View Full Version : Computer bag conundrum

05-17-2017, 10:24 AM
Hi all.
I have travelled now with my Synapse 25 for four years. Basically since it first came out.
I love the bag. I use it both when traveling with and without a computer, and at home it is my everyday carry to my office for my computer (MacBook pro 15")
But I now have a problem. During my last research trip I seemed to injure my shoulder carrying my backpack. I went in to see my orthopedist and he confirmed a likely SLAP lesion-- basically a cartilage tear that causes popping and pain in the shoulder socket.
I was advised to not carry stuff, including a handbag, on that shoulder.
So here's the dilemma: in about three weeks I am teaching at a summer institute in Chicago for two full weeks. With the lack of laundry facilities, the fact that I have to be professionally dressed everyday and that I have to take my books and teaching materials with me, I will be checking a large suitcase and possibly also a carryon sized suitcase (with the books and supplies.) I also have to take my computer and iPad with me.
Originally I was going to buy a wheeled briefcase or backpack for the computer but I just found out that I am flying a regional jet, which means anything with wheels is gate checked. Obviously I don't want my computer to be gate checked and I don't want to fumble about taking it out and carrying it in my arms onto the plane.
This leaves me with a serious quandary.
I can't carry a backpack or anything on that shoulder. I was thinking of buying a computer-only bag like the cadet that was minimalist and just taking that cross-body and a small handbag I could carry in my left hand onto the plane. But I don't know if I can withstand carrying that, even lightly packed with just the computer.
Either that or I need a really small wheeled bag that would be allowed on a RJ, but since I have a 15" older MacBook, which is big and heavy, it's hard finding something like that.
I don't know what to do. For years I happily always carried my Synapse 25, and the fact that I have two directs in a regional jet, (from Texas no less. They are uncomfortable flights) plus need to be able to carry the computer around while in Chicago is really creating a problem. I think for the classroom my iPad Pro will suffice, since I now have it tricked out, but I still need to take the main computer to Chicago for what I need to do (just taking the iPad isn't an option. Or I'd take that option.)
Ideas, thoughts on how to travel with a large computer and an injured right shoulder?

05-17-2017, 10:31 AM
Could you slig the S25 on just one shoulder? Maybe with a waist strap to help the load a bit?

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05-17-2017, 10:35 AM
I also think you could carry any crossbody bag with the main weight shifted to your back or with a waist strap. This would allow the strap to be on one shoulder but the weight to be more distributed. I have a bad ankle so the weight has to be as evenly distributed as possible. This is how I carry my crossbody bags. I think you could get away with using any of the cadet, pilot, makers, empire builder. You may also consider a western flyer.

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05-17-2017, 11:11 AM
I can't speak from experience, since I only have the DLBC and Pilot, but I thought some of the cross body bags like the ristretto had leg straps that would help distribute the load. The website says the current size would be too small, but these forums lead me to believe there used to be one that should fit.

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05-17-2017, 11:42 AM
My MacBook straight up doesn't fit in a Pilot or DLBC (remember I have the 15" older Pro that's a tank) and on the Cadet i can't see if you can attach a waiststrap. Does anyone know? Thanks.

05-17-2017, 12:37 PM
The padded hip belt and the gatekeeper waist strap product descriptions don't mention the Cadet as being compatible. With your finite amount of time before leaving, you may want to send an email to the TB Crew customer support for some more input in case few Cadet owners chime in with some real world use help.

The Cadet is able to be attached to a roller suitcase so that may minimize your actual carrying time in the airports and if you'll also be using your roller suitcase of books/supplies at the institute. For when you must carry it, I'd highly recommend the Absolute strap...it really does make bags feel lighter (I've used mine on a WF and an Imago). A quick perusal of the specs for the Cadet show it's the lightest of the non-back pack bags that will fit a 15" laptop which is a plus.

Check out some of the discussion in this recent forum thread for some possible solutions that may allow you to leave your MBP behind:

05-17-2017, 01:07 PM
Not knowing much about your shoulder issue (so sorry to hear about it) and making a few assumptions (that it is impacting both sides of your shoulders and than any weight on it will be an issue after a short period of time), I might make a few suggestions (I am not a medical professional and I am only looking at reducing weight to your shoulders):

1) Get the padded S25 Hip Belt and use it to tightly secure the backpack to your waist (ie. ALL weight being support by your waist). The shoulder straps are just to keep it from falling over backwards (ie front to back sway) - assuming that this motion will minimally impact your injury.

2) Get a Maker's Bag as @mbladen mentions. From what I read, it will just fit a 15" MBP - but will stretch the bag a bit and the flap may not cover the ends. It has a waist strap that can be used (maybe even get the S25 straps for extra padding) to carry the weight if you tightly secure it. Then, the shoulder strap (I agree with @threeteez to get the Absolute Shoulder Strap) will only serve to keep the bag from tipping (ie rotating around the waist strap). Basically, make it a waist bag! Alternately you could do cross-body with the Stabilizer strap which I think @kaadk mentioned - but that still puts weight on your shoulders - except over 1 strap over your shoulder instead of 2.

3) The same thing can be done with the retired Ego Messenger Bag - which definitely will fit a 15" MBP and would have been one of your best shoulder bag options. I am not sure about retired ID or Imago but they may be options if you like those styles better.

