Timbuk2 Messenger Bags

You cannot maneuver an airport, university, shopping mall or urban center these days without noting somebody carrying the hippest thing since being a dot-comer took a dive: The Timbuk2 Messenger Bag.

Originally designed for those Kamikaze-like urban bike messengers who Rambo up and down city streets with packages and mail, the classic messenger bag has become an all-purpose carry-all and a trendy alternative to the two-strap daypack. And Timbuk2, founded in 1989 in San Francisco, has taken a lead in the category that screams hip and cool. The website calls it “The Tao of Timbuk2: Timbuk2 is more than a bag. It’s more than a brand. Timbuk2 is a bond.” There you have it….

From traveling, techno-juggling business people to late-night, java-guzzling college students, who doesn’t have a messenger bag?

SNEWS® decided to see what the fuss was all about and has been testing several for a few months. Both were mediums, length 14.5 inches with a depth of 8 inches, and likely all most people will need. They quickly became the go-to bag for weekend warrior business trips, international ventures and around-town errands for a lot of well-thought-out ideas.

The strap fits comfortably – especially with the extra pad ($10) – and the bag rides well on a hip. The size is perfect for file folders and laptops (although we didn’t have the model with the laptop sleeve and simply tucked ours inside with a separate padded sleeve). It’s big enough to fit a good quantity of work stuff with a little extra room for any other fun stuff, snacks or water bottles. The front inside organizer has more pockets than Get Smart’s special spy coat – you won’t be at a loss for where to put pens, business cards, flash drives, earbuds, an energy bar or notebook.

One of our bags came without the “grab-it handle” on the top of the bag – don’t even blink about paying the extra $10 for it. It’s a must-have. The strap attachments available extra for $10 to $25 are divine, but don’t overdo. Our cell phone pocket is super for a small phone and easy to access too.

We do miss a couple of things, which are available in other models: A center divider for the huge pouch would be nice for those who schlep more folders and files than bike-messenger gear. And the laptop sleeve would be super to keep the laptop from being a space hog.

What is not offered as far as we could tell was a water bottle accessory – either a pocket or strap inside the side of the bag or something for the outside. Perhaps bike messengers don’t need it, but us normal folks do. One other feature we frequently moan about not having: A deep, non-zipper slash pocket on the outside back – deep enough to hold a airline boarding pass or other items you need to stash and retrieve quickly. Or for that matter any other small pocket for quick-access on the outside. This meant loosening the front straps to get to an inner pocket. Perhaps a bike guy wouldn’t want to put anything in an outside pocket but, again, us normal folks do.

Timbuk2 also offers a divine deal called “Bag in a Box,” in addition to its website “Build Your Own” customization feature. We tested the “Bag in a Box” concept in 2004 and were thrilled. Inside a nicely packaged box (sells for $100 and perfect for gift giving), was a gift card inviting him to “build your own bag.” In short order he was belly up to a computer logged into Timbuk2’s website with the special gift code. A few key-clicks later and he was custom-designing his own Messenger Bag, choosing the colors, and various accessory options available. Took less than five minutes and he walked away, smiling. Three days later, there it was, on his doorstep — the bag he had designed. Outstanding!

P.S. We’ve bonded with our bags.

SNEWS® Applause Meter: 4.5 hands clapping (1 to 5 hands clapping possible, with 5 clapping hands representing functional and design perfection)

Suggested Retail: approximately average $50 to $100, depending on size, style and accessories. (Beware if you custom-build one: You can easily reach $150 or even $200, with all the cool accessories!)

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