty nice. I've never had to throw it in the wash, so I'm not sure how it'd deal with it.
3) It sits sleekly on my back. This means that when I turn around in a crowded subway, I don't knock people over. Larger bags tend to do that, and all you need is one guy who's had a bad day to make the value of this bag unspeakably priceless.
4) It fits a /lot/. My macbook pro, laptop charger, wallet, phone, ipod, phone charger, ipod charger, wireless headphones, wireless headphones charger, work/home/friend's keys, 20 oz bottle of water, salt shaker, food for one meal, roll of yarn (and a crochet hook), a paperback novel, and CD wallet (into which I'd packed a bunch of DVDs). Steve's fits even more, because his computer is smaller. Best part is that there are compartments into which everything neatly fits, so I'm not searching forever.
However, Steve and I both have very different needs. I need something to hold just my computer, its charger, and basic day-to-day things. So although my bag needs to be larger than Steve's—to hold the computer—it also needs to be smaller on my back. Steve needs his to hold his computer a bunch of notes, his previous night's graded assignments, the test he's giving that day, possibly some snack of some sort, possibly water, and a whole host of other crap. Why? Because as soon as I get into my office, I have everything I need right there. Steve, on the other hand, is an adjunct teacher, meaning that he's got to carry his office on his back. There are a few things that both of us require, and a few things that would be nice bonuses, but we can have some wiggle room on.
On to the requirements:
1) It's got to be vegan. I'm not spending our money on something that has animal parts on it, including leather. This is absolutely non-negotiable.
2) It's got to be within my price range. I spent about $44 for each of our bags all those years ago, because we were making enough money that $44 wasn't a huge expense. I still researched the heck out of it, and bought the bags carefully, because this is something you're using every day, and you want it to be so convenient that you don't even think about it. Currently, we're not making too terribly much money, and need for our things to be within our price range. Right now, $44 is workable, but a titch on the pricey side. I wish we could afford more, but there you go. In other words, I'll spend it if I know that said bag will last longer than the (roughly) three years that the current bags have lasted.
3) Steve wants one that is big enough to hold all his stuff. He's also not too fussed about it looking nerdpack like. Because of the sheer quantity of stuff that he's carrying, his needs to maximise the comfort, and durability. He does need it to hold his laptop, but if there isn't a particular compartment meant for laptops (with the extra padding that comes with it), he's willing to use his own laptop sleeve for it, which he does own already. His laptop is 15".
4) I want for mine to be sleek, but big enough to hold my 17" macbook pro. I specifically want the laptop compartment, because I carry my computer with me all over the place, and I want the computer to be segregated from the chaos that is the rest of my bag. If something spills, at least I've got a bit of a thick, physical barrier between the $3,000 machine and the $1 bottle of water.
5) Comfort. Both of us tend to carry our backpacks frequently. We both need thick, cushioned shoulder straps. Padding is definitely a good thing.
This likely means that I'll be purchasing different ones for me and him. I'm OK with that.
1) Red. I'd like for my bag to have as much red as possible, because it's my favourite colour, and it's different from every other laptop bag, which is either grey or black. I like being able to pick out my bag from a lineup. Yes, I know that looks aren't everything, but I do like using things that are attractive.
2) A nice carrying handle. I don't frequently use it for more than a few seconds, but the handle up on top of the backpack is often neglected. They're rarely comfortable to use. I like my current top handle, because it's just as padded as the rest of the bag.
3) Mobile phone holder. Again, not an absolute requirement, but for me, I used my mobile phone holder to hold my phone and my metro card, because I reached for both so frequently. I found out that I can even slide my ipod touch 2nd gen in there instead of the mobile phone, because the holder is flexible.
If anyone has any suggestions, I'm all ears. I mainly mad this list so that I can organise my thoughts on it, and make sure that I'm not missing anything major. If you can think of anything that I'm missing (in my set of requirements) that you think I should be considering, please let me know.