July 30, 2019

Look on top of the wardrobe in our box room and you will see far too many bags. Backpacks, briefcases and messenger bags. I’m almost embarrassed by the number I have tried over the years and that’s not counting the ones that were sold or sent to charity shops long ago.

I would love to understand where the desire to find the perfect bag comes from, but eventually I will find that perfect set and the search will be over. That’s just how it has worked out with my fountain pens and cameras too. Obviously I stopped buying more of them when I had enough…

I have not tried all the bags in the world but I havecome to understand what works well for me, and those brands I can rely upon to produce great designs with quality materials and flair while paying their staff fairly. Following my own rules, I would prefer to buy a locally-made bag but I have not really found anything from the UK to compete with American-made bags.


  1. For travel luggage I have found nothing to beat the Red Oxx Air Boss and Mini Boss.
  2. For backpacks the best are made by Goruck.
  3. For briefcases and messenger bags I am still undecided but that may be about to change.

The Rationale

1. Travel Luggage

Long ago I decided that wheeled suitcases are not for me. It’s wonderful to be able to glide through airports effortlessly but that’s the only place where those bags work well — the moment you step off that smooth marble floor you’re struggling. Rigid hard-sided suitcases are hard to carry and uncomfortable to use on rough surfaces. I have found that easiest bag to use for travel is a good soft-sided shoulder bag with a strap that spreads the load and doesn’t slide.

Red Oxxen

I tend to travel light, both on business travel and holidays and a soft-sided bag will compress down and discourage over-packing.

I hesitated for a long time before ordering a really good bag from either Tom Bihn or Red Oxx and then decided on the Red Oxx Air Boss. I am delighted with my choice and can easily manage to carry everything I need for a week of business travel in one bag. I found that bag so useful that when Red Oxx released the smaller Mini Boss I added one of those for shorter duration trips too. The bags came with a strap called The Claw’ that could be used to moor a large boat in an emergency and sticks to a shoulder like it is glued there. The claw did get a little uncomfortable with long use and their wonderful new strap moves the slider long way towards comfort.

Both bags are made of relatively simple zipped layers with compression straps but the material and finish is outstanding, the zips are incredibly tough and red Oxx’s No Bull Warranty reflects their confidence in the product. I suspect that similar bags from Tom Bihn would have worked for me just as well but I do prefer Red Oxx’s styling to the more urban aesthetic of Tom Bihn.

2. The Backpack

I can not quite remember who first highlighted the Goruck brand to me. It may have been Helge Gudmundsen or Ben Brooks, a blogger who really loves Goruck bags!

I have both a GR1 and the smaller (and now discontinued) Echo — the first one is bigger capacity and the smaller Echo is ideal as a day bag and for the daily cycling commute to work.

Goruck Echo

In the past I’ve used other good backpacks such as the Tom Bihn Synapse range and they are excellent but I feel the Goruck bags are just slightly better for a number of reasons:

For me the downsides of the Goruck bags are the lack of useful pockets and the relatively high weight. Tom Bihn bags use much lighter fabric but also tend to be less structured with that urban aesthetic. Because I tend to carry smaller items in their own little cases, the first of these issues is not a problem for me and the Echo has proven to be perfect for 90% of my daily requirements.

The Briefcase or Messenger bag

Now we come to the problem child…

I have still to find my perfect messenger bag or briefcase; a style of bag that I find very useful. I have an old discontinued shoulder bag from a company called Nomad that is over 20 years old and still finds some use although it is a poor design for carrying a laptop — not a common requirement in the last century! It is a bag that really got so close to perfection.

I have tried Waterfield bags and Timbuk2 bags over the years. I aspire to a Swaine Adeney Brigg lifestyle (like James Bond) or even an Indiana Jones bag but I’m not sure they are really me. I struck out and tried a Red Oxx briefcase but it proved to be quite an ugly beast, more suited for a fishing trip than a business trip!

I was therefore really excited to see Red Oxx come out with a new proper messenger bag called the C.C. Rider and I have one arriving tomorrow. I hope this is the one.


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