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Courier (messenger) bag thread

Old 05-13-10, 07:35 PM
  #1  
JeremyZ
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Courier (messenger) bag thread

My thread about the Brooks barbican got me interested in other folks' opinions on courier bags. I'm thinking of getting another one; one better suited to riding than the one I have.

I have an Eddie Bauer model I got at Target. (see attached) Good size, super-smooth zippers, and a good selection of different compartments. The back has a separate compartment for a laptop, which zips open like a book, so one doesn't have to remove one's lap top when going through the airport.

The Eddie Bauer print on the back is reflective.

The only problem with it is that since it was not made for cyclists or motorcyclists, it slips around my side sometimes while biking, so I never use it while biking. Shame.

I'm considering the following bags as a replacement:

Aerostich courier - $87
[img]
Looks well thought-out, but doesn't seem to have any sub-pockets; just one big compartment.

Brooks Barbican
Looks really nice, but costs $350. I love the integrated belt to keep it from coming around when riding, and the fact that it looks dressy enough that I won't look like a fool if I use it for work too. I'll have to think on this one.

Timbuk2 Messenger
Looks like a great design. I love the reflective stripe option, reflective tabs on the ends of the cover straps, and organizer pockets. It doesn't seem to have the triangular cross section shape that the Aerostich does. I'm curious if it "comes around" like my Eddie Bauer does... $100 seems to be a fair price. The liner is waterproof. Many color schemes and setups to choose from.

Banjo Bros
Don't know anything about this, but it was recommended by a nice fellow in my Barbican thread. Looks just like the Aerostich to me.

Chrome Messenger
Again, it's hard to tell about this bag from pix online. Anyone got one? Thoughts?

Any bags you've got experience with, please post a mini-review and a pic or a link. Let's make this a resource thread for when the question comes up again.
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Old 05-13-10, 07:40 PM
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I recently posted a kind of review of R.E.Load bags on my blog recently. I own two--traditional single-strap style, as well as a double-strap backpack style. I love them. Plus, they're handmade right here in Philly.
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Old 05-13-10, 08:03 PM
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I have personally owned a Timbuk2 medium messenger, a Chrome mini metro, and a PAC street small.

I would rank them as follows:

1. PAC street small ($190 CAD locally at BikeBike) - 95 / 100

Exceptionally good "feeling" bag when its on your back. Wraps around the body just right. Extremely simple, durable construction. Padded strap, main strap has a split buckle, nice big reflective strips, enough small pockets to have good organization. Primary benefit is the fit though, its not enough for a bag to be well made, it also has to feel good. The PAC delivers that in spades, to me.

There is only one thing I might consider adding to this bag, a small retention clip for the cross strap to keep it from dangling loose (the main strap has one). You can tuck it inside the ring it is attached to or velcro it to the bag in some cases (it has a velcro tip), but I find that it sometimes ends up loose. Very, very minor thing, and this bag is just about perfect.

I've owned my PAC for about 2 months now, and am quite happy with it.

2. Chrome mini metro ($150 CAD approx. including shipping, online at chromebagsstore.com) 85 / 100

Very good design, I like the shoulder strap and the construction is solid as well. The Chrome was a really well made bag, it just didn't seem to fit my body quite as well as the PAC bag did, but I personally believe it was an equal in features and quality. I returned the Chrome bag after trying out the PAC bag, but it was a good bag otherwise. The mini metro is very small, and in real world use it wouldn't be any good for carrying groceries and things like that. It is entirely possible that the fit issue could just be body type, but the Chrome fit well, the PAC fit great.

3. Timbuk2 medium messenger bag ($90 CAD at a local shop in 2008) 65 / 100%

This was a good first bag. For the price it has good solid construction and is extremely water resistant. It has the same basic shape and features as higher end bags like the Chrome and PAC, including a cross strap and several internal pockets for organization.

