While it certainly doesn't have as many features as the Best-Rated Rickshaw Bagworks Commuter 2.1 (Est. $180) , the Timbuk2 Custom Classic Messenger Bag offers a lot of functionality for less than half the price. It's sturdy and weatherproof, with good interior organization, and it comes in a huge range of colors and fabrics you can mix and match to your liking. It's also more comfortable for biking than the Commuter, though less so for walking.
Tough and weatherproof. Max Neale of OutdoorGearLab.com describes the Timbuk2 Custom Classic Messenger Bag as durable and weatherproof. The exterior comes in a variety of sturdy fabrics, including Cordura nylon and water-resistant cotton canvas, and the interior is water-resistant thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU). However, Neale notes that other bags, such as the Commuter 2.1, are even more durable. In the user reviews we read at Amazon.com, most users are pleased with the Classic Messenger's weatherproof construction, but a few complain that the loose top flap lets water into the bag. Also, they note that the interior pockets don't have much padding to protect a laptop.
Can be awkward to carry. Neale says the curved shoulder strap on the Classic Messenger makes it very comfortable for biking -- considerably more comfortable, in fact, than the otherwise superior Commuter 2.1. However, he says the curved strap isn't really ideal for carrying the bag while walking. Many users at Amazon.com have complaints about the strap as well, saying it's too short to carry the bag comfortably, especially for a taller user. Users are also disgruntled at the Classic Messenger's lack of a top handle for grabbing the bag when it's sitting on a car seat or table.
Mix-and-match design. Brandon Widder of DigitalTrends.com recommends the Custom Classic Messenger primarily for its fully customizable design. "Customers can personalize the bag by choosing the size of the laptop insert, the colors of every panel, and even have the option to add additional gadget storage," he enthuses. Timbuk2 offers the bag in more than 60 color and fabric choices, including both solids and patterns, and you can customize the colors of the trim, liner and logo as well. However, some fabric choices will add to the cost of the bag. Extra storage options, such as a laptop sleeve and water-bottle pocket, will cost extra as well.
Nice interior, limited exterior. The Custom Classic Messenger has a good assortment of interior pockets. Users particularly like the Napoleon side-entry pocket, which gives you access to the interior of the bag without having to open the top flap. There's also a small pocket that can hold a tablet computer, an organizer for small items like pens and phones, and a water bottle pocket. Neale says these features provide "logical and easy to use storage for small and large items." However, he'd like to see some external pockets as well. In addition, he finds the shoulder-strap and buckle system somewhat cumbersome to use.
A budget pick. If you buy the Custom Classic Messenger through Timbuk2's website, the price starts at $120 for a small bag, $130 for a medium and $140 for a large. However, if you're willing to skip the custom design features and order a ready-made bag online, you can find it for as little as $70 -- less than half the cost of the Commuter 2.1. To further sweeten the pot, Timbuk2 backs the bag with a limited lifetime warranty. Like most lifetime warranties, it covers defects in materials and workmanship, but not normal (or abnormal) wear and tear.
In this head-to-head matchup of eight messenger bags, the Timbuk2 Custom Classic Messenger Bag wins the title of Best Buy. Editors say it's roomy, spacious and durable, with good internal organization. However, they find it harder to use than some of its competitors.
Review: The Best Messenger Bag Review: Timbuk2 Classic Messenger Review, Max Neale, Oct. 17, 2011
DigitalTrends.com includes the Timbuk2 Custom Classic Messenger Bag in its roundup of the 25 "most stylish, fashionable, and practical laptop bags." Writer Brandon Widder likes the Timbuk2's organizational features and lifetime warranty, but what he really loves is the huge variety of custom design options.
Review: Pack Attack: 25 Awesome Laptop Bags That Add Style and Function, Brandon Widder, May 20, 2013
Users at Amazon.com have contributed more than 400 reviews for the Timbuk2 Custom Classic Messenger Bag. Owners generally say that even the smaller sizes are roomy and well organized. The most common complaints are that the strap is too short and there's no top handle.
Review: Timbuk2 Classic Messenger Bag 2013, Contributors to Amazon.com, Not Dated