REVIEW - Courierware messenger bag
So - as promised, here is the review of the messenger bag made by Couerware.
A little background:
After ordering the Mamiya 6 with 3 lenses I realized that I will need yet another new bag for it. The main purpose of this bag should be one day trips with very little luggage apart from the camera (a bottle of water, documents, wallet, map and maybe a book). For any more serious trips where more involved hiking is expected I use a backpack.
I knew I wanted a light weight bag that should be reusable as a non camera bag (when just carrying a small P&S or similar). It should be pleasant to wear, durable, water resistant and not look like a camera bag.
I went through several options (many of then having a removable photo insert) Just to name a few:
- Tenba Small Photo messenger
- Billingham Hadley Pro (cool one toot, but very few pockets)
- Naneu Lima (interesting bag)
- ThinkTank Retospective bag (very nice, but too heavy for me with 1.4kg)
- Timbuk2 custom bags (got s few in hand - a bit too sturdy main flop to my taste, a bit too heavy too)
- and some more ...
- thanks to an involved thread here on RFF I came across the Bare Bones Bag (BBB2) which seemed quite a perfect - very light (about a pound), simple, made out of good material. I have checked the size - looked fine. I have also called Stephen, but found out that some customization I was after could not have been implemented. But as the BBB are made by Courerware, I checked their webpage. I realized that the BBB2 is basically the smallest messenger (with some modifications). I have exchanged a few email with Eric from Courierware and the deal was set. I decided to go with the Messenger Super Courier Deluxe Bag in the size SMALL (11 x 14 x 5.5", weight about 750 gram without the shoulder pad) as it had most of the features I wanted. Eric had also no problem to incorporate the few modifications I have requested (at very little surcharge) and also confirmed that the bag will be ready in time (I was on a rather tight schedule) - and a deal was sealed.
NOTE: all photos are clickable - there are ~ 1600 x 1600 photos on flickr for those who are interested
I have chosen the Black-Navy combination. I found it nice and stealthy enough. It really looks nice in a real life.
This version of the bag in this size has 2 front open pockets. 4 Inner pockets (3 on the front and 1 large with a velcro closure on the rear). There is also one pocket from outside on the back panel with a velcro closure. The bag as described can be seen on the Courierware webpage. It is important to note that tha rear outside pocked is not sewn at the rear base edge and so it goes under whole bag. This allows to add or remove padding at the bottom of the bag as you like. Experience shows that smaller items do not have the tendency to slip under the bag.
One more comment on the pockets - all the pockets on the bag are actually flat. So if you put any 3D object inside the inner pocket the content will actually not sit on the very bottom of the bag what actually allows you to put some stuff under the pockets.
I ordered the bag together with a small handle (very well designed) and a shoulder pad (to be commented later on)
As I had a clear idea what I needed I have requested following modifications of the bag:
1) front pocket should be close-able. First I proposed a two separate flaps with velcro, but Eric pointed out that this would not work with the velcro strips for the main flap and proposed a zipper.
2) I asked Eric to divide the back inrer pocket in two - one should accept a 1 liter Sigg botle and the rest should be for Mamiya body with a lens.
3) To give the gear inside the bag a bit more protection Eric added a 5mm thick closed cell foam
- I have added the strips of male velcro to effectively disable the velcro on the main flap - is of course removable. If you do not want to have the velcro strips (or you do not want the buckles) they can be removed by Courierware.
- I have also added 2 small rubber bands around the bottom buckles as I found that they are too easy to adjust (prolong).
So - how it is actually like?
- The outer material is very strong, semi stiff. What I find important is that it is nice to touch - smooth and soft enough not to destroy you clothing it will be rubbing against.
- The inner material is light grey (stuff is easy to spot - very helpful), it is glossy on touch and also a bit stiffer. It actually has the right amount of stiffness such that the pockets do not "fly around" but do not get in the way when not used.
- The inner (grey) part is not sewn at the bottom to the outer (black) part so you can fold it up what allows a very easy cleaning and also adds to water resistance of the bag (should you put it on a wet floor)
- The front zipper - I like the way it was implemented. I find it also rather useful, as the inner of the front pockets is rather slippery and I could imagine a wallet or documents to fall out is the bag if flipped upside-down accidentally. It also gives me a bit more confidence against theft.
