Saturday, February 24, 2007

Bitchin' about bags

Two years ago I bought an Ellington black microfiber backpack-style purse at It had received rave reviews from dozens of users who praised its looks and durability -- in particular, the silver linings that make it possible to see what you've put into the three zipper compartments.

The Ellington bag arrived, and it exceeded even its advance publicity. I realized I needed to purchase a duplicate immediately.

But, of course, the highly rated bag was no longer available. I wrote to eBags, and they wrote back, apologizing but noting that the manufacturer had discontinued the model.

I checked and discovered that Ellington now offered a more casual pack-style purse that looked like something you'd lug on a weekend trip, not take to a business meeting. After more than a year of searching in vain for the nicer, original bag at discount sites and on eBay, I gave up and began hunting for a replacement bag. The plan was to get either a similar backpack purse or a shoulder bag with multiple compartments.

In the past few months I've looked at thousands of bags, and have bought (and returned) a couple. My beloved backpack purse is showing increasing signs of wear, and I'm getting a little anxious.

Though I haven't found a bag I like, I now speak fluent "purse." I know that what I want is described as:
  • a shoulder bag
  • north-south (that means vertical)
  • with a platform (that means a flat bottom) - at least 3" deep
  • with an extruded exterior zip pocket (you could fit a wallet and Treo into it)
  • with an exterior slip pocket (no clasp - you can slide a brochure into it)
  • with a top zip main compartment (secure, but no flap to fuss with)
  • with an interior zip compartment (security in the main compartment)
I have yet to find a bag with all those characteristics. And, beyond that, there are aesthetic issues:
  • It should not be a shapeless sack.
  • It should not be a rigid box.
  • It should not look like an overstuffed couch somebody sat on and squashed in the middle.
  • It should not look like part of a cowboy costume.
  • It should not look like it's been active in the bondage scene.
  • It should not remind anyone of a lime green daschund.
(I could easily illustrate these points with thumbnail photos of purses with these defects, but I'm afraid of being sued by the designers who dream up these $500 eyesores.)

My problem seems to be that all the bags that meet my criteria are "totes," which by definition have two short handles rather than a long shoulder strap. The bags with the long shoulder straps turn out to be either:
  • vast, undivided pits into which your possessions vanish (you know what I mean -- the kind women rummage frantically in while everyone around them rolls their eyes);
  • narrow leather envelopes-on-a-strap into which you can slip maybe a couple credit cards and some charge slips (keys would make an unsightly lump); or
  • sealed with a big, heavy, flap so you need two hands free to get anything into or out of them.
I've now gone back to looking at backpacks and messenger bags. I spotted something I like over at Tom Bihn Bags, but, in spite of it being on the homepage of the site, it's being redesigned and is out of stock until May.

As my dad used to say, "Sheesh!"

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