As frequent business travelers, we’re always looking for the ideal business briefcase bag. Many of us have used a wide assortment over the decades; bags and cases from companies such as Coach, Tumi, Targus, Glaser, Briggs & Riley, Samsonite, and Hartmann. Each promised to be the perfect solution, yet they never seemed to be our last bag, our perfect solution. I’m not sure why we’re so obsessed at finding the perfect bag, but my wife humorously compares the products to toy chests for men, a means to keep all of our gadgets together and neatly organized so that we can carry them with us wherever we go.
The constant flow of new consumer technology gadgets provided needs, or rather excuses, for acquiring a new bag from time to time. A bag to hold all the charging adapters, music players, phones, GPS devices, headphones, and, most importantly, bags to protect our fragile notebook computers. There was a stretch in the 80s when bags with new ways to protect our computers had a run. One company created air pockets, another an elastic sling to cushion the computer in the case of a dropped bag,
Bags became even more vital as we spent additional time on the road and less time in the office. We “needed” something we could carry into a Starbucks and camp out for a few hours while using their free WiFi. A good bag allowed us to have everything at arm’s reach. There was a phase when our bag became our office on wheels, where they really looked like a mobile toy chest with extensible handles and casters.
With that history and from working remotely for years and flying more than 3 million miles, I’ve tried most everything, And now I want to tell you about what I now consider the near perfect bag that’s ideally suited for today’s business traveler.
It’s called Air Porter from Waterfield Designs, a small family-owned company in the Dogpatch area of San Francisco. All their products are made by hand in the USA in their small workshop. I’ve purchased products from the company over the years, including one of the most useful wallets, called the Finn Wallet. It breaks the mold of conventional bulky wallets that were never designed to handle all of the credit and membership cards we now carry. It’s a simple, beautifully crafted zippered leather pouch with internal pockets. It’s emblematic of all of their products: thoughtful and unique designs crafted from quality and durable materials at affordable prices.
But I digress. The Air Porter is about the size of a briefcase we used to carry from Hartmann or Samsonite in the 60’s and 70’s, but it’s soft sided, flexible and stuffable. Not so soft that it doesn’t hold it’s form, and not so rigid that it doesn’t expand to hold more than expected.. It’s brilliantly designed to hold and organize the diverse stuff we carry today. It does it in a way that lets us find things easily – made easier with its durable gold cloth lining.
The bag is sturdily built it should last a lifetime, yet it’s surprisingly light weight. It’s made of thick leather and waxed canvas that feels good to the touch. I have been carrying their Bolt bag for years, a smaller computer bag made of the same materials, and it has aged beautifully and shown no signs of wear. I liked it so much I bought one for a friend for a birthday present.
The Air Porter bag has a slight taper so that it’s slightly wider at the bottom than the top, and helps it stands up without flopping over. It’s 10-inch height allows it to fit upright under an airplane seat, leaving room for your feet.
The Air Porter has two main compartments and quick access outside pockets, one full width and a smaller zippered one on the front face, both protected under a leather flap that’s held down with hidden magnetic fasteners.
The large pocket is the perfect place to dump the contents of your pocket when going through security, and the zippered pocket is ideal for a passport, tickets, and coins
There are two water bottle pockets on each end that snugly hold a standard size bottle. They each snap closed when not needed.
On the back of the bag is a large panel that lets you slip the bag over the handle of a rolling suitcase, now an absolute requirement for any bag that I buy.
The Air Porter’s two main compartments, both with 3-sided wraparound weatherproof zippers, have many innovative features.
The rear compartment has a padded pocket for a notebook computer with up to 15-inch display, plus several smaller pockets sized for chargers, cables and other accessories. With the computer tucked into its pocket, there are clever access slots that allow you to plug in the charger. When going through security where computers sometimes need to be checked, this section folds flat on the conveyor belt, complying with TSA’s requirement that let you leave the computer in the bag. Yet unlike some bags with this feature, the Air Porter’s design adds no wasted space to the bag.
The front compartment is more than 3 inches in depth with plenty of room to carry large headphones, iPads, cameras, books, back up batteries, notebooks, papers, and, in my case, a large sketchpad, watercolor paints and other drawing supplies. Within this area are eight smaller pockets along the walls of varying sizes, including two for business cards. You can access the compartment by unzipping the top and reaching in, or fully unzip it and open it like a suitcase.
All of the hardware is top quality. The zippers seal the contents from rain, the zipper pulls snap closed, and strong black steel loops hold the removable and adjustable shoulder strap with its wide grippy shoulder pad. Two soft leather-trimmed handles make it comfortable to carry.
The Waterfield Air Porter costs $359. A matching $60 zipper pouch, designed to hold an iPad, phone, charger and other small items is also available. It fits in any of the bag’s compartments and is perfect for use while flying to keep essentials at your side. If you buy it with the Air Porter it’s just $20. For those that prefer a more formal look, there’s a version of the Air Porter made from ballistic nylon at the same price.
Most of the bags I’ve purchased with this level of quality cost well over $600, but few of them have as practical a design and high-quality workmanship and materials. By buying direct from the company that designs and manufactures its own products, it eliminates the normal retail markups.
If you’re like me, receptive to well-made and creative new designs that help us work effectively, stay organized, and has a place for all of our essentials while travelling, give this new product strong consideration,