It’s not really a secret that I’m a bit of a Timbuk2-fan-boy. For quite some time I wanted to have a new more lightweight laptop messenger which I could use primarily when I was not riding my bike to work but that should still allow for that. So I got the Custom Laptop Messenger last March. After now about 9 months, I guess, it is time for a short review.
(I’m not sure what the actual model designation is here. I just bought the custom laptop messenger in early 2014 so that’s what I’ll call it throughout this post.)
The choice back then wasn’t easy. Honestly, I would have preferred the Command or the Commute because it has a water bottle holder on the outside but it unfortunately lacks a cross-strap which is absolutely essential for me.
So, after quite a lot of thinking, I went with the Custom Laptop Messenger and got a little bit crazy with customisation. Here a word of warning: Not all the fabrics offered for the three outside panels are as robust as Cordura or the higher grade ballistic nylon. For one of the panels I chose a beautiful but more lightweight blue material (“X-Pac Blue”, no longer available) that has by started to wear down on one edge of the bag. So you should definitely take that into consideration when going the custom way.
I also picked the Silver Reflective Binding for better visibility when riding my bike home at night. While, as with the blue fabric, it has started to wear down, it has served me very well so far. No accidents at night so far ;-) Also, my parents still notice it every time I visit.
While the bag lacks protective flaps (or what Crumpler calls the “Prince Charles Protective Seal”, I’ve used the bag in many rainy situations over the year and it has kept is content completely dry so far. I’d still appreciate something like that, though, given its rather high price.
Regarding the interior aspects of this bag: It is very simplistic with a nice padded but open laptop compartment. This is great because I don’t want to wait every time my MBP decides that it needs a glass of warm milk before going to bed and so keeping its vents open is often necessary.
It also has a small flat pocket for a tablet or Kindle which I use all the time. The only downside of the interior design is the option water bottle holder-add-on, which doesn’t work with any bottle I’ve tried yet (too small). That’s not really a big issue for me, though, since I just use it for my external battery pack or some laptop cables.
My personal highlight of every Timbuk2 messenger bag I’ve owned so far is the “Napoleon Pocket” which is hidden below the main flap. It’s a great place for your wallet or other small things that you want to have in reach. While it is on the outside of the bag I’m pretty sure I’d notice anyone messing with the zipper there, so I don’t mind using it for my wallet ;-)
There are also a bunch of addons to this bag available which I simply couldn’t resist getting. Luckily, all of them have turned out to be extremely useful:
- The Deluxe Strap Pad is a super-sized version of the normal pad you get with any bag. To me it feels much more comfortable and the extra reflective binding is great. Well worth the $10.
- Silencer Pads for the Velcro areas. These are are great when you attend a meeting and know you’ll have to get something out of your bag. When these pads are attached, the clips are the only lock mechanism for the main flap, which you can open silently.
- The aforementioned bottle holders are not ideal for … holding bottles but work for other smaller items like chargers and battery packs.
Sadly, it looks like the silencers are no longer available online, but perhaps you can still get them in one of their stores.
Despite all the minor gripes I have with this bag, I’ve carried it around nearly exclusively for the last 9 months and extremely enjoyed it. The wear on the blue fabric is a bit disappointing but most likely my own fault. I was definitely not nice to this bag and it has probably seen the most uninterrupted use of any bag I’ve ever owned. So the damaged fabric is understandable but I’m a little worried about the binding.
Would I buy it again? Probably. The bag itself is nice but I’d definitely choose some different material next time around. The customisable Commute is probably the superior bag but without a cross-strap it’s sadly not an option.
Also keep in mind, that this is a custom bag. If you want the customisations you can no longer really compare it with the pre-fabricated products on the market. Regarding my use-cases I still have to compare it with the Chrome Buran and the Timbuk2 Especial Tres backpack. I use these two whenever I need a heavy-duty bag; when I know that I have to carry lots of stuff, am on the bike quite a lot, or am expecting realllllly bad weather. The Custom Laptop Messenger is a good all-rounder (something the other two aren’t simply because of their construction or size) but for bad weather I haven’t had any more reliable bags then the Buran and the Especial Tres so far.