First Click: Backpack or messenger bag?

August 12th, 2016

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I need a new bag for my computing stuff. Okay, not need per se, since I have an embarrassing number of bags already, each capable of carrying my laptop and camera gear and whatever else I might choose to hoist over my shoulders. But none of my bags are perfect. My defect is that I’m certain I’ll find a better bag if I just keep looking. Question is: should I get a backpack or messenger bag?

I grew up in Ohio, a state responsible for establishing trends related to presidential elections and McRib sandwiches, not fashion. I always wore a backpack as a kid, as did my friends, and continued the practice right into college. It was cool to be a one-strapper back then, which apparently changed sometime in the late oughts according to Channing Tatum in the excellent drug documentary 21 Jump Street.

When I moved to New York City, all the cool kids were toting Manhattan Portage messenger bags. I loved the idea of emulating a gritty bike messenger; that two-wheel tattooed menace who’s quick with a middle finger as he weaves ahead of traffic. So I bought a messenger bag in protest of the suit I had to wear to the accounting firm each day. Now they're just commonplace.

Backpacks do have their benefits, though. They’re more balanced, for one thing, helping me carry heavy loads like my laptop, tablet, cables, a full-sized DSLR with lenses and flash, and a myriad of other essentials. But wearing one always makes me feel like the kid from Up!, even though I’m a grown-ass man. Messenger bags, in contrast, are easy to swivel to the front for quick access to all my gear — and sometimes the time saved can mean capturing a photo or missing it. They’re just not as comfortable to wear, especially for extended periods of time.

To be frank, I’d probably just be getting another messenger bag had a company called Peak Design not introduced its Everyday Backpack on Kickstarter last month. Many of my colleagues in New York City are rabid fans who bought the original Everyday Messenger bag last year when it first came out. But Peak's bags are expensive ($200 and up), so it’s going to be one or the other.

Makes me wonder: what style of bag do you prefer?

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