For years I carried around a thin, relatively small backpack. It was able to fit a surprising number of things in it, but it’s design left a lot to be desired. It was not a bag for someone looking to carry around a portable office – everything in there was muddled together in a heap. Eventually, the zips broke and it was time to move on. I then stumbled across a sample promotional backpack at work and was given the OK to claim it as my own. It looked promising. It was clearly design for a laptop due to the thick padding on its back and internal sleeve for a laptop. However, in an even shorter timeframe this bag also succumbed to wear and tear. The shoulder straps began to tear away from the bag itself. So what now? I had long had my eye on the Evernote Commuter bag. Was this the right time to invest in quality and design?
Yes. Yes it was!
As a birthday gift I took the liberty of ordering the Evernote Commuter bag for myself. I had been regularly weighing up the pros and cons of thighs is bag since it first appeared on the Evernote Market. The web page demonstrated its compartmentalization options and how every aspect of it had been designed for a specific purpose. One of the key things that was holding me back from making the decision to buy it earlier was the fact that it was a shoulder bag. I have had shoulder bags in the past and when they have a bit of weight in them, such as a laptop, they can quickly become overbearing to cart around and actually cause a significant amount of strain on the left side of my body. The Evernote Commuter bag bosts a specially designed angled strap that would ease this burden and transfer much of its weight from the top of the should to the back. Additionally, this bag stood up, on its own! No longer would my bag fall on top of itself as soon as I put it down and force me to dive into it head first as I attempted to retrieve a cable from the back of its throat. The triangular shape of the Evernote Commuter bag means that the bag stays upright when not in use. OK, I was sold, but was it in the budget?
Whenever I would revisit the Evernote Market I would always check the price for the Evernote Commuter bag (hoping it had come down). AUD$219 (USD$199) sure is a lot of money, and for a bag, for a guy? Was it worth it? It’s a pretty big gamble to take. If it didn’t deliver on its promises, or didn’t comfortably fit the work-issued 15-inch MacBook Pro, it would be close to useless. My birthday was drawing near and with two bags already in the bin I decided it was time to invest in something of quality. I could have walked into the nearest department store and easily parted with just as much money for a nice looking leather messenger bag, but that would be something designed more for aesthetics than practicality, especially when my main need was to hold my portable office.
The Real Thing
The bag arrived a couple of weeks before my birthday. I had to hold off ripping apart the packaging for a while longer. When the day came, I cracked open the postage box and found the Evernote Commuter bag exactly as it was described, only more awesome.
A charcoal/steel grey in colour, the exterior material feels sturdy and capable of withstanding just about anything short of a box-cutter from severing it. The bottom of the bag, on the outside (where it will end up getting the most traction) is covered by a durable black leather, preventing any damage or rips. There are no “feet” on the bottom, no little metal spikes that sound like a sports boot in a locker room when the bag is placed on a table. The front pocket serves as a place to stash random items acquired while on the move, as well as a place to keep things that need to be readily accessible at any time. I keep my phone and my work ID/swipe cards there – I don’t even need to take the ID/swipe cards out to use them.
The strap looks and feels right. The should strap is at an angle to the body of the bag so that when the bag is carried some of its weight feels more horizontal instead of attempting to pull your should off making it more comfortable to carry for longer periods than other messenger bags. The texture of the shoulder strap is like a car seatbelt, but much softer, and it is wide enough so that the weight of the bag is distributed over more area resulting in a comfortable feeling on the shoulder, not something that wants to create a groove for itself on your collarbone. The length of the shoulder strap is easily adjusted and an added band holds the overlapping parts of the strap together.
Zips are a small thing, but incredibly important. A bad quality zip can quickly turn a nice bag into a rubbish bag. This is not the case with the Evernote Commuter bag. I was thoroughly impressed by the quality feel of the zips. Not just the leather tabs for gripping onto, but the actual feel of the zips as they open and close – they feel think and solid. Appropriately, the zip for the small outside compartment is smaller than the zip for the main part of the bag. All zips are smooth, quiet and sturdy. I’ve only had one small problem with the front zip where something inside the bag got caught. However, as soon as I freed it everything went back to normal.
I am not one for wearing items that brandish brand advertising. This bag has nothing to indicate it is made by Evernote or Abrasus apart from a very small Evernote logo badge on the front and a small stitched label inside (which blends in nicely). The badge on the outside looks and feels like high quality metal. That’s right, it’s made of metal, not some cheap plastic that would age and crack. I actually love having the elephant head on the bag. It makes it look a little different, plain, but not boring and for those that recognise it, that’s right, I am wearing an Evernote bag!
First, let’s look at getting into the inside. Opening the zip for the main compartment allows part of the bag to easily fold outward. The outward fold reveals two smaller pockets that have their own zips. One of these has a mesh-like material providing visibility into its contents, while the other keeps it’s contents hidden. I keep things like my keys in the hidden pocket so that they don’t get caught up in the mesh, or tangled up with cables in the main compartment.
