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Timbuk2 Classic Review

This durable, weather-resistant, and simple bag is thoughtfully designed with great pockets and reasonable comfort, all at an affordable price
Timbuk2 Classic
Photo: Amazon
Best Buy Award
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Price:  $99 List | Check Price at REI
Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros:  Affordable, durable, weather-resistant, simple but functional organization features, customizable
Cons:  Left-shoulder carry only, minimal protection for laptop, shoulder strap is somewhat finicky
Manufacturer:   Timbuk2
By Mary Witlacil ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Jun 16, 2021
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70
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#4 of 9
  • Comfort - 25% 7
  • Packing & Organization - 25% 7
  • Electronics - 15% 5
  • Ease of Use - 15% 6
  • Wear & Tear - 10% 8
  • Volume to Weight Ratio - 10% 10

Our Verdict

Iterations of the Timbuk2 Classic have been around for over 30 years, and with good reason. It is affordable, durable, and commutes well on and off the bicycle. It has just enough pockets to keep your daily kit well-organized without the added stress of figuring out how to use superfluous features. While the laptop compartment offers minimal padding for a computer, it does have enough space to accommodate your laptop in a case. This bag is made from durable Cordura and has a weather-resistant liner to protect your gear in all conditions. If you're looking for an affordable messenger bag that will last for years to come, this is one to consider.

Compare to Similar Products

 
Timbuk2 Classic
This Product
Timbuk2 Classic
Awards Best Buy Award Editors' Choice Award Top Pick Award Top Pick Award  
Price Check Price at REI
Compare at 3 sellers
Check Price at REI
Compare at 3 sellers
$179.00 at Backcountry
Compare at 2 sellers
$170 ListCheck Price at REI
Compare at 2 sellers
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Pros Affordable, durable, weather-resistant, simple but functional organization features, customizableSpacious, savvy pocket configuration, easy on/off, comfortable, weatherproofWaterproof laptop sleeve, weather-resistant, great features, ambidextrous, brightly colored interiorRugged, weather-proof, stylish, comfortableComfortable, compact, intuitive design, easy on/off, reflective panel for higher visibility at night
Cons Left-shoulder carry only, minimal protection for laptop, shoulder strap is somewhat finickyHeavy, 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-lockHeavy for the volume, not ideal for carrying a laptop, could use more storage slots in front pocket
Bottom Line This durable, weather-resistant, and simple bag is thoughtfully designed with great pockets and reasonable comfort, all at an affordable priceThis 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 gearA 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 Timbuk2 Classic Chrome Buran III Timbuk2 Especial Stash Mission Workshop Monty Chrome Kadet Sling
Comfort (25%)
7.0
10.0
8.0
8.0
9.0
Packing & Organization (25%)
7.0
9.0
10.0
8.0
6.0
Electronics (15%)
5.0
9.0
10.0
6.0
4.0
Ease Of Use (15%)
6.0
9.0
8.0
9.0
9.0
Wear & Tear (10%)
8.0
9.0
9.0
9.0
6.0
Volume To Weight Ratio (10%)
10.0
8.0
6.0
7.0
5.0
Specs Timbuk2 Classic Chrome Buran III Timbuk2 Especial Stash Mission Workshop Monty Chrome Kadet Sling
Measured Weight 2.02 lbs 2.71 lbs 2.28 lbs 2.78 lbs 1.20 lbs
Measured Volume (purported volume) 18L (21L) 22L (24L) 15L (17L) 21L (21L) 7L (9L)
OGL Volume/Weight Ratio (bigger is better) 8.91 8.12 6.58 7.55 5.83
Dimensions 14.6 x 12.2 x 7.1 in 21.25 x 12.25 x 7 in 17.5 x 12.2 x 4.72 in 16 x 10 x 5 17 x 8 x 4 in
Shoulder Preference Left Either Either Either Left
Number of Compartments 2 2 3 3 1
Number of Large Pockets 2 1 3 2 1
Number of Small Pockets (i.e. sleeves for pens, thin items) 5 8 4 4 3
Number of Zipper Pockets 3 4 3 3, 1 large and 2 hidden inside 2
Key Clip? Yes No Yes No Yes
Reflective Material? Yes, on bottom straps Yes, on bottom straps Yes No Yes
External Side Pocket No Yes Yes Yes Yes
Sleeve For Laptop? Yes - 15" Yes - 17" Yes - 15" Yes - 15" Yes - Tablet Only
Stabilizing Cross Strap Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Available Sizes XS, S, M, L One size One Size 21L, 27L, 35L One size
Size Tested Medium One size One Size 21L One size