The Timbuk2 had a couple of downfalls that the other bags improved upon: the Timbuk2 has no padding on the shoulder strap (this is an extra add on, separately, for more $, that can slide around and is not attached to the main strap), and the main strap also does not open like on the Chrome and PAC, making it a more awkward bag to take on and off in some situations. Lastly, I did not like the plastic cam that was used for adjusting the strap length, it would occasionally open, and it also left a large loop of material lying off the side of the bag, whereas the Chrome and PAC were much more streamlined without extra straps dangling about. I feel that the Timbuk2 would be a good bag for someone with very casual requirements, but it does fall short of the other offerings.

Last edited by Abneycat; 05-13-10 at 09:36 PM.
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Old 05-13-10, 08:13 PM
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There will be loads of people who will voice about the Chrome offerings. There is currently this thread in the FG/SS forum-https://www.bikeforums.net/showthread...-for-under-100. And you could always go to FGG and browse their reviews.
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Old 05-13-10, 08:34 PM
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Abneycat: Thanks for your insights, good stuff! Looking at the higher end bags, it seems like they are only designed to be worn high on the back. From a load-bearing perspective, this seems good. But it seems like it would yield just as much back sweat as a backpack then. Which ones of these can be worn low? any?
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Old 05-13-10, 09:21 PM
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This is sort of a tangent since these bags probably aren't well suited for cycling, but I desperately want one of these in "coffee brown".
https://www.saddlebackleather.com/cat...s-Leather-Bags
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Old 05-13-10, 09:31 PM
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Don't forget to check out the Seagull bags, especially the Black Bag.

https://www.seagullbags.com/black/
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Old 05-13-10, 09:46 PM
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I have a Courierware messenger bag in medium. It has lots of pockets including a rear outside pocket that is handy for separating wet clothing away from the contents. I paid extra for the padded strap and it definitely needs it otherwise the wide nylon strap tries to divide me into asymetrical halves. The flap is kept closed by large patches of Velcro as well as sturdy clips and straps. There is no stabilizing strap and that's my biggest complaint because it has a tendancy to slide around. It wasn't advertised as waterproof but it did claim to be weatherproof. I find the cordura fabric sucks up water like a sponge and while it doesn't soak the contents it certainly dampens them. I think it cost me about $110 US six or so years ago. I don't use it while cycling any longer but it is excellent for regular use off the bike or shoved into my bike basket. The thing wears like iron and shows absolutely no wear and tear. If I could add a stabilizing strap I'd absolutely wear it cycling. And it is a lovely shade of purple. I'd give it a 60/100 for bike usage but an 80/100 for regular off the bike usage.
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Old 05-13-10, 09:53 PM
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I was given the North Face Base Camp bag as a gift, and could not have chosen a better one myself (I have a medium Timbuktu also). I first used it on a night ride, and was not sure how it would work, but did not have another bag at the time. It worked GREAT!

It stayed in place, was comfortable throughout the 6 hour+ ride, and carried an incredible amount of stuff - All the goodies you get at a well-sponsored ride, plus extra bottles and sweaters, for both me AND my wife. This is the small size bag, too. It seemed to have no limit.
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Old 05-13-10, 10:01 PM
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chrome all the way
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Old 05-13-10, 10:05 PM
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Originally Posted by JeremyZ View Post
Abneycat: Thanks for your insights, good stuff! Looking at the higher end bags, it seems like they are only designed to be worn high on the back. From a load-bearing perspective, this seems good. But it seems like it would yield just as much back sweat as a backpack then. Which ones of these can be worn low? any?
From what I can recall, the padding on the Chrome was fixed to the main body of the bag, and if you lowered it, the padding may not fully cover the shoulder, but you'd have to lower it quite a bit as there is a fair stretch of padding. I believe the Chrome is simply meant to rest in the one position. Now, I could be wrong on this, but it's my recollection.

