I am a bag freak.
Over the past several years I have been in search of the perfect bag. Bags, actually. I travel for a living and need a stylish, sturdy laptop bag that will carry all my goods, but that won’t break my back doing so. The other bag I quest for is the perfect camera bag.
Back in September I ordered the Clark & Mayfield bag that I currently use from eBags. I highly recommend eBags.com – they have a huge selection of just about any kind of bag you could wish for, with good prices, lots of good sales, and one of the best return policies I’ve come across. Return policies are important – especially when ordering online. For instance, with the Sellwood bag, I ordered it in both tan and orange. I was afraid the orange would end up being bright, hunting-vest orange and the tan looked more like a pretty silvery color. Instead, the orange was a perfect, bright burnt orange color and the tan was rather drab (in my opinion). I sent the tan back.
So many professional laptop bags are either completely utilitarian with too much room to overload them. Or, and this is particularly true of women’s bags, they are so stylish that they aren’t useable or sturdy enough to withstand the travel I do. I hate rolled shoulder straps – whoever thought them up has obviously never carried a full laptop bag over their shoulder for any distance. It also needs to stand up when I set it down (so many laptop bags get side heavy and tip over).
The Sellwood tote has nice, flat straps. About an inch or so wide. They are just long enough to comfortably carry a full bag on the shoulder, but still short enough to grab the bag in hand to carry. And its design with the laptop in the center and items on either side to keep it balanced. The bottom is also flat and completely covered in a nice heavy vinyl (that matches all the trim) which all helps keeps it upright.
This area is the only part so far that I’ve had any trouble with. The stitching on the piece of fabric that makes the pockets on the exterior side of the pocket is coming out. (If you look closely, you can see this in the photo.) Note: this pocket is the larger of the two zippers shown on the front photo of the bag. The second opens into a decent size pocket that I use to store loose change (it comes in very handy for unexpected toll booths, soda machines, etc.).
The front partition of the bag has another zippered pocket (I store my girly unmentionables in there) and additional pen, business card, and phone pockets. It also has a key tether which is particularly handy for me – it keeps me from misplacing my personal car keys when I am on the road. It is also an excellent storage place for my security FOB. This interior pocket is much more secure than the exterior one if you worry about that sort of thing. It also comes in very handy if you carry more than one cell phone (I don’t anymore, but used to carry my business and personal phones). I also carry a legal sized file and notepad/folio in this front section and any book that I have along with me to read.
In the center is the well padded space for your laptop. I like that the velcro strap is just long enough to secure the laptop, but that they put the velcro closure right at the top so that it is easy to access when going through airport security. I had another bag where the velcro was about half-way into the bag and I was constantly giving myself paper cuts on the file folders when I would reach down to release my laptop.
The back interior section has three pockets that are as deep as the bag is. They are perfect for organizing the power cord and any other peripherals you might have to carry with you. In mine, from left to right, my eye-glasses case (I only wear them when driving) and my ethernet cord (I made the mistake once of not carrying one with me…the branch I was visiting did not have any extras and thus I couldn’t connect while I was in the office during the day – it made for long nights of work back at the hotel). Center pocket is my phone charger cord and my bluetooth headset (and charging cord) and it looks like a Clif bar. Last pocket is my laptop power cord. Then in the main area of the pocket is my laptop cable lock. You could also fit other files, books, etc. in this area, however, I find it starts getting bulky and uncomfortable to carry, so I keep that relegated to the front area.
the very back side of the bag has a strap that fits over the handle of a larger roller bag if that is what you use and also another zippered pocket. That back pocket I typically only use for my boarding passes or other very flat items. Since it presses directly against me and anything bulky gets uncomfortable to carry very quickly.
The two pockets on either end of the bag are OK for shoving keys or a cell phone into but are very tight against the bag with no give. It makes it hard to reach into them to get anything out. Which leads me to my only complaint about the bag – neither of those pockets expands to accommodate a bottle of water. It would be such a simple design fix to add some elastic to one of those pockets for that purpose. I can fit a bottle of water inside the bag, but I run into problems in the summer when the bottles are sweating – everything in the bag gets wet.
Overall, I give this bag an 8 out of ten. If the stitching in the front organizer pocket weren’t pulling out after just a few months of use and if I had an exterior water bottle pocket, it would be perfect. The exterior material, however, gets 10 out of 10 all by itself. It wears like iron and has yet to show any wear or scuff marks, even after being smashed under airline seats and kicked around under desks in offices or while waiting in lines at the airport. It is lightweight and durable and fashionable…I’ll be using this bag for some time!