“The Perfect Carry-On Only Setup”
“Seeking Perfection Through Luggage Selection”
“How Much Can I Fit”
I seek not the Holy Grail, but the perfect combination of luggage and personal item bags that can take me around the world and allow me its domination. Here you will find out, how Peak Design’s highly touted ‘Everyday Messenger’ bag fits the bill or whether it falls flat on its face.
Just to note, I did not receive this bag for free. I had contacted Peak Design and received a discount to purchase some items and spread the word. I do not receive anything for sales made from links on my site. It took me two years to get to this point. Now here we are, providing honest reviews of a real-world product I have been watching since it was released.
What qualifies me to write this review? Did I just pick the satchel up and look at it? This is where the bag took me:
- A 13 hour drive from Minneapolis to Cleveland, OH for MagicFest.
- A short 5 day trip to Las Vegas, NV for a photography convention.
- Snowboarding trip ‘Up North’ to Lutsen Ski Resort, MN.
- Theater tech work trip to La Crosse, WI.
There are a lot of reasons to love this bag. The first thing you come to love is the look. That fabric! Even before you’ve ever held it in your hands it just looks like a sexy bag. Trust me, it’s even better in person. Smooth and sturdy to the touch, the shoulder strap is tough as seat belt and it is hard to set down. Premium touches here and there, soft innards, and a clasp on the front that looks very cool.
From shoulder to top handle, the bag moves nicely from place to place and feels natural to move it around. No fumbling for grip, and the straps are placed so that the weight is distributed evenly. Moving the bag just feels good. No extra straps or catches on the outside allow it to slide into slim spaces, in between items in the front seat of the car or under the seat in front of you while flying.
In the top flap, once opened, you will find a really cool feature, a built in tripod holder! You slide one leg through the top and the other two legs sit on the outside. I’d never seen anything like it and it even worked with my stupidly heavy tripod from a decade ago. I can only imagine putting a nice little lightweight travel tripod on it. Maybe dreams do come true.
My favorite part about this bag though, and you don’t get to judge me, is the top zipper. Sure the flap on the front opens and allows you access to the inside but…there’s what seams (get it, a funny typo, because I’m talking about how the zipper is sewn in…oh forget it) to be a weather sealed zipper atop that allows quick access to the inside. And this is no ordinary zip, it is magical. You can literally find enjoyment by simply opening, and closing it. Opening it, and closing it. Breathe in…and breathe out.
The Less Than Good
Well, what constitutes a great bag for a personal item is something that can serve many purposes. Unfortunately, since I am seeking perfection here, this list constitutes the limitation disqualifiers. I may have wanted to love this bag, had crushed on it for years, but like a bad first date, I had to let ‘er go.
The main bag holds the stuff that you don’t need easy access to. My personal opinion. That means a water bottle should theoretically fit here. However, number one, the bottle isn’t all that stable in this pocket. Number two, anything placed here collapses the inside storage area instead of extending the pocket outwards. Not a great use of space.
While I loved the zipper, the hole it created just didn’t seem that helpful. With cameras and gear being the name of the game for me, I was only able to access a DSLR from the center pocket. However, from a packing standpoint, it fit better on the left side since the handle overlaps into the next storage compartment…just trust me here. Regardless, anything on the side two compartments were hard to get to through this opening that pinched the ends.
Speaking of accessing the inside, the latch-able flap is a cool idea. In practice I found it not as cool. It suggests that the bag can expand to fit more and more things. My feelings were that the bag is essentially full to begin with, even empty! Let me explain. In order to close the top down to the bottom rung, you have to squeeze the entire bag, while empty. It’s a stretch at best. Once you have a load in there, well you’re unlikely to get it shut on anything but the top rung, which doesn’t look great or inspire confidence in things staying put. I felt this playing Magic in Cleveland, the more cards I won, the harder to pack the bag. I did however love being able to lay some things on the top and simply close the flap.
Two things I found frustrating about this front flap. As you can see, the bottom is sewn tight to the base of the bag in a V. In order to put things in here, you put pressure on the bottom while pinching the top. Even my Macbook Pro charger felt too wide to comfortably fit in this, let alone the card readers, memory cards, and extra batteries. Second problem, is that you have to open the top flap in order to even access this panel. When trying to get to little things I hated having to open two doors all the time.
Here I am trying to show the attachment point that holds the shoulder strap together. Pressure from the strap should keep the hook in the…loop? Whatever it’s called, this particular one didn’t hold up, it became frayed and loose only a couple weeks in. The serious ramification here was that the bag kept dropping…yes, dropping off of my shoulder. “Oh hi Mark, how’s your…HOLY BALLS MY $10,000 WORTH OF CAMERA GEAR JUST FELL TO THE FLOOR!” With both lighter and heavier loads this happened, I was just grateful I caught it each time. I’ve also caught bars of soap in the shower with my eyes closed so for the average human, this would have been much more disastrous.
Maybe I should have touched on this first, but here is what I successfully fit:
Photography Convention Kit
- D850 w/14-24 f/2.8 attached
- 70-200 f/2.8
- GoPro on selfie stick
- Macbook Pro 15″
- Would have liked to have added, microphone, GoPro mounts, 50mm f/1.4, D850 battery pack, extraneous cables
Ok, so that felt a bit harsh towards the end. All in all however, I still really liked the bag. I liked carrying it. I liked how I could access my laptop (though with it’s protective case, I had to fight to get it in the slit), I liked that it was a messenger bag and not a second backpack.
It just was not perfect, for me. I think this bag is for a light user of things, someone who has a smaller system and is taking on more urban trips. I was drawn in by its looks, but not impressed by the innards. I feel there’s a life lesson in there somewhere.
The search for the Dream Team of carry-on continues. Watch for upcoming reviews for Peak Design’s 45L travel bag…which I did not return. Also in an upcoming trip I will test the WANDRD PRVKE 31L. I can’t wait to see how they perform.