Reviews You Can Rely On

Timbuk2 Especial Stash Review

This is a highly impressive ambidextrous bag with excellent features and bomber weatherproofing
Timbuk2 Especial Stash
Photo: Timbuk2
Top Pick Award
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Price:  $179 List | $179.00 at Backcountry
Pros:  Waterproof laptop sleeve, weather-resistant, great features, ambidextrous, brightly colored interior
Cons:  Exterior water bottle pocket is small, shoulder padding can get bunched up, tips over easily when set down
Manufacturer:   Timbuk2
By Mary Witlacil ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Jun 16, 2021
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87
OVERALL
SCORE


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

Our Verdict

The Timbuk2 Especial Stash is a premium, highly weatherproof messenger bag with exceptional features for protecting your electronics and carrying your kit on your daily commute. The shoulder strap is fully ambidextrous, fairly easy to adjust, and very comfortable. The bag has innumerable pockets for storing all your essentials, as well as your electronics and accessories, without inordinate extra features. Best of all, it features a fully waterproof and padded laptop pocket that can fit up to a 15" laptop. If you're looking for a burly but attractive bag that will keep your gear safe and keep up with you on your commute or travels, look no further.

Compare to Similar Products

 
Awards Top Pick Award Editors' Choice Award Top Pick Award Best Buy Award  
Price $179.00 at BackcountryCheck Price at Backcountry
Compare at 2 sellers
$170 ListCheck Price at REI
Compare at 3 sellers
$80.00 at REI
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Overall Score Sort Icon
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68
Star Rating
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Pros Waterproof laptop sleeve, weather-resistant, great features, ambidextrous, brightly colored interiorSpacious, savvy pocket configuration, easy on/off, comfortable, weatherproofRugged, weather-proof, stylish, comfortableAffordable, durable, weather-resistant, simple but functional organization features, customizableComfortable, compact, intuitive design, easy on/off, reflective panel for higher visibility at night
Cons Exterior water bottle pocket is small, shoulder padding can get bunched up, tips over easily when set downHeavy, spendy, laptop zipper not waterproofNo padded laptop compartment, cargo pockets don't perfectly accommodate a U-lockLeft-shoulder carry only, minimal protection for laptop, shoulder strap is somewhat finickyHeavy for the volume, not ideal for carrying a laptop, could use more storage slots in front pocket
Bottom Line This is a highly impressive ambidextrous bag with excellent features and bomber weatherproofingThis tech-savvy, spacious, weatherproof, and comfortable messenger bag features ample pockets and can accommodate up to a 17" laptopA comfortable, weather-proof, and rugged messenger bag with an attractive aesthetic and just enough pockets to organize your gearThis durable, weather-resistant, and simple bag is thoughtfully designed with great pockets and reasonable comfort, all at an affordable priceA 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 Especial Stash Chrome Buran III Mission Workshop Monty Timbuk2 Classic Chrome Kadet Sling
Comfort (25%)
8.0
10.0
8.0
7.0
9.0
Packing & Organization (25%)
10.0
9.0
8.0
7.0
6.0
Electronics (15%)
10.0
9.0
6.0
5.0
4.0
Ease Of Use (15%)
8.0
9.0
9.0
6.0
9.0
Wear & Tear (10%)
9.0
9.0
9.0
8.0
6.0
Volume To Weight Ratio (10%)
6.0
8.0
7.0
10.0
5.0
Specs Timbuk2 Especial Stash Chrome Buran III Mission Workshop Monty Timbuk2 Classic Chrome Kadet Sling
Measured Weight 2.28 lbs 2.71 lbs 2.78 lbs 2.02 lbs 1.20 lbs
Measured Volume (purported volume) 15L (17L) 22L (24L) 21L (21L) 18L (21L) 7L (9L)
OGL Volume/Weight Ratio (bigger is better) 6.58 8.12 7.55 8.91 5.83
Dimensions 17.5 x 12.2 x 4.72 in 21.25 x 12.25 x 7 in 16 x 10 x 5 14.6 x 12.2 x 7.1 in 17 x 8 x 4 in
Shoulder Preference Either Either Either Left Left
Number of Compartments 3 2 3 2 1
Number of Large Pockets 3 1 2 2 1
Number of Small Pockets (i.e. sleeves for pens, thin items) 4 8 4 5 3
Number of Zipper Pockets 3 4 3, 1 large and 2 hidden inside 3 2
Key Clip? Yes No No Yes Yes
Reflective Material? Yes Yes, on bottom straps No Yes, on bottom straps Yes
External Side Pocket Yes Yes Yes No 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 One Size One size 21L, 27L, 35L XS, S, M, L One size
Size Tested One Size One size 21L Medium One size

