Timbuk2 Especial Stash Review
Cons: Exterior water bottle pocket is small, shoulder padding can get bunched up, tips over easily when set down
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Especial Stash is expertly crafted with useful features and bomber weatherproofing. If you're looking for a bag you can trust, this Editors' Choice winner is a great choice.
The Stash is well-conceived and comfortable, especially for activities like cycling. It's decently light, ergonomic, and the straps are fully ambidextrous. The attachment for the crossbody strap is confined to one small space, but we typically didn't find this to be constricting or annoying. The padding on the main strap can get folded under and bunched up if you're not mindful, so that's another small thing to pay attention to (and lowered the score a bit).
Not only is the Stash comfortable thanks to good shoulder padding and customizable straps, but it also sets the mind at ease due to several notable features. The weatherproofing means you won't be worried about your things if you get caught in a sudden downpour, the ample attachment points are great for lights, and the bright interior makes it easy to see everything. Comfort comes in many forms, and this bag covers all of them.
Packing & Organization
The Especial Stash has a good setup; it's intuitive and straightforward, and provides lots of options. Pockets are plentiful without being overwhelming, and the brightly colored interior makes it easy and convenient to keep organized in an otherwise all-black bag.
The outside of the flap has a water-resistant zippered pocket with a key clip. Under the flap are two generous drop pockets and another zippered pocket. All of the pockets are lined with brightly-colored material, just like the interior. Inside the Stash, you get more drop pockets: one medium, one small, and two skinny ones for pens/pencils. After that, the main compartment has a padded divider with a zippered mesh pocket and, behind that is a padded, zippered, and fully waterproof laptop sleeve which will fit up to a 15" computer. The exterior of the bag as a mesh water bottle pocket, but don't expect to carry a very big bottle — it's small and best suited to a container no bigger than 16 ounces. Overall, this is an effortless bag, which makes it easy to get organized.
This is the category where the Stash soars above the rest. Not only is the entire bag extremely weather-resistant, but the laptop sleeve is completely waterproof.
The laptop compartment is well-padded and seals completely via a zipper that's housed beneath a burly flap. It fits up to a 15" Macbook, though that size is tight; a 13" is much easier to get in and out of the bag quickly. There's also a nice area in front of the waterproof sleeve where a computer can safely be stowed if you don't want to deal with the zippered compartment. There are plenty of great pockets for all kinds of cords and accessories, and the overall water-resistance means you can feel confident no matter what you are carrying.
Ease of Use
The Especial Stash is an easy bag to use in most respects. There are a few quirky things that require a bit of getting used to and that we'd love to see improved upon in future iterations, such as the padding on the shoulder strap and the small external water bottle pocket.
The brightly colored interior of this black bag is a huge help when you're trying to locate a specific item in a hurry, and the plethora of external accessory loops make attaching things like bike lights a breeze. The clips on the front flap are magnetic, making them very easy to use one-handed, and the webbing tab that assists with quick-release on the front buckle is also magnetic, so it doesn't flop around when you're on the move.
There's no Velcro on this bag, which means you can be stealthy and open it silently; it also means that the flap will move around if the buckles aren't engaged. The padding on the shoulder strap tends to catch on the edge of the bag and get folded under if you're not careful. We found ourselves wishing it was attached differently and also that the padding was moveable — although the entire strap can be removed and reversed to accommodate either shoulder. Because of the way the Stash narrows at the bottom, it can fall over easily when set down, and the external water bottle pocket is quite small and not very deep. However, if you're on the move more often than not and you use the outer pocket for a smaller travel mug, all will be well.
Wear & Tear
This is a highly durable bag ready for all sorts of inclement weather. Even after months of our rigorous testing, it looked practically brand new. If the material gets dirty, a quick wipe with a damp rag takes it back to pristine in seconds.
The one area of this bag that isn't bombproof is the mesh water bottle sleeve on the exterior. It's a tightly woven mesh, but over time this area might become ripped or snagged.
Volume to Weight Ratio
Holding 20 liters while weighing just 2.18 pounds gives the Stash a very good volume to weight ratio. It's not the best in our test suite, but a close runner up.
This is not a cheap bag, but if you're looking for something durable and weatherproof, it's in your best interest to spend a little more dough and get something you can trust. The Especial Stash can be that bag for you and last for many years.
The Stash is a highly useful bag with a ton of great features. It's fantastically weatherproof and is the only model in our review to offer a fully waterproof laptop sleeve. There's a lot of variation in pockets from small sleeves for pens to large drop pockets perfect for a computer cord or wallet. The shoulder strap is well-padded and can be reversed for wear on either shoulder, and the interior is brightly colored for ease of use. The front buckle is easy to adjust on the fly and will even help you open a beer bottle at the end of a long day. We wish the external water bottle pocket was larger and deeper, and the shoulder strap padding can bunch up on one end because it's not stitched the whole way, but overall, this is an excellent bag in every category.
— Penney Garrett