Topo Designs Messenger Review
Cons: Stiff when new, boxy shape, buckle on shoulder strap is bulky, very loud to open
Manufacturer: Topo Designs
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Topo Messenger Bag shows that style and rugged durability can walk hand-in-hand.
Nicely shaped, with a fully ambidextrous shoulder strap that is wide with excellent padding, this is a comfortable bag. It is stiff, especially when new, and manages to feel much larger than its 13-liters, but it carries well, and the adjustments that can be made are plentiful. Still, there are aspects of the strap design that can make certain angles of wear awkward, so give yourself some time and experimentation to dial in the perfect settings. This also may not be the ideal bag for someone with a small frame.
Packing & Organization
The Topo Messenger has some handy pockets, but it's also on the minimal side, striking a good balance between just enough and not too much. There's a large zippered pocket on the back and another under the front flap; both are exceedingly useful for flat items like books, papers, or low-profile electronics. Under the flap, there's a medium-sized zippered pocket with a key clip on top of a second Velcro pocket of the same size. Inside, you will find a padded laptop sleeve with a Velcro closure strap and two stretchy water bottle straps. There are no small sleeves for pens and pencils, so some sort of an accessory bag is a smart addition, though it will cost you extra. We found ourselves wishing for one more pocket in the main interior compartment.
One of the best in our review, this is an excellent bag for electronics. The laptop sleeve secures with a Velcro strap, is well-padded, and fits up to a 15" computer. The flap is zippered on the underside and is an excellent place for cords, a tablet, a supplemental keyboard, etc. There's also a large zippered back pocket that's ideal for flat items and papers. The thing that really seals the deal, however, is how weatherproof the Topo Messenger is; after being sprayed down full-force with a garden hose, the interior stayed bone dry. The flap is well-designed with large corner wings, the zippers are waterproof, and the interior is lined with a thick truck tarp liner. Our gadgets were safe in all manner of weather with this burly bag.
Ease of Use
In most respects, this is a straightforward bag to use, though there are a handful of rather cumbersome things. The front flap is a bit stiff because of the truck tarp liner, and it closes via thick swathes of Velcro and g-hooks. Don't plan on sneaking into a meeting late or being discreet in a library — opening this bag is LOUD. There's no pocket inside the large main compartment, so some self-organization with supplemental accessory pouches is recommended. The strap sometimes flips around and twists because it's sewn at an angle for better ergonomics when on the move — and it doesn't move or pivot.
The crossbody strap is rather tricky to attach, and there isn't any explanation or photo on Topo's website about it (you have to push one D ring through another at just the right angle). Finally, the front buckle is very large and not overly intuitive, and the internal water bottle straps are tight if you carry a liter water bottle. This all may sound overly negative, but mostly it's just part of the process of learning a new bag; once you get in a groove, it's all straightforward. There are a lot of thoughtful features that we really loved, like the daisy chain webbing at the base of the bag for attaching multiple bike lights and the fully removable and ambidextrous shoulder strap and crossbody strap.
Wear & Tear
This is an incredibly durable bag. Thick water-resistant material inside and out, waterproof zippers, and bomber construction all add up to a bag you can feel confident will be by your side for many, many years.
Volume to Weight Ratio
The Topo Messenger doesn't score well here. At 2.66 pounds, it's burly and heavy (its construction is reminiscent of a Chrome bag) and — despite seeming very large — is only 13 liters. However, you sure won't have to worry about durability or weather, so for some, this will be a fair tradeoff.
This bag is a little expensive, but for what you get, we find it more than fair. It's made with high-quality materials in the U.S. and offers a lifetime warranty (within reason). This is a bag to choose if you're looking for money well-spend on a long-term friend.
While there are a few aspects of the Topo Designs Messenger that we find marginally awkward, in most respects, this is an incredibly proficient bag. It's stylish with a smart layout and excellent weather-proofing and is perfect for the commuter that wants to ensure their belongings are well-protected at all times.
— Penney Garrett