I've written before about my fascination with the things I carry around every day and how I tend to agonise over the choices I've made for things such as my wallet. I'm a pockets kind of guy, and for the most part this isn't likely to change. There are a few items that for the sake of security and convenience will always need to live in my pockets where they'll thoughtlessly travel with me and always be to hand. There are those items that I want to carry around frequently, that are awkward to transport in a pocket, and some that don't need to live in a pocket but I'd like to have available. While I will generally make an argument about trying to do more with less, in this case an addition solves a number of problems and makes life easier.
Primary amongst these things is my iPad mini, which I like to have available for reading, browsing and whatever especially if I know I'm going to have some downtime. So I like to read when I'm eating lunch at work, for example. This is one of those more with less things, it's my music library, my book library, web browser and so on and so on; smaller than a single hardback book. It's also one of those things that travels with me when I visit friends - it's a convenient thing to have available even when it's not necessarily going to be in constant use. It fits in a coat pocket, but this is neither a particularly sensible or secure method of transport. While my phone is great, and theoretically does everything the iPad is capable of, I'm not going to finish re-reading Neuromancer on a 4" screen. Similarly, I don't really want to keep earphones in my pocket (they currently reside in my jacket pocket) but do so out of sheer necessity; they're bulky, particularly in their case (a trade off for no tangled cable).
So you may have guessed, if you've read my many similar posts before, that the search for the right bag has been an adventure. Why is it even worthy of so much thought? After all, I can get a cheap laptop/ultrabook bag from just about anywhere and it would surely be sufficient, right? Well, sure I could get one, but from my perspective it's not so simple. I only want to make this purchase once, which doesn't preclude replacing it at some point (maybe I'll find something that I really like for some reason), but I want something of sufficient quality that I'm never forced to worry about it again. I want something that will be suitable for all predictable conditions, resilient and able to handle Britain's notably inclement meteorological tendencies. I don't want unused features, that is, pockets that I have no use for or unnecessary detailing. In part this is because my aesthetic tastes aren't that way inclined but also because these things always have a cost: more weight; less space and more metal fastenings that could scratch expensive electronics. If I'm going to spend significant money on a bag, then it should be a bag that I'm damned well happy with.
I wanted a messenger bag, but something significantly smaller than the one that serves to carry my MacBook around. The largest single object it's likely to need to accommodate is my iPad, possibly a notebook. This set the dimensions, but perhaps more challenging was finding a bag that wasn't a mess of pockets and zippers. While I evidently understand the advantages of pockets (see above), bag makers, much akin to wallet makers, seem to believe that the number of pockets a thing possesses is the single most important factor in design — more features at all costs. Given the wide range of uses for messenger bags, this is understandable to a point, but my uses are pretty specific.
The bag I eventually settled on was the Bairn from Trakke, a small company in Glasgow. They grew from stitching together reclaimed materials to a 'premium brand' (I am not a fan of this term), and the chap that helms manufacturing (all their bags are handmade) once crafted sails. But the important thing is that their design philosophies are so close to my own. I may not be the greatest of outdoor adventurers, but I need resilience and protection from the elements because my cargo is precious. I also want a minimalist, focused design, and something that will last forever. As it happens Trakke's bags are rugged, resilient and absolutely gorgeous. A friend pointed me in their direction and even after exhaustive searching I haven't found anything in the same size range that I like more.
I've only been using it for a few days now but it has absolutely lived up to my expectations. The materials and construction are absolutely excellent and the attention to detail is impeccable. If anything it's possibly a little roomy, but not so much that things jostle around, which might be bad for electronics. I still feel a little odd carrying a bag — I haven't regularly carried a bag since I was at school and had to transport textbooks. Only a few times have I forgotten that things that once lived in my pocket now live inside the Bairn; this is just a matter of training new muscle memory. Life is just a little bit easier (particularly my commute) and I have this new thing that I really like (which always feels great).