July 1, 2024

EDC Backpack — A Shameful Post

For about 10 years, my EDC backpacks were clearly defined: a small WaterField Designs Bolt Briefcase for heading to the office, and a GORUCK GR1 for trips. Both black. Easy-peasy. The fact that I considered both very expensive made it easy to comply to my rule of not looking at other bags until these fell apart1. I’m also particular with my tastes: no branding, no outside fun colors2, no fancy looking textures, and no cheap brands that surely mean quality is low. A Wild and Crazy Guy I am.

My current backpacksMy current backpacks

Then I fell off my high horse. While browsing through Nordstorm Racks (I know), an Original Penguin Business Backpack caught my attention (I know). While the white penguin logo on the zipper puller was an instant turn-off, the overall bag material looked attractive . But above all, the 3 compartment distribution immediately clicked with me. Specially the back device compartment, which is much more comfortable than the very slim sleeve style in the GR1.

But what caught my attention the most was that bag stayed up by itself, something that drives me nuts of both the Bolt and the GR1. As you can probably guess, I bought it, and it’s been by EDC for a few months. Here are some of my notes:

  • Likes
    • The compartment distribution is amazing. Really this was that clearest change in my preferences.
      • Made me realize how much the cavernous GR1 space was something didn’t particularly enjoy.
      • The device compartment in the back allows both my MacBook Air 13in and reMarkable2 to fit comfortably and mostly padded.
      • Main comportment has a lot of space, and another laptop holder, but when empty, it mostly disappears.
    • It’s fairly light
    • Thick padded top handle.
      • I carry it as a briefcase more often than I expected, so the comfortable top handle is a appreciated.
  • Dislikes
    • Quality.
      • 3 months in, one of the should straps stitches are already coming apart.
    • Zipper puller design. I’m sorry, but the white penguin on the puller drives me nuts.
    • Side (zipped) water bottles pouches are a waste of space.
      • I don’t think they’d carry anything securely, and the combination of zipped with mesh seems extremely breakable.

With Amazon Prime Day in the horizon, I’m window shopping for the following bags as a replacement for the Original Penguin Business Backpack:


  1. tomtoc Compact Laptop Backpack 18L
    • Seems the clearest replacement. Price is right $80 and compartment design seems perfect.
    • Design is ok, not sure how I feel about the leatherish looking top strips.
    • Not crazy about the unpadded carry handles. But nice that it has some on the side.
    • Quality seems anecdotally good, with some stitching fails but apparently great customer support.
  2. Day Owl Unisex Recycled Backpack Pro Slim 14”
    • I really like the design.
    • Not sure about the compartments, it looks like a smart implementation of a big main space with enough pockets. I could love it or hate it.
    • Price is a bit high at $135, but quality seems great.
  3. Peak Design Everyday Backpack Zip 15L
    • Beautiful but makes no sense for me with its huge compartment.
    • It’s less a replacement of the Penguin Backpack and more for GR1.
    • Price of $189.95 is really beyond what I want to spend.

  1. Never mind that both brands have excellent service and warranties, which make the falling apart option unlikely.↩︎

  2. Do love bright insides though.↩︎

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