- The shoulder strap (2" wide). Is semi-stiff. Not as stiff as the the ones used by Crumpler (which I find too stiff - I have the "stunner" bag). The edges are not too sharp so it would not cut your shoulder, but to improve the grip you may want to add some pad. The shoulder strap ends on both sides like an "Y" - so it is sewn to the bag from BOTH inside AND outside. No way that this is going to get loose.
- The shoulder pad. I have ordered one from Courierware, but found it to bee too stiff for my taste (and also quite heavy - about 4 oz or 120 g). Here I would add that this is one of the smallest bags from Courierware and the shoulder pad will match the bigger ones (which will probably carry more weight) better. I also found that it slipped too easily along the strap so I looked for a replacement. I got an Ergopad which while small and interesting was a bit too hard on edges. Finally I got a shoulder strap from Tatonka and cannibalized the pad which is just what I needed (small light comfortable, does not slip from the shoulder and does not slide too easily along the strap). See the comparison images of these 3 pads bellow.
- The front pockets. While large they are flat so you are not going to put too much stuff inside. Still - I fit in one my wallet together with personal documents and in the other the small photo items (cable release, mobile phone, pocket knife, etc.). What is also nice you only need to open one of the clips to access one of the front pockets.
- The rear pocket - useful for whatever flat items you need to have at hand. at this size of bag you barely fit inside an A4 book (thin one). I would not put inside papers that are supposed to stay nice and flat as the pocket is not stiff and will copy either you hip or the gear inside the bag. Still - a very useful.
- How does it wears? - great! I have been running 3 hours around the city with the Mamiya 6 and 3 lenses and some more small stuff. The bag copies partially your body and so stays as close as possible what feels really good. Should you need to put more stuff inside than you just do not put your camera in the rear pocket, but you put it just on top of everything (a light sweatshirt in my case).
So, do I like it ... ?
- you bet! It is a great done and well designed bag. It will be my main bag to go to a city with or without a camera. It will NOT replace a dedicated camera bags for dedicated shootings, but mostly I just go out ad do also other things. I am confident this bag will last long years and see a lot of use. Its versatility is hard to beat.
And finally the photos !
Front view II:
Front pockets with zipper:
Front pockets with zipper II:
So - that is my attempt to bring you a review. I will be happy to answer your questions or add more photos upon request. Just be fast - I am off for a 3 week long vacation on 20th
That is a wonderful bag, very practical.
And does not look like a camera bag.
I love the 4X5 configuration, that's sweet !
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July 23 1975 - June 3 2012
Beautiful-glad it worked out so nicely! I love mine, too... You and Eric did a fantastic job designing the bag for your needs. For me, I like the re-configurability of the removable padded insert in my own bag. I really wish I'd gone with the standard sewn-in strap that you have, though...the removable strap option is squeaky and clunky and in retrospect I'd love the quicker length adjustment like yours.
The Courierware shoulder pad is indeed stiff, but it just takes some time and some weight to break in; mine is working nicely for me now. Although maybe due to the bulk, I'll try your solution and find a lower-profile type...
Excellent review, very informative.
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That looks like a nice setup. I have a Courierware messenger bag that I got in 1995 and has seen a lot of use--pretty much every day until I started commuting by bike last year. They're very sturdy, well-made bags.
Not to hijack your review, but merely to highlight how awesome Courierware is, based on your photos I contacted them and asked how much it would be to replace my removable strap with the standard sewn-in version you have. Their response? No charge except shipping!
I'll be using Courierware products for a long time to come.
To the original reviewer - How much did the bag cost in the end?
AgentX, that is really nice from them. Nice to hear that Courierware takes care of its customers also after the purchase.
Michael, the bag itself is $105, shoulder pad $10, handle $10, Custom interior pocket configuration $20, 1/4" bottom pad $5, zipper over front pockets $10 (most probably, might have been $15) - so it was about $160. Of course without shipping to Germany.