Friday, 2 July 2010

Time for a decent capacity man Bag...!

Well... having finally managed to coax a fresh locker key from the deputy guv'nor at my depot, to replace the one that was nicked with me cash tray when I was on nights a fair few months back (um... 12 months plus, if I recall correctly!), so I should soon be able to stop lugging around a damn daysack all the time!

So... what do I carry when I'm at work?

Quite a hell of a lot, actually. Surprised the hell out of me when I listed it a while back...

  1. Current daysack, and it's starting to get a hole in the bottom!
  2. SPITKIT (DNA swab kit in case we have to collect the muck from someone spitting at us at work. Now I've got access to my locker again, this is held at the depot.)
  3. A small Personal First Aid kit
    (If I don't carry it, I'll damn well need it. Sod's law and all that!)
  4. Cash Tray
    (Now I've got access to my locker again, this is held at the depot).
  5. MEDALERT sheet in plastic zip-lock wallet with spare repeat prescription order sheets
  6. Rite-in-the-Rain spiral notepad
  7. High-Visibility vest
    (Now I've got access to my locker again, this is held at the depot).
  8. Glasses case with spare glasses and lens cloths
  9. Big Red Book
    (a reference manual for all London Bus Drivers. Mine's a bit tatty these days. Gotta ask for a fresh one!)
  10. Moleskin notebook
  11. Portable phone re-charger
    (battery-like device with a separate mains recharger unit as well)
  12. A5 clipboard
    (for use with daily Duty card, Vehicle Report Card, and Log card. Makes it easier to do the paperwork on the job. Now I've got access to my locker again, this is held at the depot.)
  13. Mini-maglite torch
    (doing the mandatory walk around a bus when taking it over from the previous driver in the dark is much easier with a torch, after all)
  14. Pens and pencils
  15. Shoe and boot laces.
    (You never know when you'll need the damn things!)
  16. Dextrose (Glucose) tablets. Getting tired is NOT an option!
  17. Emergency piezoelectric squeeze light, TfL (Transport For London) supply item.
  18. Gloves
  19. Card and pass wallet
  20. Lens cleaning solution pump spray bottle
  21. Spare batteries for the torch and camera
    (4 x AA size)
  22. Wallet
  23. HTC Touch Pro 2 Smartphone
    (yep, still on Vodafone, in case you were wondering!)
  24. Tee Key
    (a drop-forged "T"-shaped key about the size of a pair of smallish pliers, used to gain access to various lockers, doors, and hatches on a bus that the general public shouldn't mess with!)
  25. Bus ignition key, locker key, and self-retracting key cord clip
  26. Business card wallet

NOT Shown:

  • Headphones/mike for the phone
    (wired, not bluetooth)
  • Home keys
  • My daily prescription meds
    (enough for two days)
  • Gerber Multi-Tool
    (always handy to tighten someones nuts - I mean a loose bolt on a bus!)
  • Digital camera
    (Blog and incidents for the use of)
  • Pocket tissues
    (You would not believe how dusty it is on the roads over here)
  • Customer Service Pad
    (A yellow and white chit book, distressed/non-paying punters for the use of)
  • Water bottle
    (VERY essential what with the hot weather over here of late)

So, less the cash tray, high-vis vest, SPITKIT, "special items", and clipboard, almost all the rest of it goes with me wherever I go, either in the ruck, or more normally in a very big bum bag that's a right royal pain.

Well, that's the lot. That's my every day carry, as some call it, and what a load it is too. This fits into belt pouches, pockets, and a rucksack. Since I can trim down the major bulk items now, it's time to rationalise what I carry to and from work and home... so, having had me birthday a couple of days back, it's time to treat myself :)

Time, in other words, for a decent-sized Man Bag :)

Over the last few months, I've concluded that a messenger bag, while being fine and dandy for messenger and student types, just didn't cut the mustard for me (I tried one. What a disaster: I couldn't find a damn thing I wanted, it all kept falling down the bottom of the bag!). The daysack I currently use is getting there, but is heavy with the mass of crud I carry (see the list above), and it's not wearing too well - the bottom's getting well worn :(

The Specifications and Main Contenders...

So, whatever bag I get will be subjected to a fair bit of hard use, so it's gonna have to be a bag designed for that kind of use. There should be external pouches - blister pouches - that make it easy to get at regular use items easily, but which keep those items reasonably securely. Internal pockets should have dedicated spaces for such things as keys, pens, notebooks, and so on, and all should be secured reasonably safely and effectively. in addition, the bag should offer a measure of mild impact protection to its' contents, and that means robust materials should be used in its construction - 1000 denier thickness ballistic nylon as a minimum. Unfortunately, that means the specifications will have to be militarily robust, and that realistically means expensive kit. It also limits the available manufacturers a fair bit - British manufacturers would be preferred, but they don't do civvy - or military come to that - kit to that specifications requirement. The yanks, on the other hand, do. Which leaves the list as follows:

  • Maxpedition Jumbo S-Type
    (I prefer carrying this stuff on my left. Don't ask why, I just do: MaxP do a version of their Jumbo versipack in southpaw carry (i.e., carry it on the left hip, not the right), hence S-Type).

  • Royal Robbins 5.11 PUSH pack

    Forget the gun butt in the photo. It's an American thing. The most lethal thing I'm likely to carry around is a rather poor attitude to the weather ;-)
  • Blackhawk "Tactical Handbag"

There may be others, but these are the ones that stood out as meeting my general requirements for the capacity I need, the mode of carry I prefer (cross-shoulder-strap hip carry), and materials used in their construction.


