Living just outside of the city, I commute to work via public transportation. I can’t store things in a car for the day so I need to make sure I pack everything for my workout, workday and for after work in a compact and efficient way.
I wore my Gaiam Everything Fits Gym Bag to shreds because I used it everyday and I always packed that thing to the fullest. The straps got worn out and I somehow ripped the bag. I started my search for a new bag.
I was looking online for new bags that were cute but I found it difficult to find one that I liked that was affordable. I was considering the Kate Spade Stevie baby bag ($398), but it was expensive and Dave got a little weirded out that it was a baby bag. The Lo and Sons Overnight & Gym Bag ($295) was an option, but again-too expensive.
In the meantime, I started using my Timbuk2 messenger bag and my Longchamp Le Pliage but my hips and shoulders were starting to feel the wear and tear from one-shoulder bags. The Timbuk2 was better when I wore it cross-body, but it still was causing my body aches when I had it really full.
I knew I had to start looking at backpacks. I was considering the Hershel Little America Backpack ($89.99) but I didn’t like how the opening was just a small hole at top. I wanted the backpack to have a zipper that went along the sides. I could just see myself really tired after a workout getting frustrated that I can’t get to something on the bottom of my bag without unpacking everything else.
I kind of gave up on the oober “fashionable” looking backpack. I wanted more function. A friend of mine said that her and her husband liked their North Face or Patagonia backpacks so I decided to start looking at City Sports. I had a lot of City Sports Insider points…actually $81 worth! I had racked up about 1600 points over the past 5 years or so, and it was about time I capitalized on them.
I went to store and purchased the Patagonia Chacabuco Backpack 32L ($99) in black. Although I wanted a fun color, black seemed like it might be the more professional color if I am using it for work too. With tax, the backpack was $105.19 but because of my CS Insider points, I got the backpack for $24.19! I’ve been using it for over a month now and absolutely love it.
How I Use My Backpack
With Boston weather, you never know what you are up against, so I usually carry an umbrella in one of the side pouches in the other I have a water bottle full of either water or breakfast smoothie.
The front has a bungee cord in case I want to store something there. I haven’t really utilized this much but could see myself using it if I were going hiking and wanted to quickly throw a jacket or sweater there if my bag was full. There are also some loops that you can attach some carabiners to.
If my bag happens to be full, I can buckle side straps and tighten them to make sure my backpack is as compact as it can be. When I am on the T, I want to avoid taking up a ton of space. When it is really busy, I hold my backpack in the front so I am more aware of what it is hitting. The worst is when you get someone hitting you all the time with their backpack because they forget that they have it on.
Some of the more “fashionable” backpacks have thinner straps that start to hurt my arms if I have too much in the bag. Thankfully my backpack’s straps are well padded so this is not an issue. They are equipped with more loops to attach carabiners. They also have two sets of buckles-one for around my hips and one around the sternum just in case I really want to really secure the backpack around me. The sternum strap has a whistle on it too! An added feature is the reinforced hook at the top-it not only feels sturdy but is sturdy.
The small front pocket of the backpack gets a lot of use. I feel like a high school or college kid with what I keep in there: a calculator, colored pens, a pencil and eraser, hand sanitizer , and my work ID. I also carry Nuun and some sort of energy bar so that I can fuel before/after a workout or if I just get hungry during the day at work. The pocket is deep and can fit a lot. I even put my 4/3rd camera in there for easy access.
Unfortunately, I broke the plastic, mini carabiner that hangs off one of the pockets. I was really tired after a long day at work and too lazy to take my keys off of the carabiner. When I tried to pull my keys to reach the door, the plastic part snapped off. Thankfully there is a velcro loop that I can also use to secure my keys. I also transitioned to putting my most important keys on my Kate Spade Darla wallet and just throw that into the front pocket for easier access.
The backpack has a padded laptop sleeve raised from the bottom of the bag to lessen the impact on the computer if your bag is dropped. It also doubles as an insulated hydration pack compartment with a tube post if you aren’t using it for work and are using it for a hike or day trip. The sleeve has a buckle to make sure it is secure with whatever is inside. I mostly store my laptop and/or iPad and sometimes my Bullet Journal. Opposite of the laptop sleeve is a small pocket that I usually store my laptop charger and mouse to keep them from getting lost in everything else that is in there.
The inside main pocket is where I store the bulk of everything. I eat a lot of food throughout the day, so on most days, my insulated lunch bag is thrown into my backpack. If I am going to a co-location site for work, I have to carry my lunch bag separately to give me room to fit binders and papers I need.
Since I usually workout in the morning, I wear my workout clothes and put my work clothes in a plastic bag that goes into my backpack. This protects my work clothes in the case that my lunch bag leaks. After my workout, my sweaty clothes go into the plastic bag so that they don’t get whatever else is in my backpack stinky and sweaty.
I also use the two smaller pockets on the top of the backpack quite often. I store my iPad keyboard charger, emergency phone charger, iPad/iPhone charger, and my headphones. I think I’m going to start to split the electronics between the two pockets so it’s a little less crowded. However, it will be a little less crowded anyways since I just sold my iPad!
Better Side Pockets
I wish the side pockets had an adjustable bungee to really secure whatever was in the pocket. Sometimes when I have a water bottle in the side pocket and if for some reason I need to bend over to pick something up, the water bottle will go flying out of the pocket onto the lovely Boston city ground. The worst is when you are walking in Downtown Crossing and this happens. If you live in Boston, you know what I mean!
Bottom Compartment for Dirty Stuff
Some gym bags or travel bags have the bottom as a separate zippered compartment. They designers know you want to separate your dirty stuff-like gym clothes or sneakers-from everything else. That would be great if there was another compartment to the backpack to help me keep things more organized.
Retractable Keychain Carabiner
Taking the keys off the carabiner is a pain. It would be great if there was a retractable keychain attached to the carabiner. Then I could just pull my keys out towards the door and have them retract back. No more worries about misplacing my keys or breaking it after a long day. This is not a make it or break it wish list item since I do enjoy having my most used keys on my wallet with my T-pass and I could get a keychain that has the retractable feature.
I love this backpack. I can fit so much in it and it keeps my hips happy. I used to have so much pain from trying to lug everything in one or two heavy bags. I may not look the most fashionable, but hey-I’m an engineer-I care more about function anyways.
Read other reviews on Patagonia Chacabuco.
Questions for you
What kind of bag do you use for a gym bag and/or for every day commuting at work?
What are some qualities of your ideal bag?