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Chrome Buran III Review

This tech-savvy, spacious, weatherproof, and comfortable messenger bag features ample pockets and can accommodate up to a 17" laptop
Chrome Buran III
Photo: Chrome
Editors' Choice Award
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Price:  $160 List | $160.00 at Backcountry
Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros:  Spacious, savvy pocket configuration, easy on/off, comfortable, weatherproof
Cons:  Heavy, spendy, laptop zipper not waterproof
Manufacturer:   Chrome
By Mary Witlacil ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Jun 16, 2021
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92
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#1 of 9
  • Comfort - 25% 10
  • Packing & Organization - 25% 9
  • Electronics - 15% 9
  • Ease of Use - 15% 9
  • Wear & Tear - 10% 9
  • Volume to Weight Ratio - 10% 8

Our Verdict

The Chrome Buran III is a beast of a bag. It's built for the long haul and designed with ease of use and organization in mind. It even has a padded pocket to accommodate up to a 17" laptop — the largest capacity for an electronics pocket in our review. With the classic Chrome seat-belt shoulder strap closure, this is also the easiest bag to get on and take off; and with this newly redesigned model, you can easily position the shoulder strap for right or left carry. It is made from a burly 1050 denier nylon fabric and has a 500 denier TPE tarp liner — essentially a bag-within-a-bag — to guarantee the Buran will protect your gear in the gnarliest of weather.

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Chrome Buran III
This Product
Chrome Buran III
Awards Editors' Choice Award Top Pick Award Top Pick Award Best Buy Award  
Price $160.00 at Backcountry
Compare at 3 sellers
$179.00 at Backcountry
Compare at 2 sellers
$170 ListCheck Price at REI
Compare at 3 sellers
Check Price at REI
Compare at 2 sellers
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Pros Spacious, savvy pocket configuration, easy on/off, comfortable, weatherproofWaterproof laptop sleeve, weather-resistant, great features, ambidextrous, brightly colored interiorRugged, weather-proof, stylish, comfortableAffordable, durable, weather-resistant, simple but functional organization features, customizableComfortable, compact, intuitive design, easy on/off, reflective panel for higher visibility at night
Cons Heavy, spendy, laptop zipper not waterproofExterior water bottle pocket is small, shoulder padding can get bunched up, tips over easily when set downNo padded laptop compartment, cargo pockets don't perfectly accommodate a U-lockLeft-shoulder carry only, minimal protection for laptop, shoulder strap is somewhat finickyHeavy for the volume, not ideal for carrying a laptop, could use more storage slots in front pocket
Bottom Line This tech-savvy, spacious, weatherproof, and comfortable messenger bag features ample pockets and can accommodate up to a 17" laptopThis is a highly impressive ambidextrous bag with excellent features and bomber weatherproofingA comfortable, weather-proof, and rugged messenger bag with an attractive aesthetic and just enough pockets to organize your gearThis durable, weather-resistant, and simple bag is thoughtfully designed with great pockets and reasonable comfort, all at an affordable priceA compact and comfortable bag for carrying your daily essentials, featuring a seatbelt buckle for easy on and off and a reflective panel for increased visibility
Rating Categories Chrome Buran III Timbuk2 Especial Stash Mission Workshop Monty Timbuk2 Classic Chrome Kadet Sling
Comfort (25%)
10.0
8.0
8.0
7.0
9.0
Packing & Organization (25%)
9.0
10.0
8.0
7.0
6.0
Electronics (15%)
9.0
10.0
6.0
5.0
4.0
Ease Of Use (15%)
9.0
8.0
9.0
6.0
9.0
Wear & Tear (10%)
9.0
9.0
9.0
8.0
6.0
Volume To Weight Ratio (10%)
8.0
6.0
7.0
10.0
5.0
Specs Chrome Buran III Timbuk2 Especial Stash Mission Workshop Monty Timbuk2 Classic Chrome Kadet Sling
Measured Weight 2.71 lbs 2.28 lbs 2.78 lbs 2.02 lbs 1.20 lbs
Measured Volume (purported volume) 22L (24L) 15L (17L) 21L (21L) 18L (21L) 7L (9L)
OGL Volume/Weight Ratio (bigger is better) 8.12 6.58 7.55 8.91 5.83
Dimensions 21.25 x 12.25 x 7 in 17.5 x 12.2 x 4.72 in 16 x 10 x 5 14.6 x 12.2 x 7.1 in 17 x 8 x 4 in
Shoulder Preference Either Either Either Left Left
Number of Compartments 2 3 3 2 1
Number of Large Pockets 1 3 2 2 1
Number of Small Pockets (i.e. sleeves for pens, thin items) 8 4 4 5 3
Number of Zipper Pockets 4 3 3, 1 large and 2 hidden inside 3 2
Key Clip? No Yes No Yes Yes
Reflective Material? Yes, on bottom straps Yes No Yes, on bottom straps Yes
External Side Pocket Yes Yes Yes No Yes
Sleeve For Laptop? Yes - 17" Yes - 15" Yes - 15" Yes - 15" Yes - Tablet Only
Stabilizing Cross Strap Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Available Sizes One size One Size 21L, 27L, 35L XS, S, M, L One size
Size Tested One size One Size 21L Medium One size

