I work part-time at the local community college tutoring math and science. I have also been known to suit-up and play paintball (usually the lone female and oldest player on the field), so my bag contains a rather odd variety of things.
I recently had to upgrade from my dearly loved Maxpedition FR-1 pouch simply because it lacked the storage space I needed. After months of research and debating with myself, about a month ago I purchased a Duluth Trading Company Firehose & Leather Field Bag ($90).
Looking at it from the outside, the bag has 3 large zippered compartments and the 2 outer sides have a smaller flat zippered compartment and one that is open with a loop of leather and snap to keep it semi-closed.
So what do I carry?
The open outer compartment carries my iPhone 4s and sometimes a USB to iPhone cable so I can recharge off a computer or in the car.
The full-size zip compartment next to the open outer compartment is gusseted – an extremely nice feature that allows both easy access and cramming a lot of things in! The inside of this compartment has 2 graduated open storage slots, a flat zippered storage slot, and a pen/pencil etc holder on one side and the other side has a large open storage area. Counting the main storage area, that makes 6 places to divide up things! I recently discovered a way to “fix” the divider being too flexible. I simply put in a small notepad (like a 6×9 Moleskine, only a cheap version) and voila! I have writing paper *and* a stiffer divider!
In the pen/pencil area I carry a 6-inch yellow see-through ruler marked in both centimeters and inches (yellow because it makes print easier to read for students with nystagmus, and marking the line being read helps students with dyslexia and/or ADHD), 2 different colors each of highlighters, Sharpie markers and ballpoint pens and 2 or more Papermate clearpoint elite mechanical pencils ($10 for 2) (the “elite” part nets you the metal clip which you can hang on a spiral notebook without having it break mid-term). These particular pencils have been my favorite for years now because the side-advance means you don’t advance the lead every time you erase and because the erasers are so long they last forever even when you make a lot of mistakes. Although they are sold in solid colors, my son took the pencils apart and mixed the barrel colors for me so my students (many of whom use the same pencils due to my influence) never inadvertently leave with *my* pencils.
In one open slot I carry a roll of tape (useful for sticking reminder notes in places without marker boards), a small metal tape measure (extremely useful when out shopping for furnishings), and a small note pad.
In one of the larger open slots I carry 3 Altoids tins in green, red and teal. The teal one is empty while I am figuring out what might need to go in it, but the other day I was shopping and had to take some medicine so I used the clean empty tin as an emergency drinking cup. I believe it will stay empty now!
The red tin is my “first aid/survival” tin. It contains my Leatherman Squirt PS4 ($28) (with pliers/wire cutters, essential for emergency string changes on my electric bass), 2 bandaids, a couple rubber bands and paper clips (unbent paperclips can be very handy for unlocking doors), Uncle Bill’s Sliver Gripper tweezers ($7), a nail clipper and file and a lighter (I don’t smoke, but it’s been great for lighting candles, sealing the ends of cut paracord etc), two small screen cleaning cloths and a couple of foreign coins I found while geo-caching.
The green tin is more school stuff, various page marking sticky papers, extra pencil leads and a couple of large erasers.
Attached to the zipper of this compartment is a little clip to which I attach my Tool Logic SLP2 knife ($30). This knife is relatively lightweight, sharp, and has a magnesium fire starter, an LED flashlight and a piercing emergency whistle built into it. Love my knife! Attaching it this way allows me to find it without digging thru the depths of my bag and to unclip it easily. The short length of orange cord remains on the knife allowing me to easily find it without getting in the way of using it.
The large center zippered pocket is the only large pocket without gussets, but it is the widest one. I use this as my toiletry kit. Like the previous pocket, it has interior organizational pockets (Three of them, all open and all on one side). Here I keep an inhaler, nasal spray, a divided box of various meds, hand lotion, a brush and comb, lip balm, disposable toothpicks, a metal tooth cleaner, and, since I made myself extremely nauseous taking two prescription tablets that looked like ibuprofen from my divided pill container, a small Altoids tin dedicated to ibuprofen tablets. If needed, I also carry a prescription bottle of short-term medicine I may be taking.
The final zippered compartment is gusseted and is one large area. Here I keep a smaller (yellow) zippered bag that holds my pStyle female urination device ($12) (for dirty restrooms and paintball fields), another pack of Kleenex, a zip pouch of polyhedral dice (just because I like math and they are pretty), a snap-close pouch of earbuds with all the various sizes of foamy parts that go on them and some ear plugs to retain my sensitive hearing and avoid migraines in loud places.
Lastly, there is the bag’s padded shoulder strap. More than one person has commented it looks like a, well, a not-very-comfortable shoulder strap. I am quick to assure them, that however it looks and whatever it is made of, it is hands-down the most comfortable shoulder strap I’ve ever worn (and I have lots of experience with bad ones from 40+ years of guitar and bass straps holding up instruments that weigh between 5 and 20 lbs).
Clipped onto the shoulder strap is a glasses case for my sunglasses (which I wear year-round because my eyes are light sensitive).
That about covers it and the bag isn’t even all the way filled up! I’ve shown it to some female friends (outdoorsy biology instructors and an ER nurse) and without my junk in it, the bag is quite capable of carrying a Kindle or smaller iPad plus a 6×9” size book plus a 6×9” notebook or journal with room for other things.
[Cool Tools Readers! We will pay you $100 if we run your "What's in My Bag" story. Send photos of the things in your bag (and of the bag itself, if you love it), along with a description of the items and why they are useful. Make sure the photos are large (1200 pixels wide, at least) and clear. Use a free file sharing service like Bitcasa to upload the photos, and email the text to email@example.com. See all of our What's in my Bag? posts. -- Mark Frauenfelder]