Hands-on Gear Review

SealLine Urban Shoulder Review

Price:  $190 List | $189.95 at Amazon
Pros:  Most waterproof, best and easiest shoulder strap design, innovative fabrics
Cons:  Limited storage options for medium sized things, bulky and stiff outer fabric, limited laptop protection.
Editors' Rating:   
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Volume (L):  23
Dimensions (inches):  18x15x5
Weight (lbs):  2.5
Manufacturer:   SealLine

Our Verdict

If you ever pick up the SealLine Urban Shoulder messenger bag you'll quickly admire the refined features and seemingly ground-up construction. Most of the shoulder bags we tested use similar sewing techniques, fabrics, designs, etc. to create great bags. This one, however, is unique in nearly every area. While it wasn't our favorite bag of the bunch, it stayed the driest in our waterfall test and has a lot of great features. The shoulder strap was also the easiest to adjust one-handed. That said, our eyes didn't find it as stylish as some of the other bags that we tested and it fell behind in the storage and organization category. Also, this was one of the most difficult bags to over-stuff due to the lack of flap adjustability. Laptop protection isn't as good as a few of the other bags, but we found it to be adequate. Despite these few complaints, this is a great do-it-all bag, as long as you have the cash shell out for the $190 asking price.

We tested the large 23-liter version, but the SealLine Urban Shoulder also comes in a small 16-liter model. Browse our full best messenger bags review to see how this one competed with other high scoring bags.


RELATED REVIEW: The Best Messenger Bags of 2018

Our Analysis and Test Results

Review by:
Jeremy Bauman

Last Updated:
Friday
April 3, 2015

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The SealLine Urban Shoulder is an excellent bag. The ultra-adjustable shoulder strap is comfortable and makes this bag ideal for biking. It was one of our top contenders because of its excellent water resistance, innovative features, and comfort.

Performance Comparison


Made by a company known for making kayaking products  this bag look at home around the water. But lookout  this is an apt commuter bag for the big city.
Made by a company known for making kayaking products, this bag look at home around the water. But lookout, this is an apt commuter bag for the big city.

Comfort


The shoulder strap on the SealLine Urban Shoulder messenger bag has about the same amount of padding as the majority of the other bags we tested. However, its shoulder strap is sewn to the bag at a twenty-degree angle, which makes it slightly more ergonomic when walking or ride a bike. Thanks to the stiffness of the outer fabric, the bag is still comfortable to use when only carrying a couple of items, especially considering the lack of compression straps. The back of the bag is substantially padded with a thick piece of foam. The foam is covered by a light mesh, which improves breathability. This was the only bag to feature a breathable back panel. Our testing occurred in the winter, but we suspect that in the summer this bag would keep our backs the driest.

Ryan's tall frame carried this bag with style.
Ryan's tall frame carried this bag with style.

Storage & Organization


This bag received a 6/10 for storage and organization. Overall, we think it has adequate pockets for most users but doesn't have the superb organizational options of other bags like the Editors' Choice winning Timbuk2 Command Messenger.

There are no external pockets, but under the flap resides a very large and thin pocket protected by a weather-resistant zipper. One tester used it for his iPad. Inside the main compartment live six pockets. Their positions are distributed symmetrically to make balancing the bag easy. Three open and vertical pouches situated against the front of the bag provide a great place to store things like a phone, calculator, or wallet. The center pouch contains a foot-long key clip so that you can use your keys without unclipping them. There is also one zippered mesh pouch. Four pen/pencil pouches keep your writing utensils organized. On either end of the main compartment are vertical pockets for water bottles. These are large enough to accommodate a one-liter Nalgene. The laptop compartment discussed below wraps up the bag's organization scheme. The internal fabric of the bag is white, which makes it bright and easy to spot small items.

The front zippered pocket is huge!
The front zippered pocket is huge!

Unlike other bags that have flap straps extending from the bottom of the bag, the SealLine Urban Shoulder uses two clips. One downside to this is that it is nearly impossible to over-stuff the bag. Also, you can't use the straps to secure things like jackets or mailing tubes like you can with bags like the Timbuk2 Classic.

Laptop Protection


Like many of the other messenger bags we tested, the majority of the SealLine Urban Shoulder's laptop protection comes from the fact that the bottom of the laptop pouch is sewn above the bottom of the bag. This provides quite a bit of protection when combined with the thick and stiff foam back panel. In order for one's laptop to hit the ground, the back panel would have to bend thus lessening the force. The laptop compartment may not have quite as much padding as some of the other bags we tested, but the stiffness of the back panel foam increased its laptop protection score. There is also a thin piece of foam sewn into the base of the entire bag to further protect your computer from accidental drops. A thin piece of nylon fabric is all that stands between your laptop and the contents of your bag. The design may be simple, but we felt confident toting our laptop around everywhere we went. We filled the laptop compartment with water to see if water would leak into the main compartment; it didn't. This could really come in handy if your water bottle exploded inside your bag.

We were curious how water resistant the inner material was  so we filled the laptop compartment with water. As you can see it proved to be very water resistant.
We were curious how water resistant the inner material was, so we filled the laptop compartment with water. As you can see it proved to be very water resistant.

Style


Meet the shoulder bag of 2050. SealLine is known for making waterproof dry bags, duffels, and other kayaking accessories. This bag looks like its ready to tackle a challenging rapid or float around the lake on your day off. That said, it doesn't look like its ready to present your three-month-long project to upper management. Our testers found the space-like fabrics and welded-seam design a little too far out to earn mega style points. We give this bag a 6/10.

