The best conference bag


I get to go along to a lot of industry conferences, and goody bags are pretty standard fair. I expect that most of them quickly find their way to landfill, which is always a shame. A couple of years ago I was visiting somebody who I’d met at a conference, and I had one of my old bags with me and he commented ‘oh yeah – that one was a keeper’. I’m travelling again, and like a faithful companion it’s with me once more. So what makes a good conference bag?

  • Light weight. Most people will have come with their own bag anyway, so they don’t want to carry much extra stuff back with them. This applies doubly so if people have travelled by air and face the ever more stingy check in and carry on allowances.
  • Pack flat. If the bag can be put on top of other stuff in some carry on then it’s more likely to make it home. This means no padding.
  • Large capacity. A useful bag should be able to hold a laptop, chargers, a couple of tablets, a bottle of water, an umbrella, sundries like boxes of tea and a coat (i.e. the minimum viable leave the hotel for the day kit).
  • Robust. It’s no good if it falls apart.
  • Shoulder and hand straps.
  • Business card holder (so that it can find its way home if lost).

My old faithful was made by Leeds and given away by Burton Group at their 2004 Catalyst Europe conference – I think the sponsors on the other side have got more than their money’s worth by (somebody) choosing a good quality product. I’ve managed to break one of end pouches, which turned out to be not quite strong enough to hold a 500ml bottle of water, but it’s otherwise held up well to years of travel, and often gets thrown into my carry on empty (so I can bring home some extra stuff) or with the gadgets I want on a flight (so I don’t have to mess around with my luggage too much). I’ve also held onto a few 24esque ‘Jack pack‘ bags I got from QCon as they’re great for holding shotgun cartridges and other shooting paraphernalia.

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