How to choose the best day bag for life on the move

Credit: Jordan Madrid

The humble day bag is fast becoming an indispensable piece of luggage for savvy travellers, business folk and nomadic hustlers around the world.

And it’s easy to see why: a quality day bag strips the hassle out of lugging around laptops, phones, power banks and water bottles so you can save more of your energy for doing the things you love.

With so many options, however, choosing the best day bag for your needs can be a bit of a tall order.

But don’t stress, because just like the best travel gear, we’re here to do the heavy lifting for you.

In this guide, we’ll discuss exactly what you need to know to choose the best day bag for life on the move.

You’ll learn:

  • How to choose the most comfortable day bag
  • What’s the best material for a day bag that lasts
  • How to know what size bag you need
  • Why it’s important to check the small print

So, without further ado, let’s jump in!

How to choose the most comfortable day bag

Backpack hunters around the world often make the common mistake of choosing a day bag based purely on its aesthetic appeal. The process usually goes something like this:

See a swish-looking bag online. Buy it. Enjoy the compliments for a week. Avoid telling your friends about your new bag-induced back spasms. Struggle on for another week. Ditch it.

It’s not a good move. Trust us, after trying hundreds of backpack designs, we understand that the most important characteristic of a day bag’s design is the comfort of the wearer.

Whatever you do, don’t buy a day bag if it doesn’t have adjustable chest and shoulder straps. Since humans come in different shapes and sizes, adjustability is essential and allows you to tailor the bag to your unique frame.

Secondly, check for reviews online. See what people who’re actually using the bag are saying about it, instead of listening to the manufacturer's waffle (may get fired for writing that).

Thirdly, check the weight of the bag. A heavy bag is a recipe for aches and pains. For optimal comfort choose a bag that weighs in under 3lbs. For exceptional comfort and maneuverability keep your eyes peeled for day bags that tip the scales at no more than 2.5lbs.

Lastly, try it out. Reviews, weight and adjustability can take you so far, but slapping that bag on your back is the only platinum-grade test to see if it’s right for you.

If you’re shopping online, then choose a company that offers you an honest return policy. That way, if you and the bag don’t hit it off, you can part ways with minimal harm done.

Which materials make the best day bag?

Back in the day, backpacks were made from cotton canvas which was treated to improve water resistance. It worked – but the problem was that once it got wet, it became incredibly heavy. Leather is in a similar boat – while beautiful and durable, it also weighs a ton.

And too much weight makes for a woeful day bag.

Unless you’re a strict traditionalist, it's generally best to go with nylon or another fabric with similar properties. Nylon is lightweight, quick-drying and tough as nails. But not all nylon fabrics are created equal.

Always enquire about what grade of nylon is used to construct the bag. If a manufacturer doesn’t know or avoids the question – move on. Look for a minimum of 500D nylon to ensure that your bag will keep pace with your adventures.

Additionally, keep your eyes peeled for bags that offer extra-strength materials in high-wear areas. These will far outlive their unreinforced counterparts.

Also, never underestimate the importance of quality zippers. Just one badly behaved zipper can destroy the usefulness of an entire bag.

And since you’ll probably be carting around expensive electronics, ensure that the zippers are water-resistant too.

That way, a torrential downpour in Bangkok won’t wipe out the previous three weeks’ work that you’d been meaning to upload to Dropbox.

What size do you need?

Some people complain that their bag has too many pockets, while others wish that they had more space to keep all their things.

When judging a bag on its design, it’s vital to consider what you require.

Make a list of all the things that you’ll want to transport in your day bag. You might need space for gym gear, or maybe you want room for two laptops. Whatever your needs, it’s important that the inside of the bag can accommodate the maximum amount of storage that you want.

To give you a rough idea, bags with a volume of 10-16L typically are good for carrying around a tablet and book.

Bags that fall in the 20-25L range offer the most in terms of versatility, and are small enough to carry all day without skimping on storage space.

Bags with 30L+ of volume start to get hard to port around. We’d only recommended day bags of this size if you need to cart a lot of stuff around – like professional camera gear.

Credit: Charlotte

How to choose a great-looking day bag

While your neon-green backpack might’ve been just the ticket at Burning Man, it probably won’t make the best impression in your next client meeting.

It’s estimated that a day bag takes up about 20-30% of your body’s visual space – so, even though comfort, design and durability take precedent, choosing a great-looking bag is still important.

Our best advice is to choose a bag that offers visual versatility – one that looks just as good in the boardroom as it will on a mountainside.

Minimalist, paired-back designs provide a professional feel without being overly stuffy. When it comes to colours, consider opting for the muted tones of black and grey because no matter what outfit you’re rocking, they’ll always pair well.

Anything else you should look for?

Living life on the go means that you’ll often be carrying a boatload (or bagload) of precious cargo. With passports, laptops and other loot, it’s easy to become a prime target for klepto-inclined characters.

That means you need a bag that can protect your possessions and give you the peace of mind you need to enjoy your trip. So choose a bag that has some safety features built-in: lockable zippers and cut-resistant construction, for example, offer protection against theft.

Why the small print matters

When comparing day bag prices, it’s smart to factor in the manufacturer’s warranty. If the person/company who made your bag isn’t willing to stand behind their product, then it’s unlikely that it’ll bring you years of enjoyable use.

It’s wiser to spend a little more on a bag for life now, than cheap-out on a low-quality disposable bag, that’ll need replacing in 12 months’ time.

Go with a premium brand that treats you like a real person. It’s better for the environment, it’s better for your stress levels, and it’s also better for your bank account in the long-run.

Summary

A proper day bag transforms you from a surly suitcase-dragger into a mobile ninja. The right bag allows you to swoop from café to meeting to dinner date and then up steep cobbled streets to your Airbnb without breaking a sweat.

The most important things to remember when choosing a day bag are:

  • Comfort matters above all else.
  • Nylon can’t be beaten for durability, portability and comfort.
  • Muted colours and minimalist designs work in every setting.
  • Security features are not to be overlooked
  • Investing in quality pays off in the long term.

We hope that this guide has been helpful in your search for the perfect day bag. From all of us here at Minaal, best of luck!

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