I've posted and guest posted quite a bit on my ultra-light packing tips making it possible for me never to check luggage when I'm flying. Whether I'm on the road a week or 7 weeks, everything goes in one Mountainsmith carry-on backpack and a Mountainsmith fanny pack. But, curiously, when I'm in my home turf, my ultra-light packing plans fall by the wayside. Unlike many writers, I don't work at home or in an office. I'm kinda the itinerant journalist, writing, researching and doing interviews in all manner of venues, from cafes and coffee shops to parks, gardens, libraries and other locales that allow for lots of natural light (a key criteria for me).
As a result, I carry around my laptop, and all my notes, notebooks, and research materials in a small but heavy backpack (not a Mountainsmith) and a large shoulder bag plus an addition portfolio (which might be a fed ex pouch) stuffed with more materials. The latter became quite problematic a few months ago when I inadvertently left it near an umbrella stand in a vegetarian restaurant while I ate lunch with friends. It turned out the manager thought it was a bomb -- no joke, that's what he said -- so he placed it outside next to the building's facade in a garbage can! (I was able to retrieve it.)
This all being said, it was time to check out some new baggage options for my jaunts around New York City. Enter Keen, the company that makes my favorite shoes that go on all my trips and are perfect for biking, light hiking, kayaking and walking around town. They sent me a messenger (sling) bag -- the Pearl -- to check out. Here's what I found:
This week, I tested this messenger-type bag because I had a lot of networking and workshop events, some all day and others at night, that required me to walk around a trade show floor and meet and greet a ton of people while collecting their business cards, giving them mine, taking notes of our meetings and then running to the next meeting or cocktail party where I had to transform into the non-itinerant journalist who would be sipping a glass of Chardonnay at, among other places, the Norwegian Consul General's residence here in Manhattan.
The Pearl was perfect. When I slung it across my back, I found a zipper compartment -- great for pens, business cards and small notebooks -- on the left side of the pack (on my back side) but easily accessible while it was still on my back. And, the location prohibited any subway thieves from infiltrating this pocket. Quite an accomplishment. In addition, I stuffed my cell phone into the mesh stretch pocket along the strap, making it also very easy to grab.
On the right back side of the pack was an additional small zipper that afforded access to the pack interior. Perfect for when I needed to remove my digital camera. Again, I didn't even have to remove the pack to accomplish this. The pack itself allowed me to stuff two additional sweaters, and plenty of notes and research materials. Yet, instead of looking overstuffed, the Pearl presented a very slim image. I could easily sit down to meet with clients and feel comfortable with the pack still slung across my back. It felt light as a feather (it weighs just over a pound) -- what a welcome change for me. And the day when I did need my laptop and some additional materials, interestingly the strap on the pack is so adjustable that I could sling it over my backpack and it all fit together perfectly!
The interior of the pack contains two additional mesh zippered pockets, one with a carabiner that was perfect for attaching my keys. (No more searching at the bottom of my overloaded bag for the missing keys.) Additionally, it's eco-friendly: the Pearl is made from recycled materials -- even the rubber is recycled.
I'm not saying this small bag takes the place of the load of luggage I normally tote around the city. But, on those days when I need to look trim for a frenzied set of day activities or for evening cocktail networking events, I'll look to the Pearl. It also makes for a fine overnight or weekend bag for that quick trip out of the city. I'm definitely bringing it as my only bag for the Thanksgiving holidays I'm going to spend with friends in Virginia.
I can't wait to wear it in the summer when I want a breathable bag on my back that won't lead to excess sweating as I run all over the city. The Pearl has a nice mesh and foam back side that looks like it'll be quite comfy in the sweltering August heat.