Timbuk2 – Custom Commute Messenger Bag Review

Messenger bags are a dime a dozen these days. With the rising cost of fuel, people are getting into public transportation and bicycles in a big way, and they need something to carry their stuff. The trouble is that many of the satchels and messenger bags on the market are flat out rubbish, and that’s where Timbuk2 enters the picture.

Born in a San Francisco garage and bred on the backs of messengers in the city streets, Timbuk2 still manufactures its custom bags in the heart of San Francisco’s Mission District. Timbuk2 has been building bags and accessories for urban adventurers for over 20 years, and they’ve stuck with a simple philosophy: to create good-looking, tough-as-hell bags you can truly make your own.

The Timbuk2 Commute

It’s rare that the TSA spawns anything that actually helps people, but in this case they did… at least indirectly. You see, because of the rise of random luggage checks, Timbuk2 decided to create the Commute. It’s ideal for a carry on, and given my propensity for travel, well… it just makes sense. The main laptop compartment unzips directly, so you don’t have to worry about sifting through your bag to yank out your laptop next time you’re at airport security, and it doesn’t hurt that the entire bag is waterproof as well. I don’t make a habit of spilling water on myself during flights, but word on the street is that it does rain sometimes.

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Speaking of water, the bag also features an external water bottle pocket and a hilarious amount of inside pockets to hold your every day carry. You won’t be left wanting for lack of storage, I assure you.

What are the features?

  • Waterproof TPU front flap.
  • TSA compliant laptop compartment unzips to lie flat for airport security.
  • Separate padded tricot lined compartments for both your laptop and iPad.
  • Luggage pass through for your wheelie companion.
  • Removable shoulder strap enables you to wear it like messenger or briefcase.
  • Waterproof hypalon rubberized bottom

This was my first Timbuk2 purchase, and after having played around with it for a few months, I’m pretty pleased with it. I purchased this bag after my last messenger (Swiss Gear) disappointingly fell apart after only two months of moderate use. Just looking at the construction, and feeling the quality of materials – I can tell the Timbuk2 is going to be with me for a long, long time.

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I initially considered a few of the trendier labels (Chrome, Manhattan Portage, Crumpler), but in the end, the price, functionality, and aesthetic of the Timbuk2 seemed like it would be a good fit, and my hunch was correct.

Does it make the Grade?

So, I’m organizing this review a little bit differently. I’ve broken the remainder of the review into a few categories and rated the bag on each. Here are my thoughts:

Construction & Durability (Grade = A)
I’ve only had the bag for two months, but it has held up perfectly thus far and I envision it still going strong for many years to come. After two months of daily use, it basically still looks and feels like new.

The seamwork, fabric, zippers, and design are all of very high quality, and you can tell just by holding it that the bag was built to last. It might begin to fall apart if you are extremely rough with it or if you are a professional bike courier, but for the average person it’ll probably last at least a decade.

Size (M) (Grade = A)
I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how much my bag (medium) can fit — I typically carry a Canon EOS 20D DSLR + lens, small laptop & accessories, business papers, a couple books, a spare t-shirt, a whole bevy of electronic gadgets and there is still room for more. My main laptop is pretty small at 13.1″ and quite thin, and fits into the laptop pocket with ample space. Do be sure to check your laptop dimensions though… my other laptop is a 15.4″ and does not fit in the medium laptop pocket.

Fit & Comfort (Grade = B with stock strap pad, A with Grip Pad)
Initially, I was a bit skeptical that the bag didn’t have any way of attaching a cross-strap for stability while riding. For this and for comfort reasons, I decided to purchase the Grip Strap Pad with my bag and I couldn’t be happier. In my opinion, the grip pad should be the standard pad that comes with the bag, and is an essential buy to make the bag more comfortable and functional. With the grip pad, the bag hardly ever slips off my back when I’m riding.

The laptop chamber with its corduroy back padding helps keep the bag from losing its shape. It is firm yet supple, so that the bag feels sturdy and comfortable on your back. With a rigid back, I was afraid the bag would slide around on my back but if the strap is properly adjusted I find the bag to be nicely form fitting and very little unintentional sliding occurs.

Design Features (Grade = B+ as stock, A with Slider Case)
(+) Swivel joints on the strap make it so that the strap hardly ever twists/tangles.
(+) Strap has quick-release adjustment buckle which makes adjusting the strap a cinch.
(+) Good organizational pockets underneath main flap.
(+) Rubber bottom and waterproof fabric lining the main flap.
(+) Corduroy laptop lining keeps laptop safe and allows bag to keep its shape.
(+) Strong and well-positioned handle so it can be carried briefcase-style.
(+) Velcro on main flap keeps flap secure if you’re too lazy to buckle/unbuckle.
(+) TSA-approved laptop sleeve makes going through security a little easier.

(-) The Grip Pad probably should have been included as stock.
(-) No quick access pockets on the exterior of the main flap.

Aside from a few niggling issues, I’m pretty pleased overall. Most of the little problems are easily correctable, and numerous benefits far outweigh the minor issues.

If you’re interested in picking up your very own Timbuk2 Custom Commute Messenger bag, you can do so by heading to the official Timbuk2 website. They retail for $149 USD, but a little birdy told me that you can find them on the Amazon Marketplace seller for as low as $59. 😉




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Jason Batansky

Jason Batansky, a 34-year-old entrepreneur/blogger, has built three successful online businesses, granting him the freedom to travel and work remotely across South America, Southeast Asia, and Europe. Currently residing in Miami Beach, Jason thrives on the challenges and rewards of his dynamic lifestyle.

1 thought on “Timbuk2 – Custom Commute Messenger Bag Review”

  1. Thanks for your in depth review and feedback. We’re glad we made the cut and not the dime a dozen category. We hope your Custom Commute remains your trusty partner for many years to come.




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