Here at MB, we like to travel lightly, especially on any excursion lasting less than 24 hours. That means we try to limit the things we carry to whatever we can fit in our pockets and maybe a small-ish correspondent bag or briefcase.
But we're also lifelong learners and committed library-goers, so we'll always have a place in our lives for a backpack that can comfortably hold a fortnight's worth of books. Which for us isn't a lot — we're slow readers.
Beyond that basic requirement, we figure less is more. If a backpack requires consultation with an architect to decipher its floorplan, it has too many compartments for us. If it can hold more than, say, a third of Suzanne Somers' collected works, it's too big. We like a backpack that exerts stringent curatorial judgment on our behalf.
Their new backpack is made out of canvas, leather, synthetic cotton (?), and cork (!). That sounds complicated, but the object itself exudes a stylish simplicity. We're confident we won't need a map to navigate its chambers and sleeves, nor will we spend hours trying to discern the purpose of extraneous straps and buckles and grommets. See, it's making us more productive already and it doesn't even exist yet.
Q: I am looking for a cool weekender bag with good organization. I found the perfect one in the J. Fold Trooper bag, but unfortunately it
appears to have been discontinued as I can't find it anywhere. Do you
know of anything comparable I should consider? —Eric
A: We are sad to hear the Trooper bag no longer appears to be in production — we continue to use ours often and four years down the line it is holding up well.
The Trooper had a fairly distinct profile that was based on standard-issue Soviet military bags from the 1960s and 1970s. Alas, in a quick survey of our favorite bag manufacturers, we were unable to find any offerings that closely approximate the Trooper's doctor's bag-like shape in weekender-style dimensions and materials.
Of what we did see, we were most intrigued by this Scout Series Navy Duffle from Wheelmen & Co., which strikes us as a nice combination of durability and modestly understated style. The overall shape is more conventional than the Trooper, but the volume is essentially the same and we suspect the Scout is easy to pack. Silver hardware is always our first choice over the far more ubiquitous brass, and while there are no photos of the bag's interior, we like the sound of it. Multiple pockets (including one zippered) and orange lining (presumably bright) to make it easier to ID small loose items in dim conditions.
So until Putin annexes the U.S. and commands J. Fold to start making Troopers again, we encourage you to consider the Scout. And if you do go ahead and purchase it, let us know what you think.
Q: First off - thanks a lot for all the tips!! Great stuff!!
I am out hunting for a great laptop bag in the under-$500 region. I really like the looks of the Billykirk schoolboy satchel, but it doesn't serve my purpose since I fly a lot for work, and the lack of any zippers and additional pockets makes it painful. Could you provide me with a few MB recommendations for a laptop (13 inch laptop and an iPad) bag which is also utility focused (a couple of zippered pockets, no belt buckles - takes too long at the airport, has a strap to attach to a stroller handle). Also I would like it to be sleek (I don't care for laptop padding - don't like the bulk) and would prefer it not being made with nylon. I wear open collar suits to work and am 26, so I would prefer it not being too college like but also not something my dad would use.
I know its a lot of requirements. Is there anything out there? —TJ
A: If there's one domain where a senseless lack of utility loses a little bit of its gravitational pull on our hearts, it's airports. Translation: Sure, we get that you need fewer buckles and more pockets than the Schoolboy has to offer when, say, you're trying to make a connection at O'Hare.
For business travel luggage, we like Mandarina Duck. Much of its product incorporates nylon and other synthetics — but note that we're talking Italian synthetics here, and "avant-garde" synthetics at that.
For your purposes, we're going to point you toward the Sistema Workbag. A mix of leather, cotton, and polyurethane, it's as functional as it is sleek — lightweight, compact, but spacious enough for your electronics, with a suitably sub-divided main compartment and an exterior pocket as well.
Taking its aesthetic cues from 80s-era post-modern design, it has nary a whiff of the Ivy League or Dad's study about it. But it will continue to deliver timeless on-the-go style in today's airports, tomorrow's airports, and probably in whatever the 22nd century's architects dream up too.
At only $219, it's well under your price range — but that just mean you'll have more to spend on drinks and car service on your next trip.
We want to get a special gift for my son's 21st birthday. We are thinking a leather messenger bag. Recommendations? —Erik
First, pour you and your son a couple of MBs. Then, sit down and have an important conversation about the virtues of forbearance. Why are you having this conversation now? Because we're about to recommend a bag that is currently out of stock.
