Last weekend I stumbled across a great new bag while creating an Indiana Jones costume for a party on Saturday. I wanted to share the details of my new "Cafe Bag" bag, in case you might be interested in picking one up for yourself.
First, I should offer my definition of a so-called "Cafe Bag" eh? It's a bag large enough to hold multiple 8.5x11 or A4 papers, sketchbooks or magazines, deep enough for library book toting or reference book carrying. It should also accommodate pencils, pens and other such items. I call it a Cafe Bag, since it's primarily used to carry my gear to the cafe for writing, sketching or reading over coffee.
As a home-office worker, I've found the change of atmosphere while working at a cafe helps turn on my creative juices. At other times, I'm just tired of the home office and need a change of scenery. Sometimes I'll bring along the Powerbook, but more often than not, I prefer analog tools such as a sketchbook or notebook, or on occasion, my Dana Wireless.
My Cafe Bag is a surplus US Army Map Case, bought from a local surplus and sporting goods store store for $12. It's constructed of heavy-duty 22 ounce cotton canvas and measures 12" tall x 8.5" wide x 4.5" deep. The spacious main compartment has a sewn-in divider and a flap with two snaps to secure the contents. There are even weather flaps at the top of the compartment to seal it from the elements.
A pocket is sewn onto the front interior part of the bag (and is the spot where the flap buttons snaps to) complete with an elastic pen and pencil holder. The bag has a single strap, attached by swiveling snaps to the back, so it can be worn over the shoulder or across the shoulder, messenger-style.
I've found that this bag can hold quite a bit of gear, because it expands up to 4.5 inches. The width and height are also perfect for carrying larger magazines (like Wired) or my Dana Wireless. I suspect smaller 12" Powerbooks and iBooks might fit in this bag, though I don't know if a Powerbook plus a padded shell would fit. I need to check the Apple Store to verify this some evening.
So far I've been very pleased with my bag, so I can highly recommend this one if you can make use of a small, tough, flexible and very inexpensive bag.