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IT & Systems Management

Unit Portables Overnight Bag: A cavernous carry-all for any purpose

Listen, here's the deal: We have two really cheap last-minute tickets to Hawaii and the flight leaves in two hours and eight minutes. Go, pack, now--just throw some stuff into a bag and let's head to the airport! This is exactly the kind of scenario the Unit Portables Overnight Bag was made for: Trips that can be done with a duffel bag. However, that doesn't mean you have to sacrifice the things you love about more traditional bags, like pockets or laptop storage. Much like Optimus Prime, the Unit Portables Overnight Bag can be transformed into a variety of configurations making it ideal for a huge range of uses.

First some background: Unit Portables takes a minimalist approach to design, and marries that with militaristic aesthetics. What that boils down to is very simple bags that can be modified by adding zippered or mesh pockets and pouches to the inside or outside of the bag, via rows of stitched grosgrain loops.

More of a system than just a satchel, Unit Portables organizes their products by unit numbers--with the unstructured canvas Overnight Bag being Unit 05, and the three included accessories being units 06 (mesh travel pouch), 07 (laptop sleeve), and 08 (polyester and mesh cable bag). The additional units all feature small loops with button closures that allow then to be added anywhere inside or outside of the duffel to provide as much or as little extra storage as you need.

It is, as far as bag manufacturing goes, a pretty unique idea. Straightforward offerings capable of configuring to a variety of users and purposes, the Overnight Bag comes in either 13 or 15 inch sizes, and nine colors including black, beige, navy, charcoal, green, amazon (bright green), and rose (bright pink). I tested it out in the rather eye-catching russet (dark red) version for an Amtrak trip down the California coast to a friends' wedding.

All told, I was able to cram a miraculous amount of stuff into the duffel: Two pairs of shoes, a skirt, a dress, three tank tops, four T-shirts, two sweaters, tights, undergarments, and a not unsizeable toiletries case. Add to that my laptop, its charger, two smartphones, their chargers, spare external batteries, two thick fashion magazines and a work notebook.... Trust me when I say this bag was stress tested.

Here, I can't lie--it was heavy to carry. I'd certainly packed plenty, and while the bag was able to hold everything rather nicely, the shoulder strap does not feature much by way of padding, and the handles weren't quite large enough for me to throw a shoulder through them. Hauling the bag from a bus, to a train, to another bus, to a city bus, and then on a six-block walk was indeed a journey. However, everything arrived safe and secure, despite my misgivings about Unit 07, the laptop sleeve, which could use a bit more padding. It's probably also worth noting that when packed full, the bag was often difficult to slide under seats and would not fit in Amtrak's overhead compartments.

Taken as a whole, the Unit Portables system is unique in that it is flexible to almost any need you can dream up. Going on tour with your band? Want to carry your laptop and your gym equipment? Need to hit up that farmers market on the way home from work? Gotta haul a bunch of photography equipment? Are you a stage hand with oddly shaped props? Teacher with learning aids? Veterinarian? I can think of a million use cases for what's essentially a big cavernous bag with a laptop sleeve.

The Overnight bag is never going to be your daily driver. That's just not what it's for. But if you've ever wanted an incredible duffel bag that can be molded to your specific needs, you will get a ton of miles out of the Overnight Bag system.

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