The Art of Schlepping

Love running out the front door with your arms full of 60 million* different things that you inevitably drop or lose? Me neither.

Whether or not I need my wallet/phone/bike helmet/change of clothes/climbing shoes/ cup of coffee / the book I’m reading/sunglasses/snacks is up for debate, but so long as I’m carrying it all, I may as well be thoughtful about what I’m carrying it in.

For years I made do with a bag for work and my son’s old Lands End backpack that he’d outgrown in the 2nd grade. Finally, after a lot of thought, some trial and spectacular error, I have a schlepping system. Here are the tools I use:


The backpack truly is the secret weapon of busy women. Free your arms from the tyranny of bags and just say no to juggling! From a sporty pack to a hip, versatile knapsack to a sleek leather case, you can bring everything you need and have a place to stash your sweater when it gets too hot. A great backpack is my go-to bag of choice.

This is my go-to pack, from Patagonia
Kate Spade makes an elegant leather backpack.
Something like this would be perfect for travel. Just imagine you, and this bag, traveling together on a train through the south of France…

Cross-Body Bag

Those of you who have followed this blog for sometime know my feelings about the glory that is a cross-body bag. There is no slipping of purse straps off my shoulders, no shifting of handles from hand to hand as I deal with my coffee, phone and life. Plus I just love the way a cross body bag looks. It says, “I’m grown up enough to own a nice bag, but that won’t stop me from breaking out into a dance should the occasion** arise.”

I love my Patricia Nash cross-body bag.
I also love my other Patricia Nash bag, which enjoys snuggling up to my boots.
Some more Patricia Nash, just in case you were worried she didn’t have a bag with coins running down the side…

Activity Bag

When I was growing up, my mom had what we called the string bag, a generous bucket of storage made of natural fibers that she used for every fun outing. The beach, the mountains, the park, the pool: when the string bag was packed up and waiting in the hall, it meant we were about to do something fun.

Your activity bag should be something you don’t mind getting dirty but still be respectable. It should look like you on the 5th day of vacation, relaxed, a little messy, and ready for anything.

This Hat Attack bag is relaxed and classic.
Another Hat Attack bag. I’m pretty sure snacks taste better coming out of a bag like this.
OK, I need to find a way out of the black hole that is googling images of raffia bags…

Evening Clutch

There are, of course, some situations in which you really can’t tote a backpack or string bag. For more elegant situations, a simple envelope clutch that is small enough to rest on a table next to you, or easily in your lap, is good to have. Or, my sister has a slim little case that carries her phone and credit cards that she can wear on her wrist. Perfect.

Summer wedding?

Any given Saturday evening.



Two things to consider when choosing a bag or backpack:

Compartments or no?

Some of you love having a million little compartments in your bag or pack to tuck specific little items into. Others like to drop things into a deep well of space and sort it out when you get to where you’re going. You bag is basically your desk on the go, and you know how much organization you need, or how little you can tolerate. Your stand on bag compartments is one of those important questions in life that you need to answer.*** Leave your strong opinions about this in the comments.

Eye Candy or Camouflage?

I have owned some wildly bright and fun totes in my life. Right now most of my bags are in subdued browns and navies that coordinate with my shoes. A mix of the two would probably be the most sensible, but you should grab the bag that calls your name.

While most of my bags are pretty mild, the notable exception is my bright orange climbing bag. I never get it mixed up with anyone else’s bag, and it alerts everyone to my presence. Where are we climbing this weekend? Just look for the bag…

Hey, is Anna here? Yep.

Mud and Grace readers have a lot going on. Some of us carry the weight of the world; others of us just show up with the snacks. Whatever your load, take time to organize the gear you need to run your life in a great looking bag. Then head out for your adventures without a second thought to all you carry.


* rough estimate

** Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go comes on

***Will you have children? What are your political beliefs? Where do you want to live? Do you want a compartmentalized bag or the freedom of a big open tote?