The fact that the top part of the bag folds outward also reveals the entire contents of the main compartment, without anything falling out. This aspect, combined with the triangular shape of the bag means that it can be stood up on a desk, opened, and everything you need is easily at your fingertips. This is where the true portable office comes in to play. Without having to unpack everything, the layout of the bags contents and it’s accessibility means I can be up and running with exactly what I need very quickly and, should I need anything else, such as a power cable, it’s there in easy reach and I can see it. No fumbling around blindly for something that “feels” like the right cable.
Towards the back of the bag is a material divider that allows a laptop to be easily dropped in. It looks like this section is ideally suited to a 13″ laptop, but it can still comfortably fit my work-issued 15″ MacBook Pro. Not only that, but I also add to this section an iPad in a leather cover. The only thing that I need to do in order to fit the larger MacBook into the sleeve is to unhook the outer corners of the bag so that the zip does up easily. Definitely not a big issue. The laptop sleeve is not padded, but I have not found this to be an issue. Because the bag stands up by itself the laptop is not going to fall onto hard surfaces.
On the other side of this sleeve are two more sleeves. Lower in height, and much skinnier. These sleeves are best suited for a smaller tablet (such as an iPad Air), or field notes notebook, or even folded papers. They are made of softer material which helps to protect the surfaces of delicate devices. These two sleeves are not equal in size – one is wider – allowing for various items to be stored in the most appropriate place. I tend not to use these two sleeves that much, apart from my field notes notebook or the occasional loose sheets of paper folded in half. I would use them more, I just don’t have the right thing to use them for.
The Evernote Commuter bag comes with three removable dividers for the thickest, and main part of the bag. Using velcro, these dividers can be placed within the bag to cater for your own items. My bag is setup such that one divider is placed wide enough to just fit a Moleskine, the next is wide enough to hold a MacBook power pack. The left over space is perfect for my glasses case and a packet of whiteboard markers. I don’t use the third divider so it is left out.
At either end of the main compartment is another smaller pocket. Perfect for pens and skinnier things. The materiel here is thin allowing pens to be easily stored and clipped on. For me, I have a portable battery that I use as a backup supply for my iPhone and iPad in one end and the other end has a spare pen and pencil and a PowerPoint remote clicker thing.
Everything fits and everything fits comfortably. Looking at the bag with everything closed up it looks very basic. But when it’s opens there are many sections, pockets and sleeves that cater for everything you need to carry with you, and more. Simplicity and practicality combined.
On The Move
I mentioned earlier that I keep my keys in one of the pockets available when the front of the bag is folded down. The magic of this bag is that it can fold down whenever you like. For example, I need to get to my keys in order to get into my house (obviously). While I am walking to the door I swing the bag around from my back to my side and fully unzip the main compartment. The top section folds down and I can get to my keys. Nothing falls out or even moves out of place, even while I keep walking, and this means I don’t have to fumble around blindly and hope that my keys don’t get caught up with other things.
The Portable Office
I have mentioned this concept of a “portable office” a few times now, but what exactly is it and why on earth would I need it? In my line of work I often have to visit clients, take many notes, be prepared to work on a whiteboard at no notice and deliver presentations. With the Evernote Commuter bag I don’t need to worry about making sure I have the right items for the job on hand. It fits everything I need for any kind of occasion.
- MacBook Pro
- MacBook Pro power pack
- Work notebook
- Evernote Moleskinne (journal)
- Field Notes notebook (for sketches and project ideas)
- Packet of Post-Its
- iPhone and iPad cables
- iPhone headphones
- iPhone backup battery thing
- Packet of tissues
- Glasses case
- Packet of 4 whiteboard markers
- 2 Pens
- PowerPoint remote presenter thing (clicker)
- Bunch of loyalty cards I rarely use
- Wallet (usually)
- Work swipe cards
I think that covers it. Oh, and my keys. That’s everything that lives in my portable office and there is still a lot of space left to fill!
As of writing this I have been using the Evernote Commuter bag for two months. In that time I have not noticed any wear. None of the material is freying at all. The bag easily holds everything that I need to carry around and is comfortable to wear. While I primarily use it for carting around my portable office, I see no reason why it couldn’t be used for more casual purposes.
It is clear that everything about this bag has been carefully thought about – from the angle of the strap, to the material and location of pockets and sleeves. I couldn’t be happier with the Evernote Commuter bag. And the price? If you were to go and look at any store for a bag of equal quality, I’d say it would be easily double the price. This is the only bag I could find that was designed for everything I was looking for: quality, design, aesthetics, and practicality. If you are looking for something similar I highly recommend investing in the Evernote Commuter bag. You will not be disappointed.