Timbuk2 Command Messenger Review
Cons: Boxy shape, less versatile
Our Analysis and Test Results
Timbuk2 is an excellent manufacturer of messenger bags, and this one shows that they are still on top of their game.
The Command is an excellent modern update by a traditional, iconic messenger bag manufacturer. It placed fourth overall, winning our Top Pick for Business Use, for its clever and useful electronic features, and the ease of use for travel.
If placed on a bag spectrum from briefcase to messenger, the Timbuk2 Command definitely leans more toward the briefcase design. It is very similar to the Mobile Edge ECO, but had improved security on the bike during our OGL Ride Test from its proprietary Timbuk2 removable cross strap.
The adjustable shoulder pad is very well designed. It is firm and supportive, and closes like a hot dog with Velcro around the strap, making it fast and easy to slide or place over the plastic adjustment buckles.
A less obvious but very important aspect of comfort on our Ride Test was how safe we felt on the road. Timbuk2 addresses road safety with reflective materials, which we really appreciated on the Command. The reflective trim around the front flap buckles improved our visibility on the road without compromising style.
The Command was still comfortable to tote around town even when loaded down with heavy books and electronics. Our only comfort issue was with the boxy shape. This bag does not conform as readily to your back, so it can feel more like a soft briefcase strapped to you back. For outstanding comfort, check out the unusual Outdoor Research Rangefinder, or the more classic messenger style bags, the Timbuk2 Classic or the Chrome Mini Metro.
The Command has one major feature that sets it apart from most messenger bags: the front buckles are not highly adjustable — they stretch only a little with elastic, with four clippable loops to choose from, giving it only about four inches of adjustability. This makes the bag function much more like a briefcase (it was hard to overstuff in our OGL Load Test) but keeps it sleek looking with a low profile for navigating crowded urban areas. In the Load Test, we found it easy to pack office supplies, but not our after-work gym clothes.
We loved the external "Napoleon" style pockets on the Command, easily accessible without opening the flap. The internal pockets are thoughtfully mapped out, providing a very clean organization scheme, especially for office/school supplies.
The tricot-lined floating pockets for sunglasses provide a smooth but durable surface for scratch-free storage.
This bag will accommodate your 15-inch laptop, but not your liter Nalgene bottle. The side mesh pocket was the only organizational feature that stood out as awkward — too small and too tight for most of our water bottles, but you might have luck with your small coffee mug…after it's empty.
The Command is an excellent choice for the business traveler. It has great padding for your electronics and features a clever zippered compartment that unzips three sides of the bag to fold out and lay your laptop flat, expediting your trip through security, and ensuring your laptop travels through the X-Ray machine safely padded.
The internal pockets are very well thought out for electronics organization, with plenty of space for cords, cables, a mouse, writing tools, etc. We liked that we could keep our laptop in its own sleeve on the back of the bag and stash our tablet in a zippered sleeve inside the main compartment, all of which were well padded and secure.
The closest organizational rival for traveling with electronics is the Mobile Edge ECO, significantly less "dressy" or formal-looking, but one-third the price.
Ease of Use
Among the first unique things we noticed about this bag were the straps that cover the Velcro on the main flap. Seemingly silly at first, we found this to be indispensable for working in quiet places, and helped us to avoid embarrassment when arriving late to a meeting — no loud ripping noise as we open our bag in the hushed office! When not secured, the incognito Velcro flaps flop around and sometimes got in our way without an easy or obvious way to secure or stash them out of the way.
On our OGL Ride Test, this bag gained significant ride security from the removable cross strap, otherwise, it would have had less of an edge over the Mobile Edge ECO. The boxy design is inherently much less secure than the Timbuk2 Classic, as it doesn't mold and conform to your body.
Timbuk2's proprietary quick adjust buckle and double looped strap method is much harder to use when wearing the bag over your right shoulder with a cross strap. It is designed much better for the left shoulder carry on the bike. The cross strap, while easier to use than both the Chrome Mini Metro and the Chrome Buran II, still mildly interferes with shoulder strap quick adjust buckle. Overall, the adjustment system was not one of our favorites. We got somewhat used to it, but it felt fiddley and over-engineered. For excellent adjustability, check out the Osprey Flapjack or the Outdoor Research Rangefinder.
The flap closure buckles are quite fiddly. You have to hook them through the sewn daisy chain on the front of the bag, and it can be a tight squeeze with little movement from the buckle which makes them harder to maneuver.
This bag was our favorite for urban and international travel. It is TSA compliant and features a pass-through strap on the back to slide and secure it over the handle of a rolling suitcase. It has a slim profile that is an advantage in busy subways.
Wear and Tear
The Command performed very well in our OGL Weather Test with all pockets keeping things dry through a heavy rain storm. The middle and back pockets were additionally protected, simply by their placement on the bottom or back side of the bag with the tester's body blocking some of the rain.
The bag is overall rugged and durable, and the materials maintained their sleek and professional look better even than the more matte fabrics used in the Timbuk2 Classic. We did notice that the slim profile made the bag bulge when we maxed out the capacity and put a strain on the zippers, which is a long (or short!) term durability issue.
Weighing in at 2.9 lbs, the Command was not the heaviest in this review, but it was above the average weight, and on the lower end of our OGL Volume Test as well, with only 14 liters of functional capacity (not the 22 liters advertised). As a result, it scored next to last on our Volume/Weight Ratio metric.
This is an excellent messenger bag for the urban professional who likes the features of a traditional messenger bag but needs more features for electronics, notebooks, binders, and padding and structure to keep things neat and organized when traveling between meetings, offices, or to the coffee shop for a change of scenery.
This is an exceptionally great bag for the frequent traveler, with additional features that help you breeze through security and roll through the airport comfortably with this back securely stashed on top of a rolling suitcase.
At $149, this bag is above the average cost of bags in this review, but with the sleek and durable fabrics (which still look clean and professional after a lot of use), as well as the thoughtful features for electronics and business supplies, this is likely worth the cost to keep your laptop, tablet, and documents neat and tidy through many travels and commuting situations.
The Timbuk2 Command is the briefcase for the reluctant business person. It isn't overly professional so you stand out in the coffee shop or the metro, but it will easily dress up for your weekly meetings with the boss or an important business trip abroad. Whatever your trip demands, it will keep electronics exceptionally well padded, and make urban and international travel a bit easier, especially when navigating busy airports or on your daily commute.
— Lyra PIerotti