The Best Bags for Walking to Work

the best bags for walking to workWhat is the best bag to carry if you walk to work? Reader A wonders…

I’ve had a bag dilemma for years and though this venue might provide a solution. I thought perhaps someone out there might have found the holy grail of bags to address the following issues, and I’m sure others are looking for the same. I would certainly love a post on this. I’m a lawyer and I walk almost two miles to work everyday. Here’s what I’m looking for:
– Big enough to carry folders, papers, occasional laptop and occasional change of clothes
-Color-neutral enough to be worn with anything for everyday use
-Professional looking
– Comfortable to carry long distances, such as a cross-body style with comfortable strap. Maybe a backpack style?

Does such a bag exist? I sure hope so.

I’ve always loved walking to work, and I’ve regularly schlepped about that distance. While there are so many benefits to walking to work (fresh air! clear head! some exercise!), I do feel like I’ve done some serious damage to my body from walking so much. For example, whenever I get massages, the masseuse always comments on the huge knot on my right upper back (where I usually carry my bag), and I honestly blame the first few years of walking to work (back in the days when I wore Steve Madden 3″ stacked heels regularly — for the 2 mile commute!) for the feet problems I have now. (I suppose there’s another post idea there, but my secret belief is that feet problems are like dreams: no one else wants to hear about them.) So: I gotta say that Reader A may be asking for too much. A laptop? A change of clothes? This all seems like a lot for a regular commute, and probably the smart advice to her is to find another means of transportation if she has to carry so much. That said, on the rare occasion where I wanted to carry a computer or a change of clothes, I suppose I could have fit a super-lightweight, small laptop (like my netbook) into my bag, and I also could have possibly fit a pair of jeans (for a night out) — but not both, and certainly not with a change of shoes.

Cole Haan - HW Parker Medium Hobo (Greige) - Bags and LuggageFor the past few years my bag of choice has been a large hobo. I’ve found that a single strap is a must (it stays on your shoulder better than two straps), and a good bag that has pockets keeps your phone, ID/subway pass, and lipgloss close at hand. My all-time favorite is a Cole Haan hobo (I have 3 or 4 of these — I had to put a moratorium on myself! They’re all similar to the “greige” one pictured (also available in plain black), but I also like my Kooba hobo (similar to this one, pictured, Kooba – Alexander (Berry)), and my Rebecca Minkoff hobo (Rebecca Minkoff – Nikki (Red) (not pictured)). They generally fit all the stuff I keep iKooba Alexandern my bag, with space for an extra pair of shoes if I need to carry them, or perhaps the laptop/change of clothes that Reader A is dreaming of. Keep in mind, I’m not saying this is the smartest choice — I’m just saying, this is the kind of bag that I found worked best for my commutes.

LeSportsac - Deluxe Everyday Bag (Fly Away Black) - Bags and LuggageIf we’re talking smart choices, though, you probably do want a crossbody or a backpack, to better distribute the weight; you might also want to look for a lighter fabric bag (such as a nylon) instead of the leathers and canvases that I always prefer. I might point you to a LeSportsac Everyday bag (pictured), which has been my gym bag for years, and is now my favorite diaper bag. I vastly prefer my leather hobos for style, but the Everyday bag can’t be beat for being lightweight and well organized. I might also point you to the Marc Jacob nylon knapsack — it’s pictured at the very top of this post in pink iris, but it’s also available in black. LeSportsac also makes a nylon backpack, as does Tumi. My personal $.02 is that fashionably speaking, the backpack is kind of at the bottom of the pile — but sometimes you have to be kind to your body and prioritize comfort above fashion.

Readers, do you walk to work?  What bags do you carry?  Have you developed any “best practices” for commuting?

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  1. SoCalAtty :

    I’m a little bit of a gear person (ok, a lot) so I have tons of bags. REI carries backpacks and messenger bags with laptop sleeves, and currently they have several, like the ones from Thule and Keen, that are black and streamlined and would be comfortable and not too obtrusive to take even into court.

