Ever since I got an office job (11/93!) I’ve been trying to find something better to carry my stuff in. I borrowed Ethan‘s 80’s-era Israeli Paratrooper Bag for a while. When he needed that back I moved on to a straight-up briefcase (with the little tumbler locks and everything) but it kept squashing my bagged lunch and it was stupid-heavy so it didn’t last long.

I used a Tom Bihn Large Cafe bag as my daily carry from 2004. It gave me a spot to carry pens/coffee cup/Treo Centro and it was the first “nice” bag I’d owned. Eventually I found that the pad on the Cafe Bag strap was crappy and moved too much. It looks like they’ve changed it since I had mine which is a good thing. I also needed more space for stuff as I would occasionally take files home and I added a notebook to my daily load.

I switched from that to a Tom Bihn Imago in 2007 for more space and a better strap but I gave up the dedicated pen and phone slots. I miss the pen slots more than I thought I would. The Nexus 7 does fit perfectly in the slash pocket under the main flap which means I carry it more often. The Imago is great for daily use but it’s not really great for travel because it doesn’t hold shape well if you carry non-flat things like clothes and it’s kind of small on the inside. I also feel like the asymmetric load distribution of messenger-style bags in general gives me neck or back pain if I’m carrying it for a couple of hours (ComiCon, dayhikes, airport terminals).

I’ve been shopping backpacks for a couple of years for improved ergonomics and to replace my Empire Builder as the bag that I use as an overnight or carry-on bag when I travel. The backpack options from Tom Bihn were either smaller than I wanted for travel or had too much of a mountaineering/overland-trek look for daily use to the office. The zippers and external bungies are probably awesome for more serious hikers and campers but they’re not what I want.

My backpack searching kept bringing me back to bags from GORUCK, specifically the GR1. It’s expensive but so damn sturdy that I feel like I’ll get my money out of it as something I’ll use every day. The GR1 is higher-volume bag than the Imago or the Tom Bihn backpacks I was looking at and a better fit for a man of my, um, proportions. A normal-sized Jansport would look like I’d swiped a bag from a middle-schooler.

After an embarrassing amount of deliberation and review-reading I settled on the GORUCK SK26. It has a clean look that I think lets me get away with carrying a backpack to the office but is overbuilt enough to handle any of the extracurricular work I might sign it up for. I gave the bag a thorough once-over and everything looked like it should. I’d read that some late-model GR1s were being shipped with loose threads or crooked MOLLE webbing or stitches. The SK26 I have is tight on all counts. I will pass along some initial thought shortly.