What is a “personal item?” If, like me, you travel a lot and are jetlagged a solid 47% of the time, you probably think of it as “the largest bag I can aggressively stuff under the seat in front of me on a JetBlue flight,” but technically, it can be a lot of things—say, a Styrofoam dodecahedron. The primary struggle of modern travel, aside from fighting for your life during the mosh pit that forms when they start calling boarding groups, is finding inventive ways to take as much stuff as possible with you on the plane without having to check a bag (which sucks enough when it’s free and you have to loiter by the conveyor belt, let alone when it costs you an extra 40 bones).
This is why I’m always on the lookout for a perfect carry-on bag—not a roller bag or other piece of overhead-compartment luggage, but a handy vessel for lugging my laptop, chargers, assorted lip care products, book that I will never finish reading, trashy celeb gossip magazines impulse-purchased at Hudson News, and sample-size Aesop moisturizers for slathering on my face right before landing. In the past, I’ve used plenty of standard tote bags—although they get dirty easily, weigh on my shoulders, and are pocketless, meaning everything gets jumbled together like a chopped salad of creased paper, cables, and tiny bottles. On ventures that required a bit more organization, I was committed for many years to the ultra-popular Fjällräven Kånken backpack, certainly a functional and aesthetically pleasing bag, but one that eventually reached its expiration date due to abuse (too many music festivals) and, if I’m being honest, feeling a bit played out.
I didn’t want anything resembling a briefcase or a duffel, so it seemed like the perfect travel bag didn’t exist. Then, I found her: my puffy, pocket-adorned queen. Yes, along came the Dagne Dover Kal Puff Drawstring Tote. It’s a tote bag. It’s a puffer…. object? It’s a drawstring-embellished laptop bag, completely decked out in pockets and features. And I’m obsessed with it.
Blame the (sadly very mid) Matrix reboot, but over the last few years, I’ve become a bit of a sucker for tactical-looking items. While the majority of my brain is dedicated to worshiping musty 70s treasures from rural thrift stores, there’s another part of me that’s keen on living in the cyberpunk future we were promised in the 90s, over-the-top Oakley sunglasses and all. The Kal Puff bag absolutely fits that vision, IMO, both because of its aesthetic (it fits right in with the “tight leather pants, silver eyeshadow, shiny clothing, [wrap sunglasses], gradients, and blobby electronics” that embody the Y2K look) and its distinctly technology-friendly elements.
In addition to a dedicated laptop pocket that even fits my MacBook Pro big boi, it also has four interior pockets, a lanyard clip for holding on to your keys or wallet, and two drawstring exterior pockets which I use for stashing my KN95s, GoMacro bars, and folding handheld electronic fan (a true summer-travel lifesaver, but more on that another time). It also has a super sneaky (but deep) mini pocket on the outside of the bag that’s perfect for keeping your AirPods, ID, and credit card handy for breezing through security and making impulse purchases (I will be having a second Bloody Mary, thank you). And—another bonus—it’s decked out with a strap that slides over the handle of your roller bag so that you can securely go hands-free when hauling ass to catch your flight. I typically fly a few times a month, and having the right travel gear makes a huge difference; it can save you time, money, and shoulder pain.
But wait—there’s more! Dagne Dover prides itself on ethical production, recycled materials, and sustainability. Each bag is made from 29 recycled water bottles and is 100% vegan, so you can at least undo some of the planetary damage you’ve caused by constantly leaving half-empty bottles of Smart Water at the gym.
Also, to state the perhaps-obvious, here are VICE, we love puffer everything—puffer jackets of course, but also puffer slippers, puffer boots, and puffer phone cases. It’s like wrapping your personal accessories in a cloud—and yes, I have used the Kal tote as a pillow while napping on layovers, with great success. I snagged the black because a) it goes with everything and b) I listen to too much Depeche Mode, but I love this bag so much that I’m contemplating grabbing the limited edition orange shade, Coyote, for outings when I want to exude a little more flavor. Plus, it will match the lenses of those Oakleys.
Is the Dagne Dover Kal Puff Drawstring Tote cheap? Not exactly—it runs $175, which is more than I’d usually spend on a bag of this size, but, I assure you, it’s well worth it. (It’s also on sale right now for $139!) I truly never want to use another bag for traveling now that I’ve luxuriated in its ample storage, thoughtful organizational features, and, of course, SoBe/Go vibes. And if you’re thinking to yourself, well, I’ll just find a dupe, let it be known that I did investigative work and found that while there are other puffer tote bags out there, none match the Kal in terms of its coolness. Calpak makes a puffer duffel, but it’s more minimalist; Adidas, Y’s, and Beis all make totes with drawstrings and quilted features, but they’re a bit bulkier and less loaded with tech-smart organization (although they all have their own aesthetic appeal, in fairness); and if you want a super-puffy puffer tote, you can grab one on Amazon, but it doesn’t have the drawstrings and toggles and clever travel touches (i.e. the ability to slide over your roller bag handle).
So, it’s official: Dagne Dover’s puffer bag is my squishy savior of a travel companion. Now, if I can only find the perfect platform sneakers…
The Kal Puff Drawstring Tote is available at Dagne Dover.
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