We didn't find his bag as stylish as others. the stiff fabric was not as appealing to our eyes.
We didn't find his bag as stylish as others. the stiff fabric was not as appealing to our eyes.

Water Resistance


As the most water resistant bag we tested, the SealLine Urban Shoulder came through the waterfall test scoring a 10/10. Only a couple small drops made it inside and all of our moisture test strips were dry. The outer fabrics of the bag are PU coated, waterproof polyester with a fairly stiff feel. The front pocket uses the same fabric on the inside making the waterproofness of this pocket independent from the main compartment. If, for instance, your water bottle leaked, this pocket would stay dry. The internal fabric is a much lighter nylon material that feels like it should be very water resistant.

Seams are usually a place of weakness when making waterproof products. The designers of this bag solved the problem by implementing a technique that uses radio frequencies to weld the external fabrics together. The process is environmentally friendly and affords pesky raindrops no way to get through unless a seam came apart.

Barely seen to the left of the arrow  our tester exits the waterfall with this bag on his back. It proved to be the most weather resistant in this test. Only a few small droplets made it inside.
Barely seen to the left of the arrow, our tester exits the waterfall with this bag on his back. It proved to be the most weather resistant in this test. Only a few small droplets made it inside.

Features


The flap closure system on this bag was far and away the most unique we've seen. Rather than using a plastic buckle, the SealLine Urban Shoulder uses two "Quick-Clips." At first, these were a little more difficult to use, but after we got used to them, we found that this system yielded the easiest access to the main compartment of any bag. The clips are especially nice when biking because they can be operated with one hand. It was very easy to access the bag's main compartment even when on the go. While we loved these closures in terms of ease of access, they come with baggage (pun intended).

First, there are only three slots to clip them to making the flap fairly unadjustable. Unlike other bags that use a more traditional strap that can be extended or cinched depending on your needs, these clips don't allow the bag to be over-stuffed. Second, the metal clips slide in and out of a slit in the internal flap fabric. This slit, however, is only slightly wider than the clips themselves. Unless the clip is perfectly aligned with the slit, the clip will catch and scrunch the fabric. During our use of this bag, unless we took special care to keep the clips in the slits, the outer material constantly bunched. Increasing the width of the slits would solve this problem.

The flap clips are quick  but they catch on the slit in the flap material and make the front of the bag look scrunched.
The flap clips are quick, but they catch on the slit in the flap material and make the front of the bag look scrunched.

As for reflective material, there is a little but not much. "SealLine" is printed with reflective lettering and the two straps for the flap clips are reflective. Other than that, there is one light attachment point under the flap. Along either end of the bag, there are vertical "modular accessory pocket" (MAP) attachment points where you can affix a light if you'd like. The MAP attachment system works with the company's line of accessories including a water bottle pouch, weatherproof mobile electronic case, and a zippered waterproof phone pocket.

The shoulder strap is perhaps the most interesting one we tested and was the easiest to adjust while on the go. When using the t-strap to stabilize the bag, the strap can be fully extended or tightened with only one hand. Further, you can set the maximum strap length independently from the quick adjustment system. When lengthening, you can simply unlock the lever and let the bag drop to the strap's predefined length. The slack of the strap does hang down when the bag is tight. This wasn't an issue for most reviewers and is something that is typical of shoulder straps that adjust quickly. The Timbuk2 Classic and Command were the only bags with quick adjusting shoulder straps that avoided this problem completely.

The SealLine was the easiest to adjust shoulder strap design. The only slight issue is that excess strap dangles. The small plastic slide lets you adjust the maximum strap length.
The SealLine was the easiest to adjust shoulder strap design. The only slight issue is that excess strap dangles. The small plastic slide lets you adjust the maximum strap length.

The SealLine Urban Should messenger is constructed with 600D polyester in the body and 400D nylon on the bottom. In case that makes you wonder why the designers would put a lower denier fabric on a higher use area of the bag, we'll remind you that denier refers to the liner mass density of the fibers used to make a fabric. This can be a good indication of durability when comparing the same type of material. However, 400D nylon is actually more durable than 600D polyester due to the chemical component of the fabrics.

The t-strap on this bag is more difficult to remove than others, but it can be positioned on the right or left.The bag is best worn on the left shoulder so that you can utilize the excellent adjustability of the shoulder strap.

During our tests, the zipper on the front pocket detached from the material. We contacted SealLine anonymously and were assured this was a random defect. They shipped a new bag. Through our research online, we did not find complaints of seam issues and suspect that this was an isolated issue with the bag we reviewed. SealLine's customer service satisfied our request, was on point, and handled the issue professionally.

Best Applications


The SealLine Urban Shoulder is best suited to bike commuting in wet environments. While it works as a briefcase, it was too bulky, unwieldy, and space-agey for our liking as a daily work bag.

The SealLine looked better on tall testers than it did on shorter ones.
The SealLine looked better on tall testers than it did on shorter ones.

Value


For the steep $190 price, we would have liked to see better laptop protection and style. Bags like the Timbuk2 Classic are substantially less expensive, are more stylish, and have superior features.

Conclusion


The Sealine Urban Shoulder is a great commuter bag for wet environments. The ability to get into the main flap without taking the bag off your back is a big perk.
Jeremy Bauman

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Most recent review: April 3, 2015
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:  
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 (4.0)
Average Customer Rating:  
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5 star: 0%  (0)
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