I get a ton of requests to make bag recommendations. I also read posts on other sites from people asking others for advice on which bag would be right for them. However, in most cases, the person making the request doesn’t offer enough information for an informed recommendation. As a result, a ton of suggestions are made that don’t come close to addressing the need which ends up wasting people’s time. Worse yet, the requester might end up purchasing a bag that’s not right for them.
So, here are some suggested pieces of information that everyone should provide when asking for suggestions on bags (in no particular order):
- Your height and weight. Bags come in all shapes and sizes but in most cases one size definitely does not fit all.
- Your Philosophy of Use. In general, what is the bag going to be used for? Hiking, biking, work, bail out bag (BOB), grab and go, travel, etc. Try to be as specific and comprehensive as possible on all the ways you intend to use the bag. Most bags are NOT multi-purpose wonders. They all do some things better than others.
- Describe your load out. What do you intend to carry? Do you carry a lot of smaller items and therefore need good built-in organization for those? Do you carry a lot of bulky items (like extra layers) and therefore need a large main compartment to store them in? Do you lash things to the outside of your packs like skis, snowboards, snowshoes, helmets, rifles, etc? Overall, how much weight do you intend to haul? Some packs are not intended for heavy loads.
- Hydration Needs. This can fall into the load out category but it’s a huge design consideration. Do you intend to use a Reservoir, Nalgene(s), or smaller water bottle(s)? How much water do you intend to carry? For instance, some bags are not built to carry a 3L Camelbak.
- Laptop/Tablet Carry. I break this out also because it’s important to provide adequate protection to these devices if you intend to carry them in a bag. Also specify the size of the device you’re carrying since some packs are designed around devices of a certain size.
- Concealed Carry. This is also a huge design consideration. Some manufacturers will throw in a loop lined pocket and claim a bag supports CCW. Access is an important consideration and separates bags that are truly designed for CCW versus it being a throw-in feature.
- Appearance. Do you want a military or military inspired pack or one that is more civilian in appearance? This general comes down to external PALS/Molle webbing or the absence of it, but color is another important consideration. Some bags are intentionally designed to be more “gray man” in appearance.
- Preferred Method of Carry. What types of bags do you prefer? Backpacks, messengers, slings, carry-ons, duffles, etc. If you have a set in stone preference then be sure to state it up front.
- Preferred Brands. If you like certain brands then let everyone know that too. Don’t state you hate a certain brand unless you want the conversation to go down that path. That will almost certainly derail a bag recommendation thread as some will come to defend their favorite brands.
- Budget. If you have a budget limitation then providing a range or not-to-exceed amount will help narrow the field. I tend to be more budget agnostic but some of the members in certain forums have very refined (read: expensive) tastes in gear. If you can’t afford a $400 bag then that’s good information to have.
There is more but that’s a good start. Some of these may seem like common sense but you’d be surprised how many emails I get or threads are started on forums like this: “I have $200 burning a hole in my pocket. I need a bag. Please tell me what I should buy.” In most cases, your fellow EDC enthusiasts (including yours truly) will bend over backwards to help. But, help yourself first by providing more information upfront so we can point you in the right direction.