I’ve been accused of having something of a luggage fetish, though more in the past than recently. Back in my Parsons Technology days I spent a fair amount of time on the road — nothing like my friend Dave, but more than most folks — maybe 3-5 days per month. It only took a couple of trips to figure out that the old suitcases in the closet weren’t up to the task, and what followed over the years was a series of suitcases and carry-ons as I tried to zero in on what worked best for me.
I’ve been traveling with a laptop since there were laptops. One of the first IBM-compatible PCs I used was a Compaq Portable. It weighed 25-30 lbs, but Rockwell had a padded case for it that made it look like a soft-side suitcase, and we literally checked it as luggage when we travelled with it. My first PC was a Compaq Portable II, but after traveling with and repairing Rockwell’s Compaq, I never traveled with it. In 1988 I bought a Toshiba T1200. Some of the early QuickVerse code was written while on the road with that laptop.
Throughout this period of heavy business travel, one constant companion was my Tumi leather laptop bag, which I purchased around 1989 for about $450. It was a crazy price to pay for a laptop bag, but this one had everything I was looking for and 25 years later I still carry it every day.
The front of the bag features a large and a small zippered pocket, each with a small zippered pocket on the front of it. Behind those pockets is a large, open compartment for cables and other bulky items. It has a small organizer sewn to one side that holds pens and business cards and gives you quick access to a calculator (back in the day), PDA (still back in the day), or a phone (there you go).
The second large compartment is divided into sections and opens up like a portfolio file. I find this side ideal not just for papers, notebooks, and other flat items, but also for my laptop. On the back of the bag is a large, flat, zippered pocket. On the back of that pocket, the straps from the handles form open loops that allow you to easily carry a newspaper (a what?) or an umbrella (ah, that’s better).
The bag has a leather handle sewn to each side. After 25 years of regular use, these handles are still firmly attached. There’s also a clip on shoulder strap that I leave permanently attached to the bag.
For short trips, I’ve found I can use the expansion feature to give me room to pack a change of clothes and shaving kit right in the bag. Just unzip the zipper that runs around the center section of the bag, and you gain 2-3 inches of space in the open compartment on the front of the bag.
Tumi still sells a version of this bag for $650, but they’ve removed the little organizer on the inside and replaced the umbrella straps with a feature that allows you to slide the pull-out handle of your wheelie through the pocket on the back so you can carry it with your suitcase. My Travelpro carry-on has a hook that I can use to carry the Tumi bag, so I don’t need this feature.
Even though Laridian started renting office space about two years ago, I still work one or two days per week at home or in a coffee shop. My MacBook lives in my Tumi bag, and my Tumi bag goes with me wherever I go. You can laugh at spending $450 for a computer bag, but if you divide by the number of years it’s lasted, you’re looking at $18/year and falling. That’s a great investment.