Ever heard of Crumpler? Maybe not, but I suspect that most readers might recognize that little crazy-haired logo on the company’s distinctive messenger-inspired bags. You might not remember exactly where you saw him or on what, but chances are it will ring familiar.
Crumpler is one of those brands; sort of everywhere but not necessarily front and center. The Australian company takes its bag making very seriously, but certainly not itself. The wacky product names that to an Australian contain a bit of tongue-in-cheek humor are all but lost on confused Americans. The website is a riot of cartoons, icons and stuffed animals. You have to hunt a bit for the actual products and then figure out what picture connects to which bag category.
Definitely a quirky company; they even demonstrate their bags’ various capacities by stacking six packs of beer inside – what else could you want?
Still, it’s a bag company and the bags definitely take center stage. Crumpler’s messenger, computer and photography bags are marvels of design and construction, and that’s what counts. Founded Down Under by former bike messengers, comfort and durability blend creatively with innovative, almost organic, designs.
The result is a distinctive personality and DNA that carries through to each of their designs. Once you know Crumpler, you can spot their bags a mile away.
I contacted Crumpler USA to find out if they could spare a bag for the Commuter and Dad Bag Test. They said, “Sure, we’d be chuffed” and proceeded to send me two; the Complete Seed messenger bag ($105.00) in gun metal grey and a the Part & Parcel laptop bag ($160.00) in a two-toned blue.
I was not really looking to test a laptop bag per se. But when speaking with them, I had mentioned rather specifically that since I was trying to find that elusive one-bag-that-can-do-it-all, carrying a laptop was one something that factored in.
Both are some of the best made messenger style bags I’ve ever seen. The water resistant 1000D nylon shell and 420D nylon interior are thick and sturdy. The Velcro closures are large and stay closed, even with full loads. Both have additional adjustable quick-release straps as well.
Crumpler shoulder straps are second to none; they are strong, flexible and thick enough to have an almost rounded edge. The shoulder pad, which is included (there’s an idea), is large and molds comfortably to your shoulder. The bags also have a standard “third leg” stability strap that provides additional security across your chest for full loads.
The Part & Parcel
The first thing that strikes you when gazing upon the P&P for the first time is that it looks large; but that’s a bit of a false impression. Though boxy looking, it is not a deep bag, so when you actually sling it over your shoulder it doesn’t feel too large or heavy, even when fully loaded.
The P&P is very much a messenger bag at heart; it has no carrying handle and no outside pockets once the large flap is closed. When open however, a cacophony of interior pockets is revealed. And though usually a plus, in this case I could have done with fewer.
The bag is divided into two main areas; the rear section which includes the computer sleeve and space for large items like files and binders. The computer sleeve is generous and has enough padding to protect a stack of bone china plates.
The front section has all those multiple storage pockets and therein lies my sole complaint. There are just too many small pockets piled up one upon the other. Once I had filled them up, it became a challenge to remember which pocket actually held what item. Since each one has either zippered or velcro closures, you can’t even take a quick glance when searching for, say, your metro pass. Not a critical issue, but it’s still annoying.
There is a lot of organization housed in this bag. Even the inside of the flap is put to use by way of a large mesh pocket, though I’m not sure what I would store there. My wife tested the P&P as well and noted that a carrying handle would make a world of difference for those times when the shoulder strap is not practical, like getting in or out of a car.
The Complete Seed
Frankly, I was not entirely sure if I would like this black hole of a bag. It’s big. And if a large bag isn’t what you really need, it can quickly become a formless hassle. Not so with the Complete Seed. Though certainly large, it is incredibly comfortable to carry either full or not so full. This is now officially one of my favorite bags.
This is a classic messenger bag so it’s designed to carry lots of stuff; hence, the focus is a large main compartment. Additionally, there are six smaller pockets ingeniously built into the Complete Seed’s front panel. The three “outer” pockets open along the bag’s top edge so they are easy to access while on the move. The three inner pockets are positioned identically, but run along the backside of the front panel (that is, on the inside of the bag). The center of these has a velcro closure to better secure small articles.
Locating the small pockets in such a fashion allows the main compartment to remain a huge block of negative space into which you could fit a small car. You almost don’t even notice the other pockets at all.
When filled with books, files and a laptop, it was still comfortable to carry. Though there was some shifting, that problem is not uncommon with a large bag that has no organizational features in its main compartment.
This is easy; both are excellent bags with many pluses and a few minuses. Even then, the minuses can be chalked up to the simple fact that each bag was built to perform a certain job so its features are geared in a particular direction. Both bags are some of the best constructed I’ve ever come across and each is truly unique.
Crumpler is innovative in its marketing approach and unafraid to design bags which are distinctive to the point of niche. Either you like them or you don’t. I do.
Which one is closest to my idea of a commuter/dad bag? The Complete Seed hits that mark. Though not really appropriate for a suit, and most messenger bags are not, it is a stylish and totally functional workhorse that I’ve been happy to tote around.