It's from Billykirk, and it's called the No. 236 Schoolboy Satchel. We specifically like this version in Brown Dublin leather from Horween. Which unfortunately sold out very quickly and is now out of stock.
We think the name is a bit of misnomer. These days, schoolboys tend to carry Cordura backpacks, or if they're on the path to MB-dom, maybe waxed canvas. All-leather bags, on the other hand, are generally a hallmark of adulthood. And not just adulthood. To our eye, most all-leather briefcases read as "middle-aged banker."
That's why we like the No. 236 so much. It projects substantially more maturity and sense of purpose than a backpack does. But it still has an obvious sense of play about it. And it's not too big, so it's impossible to weigh yourself down with this bag. Finally, the No. 236 in Brown Dublin has an especially artfully disheveled look to it, which we obviously appreciate. All of these factors make it perfect for a 21-year-old, and worth the wait until it's available again.
That might be a while — we have asked Billykirk if there is a target restock date and will update this post if we hear anything. But the No. 236 in Brown Dublin has a timeless style. Indeed, in 30 years or so, we suspect it will be something your son will be able to hand down to his own 21-year-old. So we encourage you to encourage him to take the long view. And in the meantime, pour yourselves another MB. The days, months, and years go fast.
UPDATE: We've received a reply from Billykirk: "We may be releasing a few more of the Dublin in the coming weeks, but we are currently working with a new leather for the Spring season. These should release online towards the end of March."
Based on this news, our advice remains largely the same: Wait. More specifically, sign up for the Notify Me When Available option on the Brown Dublin page, then wait. If the new Spring season version appears before the Brown Dublin does, who knows? Maybe it will also be a viable option.
If you and/or your son absolutely can't wait — and simultaneously have truly long-term patience, J. Crew is selling a version of the No. 236. It lacks the overt artful dishevelment and rich character of the Brown Dublin version — but it is available immediately. And a decade or so of hard use will undoubtedly improve its richness and resonance.
Q: I'm a student who needs an MB bag or backpack of some sort. I have to carry around a laptop and up to two textbooks almost all day. Got any recommendations? --Sam
In general, we think that if you're carrying so much stuff you need a backpack, you're carrying too much stuff. But it warms our hearts to hear that there's at least one college left in America that is still making its students read -- or at least carry around -- actual ink-on-paper textbooks. And conveniently, we recently discovered, via Selectism, the Babylon Backpack from Wheelmen & Co.
These days, we see a lot of trophy backpacks, which is to say, backpacks that look great in a photo shoot but quickly become painful when put into actual use. Wheelmen's Babylon backpack combines traditional materials (waxed cotton, leather) with just enough modern comforts (padded shoulder straps, foam back panel) to make it truly functional. It honors tradition without slavishly deifying "heritage."
There. Now you've got both a good backpack recommendation plus a start on your next American Studies essay. How's that for service?
Q: I have just moved to Shanghai. I need to take the subway for work and if you have ever been to Shanghai before, you will know how crowded it is! I have a currently use a Costume National bag. More like a briefcase. Which is not really suitable for the subway. I need a good shoulder bag that can fit a 15" laptop, notebook, etc. Not too expensive. Functional and not bulky; maybe a mix of leather and canvas? Can you suggest somthing, MB? --John
A: Yes, we've traveled the Shanghai metro and it's even more crowded, dirty, and smelly than flying coach on U.S. airlines. The bag you need is something from Property Of..., a Singapore-based shop that makes minimally-designed bags with a harmonious mixture of the leather/canvas combo you desire, and small enough not to damage internal organs when you're being squeezed by a billion Chinese, in the same subway car all at once. The only problem is finding them. Keep an eye on Gilt (they were on sale there last week) and boutique men's retailers like Ian in Seattle or Martin Patrick in Minneapolis.
As Malcolm Fontier founders Malcolm Fontier and Gabrielle Kennedy are testing their new line of bags by eating their way across Europe and are now likely busy foraging for grubs in the jungles of Congo, we're giving away their duffel, dubbed the "New Yorker." What do you have to do to enter the contest? Follow MB by midnight CT tonight (Friday, October 29). We'll pick a winner and announce the lucky Bastard (or Spectacular Bitch) on Monday.
