Finishing strong in the scoring and with a fair price is the Osprey FlapJack Courier, our Best Buy Award winner. This bag is legit, with fantastic organization and electronics-specific features. It's not huge, but our testers found it efficient and comfortable. Not exactly business-savvy, the FlapJack has a casual look with built-to-last, rugged materials to make your commutes a breeze.It is not optimized for bike commuting, as the cross strap design doesn't hold as securely as a traditional stabilizing strap. This cost it some points, but it was so solid across all other categories that it barely made a difference — unless you're an avid bike commuter (if that's the case, check out the Timbuk2 or Chrome models).
Osprey FlapJack Courier Review
Cons: Not the best for biking, less stylish than others
Our Analysis and Test Results
The FlapJack has our favorite name in this review, with its similar women's bag named the FlapJill — charming.
Osprey is more commonly known for their line of backpacking packs and first made it onto our radar over a decade ago with their line of overnight packs designed with more attention to carrying comfort. With the Flapjack Courier, Osprey raises the bar across numerous categories, blending excellent features with a rugged and easy-to-use design, and winning our Best Buy Award.
The Flapjack did not blow us away in the comfort category, though it is certainly not sub-par, either. The main problem was the cross strap design. Osprey oriented the cross strap in a way that could be used for either left or right shoulder carries and still be easy to get out of the way. However, in our OGL Ride Test, it didn't add much security on the bike; the load just swiveled around our torsos. If you cinch the cross strap super tight, it provides some stability, but then it is a bit too tight around your lower ribs.
Additionally, the bag falls a bit low on the butt, and with a more rigid back panel, it doesn't move with your body. It also hits the bike seat when you dismount.
Some features we liked include the easy-to-adjust shoulder strap with clamping quick release buckle. It was harder to adjust with the left hand (slung over right shoulder), but still doable, and the sticky texture of the shoulder pad ensured it stayed put.
Tangential but related to comfort, we also liked the reflective trim on the outside of the pack; this made us a bit more comfortable biking in traffic.
Packing & Organization
From those early days, when Osprey packs were becoming popular in the backcountry, we distinctly remember their cutting edge use of pockets and organizational features. While the subject of pockets very effectively dichotomizes outdoor gear users, we found it to be a boon in the messenger bag category.
In our OGL Volume Test, we were able to fit 2L in the outer pocket, which boosted the capacity significantly relative to the other bags. We also fit 1L in the outer side pocket, so we listed this as 20+1L, as this extra space was technically external. Osprey has the pocket design so dialed that even when over-stuffed, we could still access that front pocket with ease.
We also liked the hybrid internal/external water bottle pocket — the pocket closes up when you weight the shoulder strap, closing the water bottle inside so it stays securely inside and doesn't get scuffed, bumped, or damaged in transit. It is also outside of the compartments that are holding your electronics. Genius! Osprey nails it again with their pockets.
The pockets are placed so thoughtfully on the Flapjack that they take advantage of any and all space, keeping the overall volume of the bag down while maximizing capacity. Some of the pockets are suspended and sized in such a way (for example the top hidden pocket) that the items you place in it fall perfectly on top of the laptop or books inside, without competing for the same space. The designers of this bag must have some advanced 3D spatial design skills.
In our OGL Load Test, this bag performed phenomenally. None of the bags comfortably held everything, and it was often the helmet that got left out. With the Flapjack, we almost got the helmet inside. The clever shape and design allows rounder objects but still holds flat things like electronics and binders and books with ease. With more and more Millennials at the helm of product design teams, we can't help but ask, just how good is this Osprey product design team at Tetris?
The Flapjack lands at the top of the bag pile when it comes to storing and transporting gadgets. It features great padding, and the stiffer back panel keeps electronics safe and secure. There are tons of organization options, verging on too many, but they keep a low enough profile that if you easily overdose on pockets, they shouldn't be too irritating in this case.
Osprey uses zippered sleeves and a Velcro flap to keep your electronics secure, with several sleeve size options for a tablet, laptop, and binders/folders/notebooks. There are excellent accessory organization pockets that keep cords organized and out of your way, with varying options for ease of access, which we like, because some of our testers have laptops that only function when plugged in (glad that cord is easy to access!), and others use tablets that take the tiniest sips of electricity (so we can bury those cords and keep them out of the way until we need them three days later).
Ease of Use
Osprey shines in this category as well, with only a couple hitches: the buckle that secures the main flap is a bit stiff and hard to pinch when reaching down from the top of the bag, and often we would swivel the bag around to open it from below. This was especially problematic with pumped forearms after long climbing gym sessions.
The other problem was the awkward cross strap that resembles more closely a fanny pack strap (though it is far too thin to lash around your hips). This strap restricted movement and didn't stabilize the load like a traditional messenger bag cross strap that attaches to the shoulder strap.
Given that pumped forearms and pinch strength may or may not be an issue for most users, we deem this bag as exceedingly easy to use. We could stuff this bag to the max and still access every item without employing our well-honed packing-jujitsu skills.
One small but impressive detail was the internal handle that allows you to pick up and move the bag around easily when the flap is open. Most messenger bag manufacturers have not figured this out. It turns out that we scoot and shuffle our open messenger bags around a lot, whether at home, at the office, or getting it out of the way while studying at a busy coffee shop, so we used this little handle a lot. The Patagonia Black Hole has a plastic buckle that secures your electronics, and when clipped, we could use this as a handle in a similar fashion, but it is not as easy to locate, nor explicitly designed for this use.
The Flapjack makes a great gym bag, with enough compartments to keep your clean towel separate from your stinky shoes. There is a hidden pocket, tucked under the handle, which feels safer from pickpockets in crowds. However, it was super annoying to get into as the handle is in the way. The shoulder strap is easy to slide atop our shoulders and easy to adjust, due to the simple clamp style buckle; a nice feature that lets the user toggle between shoulder carry and messenger style over-the-shoulder carry lengths quickly and easily.
Aside from the pinching issues, the single buckle closure design of the Flapjack is faster than the usual two-buckle design, and the lid is shaped like a cap, covering the contents very well and keeping things securely inside and dry.
Office users found the outer flap's Velcro to be loud when arriving at meetings and opening the bag and would have also liked an external document sleeve.
Wear and Tear
The fabric of the Flapjack wetted out a lot in our OGL Weather Test. The contents of the main compartment were perfectly dry, but the contents of the hidden top handle stash pocket got soaked in the rain.
The material was otherwise rugged and durable and showed little signs of wear over our testing period of several months. The lighter burnt orange fabric, while aesthetically pleasing, did show dirt more than darker colors.
Weighing 1.97 lbs, the Flapjack ranked among the top for our volume-to-weight ratio. This is a small but important detail for a bag that you're likely to carry around on one shoulder for a potentially long commute, and which is often loaded down with heavy books, lunch, and whatever other activities the day might bring, such as a trip to the gym.
The Flapjack is on the more casual side of the messenger bag category and is best suited to international travel, daily commutes for the casual workplace, for the self-employed, and for short rides into town.
The Flapjack is a great deal at only $100. It is versatile, durable, and affordable.
— Lyra Pierotti