The one that stands head and shoulders above the others is the MaxP Jumbo S-Type, not just because it meets my southpaw carry preference, but it's features are also far and above those offered by the other two, what with the way the pouches are places and the way in which they are accessed, but in the thought that has gone into making the bag so user-friendly - also, note the storm cover on the main section -0 that's right, it's got draw string closure - which will help keep loose items IN the bag, not slipping out of it. Nice touch. MaxP have a history of good robust design, and they've supplied both civilian and military alike for many years now, gaining consistent respect and high praise for their equipment.


Royal Robbins made their name selling hard-use tactical clothing to the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation - their "tactical pants" are apparently basic issue kit at the FBI Acadamy at Quantico, and they're well-respected by both civilian and military agencies across the globe. I've already got one of their tactical load bags, which I use for a weekend bag, and what an excellent bit of kit it is too.

So, the 5.11 PUSH Pack was a definite contender based on previous experience, until I saw what they offered for the drinks pouch and blister (external) pouches. The one on the MaxP Jumbo is much better than the one on the 5.11 PUSH pack, and the BHI Tactical Handbag doesn't even have that, merely an after-thought mesh pocket on the side that's well exposed. The main problem with the drinks pouch on the PUSH pack is that it's designed to be collapsible into a zip-up pouch; getting caught on a sharp corner or snag on a bus, and that's a pouch ripped off. More to the point, continued zipping and unzipping would weaken the construction through the stresses and strains of extended usage, eventually rendering the pouch useless: It's happened to me before with military issue kit, and with other civvy kit I've bought in the past. That's my view, not anyone else's, by the way, and please note that I'm going by the photos, not physical examination - there are very few places over here that I can actually get to see this kind of stuff in the flesh, and then, not all together at once to compare them side-by-side, so I may be well off target in my assessment; never the less, it's what I can see that I have to base my judgement on, so that's that.


I've also used BHI gear in the past: It's reasonably robust, and does what it says on the tin. At first however, the BHI offering also looks to be a slightly modified design of ALICE Webbing Butt pack, to be brutally honest, and that wasn't a good start - things tend to bounce around in those writ large, there being no dedicated slots or internal pouches in the ALICE Butt Pack.

However, having seen the photo of the Tactical handbag (God, what a horrendous name for it! With all the imagination they've had in the past in naming their gear, they couldn't come up with a more cool-sounding name than "Tactical handbag"?!) over at "8th Regiment Armoury", I was a little more impressed, but the lack of available blister pouches and stowage spaces in this pack was unfortunately limited, so it was also a 'no go' on the BHI pack, which is a shame, as I generally quite like their kit.

Army Surplus...

This brings me to another point that was suggested by a few mates of mine - old military kit. Yep, in principle, that's a damn good idea. The main problem is that those bits of gear don't have the features I want, tend to be camouflaged, so are no good for work or casual wear, and so we're back to the Jumbo S-Type and the PUSH pack. The PUSH pack, while having the capacity, was edged out on the features side, even though it was cheaper. However, remember that if you compromise on cost, you loose out on what you want, and this is a pack that I'm going to be using on a daily basis, so don't want to worry about it not meeting my very picky and stubborn needs, so the specification requirements stand.

The final selection...

So, by a paper sift process of elimination, it's the MaxP Jumbo S-Type that I'll be going for.

And that's where the problems started.

Uh-Oh... here we go again...

I LIKE the instant gratification you get when you buy something in person. However, that tends to be pricey for specialised kit like the above, so realistically, I'm looking at the internet to buy this thing.

I found them over on, but for some bloody weird reason that I frankly cannot see the common sense in, they won't ship this kit to the UK, and while the normal version of the Jumbo pack is available through, the S-Type is not, dammit. Which means that I have to pay the bloody stupidly expensive prices UK retailers stick on - which more often than not results in the dollar sign being swapped for a pound sign.

I'm still looking at retailers, on both sides of the pond, anyhow. I'll post an update when I eventually get the bag ordered.


commenter5000 said...

I have found the MaxP bag on ebay for a reasonable price. I also am looking for a man bag and have narrowed down to the exact same three, although I have not made a final decision, ebay has somewhat removed the cost component to the decision.

Roger said...

Yeah, agreed, Ebay certainly help a lot; since the original article was written, I've gone back to using a fairly cheap 35-litre daysack from Clas Ohlson; it's lasted over a year now, and seems to be doing OK thus far.

Yes, it's a pain to carry around and stow on the buses I drive, but has the benefit of not looking too out of place to and from work.

I've also come to the rather annoying conclusion that I'll need a messenger bag of some form to replace it, preferably built like a tank, padded for my netbook, and able to carry all the crap I generally pack-rat around both at work and in my own time. The search is, of course, ongoing!

My main problem in sizing the final choice is that I have to carry a cash tray for the bus when at work. Carrying it is a pain in the behind, but stuffing it in the daysack makes it slightly less of a pain; it's about twelve to fourteen inches long, and four or five inches tall and wide, and does tend to get a little weighty when there's a lot of change in the damn thing; you see the problem. Ideally, my company'd issue a decent drivers bag for this load of clutter that they require we cart around, but unfortunately, it's not a perfect world, so no issue bag!

I'll add a post script once the ideal solution comes along anyhow, and good luck with your choice, whichever one you ultimately go for!