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Timbuk2 Especial Stash is — hands down — one of the best messenger bags on the market. It's impressively water-resistant, laden with pockets and clever storage features, easy to use, great for electronics, and can be worn on either the left or the right shoulder. For the convergence of each of these factors, we highly recommend this bag if you carry multiple electronics.

Performance Comparison


This bag carries well, has incredible features for students and...
This bag carries well, has incredible features for students and professionals alike, and it's attractive to boot.
Photo: Jared Ross

Comfort


The Stash is well-conceived and comfortable, especially for activities like cycling, walking around the city, and taking public transit.


The Stash is decently lightweight, 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 something that lowered its score a bit). However, we appreciate the length of the padded shoulder strap, as well as the extra padding in the electronics pockets — both of which contribute to greater comfort while wearing this bag.

The sleek shape and diagonal carry of this bag make it very...
The sleek shape and diagonal carry of this bag make it very comfortable while riding a bicycle.
Photo: Jared Ross

Packing & Organization


No bag in our review outperformed the Stash in the packing and organization department. The pockets are plentiful but intuitive, which makes it easy to stash all your daily essentials and keep them well-organized.


On the outside flap, there is a roomy pocket with a waterproof zipper and a long key leash — as long as you remember to affix your keys to the leash, you'll always know where to find them. On the side of the bag, there is an external stretchy pocket for a water bottle or travel mug.

On the side of the bag, there is a stretchy mesh water bottle or...
On the side of the bag, there is a stretchy mesh water bottle or travel mug holder, which makes it easy to access your coffee without having to open your pack. Great for all those bleary-eyed, early-morning commutes.
Photo: Jared Ross

Underneath the front flap, there are two adjacent cargo pockets situated underneath another zippered pocket. Our one — minor — complaint is that while the cargo pockets do accommodate a small U-lock, the pockets aren't deep enough for the lock to feel secure in these pockets and it causes the front panel to flop around a bit.

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

On the inside of the front panel, there are several slots for pens, wallet, passport, headphones, or anything else small and in need of stowing. On the backside of the main compartment, there is a large zippered mesh pocket with four-way-stretch — perfect for your mouse or cords. Then, there is a fully padded sleeve for a tablet or laptop, in addition to another padded and fully zippered and waterproof laptop pocket. Short wonder this bag earned our highest marks for packing and organization.

The Stash has so many storage options for your electronics - you can...
The Stash has so many storage options for your electronics - you can stash your laptop in a padded compartment in the back of the bag, or in a zippered, waterproof sleeve in the very back.
Photo: Jared Ross

Electronics


As we just alluded to, the Stash provides exceptional protection, storage, and weather-resistance for electronics.


There are not one, but two fully padded sleeves for a laptop and/or tablet in the Stash. One of the laptop sleeves is zippered, padded, and features a burly zipper flap to make the pocket fully waterproof. The sleeves can accommodate up to a 15" laptop and they provide enough protection to store your computer naked. And while the zippered pocket is technically large enough for a 15" Macbook, that size is tight; a 13" is much easier to get in and out quickly. The stretchy pocket on the outside of the laptop/tablet sleeve is great for an external mouse, hard drive, or charger cords. We also love that all the laptop storage is secure and separate from the bag's main compartment, so if you need to bring your lunch, you don't have to worry about spilling food on your electronics.

One of the best features of this pack is the two fully padded laptop...
One of the best features of this pack is the two fully padded laptop or tablet storage areas - one of which features a zippered pouch that is protected by a burly zipper flap, making it fully waterproof.
Photo: Jared Ross

Ease of Use


This is another category where the Stash is among the top performers.