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Timbuk2 Classic is an iconic messenger bag that is durable, weather-resistant, reasonably comfortable, and offers a ton of space for the weight.

Performance Comparison


This iconic Timbuk2 bag is popular for a reason - it is affordable...
This iconic Timbuk2 bag is popular for a reason - it is affordable, durable, weather-resistant, and reasonably comfortable.
Photo: Jared Ross

Comfort


The Classic performed fairly well in terms of comfort for having a generous shoulder strap and sitting more vertically on the back.


We appreciated that this bag carries like a messenger bag should — resting between the shoulders and waist at a diagonal angle, rather than sitting horizontally at the waistline. This feature is essential for maximizing comfort while cycling and gives the bag a low-profile feel that is much more comfortable than the alternative. That said, the Classic does have a boxier design and it doesn't conform to the body as well as other messenger bags in our review. When you pack it with a laptop or books, you can feel some space between the bag and your back. Additionally, the Classic is designed for left-shoulder carry, which is ideal for right-handed folks but not for lefties. However, you can request a custom right-shoulder carry bag from Timbuk2, if you are so inclined.

The generous shoulder strap and body-conforming design of this bag...
The generous shoulder strap and body-conforming design of this bag make it reasonably comfortable, as long as you are mindful to pack it well.
Photo: Jared Ross

Packing & Organization


The Classic covers your primary needs for organization and packing, without a ton of superfluous extra pockets to grapple with.


Underneath the front flap, there is a zipper pocket for small essentials that has a long keeper strap for keys, a cargo pocket for a phone, and a side zipper pocket for a wallet or anything else you need to access easily.

The front panel has a series of pockets you can use for your...
The front panel has a series of pockets you can use for your essentials, although we found that storing our U-lock in the front of the bag collapsed the front, making it awkward to access gear in the rest of the bag.
Photo: Jared Ross

On the back side of this panel, there is a longer zippered pocket, as well as four slots for pens, headphones, etc. Then there is a slightly padded divider that creates two compartments — one for up to a 15" laptop, and the other for your clothes, jacket, lunch, or workout gear. In the larger compartment, there are also holsters on either side of the bag for a water bottle or travel mug.

You can slide a travel mug or water bottle into the holsters on the...
You can slide a travel mug or water bottle into the holsters on the side of the bag to keep your containers upright and separate from the rest of your belongings.
Photo: Jared Ross

Electronics


The Classic provides some of the lowest levels of protection for carrying a naked laptop, which is why it received a lower score in this category.


The back compartment does have a lightly padded sleeve for carrying a laptop, but there is no additional padding on the back or bottom of the bag. However, if you're the type of person who prefers to stow your laptop in a padded carrying case, then this need not be a dealbreaker. Even if you use a padded case, we appreciate the isolated storage area for a laptop, as it means you're less likely to spill food or coffee on your electronics.

The back compartment has enough space for a 15" laptop. However, it...
The back compartment has enough space for a 15" laptop. However, it is minimally padded, so it works better to protect your computer in a padded case, before putting it in this bag.
Photo: Jared Ross

Ease of Use


To score this metric, we consider the ease of packing and unpacking, whether or not the bag's design is intuitive to use, and how easy it is to put on, take off, and pick up. The Classic performed fairly average in this category because the strap proved somewhat counter-intuitive to use, and the pliability of the bag made it somewhat more difficult to pack compared to others.


