S-ZONE Briefcase Day Bag
S-ZONE makes some above-average bags that look pretty darn good for a reasonable price.
My bag standards are high. When I began traveling in 2009, I bought a pair of bags from a company called Malcolm Fontier, and they were perfect. A little pricey (relative to, say, this bag), but three or four hundred dollars is very reasonable for bags that will survive a full-time travel lifestyle for over six years, and only looking better with age.
That said, I wanted to experiment with new go bags (bags one keeps packed to head out the door for an overnight or weekend trip) and day bags (smaller laptop satchels, briefcases, and messenger bags meant for carrying to the office, coffee shop, and around town all day). This is one of the latter, and it’s not bad. Not bad at all.
Honestly, I chose it because it seemed like the best-looking of a style of bag I think of as ‘Amazon Mid-Ranges.’ That is, they’re not the cheapest off-brand bags available, but they’re also not expensive (for a bag you use every day). They’re not fancy in the way a high-end, handmade, artisanal leather bag would be fancy, but they’re also not shoddy.
I get compliments on this thing all the time. It looks good. It kind of fades into the background until people take the time to notice it, and when they do, they assume it was more expensive than it was. That’s kind of what you want to aim for in a travel bag, because it doesn’t draw untoward attention from potential thieves, but it also allows you to avoid looking like a vagrant.
My complaints about this bag have little to do with the bag itself and more to do with the bag I’d been using for years before I decided to try some new ones. It’s very skinny — very flat — like a briefcase. The belts across the front are held fast with magnets. This had me a little concerned at first, as magnet buckles can be unreliable at times, but these things are sturdy; a really solid grip, and I can overpack the thing and latch it by just one of the magnets, then hold it by the handle, and there’s still no chance of the bag flying open at a bag moment. Pretty good for a $50 bag.
The bag is also part leather; I was originally looking at an all-leather bag, as they look good and tend to age in interesting ways. Scuffs on a leather bag, in my opinion, are good. The wear your bag gets from using it just make it look better, rather than ruining it. I decided against all-leather for two important reasons: first, leather is heavy. Very heavy, sometimes. If you’re considering an all-leather go bag or day bag, be sure to heft the thing before you pull the trigger. Often the leather will be so heavy you can no longer reliably carry it on a plane (if they check the weight), and if you’re going to be hauling it around all day, that extra ten pounds on your shoulder is definitely noticeable. And second, leather doesn’t collapse very well, and I wanted a day bag I could pack in my go bag, if necessary. I like having a smaller bag to carry around wherever I happen to be going, but if I want to mono-bag it, I need to be able to flatter my day bag down, and an all-leather bag can’t do that.
This is all about preferences and specific needs, of course, but these are all things worth considering when bag shopping.
One more point on price:
At a certain price point, from certain brands, you’re paying for bag quality. Companies like Everlane are great about showing you where your money is going, and as such tend to produce really high-quality stuff for the price you pay for them. Above that price point, however, you often get into the territory where you’re paying for the logo; Coach bags, for instance, are high quality, but not as high as what you pay. You’re paying for the right to have their logo on your stuff, not for a continuously increasing level of craftsmanship or design integrity.
This in mind, what I often do is try out products at different levels to see at what point the quality peters off and my dollars are better spent elsewhere. On bags, with few exceptions, once I get above $100 I find I’m paying more for the brand than for the bag. With sweaters, it’s usually more like $60. And so on.
So this bag, I would argue, is an excellent quality-to-cost ratio product. It’s probably a $75-100 bag for $50. Is it the absolute best bag available? No. Is it a wonderful day bag for not much money? Absolutely.