Vaja 15″ Messenger Bag

At least once or twice throughout the years, I have mentioned to John Hindaly of Vaja that it would be fantastic if they would consider adding a line of gear bags. All this time, I’ve been waiting patiently for them to create one of their masterpieces… I’m happy to say that my (and your) wait is now over. Vaja has just announced 3 new gear bags. A 15″ wide messenger, a 15″ vertical messenger and a slim messenger bag. They sent me the 15″ vertical messenger bag tonight. I’m honored that Vaja chose The Gadgeteer as the first review site that they’ve sent a sample to!

I think this is the biggest Vaja box I’ve ever seen ;o) I’m so used to receiving their boxes that fit in the palm of my hand.

Mmmmmm, can you smell that yummy leather fragrance? No one is able to resist it. I took this bag with me to work and everyone that saw it had to pick it up and sniff it.

This bag is gorgeous! It has 5 pockets (2 zippered) and an adjustable heavy woven shoulder strap. Size wise, it is 14 x 11.3 x 4.50 inches. Empty it weighs in at 2.64 pounds. The bag is made entirely of fine grained soft leather. The version I was sent is Black with Red. You know Vaja though, customization is their thing. You can order this bag in a rainbow of color combinations.

The design of this bag has the primary color on the exterior, except for an accent strip of the color used for the interior flap and main compartment face. The Black and Red design for my bag kind of reminds me of a racing motif.

And for a little bit of bling, there’s a Sterling Silver Vaja logo in the bottom right corner of the flap.

There are no pockets on the outside of the front flap, but there is one large zippered pocket on the back of the messenger bag.

As you can see from the picture above, this pocket is not quite large enough to fully accommodate a standard sized magazine in either portrait or landscape orientations. I think an open pocket across the entire back of the bag would work much better.

The right side of the bag is plain except for a small fabric tag with the Vaja logo. I think it would have been nice to have a side pocket here. Maybe for a small umbrella or mobile phone…

The left side is void of pockets as well. You will notice the leather tab with 2 holes though. This is a custom option and can be placed on either the left or right side.

The tab can accommodate Rivet system plates and accessories. Vaja sells the kits as an add-on to the bag. With the system, you can connect your phone, PDA or other item to the side of the bag.

If you look on the bottom of the bag, you’ll notice 5 metal feet. This is a nice touch that looks classy while also protecting the leather on the bottom of this expensive gear bag. This bag also stands up straight and doesn’t normally topple over. I always hate when bags do that.

In the picture above, you can see a close up of one of the feet and also see the perforated detail of the leather that makes up the sides and bottom of the bag.

When you lift the flap, you are greeted with 2 open pockets. The pocket on the left is approximately 5 inches wide by 7.5 inches deep. The pocket on the right is 7 inches wide by 7.5 inches deep.

The pocket on the right also hides a smaller zippered pocket on the back wall which is 3.5 inches wide by 4 inches deep. The pocket isn’t the most convenient to access though…

I should mention that the main flap of the bag does not have a fastener of any type to keep it closed. This may or may not be a concern. I find that the flap is heavy enough (there is some padding in it) to stay closed on its own.

The main compartment is 13 x 10.6 x 4 inches in size, and like most messenger bags, is just an open cavity. The interior is lined in grey knit material that is emblazoned with the Vaja logo.

There is one pocket on the back wall of the bag. This is a 6 inch wide by 7 inch deep zippered pocket. Next to it, you can see 2 more custom options. One is a spring loaded metal hook that works great for keeping track of your keys, and the other option is a detachable leather gadget pocket.

The pocket comes in Small and Large sizes. The small size was included with my messenger bag. This size just barely fits a Treo smartphone.

The sides of the pocket are elastic, while the rest is made of leather, with a color scheme that matches the scheme of the bag.