Our Analysis and Test Results

We love the newly overhauled Buran III for being ruggedly durable and featuring an intuitive pocket system to organize your gear. With the tarp liner, it is fully weatherproof, and the padded laptop pocket holds up to a 17" laptop. This bag is comfortable, easy to put on and take off, and will keep up with your daily commute without cramping your style.

Performance Comparison


The Chrome Buran is a savvy, comfortable, and stylish messenger bag...
The Chrome Buran is a savvy, comfortable, and stylish messenger bag with space for up to a 17" laptop - great for cycling around town and commuting to work.
Photo: Jared Ross

Comfort


The Buran III earns top marks for comfort thanks to its full coverage shoulder strap, easy adjustability, and form-molding shape.


We were pleasantly surprised with how comfortably the Buran III carried, even when weighed down with all our gear. Then again, it should come as no surprise that a company that has been designing and making messenger bags for almost three decades would design a bag that carries well. If you need to switch between carrying your bag on the left or right shoulder, no problem, you can easily swap the shoulder strap. The cross-body stabilizing strap allows for a form-molding fit that holds the bag in place while riding a bike or commuting on foot. If you don't like using a stabilizer strap, it is easily removable by releasing the velcro that holds it onto the bag. All-in-all we were impressed that a messenger bag with such immense capacity would provide equally immense comfort as well.

The Buran has one of the longer padded sections on a shoulder strap...
The Buran has one of the longer padded sections on a shoulder strap in our review. More shoulder coverage means that the weight in your bag is dispersed over a larger area and the strap is more comfortable overall. This shoulder strap is ambidextrous as well - a feature lefties are sure to love.
Photo: Jared Ross

Packing & Organization


The Buran III has just enough of the right features to make packing and organization an absolute breeze, earning it top marks in this category.


The Buran features a padded and zippered laptop sleeve on the back of the pack that can accommodate a 15"+ laptop (one of the few messenger bags that can). On the inside flap, there is a cargo pocket wide enough to easily stash a small U-lock, a wide zippered pocket for your wallet or other stashables, two pen slots, and a smaller cargo pocket. There is also a small piece of webbing — below the main pockets — for affixing a bike light. A great safety feature, if you ask us!

The cargo pocket on the inside of the Buran is great for easily...
The cargo pocket on the inside of the Buran is great for easily stashing and accessing a mini U-lock.
Photo: Jared Ross

On either side of this bag, there are cargo pockets for an eyeglass case and if you utilize the space created on either side of the velcro liner there is a perfect spot to store a coffee mug or water bottle without fear of spilling on your books, clothing, or other precious items. Finally, on both sides of the bag, there are zippered pockets for easy access to essentials like your phone, wallet, or keys. We love how the Buran III provides just enough pockets for easy organization, without overwhelming you with the burden of too many.

The Buran has an intuitively designed storage system with three...
The Buran has an intuitively designed storage system with three tiers of pockets on either side of the bag. The third tier is accessed by sliding something - like a coffee mug - into the space created by the liner. This means you can keep your fluids away from the rest of your kit, without fear of spills or leakage onto your gear.
Photo: Jared Ross

Electronics


One of the best things about the Buran III is that it can accommodate a 17" laptop in the zippered laptop sleeve on the back of the bag — the only bag in our review that has built-in space for a computer that large.


