I actually wrote this to post in a different forum. But I figgured I'd stick it in here too. I'm not very good at reviewing stuff, and I'm not a messenger or anything... But i took lots of pictures! that's worth something, i think.
CHROME VS. TIMBUK2
I recently acquired the Chrome metropolis," the second largest (or third smallest) messenger bag on chrome's messenger bag production line. Having previously owned a chrome product (medium size), I must first and foremost admit that I am partial to their design, company, and am/have been a satisfied end line user.
However, due to some confusion and curiousity, I acquired a timbuk2 pro messenger series, large.
both timbuk2 and chrome are well respected messenger bag manufacturers, and since both are about within the same price range, there's some debate as to which is superior. i don't intend to keep the timbuk2 bag (merely cause i've already been using my chrome, and it seems frivolous to have two similarly sized messenger bags), but it seems logical that while i've got them both i should compare for a future consumer's benefit.
Dimensions: 26 x 14 x 7 (flat dimensions)
Volume: 2000 cu. in.
$120.00 ordered direct from chromebags.com
timbuk2 pro messenger series, L
Dimensions: 16.5"x12.75"x 8.5"
Volume: 2149 cu. in.
$90.00 from ebags.com (free shipping)
one of the neat things about both bag companies is they are highly customizable. many of these bags are made-to-order, so if you're not boring like me, you can get a bag in pretty much whatever color that suits you. chrome bags offer a 2 color scheme, with a PVC tarp liner running horizontally across the bag's cordura surface. timbuk2 allows 3 color variants, which run in three solid stripes vertically along the bag. they offer tons of color choices.
both companies offer a standard warranty against manufacturer's defect or workmanship. from what i hear, chrome and timbuk2 are very solid companies, and for the most part, their products are built to last a lifetime. on a side note, timbuk2 does NOT do repairs on injured/worn bags, while chrome offers service, perhaps for a price. see timbuk2's and chrome's warranty claims -- http://www.timbuk2.com/tb2/warranty.t2
in general, timbuk2 is a more well known bag company, with more advertising and sales in the retail market. their office and factory is based in san francisco, where their classic and custom messengers are still made. other timbuk2 designs are made in china, presumably due to economic concern. they claim fair and ethical treatment of chinese craftsmen and guarantee a quality product, no matter what factory in which it is produced. which seems reasonable.
chrome bags is also based in SF, and as far as i can tell, is still their primary location of operation. they also own a warehouse in colorado, where i suspect they store and ship finalized products.
the chrome and timmy bags i have hold 2000CI and 2149CI respectively. here is a comparison of the two, flattened.
as you can see, the chrome is a lot longer, but the timbuk2 is wider (not shown).
the length of the chrome can sometimes be a pain, because if you ever carry the bag empty and tighten it down to your body, the length will actually wrap around your torso a little. i can't imagine what it's like with the chrome kremlin (XL). when it's got stuff inside, the wrap is not a problem. i guess if you are fat you wouldn't have this problem either.
let's let the beer do the talking.
in both, there looks like there's plenty of space for more. possibly a whole case.
here's some random textbooks and some laundry
the stitching and workmanship of both bags is impressive and very sturdy. on either, there are no loose threads, frays, or shoddy seams. stitching looks tight and rugged. chrome's site says they use "mil spec. seam binding" and "nylon 69 thread" (IMO, the term "mil spec." is very open to discrepancy). the timbuk2 also appears to use quality material and workmanship. the stitching of the strap attachment is visible on the inside of the bag, showing it passes through all the bag material in an overbuilt fashion.
the chrome uses 1000d cordura shell with a "truck tarp liner" as it's waterproof cavity. this material and design feel very solid, heavy, and rugged. the tarp does not wear easily under weight or sharp edges, and the cordura feels very stiff and resistant to abrasion.
the timbuk2 uses a "Dimension-Polyant® x-Pac™ VX21 nylon laminate exterior" with an inner, waterproof vinyl liner. using timbuk2's "build your own bag" service, you can have the option of having nylon or cordura exteriors. although considerably heavier, i'd go for the cordura.
i can only vouche for the chrome bag, since that's the only bag i've worn in the rain/snow. but it's waterproof, that's for damn sure. the chrome is literally a bag inside a bag, and the PVC can be seperated from the cordura exterior.
one thing kind of worries me about the timbuk2 bag. it seems that if the bag were stuffed with stuff, due to the horizontal carry design, there would be a small gap between the bag cavity and what the top flap could cover. i think this is just being nitpicky, and in practical applications the timmy is as waterproof as anything else. here's a pic of what i'm talking about.
chrome has an integrated pad into it's shoulder strap-- a feature that i like very much. timbuk2 has an attachable shoulder pad, available in many different colors and materials. both options seem fair, and although i like having chrome's built in padding, the detachable padding would be nice for days that are really hot or if i'm not carrying a lot of weight.