Ok, let’s talk about what it is like to use the Vaja Messenger bag as your daily gear bag. Lately, I’ve been carrying a custom designed Bagaboo messenger bag, so I was curious to see if all my every day carry stuff would fit into this new bag.

I’ll be honest and tell you that I didn’t move everything from the Bagaboo over to the Vaja bag. I just moved all the main stuff. I left a few pens, my checkbook (by mistake…), neoprene bottle cozy, a large Waterfield Cable Guy pouch and a few other odds and ends.

Here you see all the main items inserted into the Vaja bag, with room to spare. For such a compact looking bag, it really does have a generous amount of storage capacity.

The Vaja messenger isn’t marketed as a laptop bag, but with the optional laptop sleeve (leather to match the bag, or neoprene), it will work as one just fine.

Here I am wearing the bag. I wasn’t sure how well I’d like the unpadded woven shoulder strap, but I found it to be surprisingly comfortable. It does not slide down my shoulder when I wear a slick coat like the Bagaboo strap does.

I like pretty much everything about this bag. Of course I can always find something to criticize… after all, I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t. I did notice one thing that this bag lacks. Pen / pencil holder slots! Not that the lack thereof should make you disregard a purchase of this bag, but I’m just saying… ;o) I do wish this bag had a grab handle, but since the flap does not fasten, a handle wouldn’t work too well.

As made, my bag sells for $405. Yes, that is a lot of money to spend for a gear bag. Some people don’t blink at that price when they consider the great materials, quality workmanship and style that this bag offers. I know I will enjoy this one for years to come.

 

Product Information

Price:405.0
Manufacturer:Vaja
Retailer:Vaja
Pros:
  • Gorgeous
  • Quality materials and construction
  • Stylish
Cons:
  • Expensive
  • No pen / pencil holders
Posted in: Gear

13 comments… add one

  • Julie October 27, 2006, 2:51 am

    Post your comments on the Vaja 15″ Messenger Bag review.

    http://www.the-gadgeteer.com/review/vaja_15_messenger_bag

    Just click the POST REPLY button on this page.

  • Meredyth October 27, 2006, 3:10 am

    Do they provide monogramming options on the bag like they do with some of the cases?

  • Julie October 27, 2006, 11:54 am

    Yes, I failed to mention that! They will emboss your name (or any text) and / or a graphic on the little tab inside the bag that the gadget pouch snaps to.

  • isobutane October 27, 2006, 3:43 pm

    So what do people prefer? A bag with lots of open space, or a bag with lots of little organizing compartments and pockets? I like to use bags that have lots and lots of little pockets in them…preferably padded, so I can organize all of my gear in an organized fashion so I don’t have to rely on using secondary bags. I am actually looking for something with a little more storage space than my Europa, but this doesn’t have enough little organizing pockets to kep all the stuff nice and straight. Still, it looks like a solidly made bag! :)

    Mark

  • Julie October 27, 2006, 3:57 pm

    I like a bag with lots of open storage, but with at least a few strategically placed pockets. I’m so used to using Waterfield pouches, that pockets are no longer a big selling point for me. That’s why I’m a big fan of messenger bags.

    On another note, I’d like to hear from my male readers. Do you guys think the Vaja bag looks too feminine? I don’t think it does… but have read elsewhere that some people do.

  • isobutane October 27, 2006, 10:18 pm

    Julie wrote:

    I like a bag with lots of open storage, but with at least a few strategically placed pockets. I’m so used to using Waterfield pouches, that pockets are no longer a big selling point for me. That’s why I’m a big fan of messenger bags.

    On another note, I’d like to hear from my male readers. Do you guys think the Vaja bag looks too feminine? I don’t think it does… but have read elsewhere that some people do.

    Just looking at it threatens my masculinity! :) Seriously, though…shiny leather in a bag not especially stylin’ for a man. Muted tones are better…maybe with a little manly texture to it. I agree with your lament for exterior pockets…it would make it a most excellent bag. Alas, it seems that the vast majority of bags (and clothes) are directed at women, and men have a somewhat more restricted field of choices.

