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Hands-on Gear Review
Price: Varies from $47 - $99 | Compare prices at 7 resellers
Pros: Durable, inexpensive, works equally well for biking or walking, simple but well thought out storage, super stylish, customizable, great shoulder strap
Cons: Poor laptop protection, difficult to see at night
Best Uses: Bike commuting, waking, briefcase, carrying school books
The Timbuk2 Classic messenger bag is much simpler than the company's Command bag, which won our Editors' Choice Award. It's also less expensive and is the Best Buy Award winner again for our 2015 review. Although it is less comfortable than some of the other bags we tested, it works well if you're just using the bag to carry your stuff from car to office or the occasional bike commute. Because of the price, supreme style, and great features all wrapped under a waterproof flap, this bag wins our Best Buy award. Our reviewers narrowly chose this one for the award above the Osprey FlapJack Courier because they liked the style and advanced waterproofing. If you want more laptop protection, sporty style, and don't mind sacrificing a little bit of weather protection, the FlapJack Courier might be a better pick. The Classic is also one liter larger than the FlapJack in the 21-liter medium size that we tested. The bag is offered in four sizes from 9-28 liters.
RELATED: Our complete review of messenger bags
OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
The Timbuk2 Classic is a popular bag for good reason; it offers a great range of features and works equally well on or off a bike. The biggest downside is the limited laptop protection. Because this can be mitigated with a cheap laptop sleeve, our reviewers looked past this issue and found this to be one of their favorite bags.
This product duked it out with the Osprey FlapJack Courier for the Best Buy Award. On one hand, the FlapJack has slightly better features and significantly better laptop protection. But it doesn't work as well on a bike, isn't as stylish, and isn't as waterproof. If laptop protection is taken out of consideration, the Timbuk2 Classic scores several points above the FlapJack. We gave the Best Buy award to the Classic because we felt like it was a more versatile bag all around and is the one our testers tended to reach for.
The shoulder strap on the Timbuk2 Classic is comparably comfortable to most of the other bags that we tested except for a couple like the Chrome Buran that had a substantial amount of padding. In general, we find messenger bags to be inherently less comfortable than their laptop backpack cousins - be sure to consult our Buying Advice before you decide whether a messenger bag or laptop backpack will best suit your needs.
Unlike some of the other bags, such as the Patagonia Half Mass, there isn't any padding against the back of the Classic. This makes this bag slightly less comfortable when carrying a laptop. This typically wasn't a big issue, but when we wore the bag high while riding a bike, we found that the laptop pressed uncomfortably against the back. If you are primarily using this bag on a bike and often carry a laptop, you might want to slide a small piece of foam into the laptop sleeve or use a laptop pouch. Other than that, the bag carried wonderfully for biking and walking.
Storage & Organization
Unlike the Timbuk2 Command Messenger, the pockets on our Best Buy winner can be counted with a normal set of fingers. There are no external pockets or sleeve. Everything lives under the flap. However, there is a small, vertical zipped "Napoleon" pocket that can be accessed when the flap is down and when bag is on your back. Small items like sunglasses, a cell-phone, keys, and headphones are easily within reach even when the bag is on your back. This was the most accessible "on-the-go" pocket of any that we tested. If you need a pocket that you can get to one handed quickly, you'll probably find this to be a feature that stands head and shoulders above the other bags that we tested. Next to this pocket, is a horizontal zipped pocket with a long key lanyard. The size of this pocket works well for keys, a few loyalty cards, or a wallet. Behind this, there is an open pocket of the same size. All of the storage opportunities on this bag are all evenly distributed making it very simple to balance the bag.
Just inside the main compartment, there is a large zipped pocket large enough for one normal sized novel. On the inside of the main compartment, there are two writing utensil sleeves with a capacity to fit two pens each. On either side of these are open vertical pockets sized spaciously for an iPhone 6. The main compartment of this bag is 21 liters in size. Along the each side are water bottle sleeves. These are somewhat narrow and best suited for travel coffee mugs and disposable bottles of water. Finally, the flap straps wrap all the way under the bag providing a great place to store jackets or mailing tubes. This also helps the bag quickly compress to a very small size.
