I’m not normally one for retail therapy, even though I probably spend more time at the mall than I care to admit. That is largely not because I am cheap, but rather because I am strategically frugal. I am generally very selective about where I spend my money and, if I actually do want something, I want to score a deal. That’s the creative struggle and that’s how I ended up with the F-Stop Ando 15 messenger bag, along with some other stuff.

On some level, it’s really convenient just how close Vancouver is to the US-Canada border (especially with NEXUS). We’re only about an hour’s drive away, which probably explains why there are so many P.O. boxes and parcel receiving services in Blaine (and Point Roberts), just on the other side of the border. And they’re really affordable too.

There are really three main reasons why I might choose to get something shipped there:

  1. The item I wish to purchase is simply not available in Canada or the seller will not ship to Canada. If I want it, I have to buy it in the States.
  2. If it is available in Canada, it can be prohibitively more expensive. The third-party sellers on Amazon.ca utilize some crazy algorithms. Something that costs $10 on Amazon.com could list for $100 on the Canadian site. It’s nuts.
  3. If the American site will ship to Canada, the difference in shipping cost could be astronomical. It might be $5 to a US address, but $50 to a Canadian address… before accounting for potential duties and taxes.

In any case, this little journey all started because I wanted a reasonably compact camera bag in a messenger bag kind of style. It had to be big enough to accommodate my 13-inch laptop and my micro four-thirds Panasonic camera, along with another lens and a handful of accessories. But I didn’t want anything too bulky or anything that screamed, “Hey look! I’ve got a camera and a laptop in here!”

So, I asked Ed Lau for some recommendations and he told me to check out the clearance section from F-Stop Gear. He helped me settle on the F-Stop Ando 15. It ticked enough of the boxes and rang in at just over $40 US, plus about $12 shipping to a US address. Shipping to Canada would have been a fair bit more.

It’s reasonably rugged and water-resistant, with just the right amount of storage. That said, even though it’s the F-Stop Ando 15 (which made me think it’d fit a 15-inch laptop), the spot for my 13-inch Ultrabook is remarkably snug, as you can see in the video above. The “15” probably indicates 15 liters of capacity.

I also figured that if I’m running south of the border, I may as well make the most of my trip. So, I decided to pick up a backpack clip and a premium mini tripod to further expand upon the other camera accessories I picked up last month. Oh, and I got Zen Pencils: Creative Struggle by Gavin Aung Than too, because I believe in supporting the creators I enjoy. And Zen Pencils is always tremendous.

I’m not a shopaholic. I swear.