What's in a Bag?
I'm always carrying a book or two with me. Whenever I go out, I always have to bring along some bag that is usually filled with books and pens. I've been this way since I was a child. These days, of course, all I really need is a hipster and pen to be entertained, but when I go on vacation or away for the day I need to have a few other things with me. Therefore bags have become necessary extensions of my "writing/artist" kit. Which bag I choose usually falls under one of the following 3 categories: everyday use, computer use, and specialty usage. Depending on where I am going and what I plan to do, I'll select one of these three bags.
My daily bag is a small, black messenger bag, featuring my favorite cartoon character Gir from Invader Zim. It measures 12" x 13" so it's not insanely big but just big enough for the few things I need to take with me, either to work or to the next gaming session. Inside, it contains a small book or two, my hipster, a tarot deck and a pen or three. Sometimes, I'll slide my iPod in it as well, but mostly that slides into my jacket pocket. On the weekends, everything comes out of this bag and I convert it into my gaming bag. During this day, it carries my dice bag, my player's manual and my outrageous neon green clipboard that holds my character for D&D.
On longer trips, I need to bring my computer as well as books with me, so I use a computer bag. Computer bags are an interesting breed of bag. They can be as large as luggage, allowing you to take everything with you, or as small as a slipcase that offers minimal protection for your system. I carry a Powerbook 12" G4 laptop, named Smudge, with me. Therefore the long trip bag not only needs to carry books and pens but now needs to include space and protection for Smudge and a travel power cord. My search for my preferred computer bag ended at Tom Bihn. I chose a slingback bag called the Buzz, that was made almost exclusively for my system. Not only does it provide adequate storage and protection for Smudge, but it also contains enough space and pockets to carry 3 books, my tarot cards, my travel power adaptor, hipster, a few pens and my iPod.
The third type of bag that I use, is a specialty bag for those few occasions when I get invited to an all-weekend art-fest or long distance art classes where I need to bring just about every piece of art supply I own. In this case, a normal backpack just doesn't cut it. Thatâ€™s why I bought my ideal "artist" bag. The Weekender by Generations is an excellent weekend bag for the book or paper artist. This bag is huge. As my husband told me, "It carries everything AND the kitchen sink." I was able to fit everything I felt I needed to have with me to make art, including the following: a 9 x13 200 page book, 6 glue sticks, scissors, rubber stamps, markers, pens and pencils, as well as all the assorted paper and paper collage materials to fill the book's pages.
The Weekender also has big, deep, mesh pockets on the inside of the front and back of the bag that allow me to organize and put even more things into. Dividing the bag into thirds is a plastic folder with even more plastic pockets and holders that allow me to slip paper into the backpack so it does not fold or get ruined; there's even stretchy loops on the backside to secure pens and scissors and glue sticks down so they donâ€™t get lost in the bottom of the bag. This backpack saved me from having to use a multitude of plastic bags and boxes to haul all my book art gear on a 6 hour drive down into Oregon two weekends in a row. If you are into altered arts, scrapbooking or are planning on attending a large art festival, I highly recommend you look at this bag or other products like it as a way of hauling all your gear around.
I'm also a tinkerer, so Iâ€™m constantly refining and trimming down my lifestyle and the things I want to carry with me. I used to own large backpacks to haul my daily needs with me. I'd cram 3-4 books into it, even though I knew thereâ€™d be no time to really read them all. Bills and papers were slipped between the books so they didn't get smashed. And for awhile this worked just fine. Until important bills or paperwork started getting lost or folded over themselves. And I started feeling guilty for not having enough time to read the books. Carrying all that weight also started hurting my back as I struggled to carry it to my car and the office. Therefore I allowed my inner tinker out and with a bit of planning, I refined my bag systems down towards the smaller and lighter versions.
Here's some tips I've used and thought about when I'm hunting for the next best bag:
- Plan ahead. Think about all the items your bag will carry. Will one bag be enough, or should you think about multiple bags, like I did?
- Style matters. Do you want a backpack or messenger bag? I prefer backpacks over messenger bags because my shoulders are not wide wide enough to have bag straps sit on them comfortable for long periods of time. The straps inevitably cut into my skin and only irritate me. Yes I love my Gir bag, but it's not something I'd take with me to the airport or on long commutes where it needs to be worn.
- Try before you buy. Make sure the bag fits your body and feels good and that you can carry it when itâ€™s filled with heavy books.
- One open space or a million pockets. Does the bag contain enough internal compartments to fit all your stuff? I love bags with pockets and pouches. When I need a pen, it's always right there in it's slot. They also save me time, everything is where it should be, and I am not digging deep into the bag just to find that one item.
- Price and fabric. How long will that nylon bag last as opposed to the ballistic nylon or neoprene bag? I prefer shelling out a little more for a bag that will last me 5 years as opposed to the bag that lasts 6 months of heavy use.
- Ergonomics. How well does the bag fit your body. Are the straps padded? Does the bag strain your body in anyway? If it does, you may want to consider a different shape or style.
Remember, a bag is a nice accessory that keeps your books, planners and computers safe for when you need to be mobile. Don't let it become a sinkhole for storing more than you need at any given time. Make your bag work for you and not the other way around. And above all, carry simple; donâ€™t let the things or the bag get in the way of what is most important to your life and your goals.