    Just use the search features on REI’s website under “travel.” Their return policy can’t be beat…if you hate it, even a year later, they’ll take it back. Their prices are usually list price, but the customer service and return policy make up for it.

  2. I have one that is very tolerable for long-range schlepping, a huge Clava leather tote. (link below). It’s very lightweight for leather. But the most important features are that it’s huge and that it has long, padded straps. Padded straps make such a difference! And the length really helps too. I can fit a smaller purse, legal-size files, shoes, and gym clothes in the bag with no problem. Laptop would also fit.

  3. Pink on Black :

    Dealing with this issue too. Just started commuting by public transport as my office moved into SF city from the Peninsula and realised how stiff my back has gotten from the trek (1.5miles each way to the train station). I’m going to try out a trolley, just bought this the Conair compact cart from Amazon. Was definitely also eyeing the McKleins. Thanks for the other suggestions, I’ll look into them if using the cart isn’t as easy as hoped.

  4. Diana Barry :

    2 miles each way w/ laptop and extra clothes???? BACKPACK.

    I commuted for 4 yrs, 2 miles each way (Boston) with a Patagonia women’s backpack. It was awesome. I kept a purse in the office for when I went out to lunch or meetings.

  5. Perhaps not suitable for the OP’s requirements, but I just transitioned from handbag to using a pouch (the American Apparel pouch to be exact). Here’s my thinking: wearing any shoulder bag brings my back and body out of alignment, esp on my dominant side. Carrying a pouch is better for biceps and forearms because it can pretty much act as a weight (like a dumbbell). The AA one comes in 3 sizes and is real leather (I’m sure there are vegan varieties for those so inclined). Although now that I’ve upped my gym sessions per week, I pretty much am back to heavy tote.

  6. Wheelie bag.

  7. I walk a couple miles a day and carry books, files and sometimes a laptop. I found a cute grey plaid flannel backpack at Target. It’s very comfortable and was less than $40.00, as I recall. As long as I take it off before entering the building, I don’t care if I look a little dorky.

  8. cheap lawyer :

    These bags with wheels are reasonably priced:
    Not leather, but more personality than many court/litigation bags.

  9. I searched forever (and spent many a day lugging around three bags) before finding the amazing Alesya laptop bag – gorgeous leather, stylish, super comfy strap, room for a 17″ laptop plus all the cords, etc. I no have to haul a laptop back and forth to work, but I love it so much I continue to use it everyday to carry papers, my wallet, umbrella, my lunch, my work shoes, etc. Amazing how much fits in here.

    • Ah, love those! No fair linking to something awesome that’s sold out. ;)

  10. A used a cross-body bag throughout law school and always studied at home or my favorite coffeehouse, and at first I had definite pain on the right side from carrying the bag on only one side.

    Then I forced myself to learn to feel comfortable with the bag also being carried on my left side. Eventually, I played a little game with myself where I divided each day’s route 50-50; half the time I carried the bag on my right side, and the other half on my left side! It really helped.

  11. I like messenger-style bags especially ones by Fossil. Using a backpack makes me feel too much like a student, and was also causing lots of pressure on my shoulders and back.

  12. I hate to be the unfashionable one, but ladies—you should never carry more than 10% of your body weight on one shoulder (i.e., no more than 20% if you’re double-strapped). If you’re a small woman, this might mean that you shouldn’t carry more than 10 pounds on one shoulder. 5 lbs for laptop, 300 sheets of paper (3 lbs), a pair of shoes, and the weight of the bag itself and you’ve already hit your limit—not even counting keys, wallet, phone, makeup, and anything else you might want to carry. I used to do this, and nearly caused myself permanent back damage.

    Dakine (dakine dot-to-the-com ) makes some good, durable backpacks, some of which are quite nicely sized for women. I have a fun, brightly-colored one that fits my 5’2” body perfectly (very necessary, because I bike). They also have more staid versions, for both men and women.

