The Timbuk2 Classic is, as the name suggests, a classic messenger bag with a well-deserved following. It's at home on a bike or at the office, staying comfortable all the while. Features for electronics are minimal but sufficient, and the price point is highly approachable, hence our Best Buy Award! It's available in many different sizes and colors (even custom colors for an extra charge) and, depending on the size you get, there's plenty of room for all your essentials (plus a change of clothes). Versatile and appropriate for many different kinds of commuters, the Classic is a fantastic everyday bag.
Timbuk2 Classic Review
Compare prices at 3 resellers Pros: Durable, comfortable, simple but thoughtful storage, customizable
Cons: Minimal features for electronics
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Our Analysis and Test Results
Like its namesake, this is a classic bag with great features for everyday use. It's simple but effective, durable, easy to use, and great for anything from a bike to the office to the gym.
The Timbuk2 Classic has a lightweight design and generous shoulder padding. The strap can be worn on either shoulder (though it's optimized for the left), and it's easy to adjust. The clever adjustment system involves a camming buckle and double-backed straps — a design element that helps eliminate the excess strap material that would otherwise dangle in your lap when biking.
The fabric is supple on the Classic, and its got a boxier old school shape — it isn't like the bike-specific models that sit more vertically and flush to the back. With rigid items in the bag (books, laptop, etc.), there's noticeable space between the bag and your body. The crossbody strap keeps everything securely where it's supposed to be, but you can feel a bit of movement and corners sticking out — this isn't a bag that becomes one with the body. Some of this is size-dependent; we tested the medium size, which is pretty large at 21 liters.
The reflective tabs hanging off the bag improve comfort in another way: they help with safety when cycling on busy roads. Additionally, there is a piece of webbing sewn to the outside of the bag that is intended for a bike light.
Packing & Organization
The Classic has a simple yet effective pocket and organization scheme, complete with a pleasing sneak-access side zipper just under the flap that is great for a wallet. Still, we did find ourselves wishing for at least one external zippered pocket.
Once the flap is open, the same area with the Napolean pocket offers two more, one with a zipper and one without. On the inside, there's another wide zip pocket and four non-zip pockets in front of that (two of which are for smaller items like a pocket knife or pens). Just keep in mind that if all of these pockets are used at once and packed full, the bag can get awkwardly bulky and front-heavy. Inside the main compartment, there are two side pockets intended for water bottles (one mesh, one solid), but they're too tight for a liter Nalgene. They are better suited for things like cables or snacks, keeping them tidy and out of the way in the corners of the bag.
While there is a sleeve for a laptop, there's not much padding. Cinch straps go across the bottom to keep everything tight and low profile, but they can also be used to hold a jacket or thin yoga mat if needed. Finally, the main compartment of the medium size is large enough to accommodate larger items like running shoes or a big water bottle.
The Classic has effective yet minimal electronics-friendly features. There is an internal divider with light padding for a laptop, and several zippered pockets which help organize cords and smaller items like a phone.
The laptop area on the medium size Classic fits up to a 15" laptop; smaller computers slide around a bit. The divider has minimal padding, the back of the bag has none, and there's no closure system for the top of the "sleeve." It works, but it's not optimal. The internal water bottle pockets can nest small cords nicely, and the zippered pocket on the inside front is suitable for a large cord. There's quite a few smaller pockets ideal for a phone or phone charger. In most respects, this bag is also quite waterproof, though moisture can sneak in the sides under the flap if you don't have it folded correctly. If you're not careful and the sides stick out from under the flap, then water has an easy way to enter.
Ease of Use
The double-loop cam buckle system on this bag is designed to allow quick and easy shoulder strap adjustments while eliminating any excess webbing. It's a nice concept and, once you get the hang of it, very quick and easy to adjust.
While the Classic can be worn on either shoulder, if you prefer the right side, the cam system will be on your back and out of reach instead of accessible at the front. The system also runs the risk of being TOO easy to use — if you're not careful and you don't press it down to lock completely, it can fly open. The front flap secures both with Velcro and partially-concealed SR (side-release) buckles, very straightforward.
The Classic has a low-profile grab handle, which is set slightly toward the back of the bag. If you grab the bag without the front flap firmly closed, it will tilt forward, and the inner compartment will open, so make sure you pay attention when in a hurry. There are also compression straps that cinch from the bottom to help keep everything compact and secure when not loaded to max capacity.
Wear & Tear
This bag performs quite well in the rain. The fabric wets out a bit, but the bag has a robust liner and great side folding flaps that seal the contents from the rain — just make sure they are folded properly before heading out, as mentioned above!
The simplicity of the Classic makes it exceptionally durable, though the lighter colors do get dirty relatively quickly. Even though the fabric shows signs of wear in a relatively short amount of time, this does not compromise the weatherproofing or performance; it's strictly aesthetic.
Volume to Weight Ratio
We most recently tested the medium size Classic, which is a whopping 21 liters, the largest in our review. It only weighs two pounds giving this bag a great volume to weight ratio — remember, the bigger the number, the better for this number! This is more volume with a lighter weight than previous iterations of this bag, and some reviewers online feel that durability has gone down because of this. In our time with the most recent version, we had zero durability issues, but we'll be sure to report back if this changes.
If 21 liters sounds like too much, you can get a nine liter (size extra-small) or a 14 liter (size small) as well. Or, if you want to go bigger, there's also a size large, which boasts 28 liters.
The Classic provides excellent value for the price point, as do all our Best Buy winners. If you choose to customize it rather than go for a ready-made version, you'll quickly find yourself adding fun features and kicking up that price, so keep that in mind when considering what you want. We tested a medium; you can get the small or extra-small sizes for even less.
Timbuk2 was born and bred in San Francisco, and they still make their bags in the Mission District. They created the iconic messenger bag look back in 1989 and design their products to last a lifetime. Nostalgia aside, many of our testers now say they prefer to commute on their bikes with a backpack instead of the classic messenger bag, so Timbuk2 offers those too. Increasingly, we see the messenger bag as filling the role of the casual briefcase, the purse (or "man-purse"), or a gym bag. The Classic can fit any of these roles, and it's also great when on a bike. It features an excellent design with high-quality manufacturing at a very fair price — an easy and obvious choice for one of our Best Buy Awards.
— Penney Garrett & Lyra Pierotti