The PAC padding is not fixed to the bag, it is adjustable and you should be able to lower the bag on your body and keep the padding in the correct spot. The cross strap is fixed in one position though. I have not personally found the cross strap being fixed in one position to be a detriment, but I do know of messenger bag users who prefer to be able to slide it about, some like their cross strap right up under their armpit. The way the padding is designed, it is free from both the cross and main strap at the very bottom, and when both straps are tightened, it covers them both instead of following one or the other, meaning that no buckles will dig into your body. I find that nice. I am able to lower the bag on my body and wear it loose with decent effectiveness on the cross strap, but I don't personally like it that way.

The Timbuk2 can sit wherever for the most part, since there's no padding to position (and the optional pad slides around). The cross strap on the Timbuk2 is also held to the main strap with a velcro attachment, and it can slide around the main strap as well.

I personally believe that they are meant to sit in a particular position. The top corner of the bag should rest approximately on your shoulder blade, and the bag rests at a fairly good diagonal. You are free to pick whatever size bag you wish, but I personally find that the bag ends up feeling too gainly and uncomfortable if the lower section drops below the middle of the hips. Lowering it too much can affect how it feels while riding, the straps may not sit tight enough against the body to hold the bag firmly in place, and if you are carrying fair weight, it may end up poking into your abdomen. These are simply my experiences, but I prefer a bag that wraps as tightly across the back as possible, and strapped firmly in place.

As for back sweat, yes, I do find that they can get a little hotter. I have personally not found it unbearable, but i'm not a big sweater.
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Old 05-13-10, 10:16 PM
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https://blicksbags.com/
i have the green/black courier bag. actually i have the actual one in the photo (i got the first one off the line.) she will make you anything you need. i highly recommend.
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Old 05-13-10, 11:45 PM
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Originally Posted by no1mad View Post
There will be loads of people who will voice about the Chrome offerings. There is currently this thread in the FG/SS forum-https://www.bikeforums.net/showthread...-for-under-100. And you could always go to FGG and browse their reviews.
i'm one of them. love my metropolis, but I use a rack/trunk or panniers most of the time because a bag leaves me way too warm on hot days. If you fly, at all, the metropolis is a great size because it's still within "carry-on" spec, and even if you pack it heavy, it's comfortable.

there are plenty of other options in that price range that do just as well. try them on. the stabilizer strap on the chrome looks cheap, but it's a life saver and most definitely isn't cheap

get the metropolis or larger. secret pocket ftw.
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Old 05-14-10, 04:31 AM
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Originally Posted by cyclokitty View Post
I have a Courierware messenger bag in medium. It has lots of pockets including a rear outside pocket that is handy for separating wet clothing away from the contents. I paid extra for the padded strap and it definitely needs it otherwise the wide nylon strap tries to divide me into asymetrical halves. The flap is kept closed by large patches of Velcro as well as sturdy clips and straps. There is no stabilizing strap and that's my biggest complaint because it has a tendancy to slide around. It wasn't advertised as waterproof but it did claim to be weatherproof. I find the cordura fabric sucks up water like a sponge and while it doesn't soak the contents it certainly dampens them. I think it cost me about $110 US six or so years ago. I don't use it while cycling any longer but it is excellent for regular use off the bike or shoved into my bike basket. The thing wears like iron and shows absolutely no wear and tear. If I could add a stabilizing strap I'd absolutely wear it cycling. And it is a lovely shade of purple. I'd give it a 60/100 for bike usage but an 80/100 for regular off the bike usage.
I have two bags from courierware; deluxe and super deluxe courier bag. I would highly recommend them to anyone. This is a great company. Check out their website: https://www.courierwareusa.com/.

I have had my deluxe for over ten years. It was purchased when they still had a brick and mortar in Cambridge, MA. My super deluxe is about seven years old. Both bags look as if they were just purchased. These bags are function and form wrapped into one. They have been commuted with and used in a variety of ways; best airplane carry-on one can find, excellent diaper bag; good for the beach.