While there is a learning curve to using the cam-adjustment strap on the Classic, it makes for easy adjustment once you get used to it. Getting used to it, however, is the quirky bit. If you don't thoroughly activate the plastic keeper in the cam adjuster, the strap will slide open unexpectedly. That said, we appreciate the design of the strap-minder as it keeps excess strap material from dangling like limp pasta while using the bag.

The patented cam strap works great, as long as you make sure to...
The patented cam strap works great, as long as you make sure to click it into place, otherwise, the strap will slide through the device causing the bag to slide down your back. We do love the strap minder, we just wish the cam strap were a little easier to engage.
Photo: Jared Ross

Previous reviewers tested this bag on the right shoulder, but we found this to be too uncomfortable as the plastic cam-adjustment mechanism sits on the shoulder, rather than the padded shoulder strap. If you're a lefty, we recommend contacting Timbuk2 to make you a custom bag with right-shoulder carry. Beyond the straps, we do love the intuitive design of the bag and storage features, as well as the top handle for picking it up like a briefcase, and the strap for affixing a bike light on the bottom of the pack.

Several features make this bag easier to use - from the simplicity...
Several features make this bag easier to use - from the simplicity of the velcro and plastic buckles for opening and closing it. To the added benefit of having a leash for your keys.
Photo: Jared Ross

Wear & Tear


The Classic earns high marks in this category because it is designed with longevity in mind, and it is made with burly materials that are abrasion, and water-resistant.


The face fabric of the Classic is made of Cordura, a durable nylon fabric, and is lined with thermoplastic polyurethane or TPU, a plastic coating used to resist water and protect the fabric from abrasion. While this bag is not as waterproof as other bags in our review which feature a dual liner, it does resist wetting out and will protect your gear in a light storm. This round, we tested a three-toned green and black bag, which did not show marks or signs of wear throughout our time with it. However, lighter colors do show some markings with use, though they are merely aesthetic and, in our experience, the Classic can withstand years of use with minimal effect to the bag's overall integrity.

The outside of the bag is made from Cordura - a burly, abrasion...
The outside of the bag is made from Cordura - a burly, abrasion resistant nylon that can endure years of use; and the inside of the bag is lined with TPU, a plastic tarp that makes the bag weather-resistant to protect your gear in a light storm.
Photo: Jared Ross

Volume to Weight Ratio


The Classic earned top marks in this category for striking the best balance between volume and weight.


To determine the volume to weight ratio we weigh the bags as soon as we receive them, with our size Medium Classic weighing 2.02 pounds. Then, we fill ziplock bags with 1-3 liters of water (careful not to make an enormous mess) to determine how many liters the bag can actually carry. The Classic could accommodate 18 liters, giving it the best ratio in our review, meaning it provides the greatest amount of space for the weight.

This bag has the best weight-to-volume ratio because it boasts a...
This bag has the best weight-to-volume ratio because it boasts a minimal weight for the amount of space it provides. Other bags may provide more comfort or storage features, but that can account for a higher weight.
Photo: Jared Ross

Value


In terms of value, the Classic strikes an ideal balance between durability, style, comfort, and affordability. If you're looking for a bag that can carry a ton without breaking your back or the bank, this bag is a great option. Be fair-warned, while you can customize the features, shoulder-carry, and colors, this will quickly drain your bank account if you aren't careful. That said, even if you do prefer to customize your bag, we still feel it's worth it for the durability this bags offers. For our review, we tested the Medium-sized bag, but Timbuk2 also offers Extra-Small and Small options for a lower price or a Large if you need more space.

Conclusion


If you're in the market for a messenger bag, you have — no doubt — seen and considered the Timbuk2 Classic. This iconic bag is designed and manufactured in San Francisco's Mission District and has been for over 30 years. While many cyclists have transitioned to carrying backpacks or panniers for their daily commute, the messenger bag still appeals to folks who prefer the look of a briefcase or laptop bag with more functionality for getting to and from work or school. The Classic is a durable bag at a reasonable price, with sufficient pockets and features, and it provides ample space for the weight. It's no wonder it's withstood the test of time.

A classic messenger bag that will keep up with your commute for...
A classic messenger bag that will keep up with your commute for years to come.
Photo: Jared Ross

Mary Witlacil