Unfortunately, this bag is not optimized for carrying a laptop, but it has a sleeve in the back that fits a 15in Macbook Pro. The large version of this bag fits a 17in laptop. If you frequently carry your trusty computer around with you, you'll probably want to put it in a separate sleeve. The only padding added to the laptop compartment is on the inside to protect your computer or tablet from the contents of your bag. Protecting it from your back and the ground is only the outer nylon/polyester and inner TPU liner. This lack of padding should warrant a serious cringe factor if the bag is accidentally dropped. Don't expect this bag to protect your tech from much more than rain.
We found this to be the most stylish bag because of its clean design and multitude of available color options. Ten color options range from neutral earthy tones to vibrant and spunky. If you want this bag to match your style perfectly, Timbuk2 offers a fully customized version of this bag for $135. With over 24,000 unique combinations on the outside body of the bag alone, you're sure to find one that matches your individual style perfectly. Because it can match any look you want, this became the bag we reached for the most. This is probably the biggest reason we liked this bag more than the Osprey FlapJack.
There are no visible pockets and the stitching on the bag looks very clean and refined. The stitching on some of the other bags looked less professional and sleek, this bag on the other hand looks like it was built by a craftsman.
In our waterfall test, the Timbuk2 Classic earned a score of 8/10. There was some moisture that forced its way in, but overall the bag was really dry considering the severity of the test. Part of the reason for this bag's excellent weather resistance is the fact that it's made with two separate materials: a nylon or polyester outer fabric and a waterproof TPU liner fabric. The seams in the TPU liner puncture only the edges thus minimizing the number of places water can gain entry. This is the same tactic employed in the Chrome messenger bags that we tested. The "corner wings" fold under the flap and help keep rain from entering the bag. Also, the shoulder strap is sewn below the opening of the flap. This keeps water from running down the strap and into the bag as it does with the Patagonia Half Mass.
The bag seems very durable and has a mix of heavy-duty fabrics. We didn't notice any wear throughout our test and think this bag will last quite a while. This bag comes in many different fabrics ranging from coated nylon to the polyester canvas one we tested.
The strap system on this bag is excellent. Timbuk2 utilized an ultra versatile adjustment system that stays out of the way and is super easy to use.
This bag's one-handed strap system adjusts very quickly between being worn high on back mode and walking mode. This also makes it really easy to take the bag off even if it's heavily loaded. The "double loop cam buckle" essentially uses a 3:1 pulley system to eat up excess strap quickly. The strap has another adjustment below the cam buckle that allows you to have your strap perfectly dialed to the exact maximum you want. When hopping off your bike, just pull the nylon tab on the cam buckle, and let the slack lengthen to your ideal walking length. This one-two punch strap system was the most versatile and easy to adjust of any that we tested. Finally, like most of the other bags tested, there is a horizontal strap for attaching a bike light.
The Timbuk2 Classic Messenger can do it all. It was one of our favorite bags for everything from grabbing groceries to daily use to and from work. It works great for walking around and the super adjustable shoulder strap makes it great for biking as well. If you want a super versatile and stylish bag that'll keep your stuff dry, this bag will likely be a perfect fit.
Considering that this bag retails for less than most of the other bags in this review and because it offers great features, we gave this our Best Buy award. This award was a close call between the Osprey FlapJack and the Timbuk2 Classic, but in the end, we decided that we'd probably get more use out of the Classic since it's just more stylish even if it's a few dollars more. It's tough to pack this much awesome into a bag this inexpensive, but Timbuk2 did it.
The Timbuk2 Classic didn't score as high in some of our metrics as others, but overall it is a great product at a great price. If style is the reason you're buying a messenger bag, then this one might just be the one for you. The biggest downside to this bag is the lack of laptop protection, but that is an issue that can easily be solved by picking up a laptop sleeve.
Other Versions & Accessories
Timbuk2 Command Messenger
Timbuk2 Command Pack
Timbuk2 Aviator Travel Backpack
— Jeremy Bauman
OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews
Most recent review: April 3, 2015
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