Couple of weeks with the iPad and you think: I need a bag for this thing. But modern gadget accessory design is horrid, all foam and nylon, like an extreme sports dildo. You need leather. You need a map case.
What's a map case? It's a case for maps, those pieces of paper your great-grandfather used to figure out exactly what part of Omaha Beach he'd overshoot by a few miles or what part of Poland looked most ripe for annexing. They were precious. Replacing a lost map took time. There was a severe shortage of Epson printers in the forward positions of a battlefield.
Maps were a sign of authority, because only those who made the decision on where to go actually needed them. That's why map cases were reserved for the elite, officers or pilots. They were leather. They were trim and elegant. At least the best ones were.
This is mine. It's a Russian-issue map case, probably from sometime well after the war. The panels themselves aren't real leather, only the trimming. I like to pretend it was the best the Soviets could do at the time, as all their cow leather supplies were diverted to build saddles for personal nuclear scout submarines. It's more fun than figuring they were serving leather in soup.
Doesn't matter. It's still fantastic. It's got buckles and straps and enough real leather trim to smell the part. There's a slot in the back that seems like it was made for an iPad, complete with a snap latch that secures it in place. It's an anomaly, but from what I can tell the standard military size for a map case is also about the size of an iPad. If you ever need proof Apple was run by commies, this is as good as it gets.
It cost me twenty bucks.
Because this is an article and not just an excuse for me to kill a couple of hours browsing Army surplus stores, I've pulled out a few selections from Internet™ to share with you.
I've put off writing this piece for a few weeks—I had my case even before the iPad was on sale—because it pains me to think that all you communists are going to run out and buy these cases and send the prices skyrocketing. Worse, you'll wear them. I won't be some lone twat walking around with his vintage satchel. I'll be part of a trend. Apologies in advance for hating you shortly before hating myself. At least we aren't walking around with neoprene saddlebags.
I'm not telling you where I bought mine, because I don't want anyone else to have this exact type. Save me that dignity.
Here's the baseline, a simple black canvas bag that I think is U.S. issue or a knockoff thereof. It's about as exciting as watching sperm dry on your mother's laundry, but it doesn't draw a lot of attention to itself, either. It's $18, plus shipping, and is perfect for someone who wants to own something that's military vintage, but doesn't actually want anyone else to know. [Galaxy Army Navy]
Now we're talking. Here's a U.S. canvas map case, circa 1951 or so, from that beautiful time when we'd won the big war but hadn't realized we were about to get our nose bloodied again in Korea. It's simple but it doesn't hide its Armyness. It's also got an ample allotment of pen and pencil slots, a feature you'll find common to most map cases. You may not be able to use a stylus on your iPad, but unless you're some sort of technohippie I sincerely hope you still know how to scrawl glyphs on paper, even if it's just to write your own "Kick Me" signs to preemptively slap on your own back.
This one was a certain amount of money before it was sold. I don't know what that amount was, because Etsy hates machine capitalism. Shop around. [Etsy]
Nice canvas officer's case, Britain. Think maybe next war you could use paint them pink and ask your guys to wear them over their hearts? It's $30, yet weirdly doesn't come with its own knifecrime instruction manual. [IMA-USA]
Look, I don't want to say the Germans should have won the war. I'm not saying that New York would be a better city if there were bubbling barrels of fermenting sauerkraut on every corner and all the delis served only Schwarzwälder Schinken. I'm just saying, look at that map case. Black leather. Not sassy British yellow—yellow!—canvas. That is the map case of a war machine in it to win it—or at least lose looking however-you-say-fabulous-in-German.
I mean, technically this one is a reproduction and it looks sort of cheap. But you get the idea. Evil is more than a lifestyle. It's $35. [eBay]
Now this is the good stuff. Look at that beauty. The visible pencil slots giving just the slightest implication that you might be carrying a few rifle rounds. It was originally made in 1939 so you know the Germans still had access to good materials. And it's even got a gouge across the front that you can tell your friends was put there by your Grampy's bayonet.
Of course, it's $150. Because it's Real Luftwaffe Stuff. Shop around! This was even a "ground officer's case", so the whole Luftwaffe thing is kind of a rip. [MilitaryAntiquesMuseum.com]
(If you do get a Luftwaffe case, you should probably toss in a couple of reproduction pencils.)
This Japanese officer's case is perhaps a leetul purse-like, but it has that adorable embroidered star which symbolized the Japanese imperial flower, the shuriken. Only $40! [eBay]
So maybe this Soviet one is a lot like mine? And maybe it has a tri-fold bit that I kind of like better than mine? And maybe it has a snap lock that isn't as elegant as mine but looks a whole lot more convenient? And maybe it's about the same price as mine? And maybe I'm a little jealous? Thank goodness shipping from the Ukraine is $22 dollars or I'd probably snatch it up myself. [eBay]
Oh, Canada. :( [eBay]
Oh my goodness! Look at this harmless little canvas satchel! It must be made by the French or maybe werefrench [Belgians –Ed.] or maybe Mountain Dutch [Swiss –Ed.]. So adorbes! [I hate you –Ed.]
Wait. It was made by...Nazis? Was there any sort of fashion these monsters did not master? Of course like all the best heil couture, it's freakin' spendy—$450. [eBay]
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I could go on. But I won't. Because I'm sleepy.
But you get the idea. These map cases are wonderful, almost all are perfectly sized for an iPad (but do your homework), don't look goofy, are cheap (at the moment), and will last at least another lifetime. And they're all over eBay and military surplus stores. It's a blitzkrieg of value!
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Bonus Pre-Publish Update: I didn't find any Chinese cases, but I didn't look too hard. Pity, because they're obviously the best ones!