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Carl: It is made of a material that is both lightweight and extremely waterproof. I walked about 12 blocks in a downpour and my computer and notebooks stayed bone dry. The cover flap is also constructed in a way that ensures that the sides stay covered. This series of bags also features a wide stripe of reflective material down the center of the bag. We were lucky enough to get one with the orange stripe. Yep, that's bright.

Dennis: I really liked the way this fabric felt and worked. TimBuk2 is onto something good here. Their product line is so deep, and though we didn't test it, the conventional messenger bag patterened "Pro Messenger Bag" uses this same fabric in several sizes, and would definately be worth considering. One of our local stores had what looked like a medium in the regular bag style. I was in a hurry that day, when I came back a few days later it was gone. Store guy said all of their Pro bags had sold out.

  Timbuk2 Pro Series Backpack
Nils Sandin

Everybodyís heard of Timbuk2, whoíve been making messenger bags in San Francisco since 1989. It should come as no surprise that Timbuk2 has been successful in the past 17 years, but did you know that theyíve had record profits in the last several years? Timbuk2 has experienced 158% revenue growth from 2002-2004, with sales rising from $3.9 million to $10.1 million in that period. Equally impressive is how Timbuk2 shares the wealth with all its employees. Last fall, over one million dollars was distributed amongst 40 non-management employees in San Francisco as a one time bonus. Furthermore, employees were provided with financial workshops to help them understand options for investing and saving this money through programs such as the Company's 401(k) retirement program, 529 ScholarShare education accounts, and other personal investment vehicles.

Iím telling you this because it symbolizes Timbuk2ís philosophy towards its local employees. Timbuk2 has taken some flak due to outsourcing their laptop and duffle bags to China, but they continues to support ethical working conditions and support their local community by making their classic messenger, pro series and custom bags in San Francisco.

Todayís Timbuk2 product line is more than just messenger bags; they have grown into the realm of computer carrying cases, backpacks, tote bags and other so called urban-lifestyle bags and accessories. This review is for one of these growing product lines, backpacks. Timbuk2 sent Dennis a Pro Series Backpack, black with a reflective orange stripe and size large (made in San Francisco). This backpack is available in 3 sizes: medium (1320 cubic inches), large (2500 cubic inches) and extra large (3200 cubic inches). The bag I tested is the middle one - the Large.

CONSTRUCTION / DESIGN / STORAGE
The design of this bag was the first thing that struck me; obviously not a traditional one shoulder strap messenger bag but itís not a typical backpack either. Mammoth main compartment with simple exterior lines, this bag is designed to fit snugly against the core of your upper torso. Iíve been hauling heavier than normal loads on my commute lately and I was looking forward to testing this bag as it looked like it was more than up to the task than my overworked Chrome Metropolis bag.

The exterior fabric is Timbuk2ís own x-Pac material: ďx-Pac, like our Ballistic and Cordura is a durable nylon. However, due to a three part laminate process it is three times lighter than Ballistic and Cordura and it is waterproof up to 200 pounds per square inchĒ

Seems like the x-Pac material is pretty nice, definitely lightweight and noticeably thinner material than the other bags we are reviewing but the fabric is reinforced with cross-laced strands of some kind of nylon. I like the fact that it makes for a lighter bag (this bag is 2.7 lbs), but this could be a durability issue for some. I didnít have the bag long enough to see how the material holds up to abrasions but Iím confident that it would work well for me.

Timbuk2 has placed a fat stripe of reflective vinyl material down the middle of the bag which pays homage to the well known 3-panel design of their classic messenger bags. This orange reflective stripe is one of the best features of the bag and I was very thankful for it when I was riding at night. Even though the bag is mostly black, this reflective stripe makes it the most visible bag of the bunch, hands down.

Seams are double-stiched and look to hold for years. Interior liner is made from vinyl truck tarp material for waterproofness and durability. It rained for three days in a row during the week that I had this bag and my gear stayed dry. Bag is loaded from the top and the lid is secured by four vertical Velcro strips and clipped with two straps, which have small reflective tabs. Other features include padded shoulder straps, padded back, rear light clip loop and a padded handle for carrying the bag when you arenít wearing it. According to the published data on Timbuk2ís website, this bag is supposed to have a removable waist strap and side panel extension straps but they didnít send these to Dennis when they shipped the bag. Too bad, it would have been nice to try the bag with those features.

Pocket design is a little weird, mainly the exterior pocket. The Timbuk2 product tag that came with the backpack says: ďA large external pocket stores personal items and tools separately from the main payload compartment.Ē

Basically the exterior pocket is a large pocket located between the back exterior wall of the bag and the molded back padding. Sharp or irregular objects (like bike tools or a bunch of keys on a ring) in this pocket will jab you in your back, padding or no padding. I think I know what Timbuk2 was trying to do with the location of this pocket. If you were a messenger and if you had all your personal items kept separate from the delivery objects, then maybe this pocket starts to make sense. Of course, that doesnít solve the question of comfort with this pocket; my solution would be a small exterior pocket, located away from the back panel, that could hold my tools and wallet or at least my keys.

Carl: This bag was huge. My regular gear that normally fills out a messenger bag was adrift in the cavern of this bag. Nonetheless, this bag gets high marks in a number of crucial areas. It fits well on your back and features a well padded back and straps.