Malcolm Fontier founders Malcolm Fontier and Gabrielle Kennedy are promoting their new carry-on, duffel, and tote by using them on a trip from the cafes of Copenhagen to the mud huts of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Magnificent Bastard is doing its part from its comfy offices in Wisconsin by giving away the duffel, dubbed the "New Yorker." It holds enough duds for an overnight trip (or weekend jaunt if you pack well) and a laptop, too. It's a $285 value. All you have to do to enter is follow MB. Entry deadline is Friday, October 29 and we'll randomly pick a winner on Monday, November 1. (While Malcolm and Gabrielle may be on an international trip, ya gotta live in the United States to claim this prize.)
Meanwhile, if you're like us and have sent your wallet to a fat farm, their Mojito is an affordable option ($29) that efficiently holds all you need: a couple of cards and few twenties.
A reminder to readers that it's the last day to enter the J. Fold "Trooper" Bag giveaway. Just follow @magbas to enter. On Monday we'll give twitRand(); a whirl to pick the winner. Direct message to that lucky contestant: you're gonna love this bag.
Earlier this year we searched high and low for the fine-looking J. Fold Weekend Bag, but they were so hard to find we dubbed it the Lost J. Fold Weekend Bag. The explanation from the folks at J. Fold was they retired the bag because it usually weighed more than its contents, and convinced us to give the "Trooper" a try instead. Their new weekend model is made from leather and (lighter) coated cotton canvas, with a design based on standard-issue Soviet military bags from the '60s and '70s. While it's certainly not as masculine or elegant as, say, the standard-issue Soviet assault rifle, it's built as solidly as one, and has quickly become our favorite 48-hour road/plane-trip bag.
Why are we telling you all this? Because we've gotten our hands on another J. Fold Trooper Bag and we'd like one comrade to share our experience. No drink recipe or poem required to win this time. All you have to do to enter is follow MB on something called Twitter. Entry deadline is Friday, August 20 and we'll randomly pick a winner on Monday, August 23. (Sorry world, ya gotta live in the United States to claim this prize.)
Ideeli.com is a Gilt wannabe primarily geared towards women and women shopping for their kids, but on Friday, July 2 at 11AM ET they're having a men's (and women's) Mandarina Duck sale. This is really good stuff worth your money. If you'd like an invitation to ideeli.com, here you go: www.ideeli.com/invite/magbas
Q: I just bought an iPad and yeah it's smaller than my laptop but the only way I'm going to fit into my pocket is if I start wearing overalls all the time and that's not a commitment I'm ready to make. So please point me to something I can carry it around in that isn't going to look too much like a murse. --Dave
A: Dave, we actually prefer the overalls over the iPad, but it sounds like you're pleased with your purchase and spending most of your time playing iPad Scrabble. Otherwise, you'd know about Temple Bags' leather iPad case ($189), widely heralded on that outdated medium known as the web and currently available here.
About a year ago, we posted about a J. Fold Weekend Bag (top) that was on closeout at Urban Outfitters. When we finally got around to getting one for ourselves, we were disappointed to discover that they were sold out, and we've been regretting our laziness ever since. Especially since we get constant reminders about this bag in the form of Google search queries -- every time the intern checks the stats he reports news of other forlorn souls looking for what we have come to think of as the Lost J. Fold Weekend Bag.
As it turns out, if you look hard enough, there are a few still out there. At Moris Fashions, a menswear store in St. Louis, you can get a Weekend Bag in brown. Via Amazon, you can apparently get one from J. Fold itself in Army Suede. (But act fast, there are only two left.)
We wanted the "Storm Grey" version, however, so we asked J. Fold if there are any for sale anywhere or if the company has plans to produce more. Unfortunately, the answers were no and no.
The good news, however, is that J. Fold has recently released a new bag, The Trooper (bottom), and we'll be reviewing it soon.
Q: I am about to purchase this J. Peterman bag on sale at $298. Do you think it looks MB? It's the 1928 Air Corps Briefcase? --Andre
A: In the old days, briefcases were basically desks that you carried around on a leash, and there was a genuine need for all their various compartments, straps, buckles, and such. Now? There's no reason for all that stuff -- they're Snuggies for your laptop. While we typically endorse a senseless lack of utility here, that's not quite the same thing as decor posing as functionality. Unless you're an archaelogist moonlighting as an office supplies salesperson, we say go with something simpler and definitely less shiny, like this messenger bag by John Varvatos.
