Wednesday, August 21, 2013

My Rickshaw Bag Has a Big Sister

My everyday Rickshaw bag nested inside the new "medium" travel bag.
Greg always says that finding the ideal bag is my Holy Grail. I’ve accepted this as my life’s purpose.

Before I became a sketcher, my default travel carry-on bag was always a conventional backpack. I would shove my purse in there, along with a book or two, a water bottle, snacks, ear plugs, a sweater for overly air-conditioned airplanes and other travel essentials. It served its purpose well.

But after I became a sketcher, everything changed. My everyday (and now famous) Rickshaw Bagworks Zero Messenger Bag wouldn’t fit in the backpack unless I turned it sideways, which made the bag’s flap and contents nearly inaccessible. So for a couple of domestic trips, I used a Nomadic Wise-Walker messenger bag, which has a gazillion compartments and a multitude of zippered or Velcroed pockets. At first this bag seemed like a good idea, because all those segregated spaces meant that I could organize my art supplies to the hilt. Of course, this pleased me visually – everything tucked away beautifully. But in the real sketching world, I kept forgetting which pockets held which items, so I was constantly unzipping and rummaging around.

For one trip I left the Rickshaw behind and simply moved all my supplies to the backpack’s pockets, but it meant I had to carry the backpack everywhere as my purse. It also pointed out the key reason why I don’t like backpacks generally: Everything is in back, inaccessible to me while I’m carrying it.

When planning for the symposium, I kept hearing that backpacks were a bad idea in Barcelona, the pickpocket capital of the world, because the outer pockets in back were so easily accessible to thieves. So I decided to try the Nomadic Wise-Walker again. It seemed to work out fine during my dry run. That turned out to be the biggest equipment failure of the trip: On the crowded sidewalks of Barcelona, I kept bumping into people with its bulk. And one of the primary recommendations for avoiding pickpockets is to blend in with the crowd. While this type of urban bag is popular in the U.S., I looked around me in Barcelona and didn’t see any. TOURIST was written across my forehead. I ended up using a flimsy tote bag as my sketch bag for the rest of the trip.

Needless to say, I’ve been thinking about a replacement carry-on bag ever since. The answer came in the form of a special e-mail offer from Rickshaw Bagworks: All Zero Messenger Bags were half price for a very limited time! My trusty purple Rickshaw bag is the “small” size. The “medium” size is significantly larger, but the dimensions still seemed reasonable for me to carry easily. But here’s the beauty of it: All Zero Messenger Bags have the same shape, so I knew my smaller one would nest perfectly inside a larger one, with additional space for all the other things I have to carry when I travel. I also knew that the empty bag is lightweight – much lighter than either my backpack or the Wise-Walker – so even a larger one wouldn’t add much weight of its own. I ordered a medium size in black (to hide travel dirt better) with a bright green lining (to make it easier to see things inside and to look sharp against the purple bag).
The inner sketch bag's contents are fully accessible while still
nested inside the larger bag.

On my trip to the Twin Cities last week, I gave it a first whirl. As I had hoped, my small Rickshaw bag fits perfectly inside, and its contents are fully accessible from the larger bag because both flaps open the same way. I had plenty of space for all my other stuff (room to spare, in fact, but I didn’t want to add to its weight by filling it up). I wore the strap cross-body, and when walking, I swung the bag to my back out of the way. When I needed to get into it, I swung it to one side. Once we reached our hotel room, I pulled my smaller bag out and used it as I do at home – everything still in their familiar places, no new compartments or pockets to figure out and rummage through.

The only downside – and it might be significant – is that carrying the weight of both nested bags on one shoulder instead of distributed on my back and both shoulders as in a backpack started to get heavy quickly. It means I’m going to have to pare things down – both in my everyday bag as well as the outer travel bag – if I’m going to continue using this combo. (Yes, I know my bag did lose weight before the European trip, but as we all know, weight always has a way of creeping back on.) But when traveling, less (to carry) is always more, so paring down is a good idea in any case. I’m on it.

Will my Rickshaw bag’s big sister work out long-term? Finding out is part of my life’s purpose. Stay tuned. (I sure love the way the two sisters look together!)

My Rickshaw bag and her big sister.


  1. These look like they fit together well. I still carry my supplies in my backpack, and that works for most situations. I do have a nice smaller bag that I use if I take a smaller sketchbook into the city. I'll have to take a photo of it and the multilevel pockets it has. Thanks for sharing your info.

  2. I really empathize with the search for the perfect bag. I've even thought of MAKING one, since I've made several of my carry every day bags. This looks like a good solution.

  3. Just wondering-- is the Medium bag too large to use as a sketchbag ( instead of the zero?) I want to fit a larger sketchbook and wondering how your drawing tools would hold up in the medium when you take the book out-- does it swim in the bag, or not so bad? Thanks for sharing your insights.

    1. The Medium turned out to be too large for me. It's a matter of scale -- I'm quite "vertically challenged" ;-) so large bags don't balance right on my back or shoulder. You'd have a ton of room in there, but another issue is that if you have a lot of space, it's tempting to put too much into the bag, and then it gets heavy. I think you'd want to get some smaller accessory bags to divide the space and keep things organized.

  4. Thanks Tina! I enjoy your blog and got amazing tips from you. I found your blog from the Artists Studio magazine a few years ago and finally started drawing again ( believe it or not, I majored in Illustration but stopped when I got a corporate job to pay the bills). From what you wrote, I think I'll go with the Zero. Keep drawing and inspiring others! Doumo! Anne

    1. Thanks for reading, Anne! Keep on drawing! :-)

      - Tina


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