Inside the bag is the same pocket conglomerate that is in Timbuk2ís classic messenger bag. Small zipped pocket and pencil slots sewn onto a larger zipped pocket. The pockets work fine but my only complaint is its location. Once again, the pocket is located along the back of the bag. Even with the padded back and nothing in the exterior pocket, I could feel objects in this pocket against my back. So where am I supposed to put my bike pump and tools? I donít really want them rolling around in the bottom of the main compartment and they bug me when I can feel them against my back, especially when I have a large load in the main compartment. Everything would be better if this pocket was located on the front interior wall of the bag, like Timbuk2ís classic messenger bags.

Carl: It has all of the necessary extra pockets, zippered or Velcro. Unfortunately, the inside pockets are situated in a sewn-in flap located in the back of the bag,which makes it awkward to get into when full.

This bag is 2584 cubic inches (19Ē x 17Ē x 8Ē) making it damn near perfect for my storage needs. This bag carried my normal commuting gear at ĺ capacity, which allowed me to take my laptop home more often, therefore coming home earlier and spending more time with my family! A couple of days, I had to haul lots of gear to and from work: my normal commuting gear, laptop, portable printer, steel toe boots and other safety equipment. I weighed my overstuffed load at 40 lbs and it was a bitch to haul back and forth but this welterweight yet surprisingly big bag was up to the task and the backpack strap design made it easier on me than a single shoulder strap.

Construction/Design/Storage Rating: 4 out of 5. I like this bagís design. I definitely could tell this bag was designed for riding. Iím knocking this bag down a point due to the pockets. Get rid of the current exterior pocket, add a small exterior pocket (but not against the back!) and move the interior pocket conglomerate to the front interior wall. Cell phone sleeve on one of the straps would have been icing on the cake. Then this bag would be a 5 out of 5.

STRAP SYSTEM
Backstrap-style, dual shoulder strap with removable sternum and waist straps. Shoulder straps are padded.

Iíve used backpacks extensively for commuting and the thing that always bugged me was adjusting the straps with a heavier load to prevent the bag from bouncing. This wasnít an issue with these straps as I was able to adjust them with one hand while riding; a short tug on each strap pulls the load to your back and the straps are loosened by pulling up on the strap clamp.

I thought that the strap padding seemed thin but it turned out to be just right. The straps were more comfortable than I expected, definitely better than the backpacks I have used in the past in which the straps had too much padding. The clip on the sternum strap seems thin and brittle. While I didnít have a problem with this clip, I wouldnít be surprised if it broke easily. Hopefully the waist strap clip is more durable than this.

Strap System Rating: 4.5 out of 5. I was impressed at how nice and comfortable these straps are. Better than I expected, these straps outperformed my old backpack straps while riding. I would have liked to use the waist strap for additional stability with heavier loads.

COMFORT / FIT / RIDE
This bag outshines other bags when you have heavy loads. When I was hauling a ton of gear, I was more comfortable with this bag design than a single strap shoulder bag design.

I could definitely tell it was lighter than similarly sized bags and this bag should fit a larger range of torso sizes. Bag movement was noticeable but slightly better than a traditional messenger bag. Bag movement became exaggerated under high RPMs and aggressive maneuvers; tightening down the straps helped but where is the waist strap when you need it? Occasional thumb-hook pulls on the bottom of the shoulder straps were required to keep the bag from creeping up my torso. Over the shoulder visibility was pretty good but sometimes the folds of the lid stuck out a bit, partially blocking the view to the rear.

Like every other bag, your back is going to get sweaty. The molded back padding is fairly absorbent so when my back got sweaty it didnít make the bag slide around more (ala Banjo Brothers).

Iíd rate this bag as being comfortable for commuting and up to 30 mile rides. After 30 miles, every bag ceases to be comfortable.

Comfort/Fit/Ride Rating: 4.5 out of 5. This bagís fit and comfort is an appealing alternative to a large capacity messenger bag. I knocked the rating down because of the bag movement (waist strap might help) and it makes you sweat a lot. Like all backpack designs, the bag will tend to creep up your torso.

PRICE / VALUE

This bag is very well made and the backpack design makes it versatile. For instance, this would make a great bag for a college student as it is more than up to the task of hauling heavy textbooks and I think would be better suited for that task than a shoulder bag or traditional school backpack. Motorcycle commuters will find this bag very appealing as well.

Still this bag isnít very cheap at $140 and if you arenít going to be carrying heavy or bulky loads then your needs might not justify this price. Obsessive-compulsive neat freaks might be dismayed at the minimal pocket offerings.

Price/Value Rating: 4 out of 5. I like this bag, despite the odd pocket locations. If you canít get comfortable with a traditional messenger bag and/or have bulky loads, do yourself a favor and check this bag out.

Digressional tangent not directly related to this bag:

None of the bag manufacturerís offer features such as a removable cell phone sleeve without charging extra, why not just include this feature? For $100+, why shouldnít I expect features such as cell phone sleeves, key ring clips, padded straps, well thought out pockets and maybe even a removable laptop sleeve? Címon you guys, set yourselves apart from the competition! Earn my $150!

Nils - Email me at vuggy13@hotmail.com if you have questions.


What about Customer Service - Correspondence - Etc?

TimBuk2 responded promptly to our concept of the bag review and we were able to pick the bags and even colors that we wanted from their line. The bags came in about a week. Now, of course, you are most likely going to buy a TimBuk2 bag from your local dealer (and they have a ton of them) so you'll be able to actually handle the bag before you buy it (not the case with many of these other bags) so Customer Service and Shipping and all that is different here. FWIW, the staff at TimBuk2 that I dealt with were esy to access and always had prompt replies. We even discovered that this bag wasn't in their on-line catalog yet, but they got it up there in a hurry after I pointed it out. Thanks gals.
dennis