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What Does Your Conference Bag Say About You?

Your bag gives away more about you than you might think.

By Edward Nawotka

Rickshaw: The hip choice for 2012

Attending the O’Reilly Tools of Change for Publishing conference last week, I was reminded of my first summertime Eurail trip through Europe when I discovered that you could almost always identify the country of origin of fellow travelers by the make of their backpack: Italians inevitably carried Invicta, Brits were laden with Karrimor, Germans toted Deuter, Swedes had their trusty Fjällräven packs, and the Americans usually wielded something from Jansport or L.L. Bean. Having this information was useful insofar as it helped you scope out who you might have a chance at chatting up and maybe scoring an early morning excursion to that out of the way attraction once the train arrived in the morning.

At TOC, the bags people carried didn’t quite indicate their country of origin, as much as it did their likely status or place in the publishing pecking order. Loosely speaking, true techies — most likely hailing from San Francisco — were hauling Rickshaw messengers (as opposed to Timbuk2 bags, the 2010-2011 bag of choice); New Yorkers favored Manhattan Portage bags (for the blokes) and big pricey handbags (for the ladies), and almost everyone had a Cocoon Grid-it bag — a giveaway from conference sponsor Copia (which shares an owner with the Coccon brand), bouncing off their hip. You could even spot a few folks who managed to source a coveted Porter Bag from Japan. (That’s commitment to quality).

So what does your bag conference bag say about you? And what are you partial to? Are you a fan of Defy? Red Oxx? Or maybe Tom Bihn? (I am a fan of all three brands and highly recommend them). Or perhaps you have another strategy? An iPad carried in a ScottEVest?

Let us know what you think in the comments.

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  1. Posted February 21, 2012 at 11:16 am | Permalink

    I’m using the same Timtuk2 that I got for CES 2010. It seems to be bigger than the Rickshaw bags and it doubles as my mobile office and my go-bag. I don’t plan to replace it until it wears out.

    Funny story: the only reason I got this bag was that my last one was defiled by a puppy. He managed to both puke and poop on the bag. I didn’t want to use it anymore.

    BTW, you missed a bag. A number of people carried round the messenger bag that we got as swag at TOC. What does that bag say?

  2. Edward Nawotka
    Posted February 21, 2012 at 11:39 am | Permalink

    @Nate, oh, I know that feeling of having a bag defiled….but it was my daughter spilling snacks, soy milk, etc…into it. I did mention the Cocoon bag everyone got, which was the branded one from Copia (the two companies are owned by the same parent co.). It’s a nice bag as conference bags go, but has a fatal flaw: the zippered compartment for the laptop faces down, so if you don’t zip it up properly you risk having your laptop slip out and crash to the ground. Those bags — one of which I bought last year — have been on clearance for the last six months or so. You can get them super cheap online if you look around. The nicest part of it, though, is the Grid-it that was included with it. Of course, the Grid-it is still too heavy to carry around and make much use of at a conference, but it does make a great desk accessory to wrangle stray cords.

    I believe I gave you my Cocoon bag so you could give it away on your site!

  3. Posted February 21, 2012 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

    Oh, the bag was from Cocoon? I thought that just the elastic strappy board thing was from Cocoon. I never noticed the label on the bag.

    And I did give away the bag, along with a warning about the disemboweling zipper.

  4. Posted February 21, 2012 at 4:03 pm | Permalink

    Loved this one! I was actually just thinking I need to invest in a good conference handbag this year!

  5. Posted February 21, 2012 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

    A friend actually tried to convince me to get a Marc Jacobs Work Wear bag. Loved it until I saw the price tag ;)

  6. Tony Bommarito
    Posted February 21, 2012 at 5:47 pm | Permalink

    North face all the way!

  7. Posted February 23, 2012 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

    Received a Rickshaw bag as a gift and fell in love with their whole product line. I love the commuters and even carry a mini commuter as a purse. Quality product, quality service, quality company and handmade in San Francisco. I love them so much I even gave them as Christmas presents last year and they all love them as well!

    I love bags, especially quality conference bags. I don’t expect a Rickshaw, but one that will hold together for the conference at least. My favorite conference bags include a backpack from JavaOne (circa 2000?) and last year’s Dreamforce bag.

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