If there is one company that’s the proverbial 800 pound gorilla of the messenger bag industry, it’s Timbuk2.
The San Francisco based company’s three paneled bags have become somewhat iconic, just like its curly-cue logo. Though owners can customize those panels to almost any color combination, the bags are still instantly identifiable.
From its founding in 1989, Timbuk2’s goal was to create a bag rugged enough to serve the street pounding bicycle messengers of San Francisco yet stylish enough to appeal to a broader market.
Unlike other messenger bag companies, whose bags were co-opted by people looking to emulate bike messengers, the epitome of cool, Timbuk2’s designs were created with potential suburban commuters in mind. In 1994, the three panel design was perfected and customers were encouraged to customize their bag designs.
This gave birth to the particularly unique Timbuk2 style wave, now seen from San Francisco to New York, Memphis to Denver. Produced in different sizes and with various functionalities, their bags all share a common look and distinctive personality that can go city slick or biker artsy based on the owner’s preferences.
The Timbuk2 web site is a combination retail portal and street art venue. You can customize your bag right down to the color of the swirling logo. The site also has an interesting history of messenger bags.
The company sent me two bags, a medium classic messenger bag and Wiki laptop sleeve. Both are in the new Cross fabric that is somewhat akin to a heavy duty hounds tooth. The wide woven pattern at first looks loose and potentially weak. In fact, it is a tight weave that is totally waterproof. The Cross fabric is part of a textile experiment that has the company designers re-imagining their products with more high-end materials and treatments. Both bags were used for day to day commuting. The Wiki is limited in that it’s a laptop sleeve, so usage is pretty well defined. The messenger bag however, is a full service product and I took it on the road to Memphis.
As my carry-on bag, it was kicked, shoved and generally abused. It was also overstuffed and filled with awkwardly shaped boxes and books. To look at it, you couldn’t tell. Overall, these are sturdy bags they both held up well to real world conditions.
Both bags are great. The Cross fabric is different enough to be innovative, but practical enough for daily use. In terms of functionality, they are both well designed and do what you want them to do. I’ve used each under varying conditions while traveling and on the daily commute and they are some of the best.
Cross Classic Messenger (Medium / $150.00)
The Timbuk2 medium classic messenger bag is in many ways the perfect commuter messenger bag. It’s large enough to hold what you need but small enough to not be turned into a sack of stuff. Unlike purpose built bags that were later put to use by office dwellers, Timbuk2 messenger bags were built with that very constituency in mind.
This translates to sensible proportions and the unique pocket panel fitted into every Timbuk 2 messenger bag. There are slots for pens, a clear window for business cards, a cell phone sleeve and a variety of other pocket in varying sizes. There are also two zippered pockets – one large and one small – for securing your valuables and loose items.
Other options like a body stabilizing strap and shoulder strap pad come with this particular model. Small but meaningful features include bag buckles constructed from metal rather and plastic and a key tether located in an outer pocket instead of the normal in-bag location.
Cross Wiki (Medium / $60.00)
The Wiki is a laptop commuter sleeve with a carrying handle. Other than an outside pocket that can hold a few sheets of paper, that’s it. The thickly padded corduroy lining cradles and protects your machine and the bag’s limited features keep its purpose clear and simple.
I found this to be a great bag for moving around the laptop and keeping it simple. I am now very much a convert to keeping my laptop in its own slim and trim bag. I may not get everything into one bag, but this is a sensible and handy alternative.