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This Messenger-Briefcase Hybrid Is the Only Work Bag I’ll Carry

The Closer bag that the author has carried on every workday since he got it back in 2015. Photo: David Pogue

The work bag is a highly personal purchase, just as self-expressive as your tote bag or phone case. Beyond phone, keys, and wallet, I suspect the next thing millions of people reach for when they walk out the door (at least on weekdays) is that bag. Mine has my life in it, and on workdays, I never leave home without it.

A bad work bag can make you utterly miserable. Over the years, I’ve tried backpacks, which are a hassle to root through in a hurry, and standard laptop bags, which flop over onto the grubby train floor when set down. But I finally found a keeper when I bought my current bag, the Timbuk2 Closer, back in 2015. There’s no corner of Timbuk2 bags that hasn’t been nerdily, almost hilariously sweated over; as such, the brand’s acolytes tend to be fairly aggressive in their fandom (hyperenthusiastic Amazon reviewers have named no fewer than four other Timbuk2 styles as among the best commuter backpacks and men’s messenger bags you can buy).

The Closer is technically neither commuter backpack nor messenger bag nor standard laptop bag; the company instead describes it as a “laptop briefcase.” It’s soft-sided and built of nylon, but it’s more handsome and brief-casey than a typical messenger bag. I’m not embarrassed to stride into, say, a meeting with a publisher with this thing slung across me. Before I get further into its specific virtues, I should note that it comes with all of Timbuk2’s trademark messenger-bag features, including:

• Snap buckles for holding the flap shut, and Velcro strips, and fabric tabs that you can use to cover the Velcro strips so they’re not as noisy(!).

• A padded carrying handle; a padded, adjustable shoulder strap; and a pass-through channel so you can slip the bag onto the top handle of rolling luggage. The absolute best.

• Reflective fabric pieces to reflect headlights, which betray Timbuk2’s origins as a maker of bike-messenger bags. The bags have gotten classier-looking over the years, but the designers still carry on real-world touches like this.

• An elastic water-bottle pocket on the left side, accessible even when the bag is shut.

• A “Napoleon pocket” (with its own zipper) that your hand enters horizontally, so you can grab wallet, keys, and passport without having to open the bag itself. Inside this pocket, there is a long, strong red ribbon with a carabiner clip to hold your keys.

But back to the Closer. It comes in two sizes, made to accommodate either 13- or 15-inch laptops; both are bigger inside than they look outside. [Editor’s note: The above button leads to Closers in both sizes, in a variety of colors.] In all, the bag has nine compartments and pockets. To give you an idea of how much it can hold, here’s a breakdown of what’s in mine:

• Main compartment: laptop charger, brush, snacks, emergency floss.

• Zippered full-width compartment (back wall of main compartment): earbuds, foam earplugs, napkins for spills, business and other cards I don’t need in my wallet.

• Interior left-side half-width pocket: sunglasses in case, reading glasses.

• Interior right-side half-width pocket: Advil, prescriptions, cough drops.

• Napoleon pocket: wallet, CBS News building badge, house keys on the ribbon.

Inside the author’s meticulously organized bag. Photo: David Pogue

• Full-size outer front pocket: all my gadgetry, including phone cable (and wall wart), Fitbit cable, HDMI laptop dongle, card reader, multiheaded USB cable, a couple of flash drives.

• Half-size outer font pocket: pens.

• Water-bottle side pocket: the Thermos Tritan, the world’s best hydration bottle.

• Zippered, padded, waterproof compartment (against my body): 13-inch MacBook Pro.

In a pinch, the bag can hold even more — I’ve been known to stuff it with a toilet kit, T-shirt, and shorts. In those situations, the bag bulges, but the flap’s two metal buckles and backup Velcro strips keep everything from exploding all over the subway.

After five years, my Closer still stands upright like an actual briefcase when I set it down, but it sags, and the deep-blue nylon is showing some battle scars. But once it becomes too ratty to carry on, at least I know that the Timbuk2’s awesome end-of-life system awaits. Basically, you send the old bag back to the company, which cleans it up and donates it to someone in need, and you get 20 percent off your next bag. I’ll give you one guess what I’ll be buying with that discount.

More Strategist-approved work bags

If you prefer a classic messenger style, this affordable, roomy bag earned five stars from more than 1,000 Amazon reviewers, one of whom praised it for just how much it can fit inside. “I managed to pack my (bulkier) MacBook Pro 17-inch, Kindle Paperwhite, chargers, three pairs of board shorts, five T-shirts, seven pairs of socks, underwear, and a bag of medication.”

Some, of course, will always gravitate toward a backpack. This equally affordable model also came highly recommended by Amazon reviewers for its comfort, roominess, and thoughtful features like built-in charging port.

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This Messenger-Briefcase Combo Is the Only Work Bag I’ll Use