16 March 2010

Sherpa's Got a Brand New Bag

In my version of the 1980s, when men were men and women wore shoulder-pads, so-called "portable computers" still measured 14 by 10 by 11 inches, and weighed 17 pounds. (I still have mine--and just double-checked the dimensions. We've come a long way, HAL.)

Back then, Banana Republic was a catalog-brand specializing in clothes and gear for world-travel adventurers, and I was a big fan. I didn't get much further than the borderlands of Iowa in those days, but I still wore a multi-pocketed "Correspondent's Jacket," and carried my books and pens in an "Israeli Paratrooper's Briefcase." The latter was probably some sort of military-surplus buy for the company, a messenger-style bag with a single-strap by which to sling it across one's back. It was khaki, with a red winged-parachute emblem on its flap.

Come to think of it, that bag is probably one of the things that the Army recruiter first used to chat me up. "Hey, you've already got the bag ... why not join?" Kids, let that be a lesson to you: Choose your teenage totems and trinkets carefully. Just look where that bag got me today.

My relatively conservative navy-and-black Targus-brand computer bag recently succumbed to the Midwestern winter--the aged plastic latches cracked after just minutes of sub-zero temperatures. Messenger-style bags do not work unless they can buckle your computer safely inside--they just disgorge your precious tech into the cruel and gritty snow.

I also needed a bag for use while in uniform, but wanted to avoid purchasing Yet Another Black Bag. I also wanted to avoid using camouflage as a fashion statement, although many colleagues are very happy with their Universal Camouflage Pattern (U.C.P.) Code Alpha-brand bags. It's a functional, affordable choice. It's just not me. And, you know, the military is all about making a personal statement of individuality.

What, you thought "Army of One" was just a slogan?

Bottom line: I wanted to kill two birds with one purse. The bag should not be black. It should be messenger- or courier-style. Beyond that, I was willing to consider any and all options.

I ended up going with a Blackhawk! Advanced Tactical Briefcase. It turned out to be more bag than I'd anticipated. It features a nifty external access for a laptop, which solves the one thing I hadn't liked about previous bags--the fact that I had to open the entire bag to get to the computer. The laptop compartment is protected by a waterproof zipper. The bag itself is constructed of waterproof Nylon. There is even a weather-resistant map pocket on the obverse of the flap. This bag is so protected against the elements, you might be convinced to take your laptop scuba diving with you.

There's a lot of nifty hook-and-loop fasteners, making it a suitable companion to a DRASH tent. There's room, but not too much of it. I'm packing a well-worn 15-inch MacBook Pro, a portable hard-drive, a Wi-Fi node, and sufficient office supplies to be combat-effective while I'm a Sherpa on the go.

There's even a ShamWow!-like video demonstration of the bag's other features here.

My color options were "foliage" green and "coyote" brown. The grayish-green matched the Army Combat Uniform more closely than the latter color, which was closer to some Marine camouflage patterns. Coyote is also a color similar to some Bucket Boss-brand gear I use on construction sites.

I chose "foliage." It's an interesting color that goes "green" in uniform, and "gray" in civilian settings.

As anyone who's been reading Red Bull Rising during the past couple of weeks will know, I guessed wrong. A week after my new bag arrived, there were news reports that my unit will be one of those fielding MultiCam uniforms and equipment when we ship out to Afghanistan later this year. Our accessories, for lack of a better term, will likely go from sage-green to coyote-brown.

A designer-friend of mine once commented one my carrying a woodland-pattern portfolio while wearing the digital-style ACU. "You look like a 'fashion-don't,'" she told me. I guess I'm going to carry on the tradition, as I walk down the runway. Or tarmac. Or whatever.

By the way, it's a "courier-bag," or a "satchel." Yes, in more humorous moments, I have been known to call it a "tactical man-purse." I avoid, however, the derogatory term "fag bag." That term was big in the '80s, but seems to gone out of style, along with parachute pants and sequined gloves.


  1. If anyone calls your bag a 'fag bag', a good chop across the throat will strighten him out.

    I carry my laptop in a cool bag and I have no qualms at all in laying a Jap Slap on any smart mouth who thinks he's funny. (Unless he is bigger and younger than me)

  2. Looking very good and it will suits to me.


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