Commuter & Dad Bag Test: Timbuk2

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Timbuk2 Cross Classic Messenger ($150.00) & Cross Wiki ($60.00) / www.Timbuk2.com

If there is one company that’s the proverbial 800 pound gorilla of the messenger bag industry, it’s Timbuk2. The San Francisco based company’s three paneled bags have become somewhat iconic, just like its curly-cue logo. Though owners can customize those panels to almost any color combination, the bags are still instantly identifiable.

From its founding in 1989, Timbuk2’s goal was to create a bag rugged enough to serve the street pounding bicycle messengers of San Francisco yet stylish enough to appeal to a broader market.

Unlike other messenger bag companies, whose bags were co-opted by people looking to emulate bike messengers, the epitome of cool, Timbuk2’s designs were created with potential suburban commuters in mind. In 1994, the three panel design was perfected and customers were encouraged to customize their bag designs.

This gave birth to the particularly unique Timbuk2 style wave, now seen from San Francisco to New York, Memphis to Denver. Produced in different sizes and with various functionalities, their bags all share a common look and distinctive personality that can go city slick or biker artsy based on the owner’s preferences.

The Timbuk2 web site is a combination retail portal and street art venue. You can customize your bag right down to the color of the swirling logo. The site also has an interesting history of messenger bags.

Background

The company sent me two bags, a medium classic messenger bag and Wiki laptop sleeve. Both are in the new Cross fabric that is somewhat akin to a heavy duty hounds tooth. The wide woven pattern at first looks loose and potentially weak. In fact, it is a tight weave that is totally waterproof. The Cross fabric is part of a textile experiment that has the company designers re-imagining their products with more high-end materials and treatments.

The Results

Both bags are great in their own ways. The Cross fabric is different enough to be innovative, but practical enough for daily use. In terms of bags’ functionality, they are each well designed and do what you want them to do.

Cross Classic Messenger (M)

The Timbuk2 medium classic messenger bag is in many ways the perfect commuter messenger bag. It’s large enough to hold what you need but small enough not to turn into a sack of stuff. Unlike purpose built bags that were later put to use by office dwellers, Timbuk2 messenger bags were built with that very constituency in mind.

That translates to the unique pocket panel fitted into every Timbuk 2 messenger bag. There are slots for pens, a clear window of business cards, a cell phone sleeve and a variety of other pocket in varying sizes. There are also two zippered pockets – one large and one small – for securing your valuables and loose items.

Other options like a body stabilizing strap and shoulder strap pad come with this particular model. Small but meaningful features include bag buckles constructed from metal rather and plastic and a key tether located in an outer pocket instead of the normal in-bag location.

Cross Wiki

The Wiki is a laptop commuter sleeve with a carrying handle. Other than an outside pocket that can hold a few sheets of paper, that’s it. The thickly padded corduroy lining cradles and protects your machine and the limited features keep its purpose clear and simple.

I found this to be a great bag for moving around the laptop and keeping it simple. I am a convert to keeping my laptop in its own slim and trim bag. I may not get everything into one bag, but this is a sensible and handy alternative.


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Chris Hogan, an association executive based in Washington, D.C., blogs at OffTheCuffDC.com. A lifelong interest in style and clothing led to sales and management positions at several Ralph Lauren stores and an active wardrobe consulting practice