Nomadic BC-51 Biz Comp Brief Tote Review

(Sarah Read is an author, editor, yarn artist, and pen/paper/ink addict. You can find more about her at her website and on Twitter.)

In my quest for the perfect bag, the most common criticism I have is "not enough pockets", so when I saw the plethora of pockets on the Nomadic Biz Comp Brief Tote, I swooned a little. The product description says 8 pockets, but if you count the interior and side pockets, it's actually fourteen. FOURTEEN.

On the front of the bag, there are four zippered pockets. The bottom two are deeper and easily fit smaller notebooks or planners, pen cases, or even small tablets. The top two are more shallow, but easily fit several pocket notebooks, or phones, keys, or a wallet.

On either end of the bag are tall, narrow zipper pockets treated with polyurethane. These are perfect for a small water bottle and umbrella--or, if you go the diaper bag route, they're great for bottles or sippy cups. They're waterproof and isolated from the other compartments, so no condensation or spills reach your other items.

The top of the bag is also polyurethane. Set into the top edge are two small zip pockets. They're just deep enough for a pocket notebook, phone, iPod, or wallet. They're very handy for anything you might need to grab quickly. Between these small pockets is the main compartment. It is one large space with no internal pockets. It's large enough to fit a 14" laptop, plus a few A4 notebooks or a textbook.

On the back of the bag is another zip compartment big enough for file papers or more notebooks, and inside that are four pockets in a stretchy padded foam. They're all different widths, from narrow enough to hold a few pens to wide enough for a pocket notebook. (I'm uncertain at this point if "pocket notebook" is my new favorite unit of measurement, or if this bag was just made for pocket notebook fanatics. Possibly both.) There are no individual pen pockets, so if your pens can't touch, you'll need to use one of the other pockets for a pen case.

So, four on the front, plus two top, plus one main, plus two sides, plus one back, plus four interior equals fourteen. You know what? This bag has enough pockets. It's the ultimate notebook vehicle. Maybe even the notebook clown car.

The materials are good--sturdy and practical. The Cordura nylon may outlive us all. I'm unsure about the longevity of the polyurethane--I've had similar materials crack or tear on other bags. The rest of it is so well made that I wonder if including this material, as useful as it is, shortens the lifespan of the bag. Only time will tell, there. Alas, the materials only come in boring (though nice) colors: navy, wine, and black.

The zippers (of which there are ten, guys, TEN--and not a scrap of horrible velcro anywhere) operate smoothly and come with nice cord-and-toggle pulls. The stitching is strong and even. The bottom of the bag is reinforced with rigid plastic and has five metal feet. The strap has swiveling clips that attach to plastic D-rings and can be removed if you want to carry the bag by the briefcase handles. The strap is adjustable and has a ventilated foam cushion.

Despite all these durable materials, the bag is surprisingly light. Until, that is, you fill all fourteen of those pockets. And that's where this bag stops being my daily carry. After a joyful pocket-filling frenzy, it's just to big and heavy for me to carry around all day. If it had backpack straps, or if it was slimmed down just a little--maybe scaled down to 12" laptop-size, that might do the trick. Or maybe you're not supposed to fill it with that many notebooks.

One of the ways I stay organized is by using a different notebook for each of my clients or projects. This gives me a practical excuse to buy all the notebooks, but it also means that I sometimes have a lot of them to carry around. I fit all my current projects, plus my laptop and an A4 Rhodia pad, plus a 200-page spiral bound manuscript into this bag, and I didn't even use any of the interior pockets or any of the top or side pockets. It's very rare that I run out of work before I run out of bag space. Not on a bag without wheels.

Even though I don't carry it every day, there are some things it's especially great for. -Day trips with the kids. This is the bag that will carry our adventure survival kit. It makes a phenomenal diaper bag, and diapers weigh less than notebooks. -Travel. With this many pockets, you'll know exactly where everything is, which will help minimize the blood loss to your brain as you spend less time painfully contorted, searching for your book mid-flight. -Work away from the office. I can fit everything I need for a full day's work in here. Several days, probably.

What I'm carrying instead: -Tom Bihn Co-Pilot. Smaller, still has lots of pockets (and pen pockets), and comes in fun colors. I carry this every day. -Topo Designs Mountain Briefcase. Slightly smaller, but with far fewer pockets. Some of the main compartment is taken up by a bag-in-bag so I can get the pocket organization I require. The main advantage to this one is the backpack straps.

Both of these, however, are considerably more expensive than the Nomadic. I'd put the Nomadic nearly in the same league as these bags, but at half the price. It can't boast the made-in-America provenance that the others can, but if you're looking for a great bag at a really good price, this one will delight you.

(JetPens provided this product at no charge to The Pen Addict for review purposes.)

Enjoy reading The Pen Addict? Then consider becoming a member to receive additional weekly content, giveaways, and discounts in The Pen Addict shop. Plus, you support me and the site directly, which I am very grateful for.

Membership starts at just $5/month, with a discounted annual option available. To find out more about membership click here and join us!

Posted on November 10, 2016 and filed under Nomadic, Bag Review.