Monday, January 10, 2011

In search of the perfect satchel

I love satchels and messenger bags. I like bags I can sling across my body; there is less chance that they'll slide down my arm and annoy me, as normal shoulder bags do. There's also less opportunities for thieves to whip my bag off my shoulder and unlike a backpack (another favourite) my wallet is closer to hand and a little safer.

A couple of years ago I bought a leather satchel on eBay; it was affordable and had enough compartments in it for me. Sadly, it hasn't weathered well. In fact, it's just ...weathered!  The very soft goat leather it's made from is prone to wrinkling and my once smart satchel now looks a bit too laid back and, to use that lovely Aussie word, daggy to take to client meetings.
So at the end of year sales I went in search of another satchel. I can tell you now there is nothing suitable in women's handbag departments or the women's section of bag and luggage shops. Inspired by massive Birkin bags the trend this year is for huge, heavy handbags with shortish straps which mean the bag sits just under your arm, big and unwieldy. 

Heavy handbags can lead to long term damage; a bag, fully laden, shouldn't be more than one tenth of your own weight. Some of the big bags I looked at had the potential to carry far more than any person should unless they weighed more the 120 kgs.

A criteria for my new satchel was a compartment to take my new best friend my iPad. So the satchel had to initially not weigh too much itself, as the iPad weighs close to 1kg. 

Many satchels and messenger bags don't have compartments. I like compartments. Particularly if I'm putting a larger item like an iPad in my bag; compartments make it easier to slot them in and keep them undamaged. In addition compartments help me keep track of items and find them easily in a hurry, rather than have to shuffle around the bottom of my bag looking for a pen or lipstick.

I found what I was looking for in the menswear section of a department store - a lined leather satchel with a sturdy lined strap, in mid-brown nubuck suede. While it wasn't cheap - $200! - it's very well made and I suspect the brand name, Trent Nathan, has something to do with the price. Trent Nathan is an Australian design house whose collections are slightly conservative but not as expensive as they used to be. Had this been one of Trent's women's handbags the price would have been double. (Thinks:... does Trent Nathan even design women's bags any more? Maybe not. The brand was taken over a few years back and the lines have been reduced.) Heaven only knows I've paid more than $200 in my mad, bad past for designer bags. In those days I had a good job so it was justifiable; I've justified the purchase of this satchel as it's well made, unpretentious, not markedly 'this year's fashion' and I'll get several years' worth of use from it.
This, then, is my new bag. No fancy stuff, not obviously blokey, but very practical:
In the main part of the bag there's a zippered section, where I typically keep my keys. Two other pockets are useful for makeup (probably not the designer's intention!). Sadly they are a mite too small for my iPhone in its leather case. Two penholders ensure I can always find a pen in a hurry. On the back side of the bag, which I didn't photograph, is another small zipped section suitable for a handkerchief or tissues.

And below, you can see the iPad sits in the front pocket. The flap happily and securely closes over the top.

Even with my everyday items in the bag - keys, wallet, lipstick, compact, small camera, business cards, a pack of ever-growing loyalty cards, iPhone - there is still plenty of room for small purchases or a water bottle and best of all it doesn't feel too heavy. I'm still toting about 2kg with the iPad on board, but it's a big improvement on a huge women's bag and of course I can ride a bike with this slung across my back.

I'll confess right now I love bags. I have several, ranging from tiny evening bags through leather backpacks to cane and woven zippered basket bags. I swap them around as the occasion or whimsy demands. The more technology I need to use in my work - mobile phones/iPhones, iPads - unfortunately the bigger bag I need. I have my trusty MacBook Pro, which I carry in a briefcase if I head into the office. The briefcase also doubles as a leather tote bag; it's not obviously briefcasey. Because of the iPhone and iPad I've trimmed down the essential stuff I carry in my bag to save weight and allow me to carry a bag that just fits my needs rather than weigh myself down with something that looks like an overnight bag. 

My new bag makes me feel liberated when I see other women toting massive bags. If you have a humungous handbag, what do you carry in it every day? How much does it weigh? Do you notice a soreness in your shoulders? And how the heck do you find things in it?  

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