If your daily commute includes lugging a range of devices and you’re tired of hauling around a messenger bag or a big backpack that you’ve re-purposed for the job, the Wise-Walker, a compact urban bag imported from Japan might be the answer. It could also prove useful for those day trips with the kids, with all the compartments you need to keep the granola bars from gumming up the DS and the water bottle from leaking on your camera.
As a guy who compulsively carries a lot of gear everywhere I go -whether it’s out for coffee, to the mall, shopping downtown or on excursions with the kids to the zoo or amusement park- I have two main standbys when it comes to organizing and carrying said gear. For more formal occasions or when a laptop is part of the cargo, I go with a leather messenger bag (aka the manpurse or “murse“); for everything else, I turn to a tried and true LLBean day pack I’ve relied on for the past few years. Both have their advantages and disadvantages. The messenger bag is nicely compartmentalized and has room for a padded laptop sleeve but it has limited overall capacity, can only be carried by its handle or shoulder strap and is not a good thing to be sporting in rain. The day pack holds quite a bit, but it’s aimed more at volume and athletic endeavors. For example, through elastic pockets designed to hold bottles, a built-in hydration sleeve and plenty of loops to secure bottles with grommets, I can easily carry enough water to keep the family going for a day of tromping around. However, the big storage compartments make it difficult to separate out smaller items like business cards, memory cards, iPods, pens, etc…
Lily from JetPens (importers of cool Japanese pens and stationery) sent me one their new Nomadic Wise-Walker day packs and I think I’ve found the missing link. When I received the bag, the first thing I did was give it a quick once over to see how many compartments I could find without looking at the instructions. I came up with a dozen and after consulting the instructions, it turns out that I missed a few. The contents of Nathan Barry’s Drawer of Redundant Technology would easily fit in this bag, and each item would likely have its own compartment to boot.
Where the LL Bean bag is constructed to look rugged and adventurous, the Nomadic Wise Walker is much more toned down. This is probably a good thing in an urban environment where you don’t necessarily want to be calling undue attention to yourself and it blends readily with casual or business wear. The one I received was a rather handsome navy blue, made of rugged and waterproofed ripstop nylon (complete with fabric flaps over zippers to prevent water penetration). Zippers and hardware are metal which should be more durable than cheaper plastic versions and the zippers on the main pocket include holes to allow the compartment to be secured with a small padlock if you so choose. Assuming a potential thief isn’t inclined to grab the whole bag or packing a sharp instrument, that could be a useful feature. Open the bag up, and the compartment linings are bright orange, adding a flash of color and making it much easier to find things, even in low light. It’s compact at 15 inches tall by 9.5 inches wide and weighs only 24 oz.
At first glance, I was concerned that the compact size wouldn’t fit my frame. I usually wear a size 48 coat and sometimes run into problems with fitting, but the Wise-Walker easily adjusted to fit comfortably. The straps and back are sufficiently padded to be quite comfortable. A nice touch is a hidden pocket directly against the back, secured by a zipper, that can be used to hide valuables such as your wallet. While nothing is entirely safe from a talented pickpocket, the fact that the pocket is directly against your back where you can more easily feel anything being removed (as opposed to being isolated on the outside of the bag) and accessible only at your side, makes it more secure. One caveat on this feature: while it’s intended for the wearer to be able to access the contents by reaching back without removing the bag, I couldn’t manage it without taking the bag off. I tried it with someone smaller and they had no problem, so I suspect there’s some combination of flexibility/shoulder width ratio at work. There are also handy little pockets at the bottom of the shoulder straps that can be used to stash transit tokens or coins.Two external mesh pockets hold 16 ounce water bottles and, while the compartments themselves are not padded or overly large, they will accommodate netbooks or small laptops -I was able to easily fit my MacBook Air in its padded sleeve without a problem.
The instructions reference a zipper pocket for an MD Walkman, but I think we can safely call that iPod storage. One minor oversight is a lack of headphone cable routing for the iPhone (or MD Walkman); it’s no big deal to leave the pocket open a smidge for the cable, but doing so is a pretty big advertisement of what you have back there. A side-mounted pocket with cable routing would have been better. In general, though, there are more than enough pockets and compartments to keep any urban commuter or day walker completely organized, with space designed to accept a raincoat, lunch bag, pens, cellphones, books and whatever else you might carry around on a daily basis. Lily mentioned she’s using one as a diaper bag and I could see where that would work quite well. Overall, the Wise-Walker is an intelligently designed and attractive urban bag.
Nomadic CB-01 Wise-Walker Multi Compartment Day Pack: $88.00
Available in Gray, Black and Navy from jetpens.com
Wired: Lightweight, compact, waterproof, stylish, quality construction with reinforced seams and no loose threads, comfortable, more storage than you’ll know what to do with, searching for hidden additional compartments is a great way to kill time.
Tired: Would be nice to have a side-mounted (i.e., more secure) iPod pocket with headphone cable routing, not suitable for carrying full-sized laptops.