Day Packs: Everyday carry around ingenuity from Ohyo
I've been meaning to do an Everyday Carry, or "EDC" article for some time. It's a question that I frequently get asked, and the short answer is often "it depends". When I am suited and booted for the day job it's usually a fairly mundane briefcase-type thing into which I slip my Ricoh GR or one of the smaller Fujis; the X100T or X20. When out and about, my priorities change. I don't need to lug a laptop and a charger for instance, or any papers. I therefore tend to prefer a low-profile (in both senses of the word) messenger-type bag. At one end of that spectrum, of course, sits my Billingham Hadley Pro—a couple of decades old now, but still looking good as new. For extra capacity I can (and do) even stick on an AVEA3 at one end and an AVEA5 at the other.
But the big Billingham is still patently and obviously a camera bag and that is not always desirable or appropriate. For years I have taken Hadley inserts and popped them into grungy "no name" messenger bags bought for a few quid on the high street (or a handy market stall). They only last a few years before dying (usually of weakstrapitis) but they have the inherent advantage of being about as nondescript as they come.
I wrote recently about my travelling setup, involving a Millican backpack, Hadley inserts and an Ohyo bag. This clever concept—effectively four carrying solutions in one that converts in seconds from tablet-bag to messenger to tote and even to backpack as your portage needs evolve through the day—has effectively become my de facto EDC in the weeks since.
As I sit here typing this in a coffee bar it is sitting at my feet in messenger mode like a faithful hound. In it is a Hadley small insert, containing in turn my X100T, wide and tele converters, spare battery and card, charger and cable. the Olympus Trip 35 that I recently resurrected (watch this space...) plus an umbrella and sunglasses (English Summer necessities), a Leuchtturm notebook and pen and of course my phone.
On the table in front of me to write this article is my "portable office"—a Sony "phablet" and a folding Bluetooth keyboard, both of which fit in the bag too. The "lid" of the messenger configuration is also able to take a newspaper or a magazine, or even a cap (flat, of course - none of that baseball nonsense).
If I buy stuff while I'm out, there is room still for a small thing or two in this form, but I can also convert the whole thing in a jiffy or two into the 25-litre tote-style bag. I wouldn't necessarily use it for the weekly shop myself, but I have to say it holds a surprising amount if you need it to. I've also not tried it as a backpack, but to be fair I'm already well catered for in that department.
The Ohyo also ticks a big box with me in that it's relatively inconspicuous; certainly the only time that it has attracted any attention is when I'm transforming it, particularly from large to small.
It's interesting to note that both the bottle and the bag share a design philosophy that strikes a particular chord in this day and age. They are intended from the outset to be robust and reusable with a long service life, the exact opposite of throwaway water bottles and plastic carrier bags. Co-designer Felix Conran described the original bag design aim as "adaptable and desirable" and in that I think they have largely succeeded.
So, it's a good product, well-made, that fills a niche—but can it be improved upon? The answer is yes, which is why I was very interested to learn that Ohyo are releasing a Mark 2 version this month. In my own experience I've found the existing bag to be a little fiddly in using the zips and clips, particularly when trying to do a quick "transformation", so I was keen to learn more.
Getting the lowdown
I was able to spend a little time talking to Guy Jeremiah, the Managing Director of the company and, along with Felix Conran, one of the designers of the Ohyo products. Guy started Ohyo back in 2010 with the clever collapsible bottle. Although noisily rejected by Duncan Bannatyne on Dragon's Den, Guy and Ohyo have gone on to sell nearly three quarters of a million of the things so far.
Bill: "Guy, thanks for taking the time to talk to us here at Macfilos. It's clear that sound and sustainable design is very important to you at Ohyo. What was the original motivation behind the Ohyo bag concept?"
Guy: "My motivation was creating a bag that would adapt to whatever the day throws at you, so that you don't need to use plastic bags -much like the bottle concept!"
Bill: "What would you say to someone who already has the Ohyo bag to convince them to upgrade?"
Guy: Its much slicker and rather better manufactured—and slightly larger to house a laptop that is a little tight on the old bag. The new metal zips are also rather better implemented particularly across the top which can be a bit fiddly."
Bill: That's really interesting, and addresses some of my own reservations in regular use. But what next for Ohyo? I'd love to see the bottle and bag designs "play nice" together, for instance.
Guy: "As you suggest I would like the Ohyo bottle to fit rather more neatly into the bag, marrying the brands rather better."
Speaking as an already satisfied user, I think the new Ohyo bag takes a good idea and simply realises it better, based on user feedback. As Guy explained to me, the new bag is slightly larger and overall the materials used are of higher quality which can only result in not only an even more robust and longer-lived bag but also a better user experience all round. It comes in a new range of two-tone colours too... much as I don't need another EDC bag, I can see myself "upgrading" in the near future—does anyone want a used Mark I? —there's plenty of life left in it!
Since I penned this item my new Mark 2 has actually arrived (it must have been teleported to my door, the delivery was so quick). From first opening the box it is clear that it is really a big improvement over the already clever original. It's effectively a complete redesign from fabric to fittings and has been improved in every way - I am genuinely impressed. It is slightly bigger, more flexible, and the rings etc are heavier duty and should wear better. The pictures do not do it justice. I'll look forward to putting it into service and letting you know what I think.