Enter Jansport Heritage -- particularly the Wayback -- a bag designed by two hippies in 1969. We can think of no better pedigree, because let's face it, if you were a hippie in 1969 and you were spending your free time inventing backpacks instead of getting stoned with George Harrison and balling nubile runaways from Topeka, well, you had to really like backpacks!
At the same time, you wouldn't waste a lot of effort creating tiny little compartments, weird loops only a French alpinist could decipher, and various other "functional" ornamentation -- because George wanted to get stoned. And those runaways were pretty cute.
There are two straps, two zippers, and two compartments -- a big one for your weed and a small one for everything else. Beyond that, what else do you really need?
Topic: MB approved bags for bicycling. According to my girlfriend all backpacks are nerdy though they are ok for actual backpacking. So I'm looking for a magnificent, somewhat practical and non-bikecourierlooking bike bag... Any tips?
Greetings from snow buried Estonia,
A: Hello Siim,
While many cyclists prefer to let their bikes carry the load, we have no problem throwing on a backpack when doing our part to save the environment from one more godawful Prius. We also favor a traditional backpack design over a messenger bag. Minimalism has its place, but not when our latissimus dorsi is involved, and two straps are better than one.
That said, the most comfortable backpacks tend to involve a little too much cordura and Oakleyesque styling for our liking -- we prefer the more archaic approach of this Pendleton/Opening Ceremony bag, which, while lacking the padding of some more contemporary designs, completely alleviates the psychological pain that comes with knowing you have chosen to sacrifice style for comfort. No one will ever accuse you of that while wearing this.
In the event that you are looking for a one-strap solution, we recommend the Minnehaha Canvas Shoulder Bag. Made of natural materials, designed by people who ride bikes in the snow; we think it will look great in Estonia.
We dig almost anything Ennio Capasa's Costume National does, and his accessories are no exception. His entire Spring 2009 collection is 60% off, including these three bags that, while still relatively expensive, you won't see slung across anyone else's shoulder.
Q: I'm a college kid that has recently started working. I need a bag that I can take to work that's small -- to carry stuff like my mp3 player, headphones, a sandwich, and my water bottle. For the past few months, I've been using the Briggs & Riley Map Bag (in black), here. Is this MB? I don't want a full size messenger or a briefcase because I'm not really carrying that much stuff. Suggestions?
A: A map bag? Are you planning an invasion?
This looks a little man-pursey to us, though you've chosen wisely from the Briggs & Riley collection. The rest of it has a fatal case of Tumi-itus. But why the bag in the first place? What MP3 player is so big it needs a bag? You can slip a small, cell phone-like device into the front pocket of your pants or the interior pocket of your blazer (the preferred MB method) and you're good to go. Carrying a sandwich around with you all day is a health hazard, a style faux pas, and technologically obsolete -- just make sure your device of choice has an app to find the nearest restaurant. And also an app to find the nearest drinking fountain.
I am looking for the quintessential Dopp kit for my world travels. Is the answer leather or nylon? Love the site. --J. Leisure
A: Mr. Leisure, if you're checking bags you should go with the quintesential Dopp kit: a real Dopp kit (top, $60). It's leather, so it satisfies the organic materials principle, and will easily fit into your steamer trunk, with room to spare for your hat box.
If you're carrying on then space is at a premium, and while it's unfortunately not from a cow's hide, we're really, really liking this "kailua" case (bottom, $45) from Malcolm Fontier. Just enough room for the essentials, and thanks to Richard Reid, you can't put your lotion and shaving cream in there anyhow.
Urban Outfitters' sale page has been the pits for over a year now, however there is a gem hidden amongst the graphic tees and cheap cardigans: a J. Fold weekend bag. We're huge fans of their wallets and their bags are (almost) as cool.
Q: A male friend of mine has been looking for a weekend/overnight bag for a while with no luck. To quote him exactly, "I need a quality overnight bag/case, for planes and the car, sort of fashionable and available online? Is there something I should be looking at?" Naturally I am concerned for him, since he needs to be as magnificent as possible, but nothing I've found so far seems to suit him. Are you up to the task? --Liz
A: Let's hope he's spending a bit more time in automobiles and trains than planes, because finding affordable, stylish wheeled cabin luggage is a full-time job and should be part of Obama's stimulus package. Based on the size of his wallet, here are some suggestions:
Top:F1 Spacepak Weekend. $62.50 (on sale). Flight 001's house brand is high quality, functional, affordable, and looks cool. Can you tell we're fans? For short jaunts this bag (1/2 price!) will not disappoint.