both bags are comfortable to wear, although i worry some on timbuk2's part if i were to carry 3+ books. the flat shoulder strap digs into my collarbone with too much weight. i'm kind of a wuss.
another note is that the chrome bag, when tightened down, seems to cling to my body considerably tighter than the timbuk2. i think this has something to do with chrome's design-- the bag itself rides at an angle on the mule's back. there are pros and cons to this. as a cyclist, this bag is very comfortable and responsive to the rider's movements. it rides high up (when tightened down) and does not appear to shift. cons are it (IMO) looks silly. when the rider isn't on his/her bike, it doesn't seem practical. it also makes it difficult for the carrier to access the inside of the bag while keeping the bag on. and while it's never happened to me, carrying my bag at an angle on my back constantly has me paranoid of things falling out. they don't, but maybe...
the timbuk2, when adjusted, rides horizontally on the rider's back. while this tends to shift a bit more while on a bicycle, it's a bag that suits a walker quite well. accessing the inner cavities while wearing the bag is easy.
timbuk2, filled w/ 3 books + laundry
chrome, 3 books, laundry
that's right, i'm wearing a pot on my head. here's why--
perhaps the most signature trademark of chrome bags is the seatbelt buckle on the shoulder strap. this allows the user easy detachment of said bag from his/her back with the push of a button. IMO the seatbelt is a fantastic innovation, as it allows me jettison all of my equipment on the kitchen floor right as i rush into my apt, in search of either beer/toilet (or both). what's more important, the user does NOT have to lift the bag over his/her head to remove the bag! this feature allows for pots w/ handles to be worn on the head-- a convention that timbuk2 consumers may find excruciatingly difficult. what's bad about the seatbelt is:
1) looks silly(IMO) if it weren't shiny it'd be a bit less silly. chrome used to make the buckle with a black plastic covering, i dunno why they stopped that.
2) it's like this big red target for all your jackass friends to aim for. get your bag ejected at the wrong time and that expensive laptop inside is history..
3) it's loud and metal. ever walk into a lecture hall just a few minutes late? there's nothing like sneaking in there, removing your bag and sitting down, only to have that buckle swing out and clang into every seat/seatpost/table/floor on the way down.
both bags feature a quick adjustment mechanism on the shoulder strap, allowing the user to tighten/loosen the bag on the fly.
the timbuk2 uses a plastic cam that lifts to adjust shoulder length, then closes down to lock the belt in place. although made of plastic, the cam feels very durable and is effective.
the chrome uses a metal D-ring pull system--a textured bar uses the weight inside the bag to squeeze down on the strap, holding it in place. pulling the D-ring manually releases the tension across the bar and loosens the strap. when full and under some weight and movement, i've known my strap to slip some, requiring occasional readjustment.
in addition to the slippage, the slack end of the strap hangs freely from the bag. free to blow in the wind, free to get caught in low tree branches, free constantly be in the way. timbuk2 uses an extra slide-buckle to keep the slack end out of the way.
both bags come with sternum straps, which help stabilize and hold both corners of the bag. the chrome metropolis/kremlin have two attachment points via plastic buckle, while the smaller models (citizen, mini metro) only have one. timbuk2 has a free-sliding buckle attached to the shoulder strap. one notable feature about the timbuk2 is that the sternum strap is detachable, and there are attachment points on BOTH corners of the bag-- by design making this bag ambidextrous. the chrome bag is only suitable for right-handed riders (left hand models available). i almost never use the sternum strap on my chrome and will probably resort to cutting it off.
timbuk2 features lots of pockets + an internal organizer for pens, cell phone, misc. equipment. this i like.
the chrome is less pocket friendly. it does, however, have integrated slots for pens and a zippered slot for flat items. there is a cavity that fits a U-lock quite nicely as well as two side pockets which fit the paperback version of "a heartbreaking work of staggering genius" exactly.
Here's something dumb! the chrome bag pen holders make it so if you use a bic disposable pen/pencil, the cap/eraser will run over the zipper track of the pocket! how sh1tty is that?
look, chrome, everyone uses those bic disposables. they are everywhere. they cost $.15. you can steal them. see? i got mine from the department of defense->
they should have thought that one through.
when i got my timbuk2 bag in the mail, inside was this beer jacket thing. i don't know why this was in there. it says "#1 dad on it. that's me, i guess.
ooh ooh, chrome builds in this long ass velcro strip all the way down the shoulder strap, which allows for the attachment of modular items, and the velcro keeps it in place-- very nice. i've attached my flashlight.
Overall, both bags are damn worth every penny. They're built mighty tough, come from respectable manufacturers, are composed of quality materials, and will perform the task(s) with which it was designed. these are truely the things that will last you your lifetime.