26 July 2006

Russian Nesting Dolls

The only way I would be able to store my A5 Filofax in a pocket would be carrying a kangaroo with me. It turns out that carrying a messenger bag is substantially easier than carrying a kangaroo.

I’ve been a devotee of the messenger bag since college. I could never quite get into backpacks. I had a few brief love affairs with one, but the dealbreaker was always ease of access while on my feet. With a backpack, I had to do a funny twist-and-unzip thing. If I was using both shoulder straps, I’d have to partially disengage with the pack first. Then, in the process of unzipping, I would have to be careful not to unzip too far, thereby spilling its precious contents onto asphalt. With a messenger bag, though, the storage compartments sit at just the right height for easy access. And, although a twist-and-unzip is sometimes necessary, it's not nearly as chiropractic.

So, for years, I have turned my obsessive research instincts toward messenger bags.

I think the first one I had was an Eddie Bauer. How quaint. It’s the non-threatening starter bag. How could anything made and sold by Eddie Bauer be bad? Unstylish? Possibly. But truly bad? No way. It was green, like most things at Eddie Bauer.

Then I lived in New York. New York is mecca for messenger bags. Everyone has one. You carry your personal items, your groceries, sometimes your children, in one. I went through a few, but the one that really sticks in my head was the Manhattan Portage bag. It was roughly this:

Oh, yes, it looked cool. But hold on a sec. There is no handle for grabbing it. There are no external pockets at all. Inside, there was one large zippered pocket. No pen loops. No handy cell phone pocket. Just space. (Lapsed Geek Alert: Like a Bag of Holding!)

Really impractical. Like most things associated with New York.

I’ve left out some other bag flings I’ve had. Some were one-night stands. Others were torrid but star-crossed love affairs. Then, the fates conspired me to deliver salvation to me: Tom Bihn. My first exposure to Tom Bihn was a review on The Gadgeteer of the ID Bag. I loved the look. I loved the idea. (Commitment to fair labor conditions; friendly service (including message boards on their site); generally crunchy vibe. Here is another reason to like Bihn: Click.) I bought the ID on the strength of that review. And I loved it.

That was about three years ago. I have become something of a Tom Bihn devotee. Last year, I made my wife give me the Super Ego for my birthday. (At least I let her pick the color of the stripe on the front of the bag.)

I still alternate back and forth between the ID and the Super Ego. I like the capaciousness of the Super Ego. But I like the compactness of the ID. (Damn logic!) I also prefer the pocket layout of the ID, which fits my usage patterns a little better.

If anyone cares, I would be happy to describe in excruciating detail the differences between the two bags, and why I prefer the pocket layout of the ID. Both, however, make excellent portable, non-marsupial pockets for an A5 Filofax.

Now, I have to carry the Bihn bag in something, of course. Namely, a car. I shall save my thoughts on that for another day.


  1. I once "lost" a messenger bag in Union Station (Chicago)after getting out of a cab. I was cursing,twisting and shouting while drawing a crowd. The bag was hanging from my shoulder all the time. Very cathartic.
    I left two cameras in restaurants, never to be seen again. In other words, I can't trust myself to carry anything that won't fit in a pocket. The "pocket" size FiloFax isn't really pocket size either, so I am going for the Exec. mini, which also opens flat. The downside, besides being a little small, is that no storage binder is available --- until I contacted FiloFax cust. service today who informed me that the pocket size storage binder WILL WORK. "There are two posts in the binder that the first and fourth holes in the mini size paper fit over". So there.
    My life is now complete as I shall be ordering my mini kit straight away.

  2. The draw of the pocket is, indeed, strong. Losing my Filofax is a great fear in my life, though I am generally pretty good about not losing things. [Furiously knocking on wood.]

  3. Dude. I know you. You are definitely more of a Super Ego guy than an Id guy. Sorry. What were we talking about?

  4. Ooh, great bags! I clicked all of the links and visited the Web site. This is my first time hearing of Tom Bihn. Both the ID and the SuperEgo seem like great "everything" bags.

    I've been using a Levenger Majorca Briefbag for the past few years.
    Mine is a light lavender.

    It appears the Tom Bihn bags are available only through the Web site and a couple of stores on the West Coast, which is a shame because I'd like to examine one in person before I buy. They'd make great gifts, especially for someone who travels a lot.

  5. Filling in on this one, for those of you who are in the Nordic (and no, I don't mean Alaska...)region, the Finnish company Marimekko makes wonderful messenger bags. Don't know if they're avaliable in the US, though...