A decent work bag is hard to find. Throughout grad school and more recently for my job, I’ve been using my trusty black Longchamp Planetes tote (a sturdier version of the more popular Le Pliage) to lug my computer and other office essentials around. This bag has truly stood the test of time; even after several years of consistent use, it is still in pretty decent shape. Sadly, I read on a bag forum that the Planetes tote is being discontinued, but if you are able to find one in a secondhand shop, I would highly recommend it.
While my Planetes tote has been good to me, I’ve been feeling less comfortable keeping my work-issued laptop in it even though I use a neoprene sleeve for added protection. More frequent work travel has made it necessary for me to find a bag that offers more structure and protection, especially for my electronic devices.
The main criteria for my new work bag were the following:
- Structured design, preferably with separated, padded compartments and pockets for device storage.
- Able to accommodate a 13-inch Macbook Pro or thicker 14-inch Lenovo, along with miscellaneous notebooks and files.
- Briefcase and/or shoulder bag style.
- Leather (e.g., saffiano) or a similar durable material; fully lined interiors.
- Neutral color (e.g., black, dark brown).
- No ostentatious logos.
I didn’t have a specific price range in mind since I didn’t have a clear idea of what this bag would look like, but historically I haven’t been able to justify a bag purchase over $200 (even $200 is pushing it for me). A high-end designer brand was therefore out of the question; at any rate, carrying my work stuff around in a Prada bag or whatnot would simply not fly in my industry. The urgency of this purchase wasn’t terribly great for me (I was fine with using my Planetes for the time being), so I was willing to wait until the I found the right bag at the right price point.
For the past couple years, Tumi bags have been on my radar but I mostly knew them for their ballistic nylon luggage. About a year ago, I came across their Sinclair series of work totes and briefcases for women and found the simple, streamlined designs to be well-aligned with my sensibilities. However the prices seemed a bit too high to me at the time (between $400-500). Cue to a couple weeks ago– several bags from this collection went on sale (as of this post, the sale is still going on in stores and online), for a little over 50% off the original price.
Three bags from this collection have been bookmarked on my browser for a while. The Patricia Tote has always been the front-runner on my list due to its expandability and zipper closure at the top (I really love this deep garnet version). I ultimately ruled the Patricia out because it lacks separate compartments and padding and the overall dimensions won’t fit my 14″ laptop. The second bag on my list, the Stella Double Zip Carry-All, has dimensions that are just right for both my 13″ and 14″ laptops, with padded compartments and several interior and exterior pockets. The bag can be held like a briefcase or over the shoulder with a detachable strap. The third option, the Ana Large Double Zip Carry-All, is slightly larger than the Stella and has longer drop handles to carry over the shoulder.
I couldn’t decide between the Stella and the Ana, so I ended up going to a local Tumi store to check them out in person (and I brought my laptops along with me to confirm that they would fit!). Luckily both bags were in the store. I ultimately purchased the Ana becuase it fit my larger laptop better than the Stella and the padded compartment fit my smaller laptop perfectly. I also found the Ana to be somewhat lighter than the Stella overall, and preferred having the longer handles since I tend to carry my work bags over my shoulder. I went with the Earl Grey color to add slight variety to my black and brown bag collection.
Approximate dimensions of this bag: 11″ high, 16″ wide, 6.25″ deep, 9″ handle drop. The Ana (like the Patricia and Stella) is made out of a rigid, textured canvas material that is easy to clean with soap and water. The texture looks very similar to saffiano leather, but is substantially lighter. The handles and zipper pulls are trimmed with dark brown leather. The entire bag is lined in a nylon material and there are metal feet at the base.
The front of the bag has a padded zip compartment that fits my 13″ Macbook Pro. Note the bag also comes with a separate padded case (also for a 12-13″ laptop) in the event that you want to store the laptop in the center compartment. The center compartment itself holds up to a 15″ laptop. There is also an internal padded zip compartment that fits a tablet, and several internal pockets to hold a pen, business cards, power cords, etc.
The other side of the bag features another zip pocket perfect for holding papers, as well as a hidden pocket at the top of the bag for easy phone access. This side of the bag also has an external pocket that snaps closed– at the bottom of this pocket is a zipper that opens up so that you can slide the pocket over the handles of your wheeled suitcase (see below for a demo). Pretty nifty. There is a leather tag hanging from one side of the bag that you can have monogrammed (with up to three letters) in-store. I chose silver monogramming.
The inside of the bag has a small tag permanently affixed to it, with a code registered to a database that helps recover lost or stolen bags reported to Tumi. Knock on wood that I never have to utilize this program, but it does give me some peace of mind. The bag is also covered by a nice limited warranty plan for the first five years of ownership.
So far I’ve been pretty happy with this bag and I think it was worth the wait for the sale price. I just got back from a work trip and was pleased with how well the bag held up. I was able to fit my Macbook, an iPad, some files, a couple power and phone cords, a small bag of toiletries, makeup bag, and sunglasses case in it with room to spare. Better yet, the bag easily fit underneath the airplane seats, standing upright. For daily office use, I am able to fit my Lenovo, two notebooks, files, power cord, makeup bag, and a pair of shoes in it with no issues (see below). So far so good.
One final note. While the base of the bag is pretty sturdy as-is, I have been using a base shaper to even out the weight distribution so that the bottom of the bag doesn’t stretch and sag over time. I’m not sure if this is an issue with textured canvas, but I figured it’s better to err on the side of caution since my laptops do add quite a bit of weight to the bottom. I’m currently putting together a post about how to DIY a custom base shaper for less than $10, so stay tuned!