The Patagonia Black Hole is an outstanding messenger bag that will satisfy a broad base of user types.
The Black Hole messenger bag.
The Patagonia Black Hole scored above average in most of our testing categories, but Comfort was not its strength. It suffered primarily due to the lack of a cross strap (that iconic messenger bag feature) which made it a little less secure on our bike commute tests. The bag would swing around to the front when we rode up, over, and around obstacles on our rides, but for a simple, short, and mostly linear bike trip, it fares quite well. For a messenger bag designed for the ride, check out the Timbuk2 Classic.
This is not to say, however, that it was a wholly uncomfortable bag. It depends on what your usage is. It is an excellent around-town bag, plenty comfortable for short bike rides from the office to the gym, and ideal for toting to the coffee shop downtown when you had to park a mile away on a busy Tuesday afternoon.
The supple fabric of the Black Hole (which seems to get lighter and softer every year while remaining similarly durable) make this bag conform nicely to your body. It's a breeze to navigate through busy city streets, manage through airport security, or hug onto your lap for a long bus ride.
The Black Hole messenger bag was comfortable in many scenarios, though it didn't have a cross-body stabilizing strap which would have been ideal for improved biking performance.
The Black Hole also has a firm foam back panel which keeps the bag comfortable even when overstuffed with books and computers that can poke into your back. The back panel is a nice balance of protection without being cumbersome and making the bag feel like a rectangular suitcase or briefcase on your back.
This bag gained comfort points in the ease with which we could convert from over the shoulder to single shoulder carrying styles. The Patagonia model is more comfortable than most bags in this review when carried like a shoulder bag on one side of the body for shorter hauls. Additionally, this bag's geometry is so well thought out that it was often equally comfortable in both carrying methods without having to change the strap length, as is the case with most of the other bags we tested.
Packing & Organization
Patagonia got the organization scheme of the Black Hole right for most users, from office to school to daily errands, and even as a handy carry-on bag for your next flight. This bag has just enough pockets, but not too many that you lose things or get bogged down in figuring out where to keep all of your small items. The compartments are similarly secure, but not too secure that they become hard to access.
We did miss a rear document sleeve on this bag for quick trips, such as grabbing our mail or carrying a document into a meeting down the hall. This was a rare feature in this review, featured only in a handful of models, but one we like.
We appreciated having an internal key chain clip, and it was nicely placed– out of the way and easy to access — on the side of the main interior compartment.
The Black Hole messenger bag disappeared our gear like its namesake region of spacetime.
The Black Hole was one of the more voluminous bags in this review. In our OGL Volume Test, we measured 18L, not the 24L advertised. However, in our OGL Load Test, the Black Hole lived up to its name: it disappeared our gear like few others, holding nearly everything except the helmet in our official Test Load.
The Black Hole has great padding on the back of the bag to protect the electronics inside, and inside, the separate laptop sleeve is secured with a plastic buckle. Several useful pockets accommodate cords and keep things neat and organized, and the external zippered pockets, one on the flap and one just under the flap, provide easy access to a phone or additional security (stashed under the flap) for use in crowded areas.
The material of the Black Hole is highly waterproof and very durable, and the outer flap seals well from the elements. This inspired confidence when toting our electronics around in the rain.
The Black Hole messenger bag has a simple and secure setup for electronics.
Ease of Use
The supple, lightweight fabric of this bag makes for high-quality handling: it is easy to open and fold the flap over and out of the way, then set it upright on your desk or the floor for easy access. We loved the external zippered pocket where you can keep a wallet and phone for very easy access (outside the external flap), and appreciated the inclusion of another zippered pocket just under the flap for added security.
The design and organization scheme of the Black Hole keeps this bag low profile, making it great to travel with, whether on the metro, bus, bike (for shorter distances), airplane, or on foot.
The Black Hole messenger bag had well thought out pockets that made it easy and pleasant to use.
Wear and Tear
The Black Hole scored very high in our OGL Weather Test, with the only fault being the lack of a waterproof zipper on the outer flap (though note that those waterproof zippers can be stickier and harder to open and close, so the smooth, easy access with a regular zipper is nice). The contents got water droplets on them in a rainstorm, which is a bummer depending on what you have stashed in that pocket. The good news is you can stash those same items, without making them too much harder to access, just under the flap in the other zippered pocket.
The Chrome bags stole the show in this category, with durable fabrics, no external pockets to leak water, and great overlapping flaps which seal the contents inside.
The Black Hole messenger bag leaked a bit in the external zippered pocket.
The Black Hole weighed 1.77 lbs on our scale, earning it an impressive score in this metric. We appreciated bags that combined the important attributes of lightweight with high capacity, especially in a bag that's going to hang on one of your shoulders for potentially a long time. The Black Hole was among our favorites for the lightweight yet rugged material and the impressively high functional volume.
The Black Hole performed well in the volume measurement.
This messenger is a great all-around bag for the active user. It will keep up with you on your jaunts into town, stash easily in a vehicle, ride comfortably on your shoulders and back, and even travel with ease through the airport. This is not, however, your classic messenger bag for your 15-mile daily bike commute. The Black Hole is more of a shoulder bag or casual briefcase, and an excellent one to tote on your many urban and suburban adventures.
The Black Hole keeps electronics safe and secure, and still easy to access.
Patagonia packed a lot of value into a modest price of $129 for the Black Hole 24L messenger bag. We know the company didn't earn the nickname "Patagucci" for no reason — they're not known to be the cheapest manufacturer in the outdoor industry. But the value remains high with their products. This bag is an especially good deal from Patagonia with a middle-of-the-road price in this review.
This bag is Bluesign approved, which, according to the Patagonia website, means this product offers the highest level of consumer safety by employing methods and materials in manufacturing that conserve resources and minimize impacts on people and the environment. Patagonia explains that Bluesign technologies, based in Switzerland, "works at each step in the textile supply chain to approve chemicals, processes, materials, and products that are safe for the environment, safe for workers, and safe for the end customers."
The Black Hole messenger bag was ideal for a rest day on an ice climbing trip to Canmore, Alberta. It was even stylish enough for the Canadians.
This bag suited many of our testers' styles quite well. It is not too formal for the casual outdoorsy type and certainly conjures the appropriate image with the logo and word "Patagonia" printed in large bold type on the outside of the flap. Sarcasm aside, we enjoyed yet another quality product from Patagonia, a company that maintains a solid reputation for quality products, good design, and environmentally-friendly manufacturing ethics.