The Manhattan Portage NY messenger bag is a stylish bag that's ready to tote your stuff around for years on end. It may be the lowest scoring bag that we tested, but that doesn't mean it isn't a worthwhile purchase. It isn't a bad bag at all when taken as a whole, it just scores slightly lower in nearly every category. It certainly has quite a bit of urban appeal and might be exactly the bag to match your style. However, it doesn't have a laptop compartment, isn't very waterproof, and lacks a good way to compress if you're only carrying a few things. We tested the large 26 liter version of this bag, but it also comes in a medium 17 liter model.
Manhattan Portage NY Review
Cons: Not waterproof, shoulder strap lacks padding, no laptop compartment
Manufacturer: Manhattan Portage
Our Analysis and Test Results
Strut around Broadway with urban appeal with this durable and simple messenger bag. While it wasn't our favorite, the Manhattan Portage NY has the space you need to bring your stuff with you wherever you go. It was the lightest bag in the review, but the durable fabrics should still be highly durable.
If you plan on carrying heavy school books for a short distance, or a moderate amount of stuff for a long distance, you will probably be displeased with this pack. It was the least comfortable bag in the review because it does not come with any padding on the 2" wide shoulder strap. Manhattan Portage sells shoulder pads separately for around $15. The bag also does not include a stabilizing T-strap. If you plan on using this pack on your bike, you'll probably miss this feature. Fortunately, you can also purchase a strap separately for $20.
The Manhattan Portage NY is very simple and is the lightest that we tested. The downside to this, however, is that it lacks any padding. When worn high while bike commuting, you are sure to feel everything you put in your bag. When we put our laptop against the back, it was very uncomfortable to wear for long distances. If you don't plan on riding your bike frequently, you might not notice the lack of padding and may actually prefer the simple design of this bag. Also, it does not compress as well as many of the others tested. When carrying only a few items, the bag collapses on itself as it lacks any rigidity.
Storage & Organization
Sometimes, simplicity is king. Sometimes, it's nice to have a few extra pockets. This bag has one large compartment and some small zippered pockets. However, it lacks any good place for medium sized items like tablets, laptops, or power supplies. There also isn't a dedicated place to put a water bottle or travel mug. In the large size that we tested, it was difficult to stay organized, because anything you put in the main compartment fell to the bottom. Since there wasn't a good way to compress the bag, vertically inclined things like books and computers fell onto of each other obscuring small items at the bottom of the bag. If you're the type of person who always likes to bring an extra jacket along, you can use your jacket to keep your stuff vertical.
The front flap has one small zippered pocket big enough for a wallet, keys, or other items that should be kept handy. There is an open pouch against the back for magazines and papers. Under the flap, some organization options include twin zipped pockets that are 12 inches tall. A small, open pouch is a great place for pens and pencils. To the right lives a small key clip that enjoys dangling unrestrained. We're sure that keys clipped here are very happy as they can rattle around and see the world as they peek beneath the flap. However, we believe the key to keeping our keys safe is to keep them hidden in a pocket and thus prefer internal key lanyards. This key clip though is probably better suited to RFID key cards as it would be very easy to use without even taking the bag off your shoulder.
There is no laptop sleeve nor any padding. Without a dedicated laptop pouch, this bag scored just a 3/10 for laptop protection. Many people, however, like to keep their laptops in separate sleeves and won't miss the lack of protection.
The large size that we tested wasn't particularly flattering when carrying only a few items; it doesn't look very streamlined unless fully loaded. The bag comes in seven colors from a flashy orange to subtle black. We tested the bag in navy. The contrasting and bold black webbing in the straps and seams give the bag a very urban look. The red Manhattan Portage logo is striking and as bold as the look of the durable fabric. We award this model a 7/10 for style.
This was the least waterproof bag that we tested. Granted, we tested it in a raging waterfall rather than rain, but it was still the lowest performing bag of any that we tested. In order for this bag to become more water resistant, the bag will have to improve in two areas: strap attachment and material choice. Waterproof fabrics don't help at all if water can find an opening and the corner wings under the flap are small and don't fold under very far.
One great feature about the Manhattan Portage NY is that it is made with a super durable 1000 denier Cordura fabric. This should be more than durable enough to handle day-to-day operations with ease. If you don't want to hear the screech of Velcro when you lift the flap, they included two Velcro strips to cover them so that you can rely on the flap clips instead.
This bag works the best for carrying your stuff short distances while walking. Its urban style makes it a great pick for your daily commute to work. If you live in temperamental climate and find yourself always carrying an extra jacket just in case, this bag will easily swallow it up, but don't trust it to keep your belongings dry if the sky opens up.
For the price, we prefer the Timbuk2 Classic because it is just a bit better in nearly every category. If you need to carry bulky items, however, you'll probably appreciate the Portage's simplicity and high volume main compartment.
We found this bag poorly suited to biking, but decent for walking. The lack of padding on the shoulder strap limits the distance one can travel comfortably. For this reason, we found the Manhattan Portage NY to be less versatile than others that we tested. The lack of compression straps combined with the lack of rigidity caused the large model that we tested to feel clunky and awkward when only carrying a few items.
If you are looking for something a little smaller check out the Manhattan Portage NY medium; the 17 liter version.
— Jeremy Bauman