The shoulder strap is fairly straightforward to loosen and tighten, however, we were a bit disappointed by the velcro strap-minder. If you need to cinch the bag down tight, there will be some excess webbing to contend with which you can shove into this feature — but it isn't ideal. To loosen the strap, you pull up on a piece of webbing, and when you cinch the strap tight, you can secure the loosening strap in an upward position with a magnet. There is also an easily accessible bottle opener on the shoulder strap — which definitely makes it easier to transition out of the workday. The shoulder strap is fully ambidextrous and is easy to switch from left to right shoulder carry, as the strap secures to D-rings on either side of the bag with velcro.

To loosen the shoulder strap, pull on the magnetic strap to...
To loosen the shoulder strap, pull on the magnetic strap to disengage the double buckles. Once you have the appropriate fit, you can secure the magnetic strap on its magnetic holder.
Photo: Jared Ross

The magnetic front buckles take some getting used to, as you squeeze each piece of the buckle to disengage. On the other hand, securing the buckles is so painless and easy, it makes up for fumbling through our first few attempts to disengage the buckles. Beyond the closure system, there are several webbing loops for affixing a bike light or other accessories, a low-profile briefcase handle for picking your pack off the ground without putting it on, and a bright yellow interior — which makes it incredibly easy to find your gear.

Several large compartments, a fully waterproof zippered laptop...
Several large compartments, a fully waterproof zippered laptop sleeve, and a nice assortment of smaller pockets make the Stash an easy and fun bag to organize your life into. The bright interior is also something we rarely see but fully appreciate as it makes finding things inside the bag much easier.
Photo: Penney Garrett

Wear & Tear


The Stash smashes the competition in terms of wear and tear, as it's made out of an impressively durable material that is very weather- and abrasion-resistant.


Throughout the duration of our testing, this bag didn't show so much as a mark upon the fabric. If it gets dirty, simply wipe it down with a wet rag to get it looking like new again. There is a four-way stretch mesh fabric on a zippered pocket inside the bag and on the water bottle sleeve on the outside of the bag — these are the only parts of the bag that could snag or attract holes, on an otherwise ultra burly messenger bag.

Water and dirt have nothing on this bag, it's as adventure-ready as...
Water and dirt have nothing on this bag, it's as adventure-ready as you are.
Photo: Penney Garrett

Volume to Weight Ratio


The Stash has an average ratio between volume and weight.


To determine this ratio, we weigh each bag as soon as we receive it — in a size Medium, the Stash weighs 2.28 pounds. To measure the volume we fill ziplock bags with 1-3 liters of water, then stuff the bag full to determine the volume each bag can actually carry. The Stash holds 15-liters and does not have the highest amount of storage for its weight. That being said, the weatherproof fabric, padded laptop sleeves, extra comfy shoulder strap, and numerous pockets — which certainly add to the weight of the bag — more than make up for its average performance in this metric.

Even though this bag didn't earn the best score in our...
Even though this bag didn't earn the best score in our volume-to-weight ratio, it has more than enough space for your kit, and a ton of features for keeping your gear dry and well organized.
Photo: Jared Ross

Value


The Stash is among the more expensive bags in our review. However, if you're looking for a bombproof messenger bag that is extremely weather-resistant all around — and has a waterproof laptop sleeve — then this bag is likely worth the high price. The quality construction and fabric, coupled with the impressive design, will pay for themselves as you continue to use this bag for years to come.

Conclusion


If you prioritize durability, intuitive design, and premium electronic storage in a daily commuter or messenger bag, you'd be hard-pressed to find a better bag than the Timbuk2 Especial Stash. We find this bag ideal for anyone that has lots of electronics and wants them to stay secure and dry, no matter the weather.

This bag is impressive - it's comfortable, feature-rich, intuitive...
This bag is impressive - it's comfortable, feature-rich, intuitive to pack, and it keeps your electronics well-protected and dry.
Photo: Jared Ross

Mary Witlacil