You can’t always carry everything you need in your cargo shorts or pants pockets. I know I would run out of capacity in those pretty quickly. Between a laptop and tablet, power cords, a headset, adapters, a water bottle or two, and other miscellaneous items, I need a decent-sized bag when I go anywhere.


There are a tremendous number of good choices out there. We are in a time when, like holsters and magazine pouches, you can access a variety of purpose-built bags.


Over time, I have settled on two types – a messenger bag and a backpack.


Messenger Bag

I bought mine from First Spear several years ago. That bag has been with me through grad school and more trips than I can recall.

FirstSpear’s Approach on the way to grad school back in 2016.

For anyone unfamiliar with them, they are a company whose employees have very deep roots in designing and manufacturing hard-use gear for elements of our military and law enforcement. Several of their employees came from Eagle Industries with significant backgrounds in governmental service.

The Approach’s interior layout.

The Approach is a multi-purpose bag that does not look like it came from a uniform store or central issue facility. Mine is in a grey, brown, and rust colorway.

The zippered pocket on the back, with DSM’s off-duty safety banner peeking out.

In terms of design, mesh water bottle holders are on each end of the bag’s body. There is a zippered pouch across the back that can easily hold file folders or anything similar in size.

Opening the two side release buckles on the front lets you lift the flap. Once that’s up, you have a zippered pocket, two open storage areas (one of which I keep a laptop sleeve in), another zippered pouch, two smaller pouches that hold cables or adapters, and business cards. That second zippered pouch has a full-width strip of elastic that looks to be sewn for several pistol magazines and one AR magazine.

FirstSpear’s Tubes buckle system secures the waist strap.

There is a waist belt that secures via their Tubes quick-release buckle.



5.11 Tactical need’s little introduction to this community. They released a new line of backpacks and other load-carrying items earlier this year. Our friends there sent me one of them, the LV18 Backpack 2.0. It is listed as having a 30-liter capacity (or 1831 cubic inches for those of us who use Imperial measurements). They say it measures 19.75” high x 11” wide x 5.5” deep. While it is not the lightest pack I have used, it is not too heavy either.

5.11’s LV18 lower profile backpack (photos courtesy of 5.11 Tactical)

I started using the LV18 as a daily bag while still working court security for my old agency. In addition to my laptop or iPad, the pack held my coffee cup (once empty), a water bottle, lunch, a small medical kit, spare batteries, and a few other job-specific items.

5.11 found a way to make the labels go away if that’s what you need.

Neither the design nor the color signaled tactical or military. Yes, it does have 5.11 Tactical markings on it, but they have developed a way to fold them back into the body of the bag so they are no longer visible.

The main pocket’s padded computer sleeve.

Both the back panel and the laptop sleeve are well-padded to protect your laptop or tablet.



There is a concealment area. Rather than being hidden on the body side of the bag, down near the bottom, it is on the outside of the body with one pouch in front of it. It can be accessed from either side by vertical zippers. The interior of the pouch is lined with a loop Velcro-like material that can hold a holster and magazine pouches. I must confess I have not used that pouch for that purpose.

The zippered, hook fabric lined concealed carry pouch. And one of the water bottle holders is below that.

5.11 Tactical’s LV18 Backpack 2.0 retails for $145, while the First Spear Approach will cost you between $234 and $249.

One last thought: if you ever use your travel bag as a range bag during a trip, please go through it thoroughly before going through TSA security screening. Make sure you are not delayed because you left something in it.



5.11 Tactical’s LV18 pack

FirstSpear’s Approach