Additional Options:

4) Using the Cadet and only handle carry may work. It has a rollerbag passthough in the back so you do not have to carry in when walking in the airport. It is then easy to take off and carry onboard. It is a slim briefcase so good for a laptop, maybe even your iPad Pro and some emergency clothes of you lose your checked luggage - key being that it would be lighter than a similar sized thicker bag. I can confirm that there are no waist / stabilizer strap functionality with the Cadet. You would need to reuse one of the shoulder strap attachment to simulate a stabilized cross-body carry (like couriers have). However, that would, IMHO, not help you with your shoulder. The same might apply to a Parental Unit - which does work well as a briefcase too IMHO.

5) Use a Western Flyer and handle carry. If you follow @kaadk 's impressive minimizing techniques, you might be able to one bag it. If you got the padded hip belt for the S25, you can fit it on the Western Flyer and, like the S25 (which is the similar volume), carry it on your back - setup so the weight is carried on your waist and not your shoulders. You could even fit a slim briefcase in it (Pilot or even a Cadet fits) for those times you want to pull it out and carry separately. You can latch it onto rollerbags too if needed using some bungee.

I would have suggested the Ristretto @kaadk mentioned but it does not fit a 15" MBP :(

Incidentally, if funds allow, I would trade the 15" MBP for a lighter, smaller version or an ultrabook as it would aid in having as light a load as possible.

Hope this helps

P.S. Forgot to add that I 2nd @threeteez recommendation to contact TB Customer Service.

05-17-2017, 03:35 PM
The Brain Cell had D-Rings for carrying by themselves and maybe there is one left for the 15" MBP of your vintage?
That way you could carry the computer alone over the good shoulder easily I bet?

Otherwise let me say that I carry a 17" MBP all the time and I feel your virtual pain!
There should be plenty of minimalist bags out there for the computer that you can move to for this trip if needed but they just might not be a Bihn Bag.
There are also Brain Cells on Ebay a lot of the time.

My bags are just tools for me and I will not hesitate to use the best tool for a job anytime that I can and I am confident that you can find a bag to work for you if you widen the search a little.

05-18-2017, 06:29 AM
Here's what I would do in that situation:

1) Switch to carry-on roller

2) Get a minimalist and lightweight laptop bag with an insert for placing over the carry-on roller

3) Sell ancient MacBook on eBay and buy Samsung Notebook 9 (1.8 or 2.7 pounds depending on 13 or 15 inch screen size) or LG gram (2.4 pounds for the 15 inch).

By switching to carry-on on roller instead of checked roller, you maximize the time you don't have to carry the laptop bag to almost never. But I also would really focus on significantly reducing the weight of bag + laptop (think of it like an ultralight backpacker, but for business). Going from 7-8 pounds to just over 3 pounds for that combo is no joke, and you WILL feel to difference in those occasions where you need to hand carry or cross-shoulder carry. I also liked the suggestion to use the absolute strap if needed.

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05-18-2017, 09:05 AM
Thank you all for giving me so many options.
I can't get rid of the MacBook Pro-- it is issued by my university. I will be getting a new one soon, (not before this trip) which will be the lighter/newer version but it will still be 15"
I think I will go super light with just a minimalist bag to carry the computer and my handbag that I can carry in hand for the flight (the iPad Pro will fit in multiple handbags I have) and then just check everything (2 bags) since I will be meeting other scholars at the airport and can get help for my bags. I had been eyeing the cadet for a while, so I think I will research that option more....

I also like the carryon roller idea-- I could get a small rollaboard tote and Use it to hold the contents of my handbag and slip the computer over the top. That's a good idea. Hmmmmm

05-18-2017, 10:21 PM
Let us know if you have any more questions about the Cadet. I have one and love that it keeps it shape even when empty and the padding on the bottom, front and back allow me to get a way with carrying my bigger 15.6" laptop without a sleeve (though I do add a bit of foam on the sides).

If wanting to go really minimalist, I agree with @AVService that a Brain Cell would have been perfect. I have used this option many times to carry my laptop onto the plane. This would be one of the most protective ways to carry your laptop with minimal weight/bulk.


But, as the Brain Cell is retired, you will need to find something on eBay - or perhaps use a cache. This would not be as protective but would be very minimalist too. @Pertinax had a great thread on just using a cache (and @ceepee added some more great pictures of alternate options):

Hands free with a Cache (https://forums.tombihn.com/packing-lists-and-travel-tips/9208-hands-free-cache.html)



Hope this helps

05-19-2017, 08:47 AM
Another option (although maybe not "pretty") could be changing your S25 a little to make it a crossbody or sling by unthreading both shoulder straps, and crossing them (Left strap into Right bottom and Right strap into Left bottom), re-threading the one strap that you wouldn't use first making it as tight as possible, then the other strap. Your strap that you use would kind of face the wrong way, and you may need to make the strap longer, and maybe secure the un-used strap.

Other thought about how to do it would be to get an absolute strap and a gate-keeper. Remove the clip from the strap and use a gatekeeper to attach the strap to the small patch of webbing in the center front, then clip the other end to the handle loop.

05-19-2017, 06:54 PM
If your issue is anything like my wife's was a few years ago, then you'll want to keep weight off either shoulder as weight on one will tense up the other.

Perhaps you can figure out how to travel with a larger checked bag and a smaller wheeled carry-on that can be gate checked. You can add the Cadet for your actual carry-on stuff.

My favorite stuff for wheeled luggage is Briggs&Riley as they have a lifetime guarantee and will fix it even if the airlines break it. The carry-ons will also stack on the checked bags so you're only dragging one bag around.