Every once in a while, you come across a deal you just can't pass up. This past weekend held just such a moment for me. With spring officially in full swing, I went to REI on the hunt for a pair of new hiking shoes. Much to my surprise, the store was having one of its coveted used gear sales. There were a bunch of tables set out front with piles of returned merchandise up for grabs. Unfortunately, most of what I found was either defective or damaged in one way or another: zip-off pants that were missing a leg, jackets with ripped stitching, etc. After picking over a small parking lot full of products, I gave up on finding anything worth buying.
But then I saw it.
Off to the side, in an inconspicuous-looking pile lay saddle bags, backpacks, and messenger bags. Like the other gear I looked at, the majority of them were less than enticing buys. But one item caught my eye: a diamond in the rough, as it were. It was a pristine Timbuk2 laptop bag, a Blogger to be precise. After giving it a quick visual once-over, I fumbled for the price tag: $49! "That's 50% off of MSRP, so something's got to be wrong with it," I thought to myself. I read further on the tag, finding the reason for the return: "used - laptop did not fit well in bag." I read it twice just to make sure I hadn't made a mistake.
Save for a small "X" written in silver pen (to denote that it's an "as is" item), this was a perfectly fine, heavily discounted Timbuk2 Blogger bag being sold among damaged merchandise—and all because some poor guy couldn't fit his 17" desktop replacement inside of it. I promptly engaged my kung-fu death grip on the bag and didn't let it out of my sight before arriving at the cashier. Needless to say, I bought it. After about 15 minutes with some paper towels and a dab of orange-scented Pine Sol (thanks to Google, I now know dusting polish will remove silver ink), I had a like-new Timbuk2 Blogger.
By now, you're probably wondering why I'm so excited about a laptop bag, so it's only fair that I give proper disclosure: I've always wanted a Timbuk2 bag. In years past, I've stuck with more generic and inexpensive competitors from brands like Samsonite and Targus. And while they're generally capable, they often lack all of the extra touches like a padded laptop compartment, a reinforced bottom, a soft cell phone pocket, and the build quality to last several years. They're usually not all that special to look at, either. Timbuk2 bags are different. A friend of mine has used the same one for almost 10 years now, and while you pay a bit more for that reliability, you end up replacing your bag less often. Despite the long-term cost argument, I've always had a hard time forking over upwards of two hundred bucks on a laptop bag, no matter how cool it might make me feel walking around campus. Now you can imagine my glee at finding the discounted Timbuk2 Blogger.
The Blogger is a great fit for my needs, too. A vertically-oriented laptop bag is ideal for wearing while on my bicycle, and the extra padding on the back ensures my laptop won't sustain any damage by bouncing off of my rock-hard obliques. All right, maybe I won't be breaking anything on my less-than-perfectly toned body, but the padding is still a great comfort feature. It also guarantees I won't have to worry about being so delicate with my bag for fear of denting my laptop. Combined with a neoprene sleeve, it ends up cushioned by 1 to 2 inches of soft foam on all sides.
For being sold as a laptop bag, I was actually surprised at how much additional storage space the Blogger is packing. Not only can it fit my PSP, DS, cell phone, an external hard drive, power adapters, and a book; it can even hold my large-body digital SLR along with extra lenses and a flash. I think I've found my new trade show bag! Maybe I go a bit overboard with how much I like to carry around, but it's refreshing to see a quality laptop bag with plenty of extra room for goodies.
Of course, no product is perfect. For all of the space it packs, the Blogger is somewhat lacking in the organization department. My last bag couldn't carry nearly as many items, but I could at least keep my DS from scratching up my PSP and safely stow away less frequently accessed items like USB cables. The Blogger does have individual pouches for keys, a cell phone, and even writing utensils, but the main compartment still feels a bit sparse overall. I'll have to rely more on individual cases to protect devices, especially if I decide to toss my digital SLR in with everything else. You can't win them all.
In my never-ending quest to understand the tastes of fellow tech enthusiasts, I leave you with a few questions. First, what do you look for in a laptop bag? Do aesthetics matter, or are you more concerned with making sure your laptop stays in one piece? Do you need a ton of storage space, or is your laptop only being toted around with its AC adapter? Are laptop bags a disposable commodity to be replaced annually, or have you been lugging around the same pouch for the last decade? Feel free to tell me about your ideal bag in the comments below—I need something new to lust after now, after all.