Timbuk2 Classic Review
Cons: Left-shoulder carry only, minimal protection for laptop, shoulder strap is somewhat finicky
Compare to Similar Products
Check Price at REI
$160.00 at Amazon
|$179 List||$90 List|
Check Price at REI
$120.00 at REI
|Pros||Affordable, durable, weather-resistant, simple but functional organization features, customizable||Spacious, savvy pocket configuration, easy on/off, comfortable, weatherproof||Waterproof laptop sleeve, weather-resistant, great features, ambidextrous, brightly colored interior||Comfortable, compact, intuitive design, easy on/off, reflective panel for higher visibility at night||Inexpensive, durable, three padded laptop pockets, ample features|
|Cons||Left-shoulder carry only, minimal protection for laptop, shoulder strap is somewhat finicky||Heavy, spendy, laptop zipper not waterproof||Exterior water bottle pocket is small, shoulder padding can get bunched up, tips over easily when set down||Heavy for the volume, not ideal for carrying a laptop, could use more storage slots in front pocket||Average comfort, tricky closure system, uncomfortable cross-body strap|
|Bottom Line||This durable, weather-resistant, and simple bag is thoughtfully designed with great pockets and reasonable comfort, all at an affordable price||This tech-savvy, spacious, weatherproof, and comfortable messenger bag features ample pockets and can accommodate up to a 17" laptop||This is a highly impressive ambidextrous bag with excellent features and bomber weatherproofing||A 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||An affordable, durable, and water-resistant messenger bag for bike commuting tech professionals, with three padded laptop pockets, and ample features|
|Rating Categories||Timbuk2 Classic||Chrome Buran III||Timbuk2 Especial Stash||Chrome Kadet Sling||Burley Transit|
|Packing & Organization (25%)|
|Ease of Use (15%)|
|Wear & Tear (10%)|
|Volume to Weight Ratio (10%)|
|Specs||Timbuk2 Classic||Chrome Buran III||Timbuk2 Especial Stash||Chrome Kadet Sling||Burley Transit|
|Measured Weight||2.02 lbs||2.71 lbs||2.28 lbs||1.20 lbs||1.85 lbs|
|Measured Volume (purported volume)||18L (21L)||22L (24L)||15L (17L)||7L (9L)||13L (12L)|
|OGL Volume/Weight Ratio (bigger is better)||8.91||8.12||6.58||5.83||7.03|
|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||17 x 8 x 4 in||19 x 13 x 3 in|
|Number of Compartments||2||2||3||1||3|
|Number of Large Pockets||2||1||3||1||2|
|Number of Small Pockets (i.e. sleeves for pens, thin items)||5||8||4||3||5|
|Number of Zipper Pockets||3||4||3||2||3|
|Reflective Material?||Yes, on bottom straps||Yes, on bottom straps||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|External Side Pocket||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Sleeve For Laptop?||Yes - 15"||Yes - 17"||Yes - 15"||Yes - Tablet Only||Yes - 15"|
|Stabilizing Cross Strap||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Available Sizes||XS, S, M, L||One size||One Size||One size||One size|
|Size Tested||Medium||One size||One Size||One size||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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
— Mary Witlacil
Ad-free. Influence-free. Powered by Testing.
GearLab is founded on the principle of honest, objective, reviews. Our experts test thousands of products each year using thoughtful test plans that bring out key performance differences between competing products. And, to assure complete independence, we buy all the products we test ourselves. No cherry-picked units sent by manufacturers. No sponsored content. No ads. Just real, honest, side-by-side testing and comparison.Learn More