Contents have only gotten damp once. This was during a torrential downpour in Pittsburgh, PA during a seven mile commute.
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Old 05-14-10, 09:25 AM
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Make your own. Thats what I did.

https://picasaweb.google.com/the.eag/...eat=directlink

Last edited by eagleb; 05-14-10 at 09:31 AM.
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Old 05-14-10, 09:36 AM
  #16  
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https://www.tombihn.com/page/001/CTGY/200

i have the tom bihn super ego. the ego is the same exact bag but smaller. i have used this bag for about a year and it is made very well. i like the amount of pockets and where they are. with the messenger strap you can hug it on your back quite firmly. it also takes in the brain cell laptop sleeve which is built very tough and can be clipped into the ego. i have a bunch of their pouches clipped into the loops inside to keep extra stuff organized, as well as a freudian slip.

plus all their bags are handmade in washington state and their customer service is very good. check out their forums, they have a rep that is very active there.
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Old 05-14-10, 09:42 AM
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Originally Posted by eagleb View Post
Stealth gloat --> success. Very nice skillz you've got there. But I'm no seamster.
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Old 05-14-10, 09:50 AM
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Originally Posted by JeremyZ View Post
Stealth gloat --> success. Very nice skillz you've got there. But I'm no seamster.
I like to think of it more as stealth inspiration. It helps that I was unemployed at the time, and it was winter.
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Old 05-14-10, 10:06 AM
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Originally Posted by idiotekniQues View Post
https://www.tombihn.com/page/001/CTGY/200
i have the tom bihn super ego. the ego is the same exact bag but smaller. ...plus all their bags are handmade in washington state and their customer service is very good. check out their forums, they have a rep that is very active there.
Nice. I like how they don't look generic or over-simplified, like a lot of the other US-made ones. For example, the Courierware ones may be top quality, but very blah-looking. I also like how they are not 100% dedicated for couriers, with the 3" wide strap and seatbelt buckles. I'm not an ounce-counter, but I also won't add weight I don't need.
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Old 05-14-10, 12:41 PM
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FYI - Just dropped the hammer on a Tom Bihn Super Ego. It seems like just the right mix between off-the-bike shoulder bag and hardcore messenger bag. I got the red one with reflective strip and quick-adjust shoulder strap.

Keep the good information coming, and we can make this sort of a resource thread, which I will bookmark for future reference. I'll add some links later on to bag makers' sites to round this out.
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Old 05-14-10, 12:53 PM
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I love my AG Messenger bag: https://alchemygoods.com/products.html
100% waterproof, big, comfy, and good for the environment.
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Old 05-14-10, 01:08 PM
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Originally Posted by JeremyZ View Post
FYI - Just dropped the hammer on a Tom Bihn Super Ego. It seems like just the right mix between off-the-bike shoulder bag and hardcore messenger bag. I got the red one with reflective strip and quick-adjust shoulder strap.

Keep the good information coming, and we can make this sort of a resource thread, which I will bookmark for future reference. I'll add some links later on to bag makers' sites to round this out.
glad you liked it and good way to describe it. i guess it is a hybrid bag of sorts. i have the reflective strap as well. you may want to pick up some of these and or maybe some of the key straps. each bihn bag has hooks inside you can clip these to if you want to organize more:

https://www.tombihn.com/page/001/PROD/ACC/TB0319

i guess it depends on how many small things you put in the bag. i like bags so i switch out a lot depending on what i am doing. the little organizer pouches make it easy to just swap certain things. like in one i keep a few extra contact lenses for each eye and spare batteries for my surefire e2L. in another i keep a deck of plastic kem cards. in another i always keep a few charged aa and aaa eneloop batteries, etc...

i keep a large padded one in the main compartment for stuff like chargers.
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Old 05-14-10, 01:28 PM
  #23  
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Originally Posted by mikeshoup View Post
I love my AG Messenger bag: https://alchemygoods.com/products.html
100% waterproof, big, comfy, and good for the environment.
That is indeed cool mike. (Made from recycled inner tubes & seat belts.) What's funny is that those are environmentally hostile materials to make the first time, but since they're recycled, they don't got in a landfill (yet) and the materials all other messenger bags are made of are spared for that one customer.