    Chrome (chromebagstore dot-to-thecom) and Timbuk2 make high-quality messenger bags, typically with extra body straps.

  13. Collins_JCC :

    the best solution i have found is a kate spade diaper bag…minus the changing pad. it has tons of space and different pockets. it also comes in crossbody styles!

  14. I love my bag from

    They are very well made and lightweight, and you can fit almost ANYTHING in the large bags!

  15. I do the 2 miles to work as well – and I have always used a lululemon bag and take all my gym stuff as well as lunch with me to work. Their bags are great at compartmentalizing, and can be stylish enough to pass for a proper purse. Usually I keep a mini bag inside for lunchtime errands.

    • Ooh, I hadn’t thought of those!! The Flow and Go is cute. I also like this one:

      I’ll have to look for them at the outlet next time I’m there!

    • I was just about to pop in with a Lululemon rec!

      I’m in the public-transportation-using-lots-of-crap-to-carry-must-default-to-backpack camp. I was looking at the Timbuk2 and Thules for a while, but I’m not really crazy about them. Right now I’m saving for this:

      I’ve been looking at it in the store, so I haven’t used it yet, but the reviews are strong, and even though Lululemon is expensive, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the quality of their stuff.

  16. I have an older and I think slighly smaller version of this:

    It looks like a laptop bag basically but has backpack straps that can be hidden away in a little flat pocket.

  17. Kate Spade’s Lori bags are a lot like the Cole Haan Parker.

  18. Here is another option

    I use the Taxicab tote – holds a 15.4 inch laptop, small purse, two cellphones, make-up, lunch. It has lots of pockets to keep things separate, and is water-resistant. The non-zip pocket has a magnetic close which is useful. It has shoe compartments as well, but they aren’t great for heels (mine all live under my desk anyways! :)

  19. I can’t believe Lo & Sons O.G. bag ( hasn’t been suggested! It was featured on this blog a while ago and I drooled over it until I finally received one for Christmas this year. It has so many compartments and is perfect for carrying around a laptop (there is a special padded compartment) and couple files along with whatever else you would normally have in your purse/briefcase. It also has a special compartment specifically for carrying around shoes or anything else you want to keep separate from the rest of your bag (ie that wet umbrella). The fabric is super durable and stain resistant. The straps are long enough to fit comfortably over your shoulder without hanging too low and it comes with a longer removable strap if you’d rather wear it across your body. I love this bag and use it almost exclusively.

  20. There’s something really wrong here with blaming walking, especially a mere 2 miles, for wrecking your body. Walking is good for you, and if you’re at all healthy a nice walk is the best start/end to a work day.
    What you did is wreck your body with neglect. If you’re carrying more than a few pounds you must use a backpack. If you’re walking further than the parking lot you must wear sensible shoes, ie no significant heels. These are not negotiable. You can keep whatever you think is more suitable at work if you need to, whether lady purses or heels.

    That said I think there’s room for technology to make commutes easier. If you are sshlepping a computer, make sure it’s a netbook and not a heavy laptop. Make sure you have on both ends of the commute the extra stuff that adds weight and can be easily left, such as chargers, large screens and full-size keyboards etc. Load up what you need from the work server instead of carrying paper, because pretty much every document you need is in electronic form at some point. Don’t be a masochist..

  21. I’m in the two bag camp. I work in higher ed and walk about half a mile to work. I carry a regular-sized purse and a tote bag for the large stuff (lunch, shoes, umbrella, iPad, etc). Some days I don’t need the tote and others it’s completely full. I don’t think there’s one bag to rule them all. ;)

  22. WishfulSpirit :

    What about a wheelie? There are some really stylish ones out there, in mock crock and faux ostrich. No weight to lug on your person, just pull.

  23. I like this one
    or the convertible purse/backpack from Mosey life. hands free when you need it, not crazy big and the backpack mode doesn’t make you look like a teenager.

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