The Republic of T.

Black. Gay. Father. Vegetarian. Buddhist. Liberal.

Putting My Back Into It

"It" being a painful knot, that is. I wrote earlier that my eyes had begun to their/my age. Well, now my back is angling to get in on the act, with some stiff competition from my knees. It’s funny. Twenty years ago, I was probably barely even aware I had a back.

It all started innocently enough one morning this week. I was getting ready to head out the door with Parker.

During the school year, I’m the "bus Dad." I see to it that he gets safely on the school bus with his backback and everything he’s supposed to have in it. During the summer, I take him to summer camp via the bus/metro, and then head to work myself.

Sharper imageI usually take my laptop to work, because I’m grown accustomed to the Mac OS X platform, and there are tasks I just prefer to do in that environment. Besides, some of the software I like to work with is only available on Mac. I usually take, and everything else, along in a rolling backpack from Sharper Image, that I picked up at Staples a couple of years ago, when I thought I needed to give my back a break. It has served me well, though it’s taken some time for me to learn how to maneuver it so as not to annoy my fellow commuters. But, it’s so roomy that I eventually end up putting everything it it, and leaving everything in it, until I’m carrying way more stuff than I need to.

So, this morning I decided to switch to another bag, a messenger style bag that’s carried over the shoulder. Since it was smaller I thought it would force me to travel a bit lighter. It did, but that’s not all.

Maybe I didn’t travel light enough, but at some point while walking Parker to camp, I realized the bag was affecting my posture and my walk. Halfway there, my right side from the lower back down was in pain. It was so bad that after I left Parker at camp, I had to find a bench at a bus stop and sit down for a while, until I was ready to walk to the Metro.

When I got up, while walking to the Metro, I whipped out my iPhone and started shopping for a more ergonomic alternative, since there are days when I don’t want to roll the backpack around. Since I use one every day, it’s worth it to invest in a bag that does what I need it to do, with the added bonus of not causing me pain in the bargain. I’ve come up with some interesting possibilities. Some seem to have more to recommend them than others.

Ideally, I’d be able to try them all out in person. But it’s unlikely that I’ll find a "bricks and mortar" store that has them all in stock. (Maybe I could find half a dozen that carry one or more, but then I’d have to drag myself to each of them, then go back and get the one I decide on.)

Oh, and by the way, please share any recommendations. If there’s a bag those road warriors among you prefer or swear by that I haven’t had the good fortune to discover, please comment!

The candidates are:

The BumBakPak

The BumBakPak is actually the first one I came across in my virtual window shopping, and from the reviews I’ve read has a lot to recommend it. Not the least of which is it’s hybrid back2pack carrying system.

It converts from a shoulder bag to a backpack with relative ease. (Just 24 seconds, in the video below.)

And rides lower on the back than a regular backpack, which is supposed to be more ergonomic, and perhaps even more fun.

I’m leaning towards the Hamptons Hybrid Medium, in black, pictured above. However, the Hauler Hybrid has some appeal too. that’s mainly because it expands to 8" deep, as opposed to the Hampton Hybrid’s 6". (Though the latter has more compartments for various things.)

Right now, this is looking like a front runner.

Booq Vyper Exo

I’m not sure how ergonomic it is but I was impressed by what the Booq Vyper Exo can carry.

Or maybe it was just the cute guy in the video that caught my attention. Nah. It’s an impressive bag, but the price isn’t quite right. (But the demo guy was cute.)

Incase Skate Messenger Bag

On more that caught my  eye was the Incase Large Messenger Bag.

I’ve tried Incase’s iPhone products and been impressed with them overall. (Like Apple, Incase gets a lot right when it comes to packaging too, making the unboxing of their products as much of an experience as using the products themselves..) So, I’d be willing to try this. It’s got a lot to recommend it.


I like the well-padded, across-the-body shoulder strap, the one-hand adjustment, the optional stabilizer strap, the roominess.

I like the custom set-up.

As well as the overall features.

The videos below are for the Incase Skate Messenger Bag, which costs $100 more than the large messenger bag, and includes features I’ll probably never use, like the interior bike pump tie-down and bike lock storage (at least not until I get a bike), and skateboard attachment with molded bumpers, etc.

These features mean that the Incase Large Messenger bag is neck-and-neck with the BumBakPak. It might even have the edge.

Go GaGa Messenger Bag

Believe it or not, the next one is a messenger bag that doubles as a diaper bag … or vice versa. It’s the Go GaGa Messenger Bag.

With Dylan nearing three years of age, we’re approaching the day when we’ll no longer need a diaper bag, but the Go GaGa Messenger Bags ability to do double duty (no pun intended) makes it a serious contender.

The size was a concern to me, based on the pictures, but the bag looks pretty big i this video Most of all, my favorite feature is the shoulder strap, designed to distribute the weight of the bag more evenly across the back and shoulders. I think the pain I felt using my current messenger bag is that it puts all of the weight not just on the shoulder, but on one spot.

The insulated bottle pockets are a big plus, as they’re handy places to put, say , a water bottle or a diet coke.  The padded shoulder strap w/ipod holder is another asset. I have to admit, I like that it makes for a more streamlined appearance on the front, without diminishing the ergonomic effect of the shoulder strap.

Like I said, the video convinced me that the size might be big enough, but I’m still convinced that the Incase Large Messenger Bag is more spacious. Still, this one is a contender both in terms of features and price. But the BumBakPak has more features for the price, and the Incase bag may cost more but offers enough features to justify the price.


It’s not a messenger back, It’s the Timbuk3 Superbad Backpack.

I’m still favoring a messenger bag/shoulder bag, but the idea is an alternative to the rolling backpack, and this seems to have a lot to recommend it.

Still, I knocked around the Timbuk2 site until I came across the their messenger bags and their D-Lux Laptop Messenger.

Timbuk2 also lets you design your own bag. So, I gave it a shot. This is what I got

It’s a messenger bag with all the features I could ask for, but a price of about $275, which puts it in the nice-but-too-expensive category. (I’m looking to spend about 1/3 that amount here.)

BackTPack 3

Last but not least is the BackTPack 3


Clearly, what makes it interesting is its saddlebag design, as I call it. The idea is to evenly distribute weight on both sides. The testimonials speak to the question the pain I mentioned earlier.

I have a couple of concerns, though. I can’t imagine sitting on the metro with these bags on either side, or being able to easily remove them in order to sit down. The metro trains, whether sitting or standing, tend to be pretty close quarters. Plus, bulker items won’t necessarily work with these bags, and in that case the instructions suggest carrying them separately. I want a bag I can put everything and go.

Those are my choices, and thus far it’s between the BumBakPak, the Incase Large Messenger Bage, and the Go GaGa Messenger bag.

Maybe there’s a way I can at least sample those three. We’ll see!

One Comment

  1. I’m liking the look of the Incase bag. I may have to get one for Mark to replace his old, old, old, LLBean messenger bag.

    I can’t believe Dylan is almost 3. Time. She flies. Our “baby” is now 15 months old and starting to use real words sprinkled in with his stream of babble. And E is going to kindergarten! Crazy!