...AND the company probably makes more profit, because they probably get their raw materials for free!
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Old 05-14-10, 01:31 PM
  #24  
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Originally Posted by cyclokitty View Post
There is no stabilizing strap and that's my biggest complaint because it has a tendancy to slide around. It wasn't advertised as waterproof but it did claim to be weatherproof. I find the cordura fabric sucks up water like a sponge and while it doesn't soak the contents it certainly dampens them. I think it cost me about $110 US six or so years ago. I don't use it while cycling any longer but it is excellent for regular use off the bike or shoved into my bike basket. The thing wears like iron and shows absolutely no wear and tear. If I could add a stabilizing strap I'd absolutely wear it cycling.
Same experience with my Courierware. I added a second strap by unthreading one of the lid clips,sliding on a plastic D ring,and then rethreading the clip. Then I just used a Timbuk2 strap clipped to the D ring. For rain,I ran a bead of seam sealer down the flap seam(WTF would they put a seam there?) and about twice a year I hose the outside down with Kiwi Camp Dry. This works for light rain,but if I'm going to ride in a downpour I'll use another bag. The CW liner isn't even close to T2/Chrome/Baileywork's;I've actually gotten things in my bag damp from sweating through the bag. It's held up really well,has lots of pockets,and is the perfect size for my daily commuting,but I'd never buy another one unless they ditched the top seam and upgraded the liner. None of my other bags have ever leaked,no matter how bad the rain.

I've got a Baileyworks Pro med and a monster Chrome. They both work well on the bike,but the straps aren't made for walking around. I prefer the Bailey design because of the extra pockets,the lighter buckle and liner,and the fact that I can switch the strap to my right shoulder(how I wear my bags) without having to special/custom order the bag. I've also got a couple sizes of T2's;they work well both on and off the bike with one caveat;square-edged items(hardback books,boxes) are uncomfortable to carry because the strap design keeps them from riding flat on your back.

If you're going to spend almost all your time on the bike,I'd vote Baileyworks. If you're going to be mixing walking and riding,T2.
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Old 05-14-10, 01:46 PM
  #25  
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There are a lot of small companies out there these days making nice bags. I ordered a custom bag from Blaq Design, based in Kent, Ohio (https://www.blaqdesign.com - I got the Body Bag, which is huge), in large part because they were (relatively) reasonably priced, and their email response to my stupid questions was lightning fast. They made a mistake in my initial bag order (forgot to put reflective material on both the bottom of the bag and the flap) and actually made me a new bag with some design improvements for my u-lock, and let me keep both. That's pretty good service! If I need a bag again I may go with a Chicago-based bagmaker like Chicago Wig (https://www.chicagowig.com) just to keep things local, but I've heard good things about many of the smaller shops (Seagull, Freight, Reload, etc).

Since you are in the metro, if you're willing to drop some cash (not as much as the Brooks, but more than your other choices), you might want to check out Chicago Wig. They carry some of their bags at a few shops around the north side of the city if you want to take a look yourself.

For my own purposes, these days I would much rather pay a premium for something that was made by hand, with care, in a small shop by either the owners of a company or someone who is compensated fairly for their time and work. The fact that Brooks (along with many, many other companies) can get away with insanely high prices for outsourced, possibly sweatshop production is troubling, though I'm also a supporter of buying whatever you want that does what you need it to do, if you can afford it.

Keep in mind that most USA made small shop bags made for cycling that you'll find are generally one big open compartment (which I like), but one of the great things is that a small shop can tailor and customize your bag to fit your needs. I'd do some shopping around and asking folks if they can make the bag that YOU want.
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