The zippered laptop pocket positions your computer in the back of the pack so that if you are caught in a rainstorm, the rest of the bag will protect it from the weather. And while the zipper has a Cordura hood to hide the zipper from the elements, we think Chrome could do one better by making this a waterproof zipper for added weather protection. Other bags in our review have a separate section for a tablet, which is why the Buran didn't earn the top accolade in this category.

The Buran features a zippered and padded laptop pocket on the back...
The Buran features a zippered and padded laptop pocket on the back of the bag that can accommodate up to a 17" laptop.
Photo: Jared Ross

Ease of Use


This is a category where the Buran truly shines. From adjustability to packing and unpacking to getting it on and off, this bag is well-designed to avoid complicating your commute with unnecessary features.


The Buran III — like other Chrome bags, features a seat-belt closure system, where you can take the bag off with a press of a button. This is great if you want to avoid messing up your hair or knocking off your hat and/or glasses. With velcro and plastic buckles, it is easy to get into the bag as well as close it. The shoulder strap adjusts easily and can be reoriented for carrying on your left or right shoulder. There is a handle on the top of a bag to make it easier to grab when getting into or out of a vehicle. The packing and organization system makes for easy use as well, especially in regards to accessing essentials like a small U-lock, your wallet, phone, or keys. Given all these intuitive features, it is easy to see why the Buran aced this metric.

The Buran has the classic Chrome seat-belt-style buckle on the...
The Buran has the classic Chrome seat-belt-style buckle on the shoulder strap. This makes putting it on and taking it off - without messing up your hair or losing your hat and glasses - an absolute breeze. Just watch out for your prankster friends who might try to push the button while you aren't paying attention.
Photo: Jared Ross

Wear & Tear


With a rugged and abrasion-resistant 1050 denier nylon fabric and weather-proof 500D TPE tarp liner, the Buran III is among the most durable bags in our review.


During the testing cycle, this bag showed minimal signs of wear. Our lead reviewer has owned and abused two additional bags made from the same material for 7 and 10 years respectively. As such, we can easily speak to the long-term durability of the fabric used by the Buran III. Furthermore, it is a bag within a bag — there is a tarp liner that sits within the exterior compartment of the bag. This means that you're highly unlikely to fully puncture the bag — unless you aim to do so intentionally — as you'd have to penetrate two burly layers. You might expect this design to be heavy and unwieldy, but this bag is comparable in weight to some of the other burly bags in our review, and it doesn't carry like a hefty bag.

With a rugged 1050 denier nylon fabric and an inner tarp, the Buran...
With a rugged 1050 denier nylon fabric and an inner tarp, the Buran is built to endure years of heavy use - whether bike commuting, traveling, or taking the rail.
Photo: Jared Ross

Volume to Weight Ratio


The Buran III has an above-average volume to weight ratio.


With a measured weight of 2.71 pounds and a measured volume of 22 liters for the main compartment (it is listed as having 24 liters, but in our tests, it couldn't quite fit that much), the Buran III has a respectable volume to weight ratio. The higher-ranked bags in this department have a greater amount of space for their measured weight. To determine this ratio, we began by weighing each of the bags immediately after receiving them. Then, we measured their volume by determining how many ziplock bags filled with 1-3 liters of water could fit inside each bag.

The Buran has one of our highest volume to weight ratio - meaning it...
The Buran has one of our highest volume to weight ratio - meaning it will carry a ton of gear for the weight of the bag, and it even has all sorts of hidden pockets to stash your wallet or keys for easy access, when the rest of your bag is bursting at the seams.
Photo: Jared Ross

Value


With expert-level construction, quality materials, and a user-friendly design, the Buran III offers much for the high price it fetches. While it is not the most expensive bag in our review, neither is it the cheapest. That being said, this is an exceptionally well-crafted and durable messenger bag that will see you through years of commuting by bicycle or rail. Given the excellent packing and organization options, the easy adjustability and ability to change shoulder strap position, and the padded laptop pocket that accommodates a 17" laptop, we think this bag offers a great value for the right person.

Conclusion


It's no secret, our review team loved the Chrome Buran III. It takes the classic Chrome messenger bag and improves on it to better suit folks in tech, students, writers, or anyone who needs to commute with a large well-protected laptop. It is comfortable, easy to use, and built to last — a true winner.

For those dreamy evening commutes, the Buran is a great companion -...
For those dreamy evening commutes, the Buran is a great companion - it has enough space for everything you need and is comfortable enough to carry it well.
Photo: Jared Ross

Mary Witlacil