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Monday, June 1, 2015

Why briefcases are better than backpacks

Do you remember when everyone traveling on business had one of these?


I do, and I wish that people still used them instead of the backpacks that have become ubiquitous:
  • Briefcases easily fit into overhead bins on aircraft, and they can be stacked to use all the space efficiently. Backpacks waste space in the overheads.
  • Backpacks take up too much space on the Tube, whether they are being worn (worst-case) or put on the floor (still inconvenient).
  • When people wearing backpacks turn suddenly to one side or the other, they're likely to whack the person standing or seated nearby. I had this happen twice last week.
  • Briefcases protect paper documents better than backpacks. Yes, those of us who deal with legal agreements still use paper.
I concede that ten years ago, laptops with their "bricks" were too heavy and bulky to put into briefcases — but that's less a factor today, and besides many people travel with thin tablets instead of laptops. A tablet can easily go into a briefcase.

Zippered compartments on backpacks can be helpful, true. But if you are frequently having to reach into backpack pockets for items needed during travel, I heartily recommend a travel vest. You will wonder how you got along without one.

My late Aunt Dell gave me a thin Samsonite briefcase as a gift for high school graduation. It's indestructible and I still use it. In the late 1980s Gail gave me a nice burgundy leather model from Korchmar; I still treasure it and bring it out for special occasions. And on my international business trips, I use a nylon laptop bag similar to this from Eagle Creek. It has held up well throughout about 1500 flights. (Hint: never buy black. Most bags are black. Buying a black bag increases the chance that someone will inadvertently take yours. If you must buy black, put a strip of colored tape on it.)

But no backpack. Those are for camping or school.