Being an annoying pragmatist, my Christmas present to myself was a new bag. Although I have bags in good condition, they weren’t meeting my needs. I have a purse*, about the size of an original-series Star Trek tricorder, that’s good for when I only need a few things. I have a messenger bag, but it’s one big pocket with a flap and everything just sort of ends up in the bottom and I have to dig to find what I’m looking for; I need more organization than what amounts to a junk drawer with a shoulder strap. I have a backpack that I love, which loads from the top and is made of ballistic nylon, but it’s got issues. For a start, after almost 10 years the straps are tearing loose even though the rest of the bag is still like new. Being a bus rider, I have to take it off to sit down. Because it rides on my back, I need to take it off to get to anything anyway. With my recent shoulder problems, a backpack is a poor solution for me.
After doing a lot of research, I decided upon the Rothko M-51 Engineers Field Journey Bag. It’s an incredibly well-designed, compact, messenger bag on steroids. It’s heavy waterproof canvas. It comes in black, olive drab, or khaki, so naturally I picked black. There are plenty of exterior pockets, so I can put small things that I want to access frequently and easily — pens, MP2 player, water bottle — on the outside. There are pockets just under the flap, so I can put items that need a little more protection, like my HipsterPDA and my day planner, there and still have easy access. The big pouch only has one compartment, but it has an elastic panel at the back where a laptop can be held snugly in place.
And here’s my bag, fully packed. The water bottle holder might seem shallow in this pick, but it’s a really tall water bottle. It is narrow, though, and strangely not elasticized, so I had to find a bottle that fit. I’m still looking for a steel bottle narrow enough.
The inside of the flap has a clear plastic document pouch. Good for a school schedule. I’m going to keep bus schedules there, when I get around to it. I’ve thought about various vital info I could keep there, like “if found contact” information, or maybe even photos or a GM screen.
Under the pencil loops on the side you can see a small cell phone pouch. It’s a good size, and would fit most modern devices. I use it for my MP3 player, because I keep my phone clipped to the strap when I’m wearing the bag, for easier access.
The other reason I keep writing utensils on the outside is that the loops under the flap are extremely narrow. A #2 pencil will fit. A mechanical pencil might. Most modern pens with rubber grips and such are right out.
I only have one complaint, and that’s the strap. It’s a good, solid strap, basic web gear-style thing, but it offers no padding it’s not terribly comfortable. It’s narrow, so it tends to get twisted up. It just clips onto the bag, though, and isn’t permanently attached so it’s easy enough to replace, once I get out to a good luggage store to find a strap that matched.