    Mark

  • Richard Greene October 28, 2006, 12:46 am

    I agree with Mark – this is a “girly man” bag.

    Having lots of Vaja cases over the years for various Palm’s and Treo’s well this is one bag that I’m confident of the quality but lacking in masculine appeal.

    Great review otherwise!

  • Julie October 28, 2006, 1:18 am

    Even if you went with Black and Brown? I just don’t get what makes it more feminine :)

  • Meredyth October 28, 2006, 4:07 am

    isobutane wrote:

    . Alas, it seems that the vast majority of bags (and clothes) are directed at women, and men have a somewhat more restricted field of choices.

    Mark

    Really? I’ve always felt that the vast majority of gearbags are made for men… Until recently, it’s been hard for me to find something feminine enough for me.

  • isobutane October 28, 2006, 12:07 pm

    Julie: it’s the glossiness of the bag that makes it less masculine. Don’t ask me to explain it, I really couldn’t. Men’s bags should be made of a flat leather or ballistic nylon.

    Meredyth…when I go on to Ebags to search for a decent gearbag, the vast majority of the designs are for women. Same with the vast majority of the colors. Man-bag colors should be dark…dark earth-tones. Not red, yellow, pink, teal, or any other bright color. or even multi-colored. I have no idea why. It’s an instinctual thing, I guess. Most of Ebags’ offerings include a pink variety (contributions made towards research into curing breast cancer), but strangely enough, no deep earth color for men dedicated towards prostate cancer research.

    When I look for a gear bag, I look for the following things:

    1) Compact- no larger than 13 X 10 X 5
    2) Nice, non-glossy dark tones- navy blue, dark green, black, dark brown (like my Ellington bag)
    3) Lots of pocket options, intelligently laid out. This is the hardest quality for me to find in any bag. I want the main compartment to be padded with plenty of external accessory pockets. If the Maxpedition Jumbo Versipack was a tad bit larger in the main compartment and had a padded interior, it would be the perfect bag for me. The Europa bag I use is not padded in the main compartment, but it does allow room for a mouse pad to help protect my mininote. The Europa is the best bag I have used yet, but it is not my be-all end-all solution. I am still searching for the ultimate solution.

  • gslusher November 3, 2006, 12:02 pm

    isobutane wrote:

    Julie: it’s the glossiness of the bag that makes it less masculine. Don’t ask me to explain it, I really couldn’t. Men’s bags should be made of a flat leather or ballistic nylon.

    Meredyth…when I go on to Ebags to search for a decent gearbag, the vast majority of the designs are for women. Same with the vast majority of the colors. Man-bag colors should be dark…dark earth-tones. Not red, yellow, pink, teal, or any other bright color. or even multi-colored. I have no idea why. It’s an instinctual thing, I guess. Most of Ebags’ offerings include a pink variety (contributions made towards research into curing breast cancer), but strangely enough, no deep earth color for men dedicated towards prostate cancer research.

    When I look for a gear bag, I look for the following things:

    1) Compact- no larger than 13 X 10 X 5
    2) Nice, non-glossy dark tones- navy blue, dark green, black, dark brown (like my Ellington bag)
    3) Lots of pocket options, intelligently laid out. This is the hardest quality for me to find in any bag. I want the main compartment to be padded with plenty of external accessory pockets. If the Maxpedition Jumbo Versipack was a tad bit larger in the main compartment and had a padded interior, it would be the perfect bag for me. The Europa bag I use is not padded in the main compartment, but it does allow room for a mouse pad to help protect my mininote. The Europa is the best bag I have used yet, but it is not my be-all end-all solution. I am still searching for the ultimate solution.

    I agree, though I’d add (personal taste) military-style bags of olive/black/British tan canvas & leather.

    To see the contrast, go to Levenger’s site and check the bags there–men’s briefcases, women’s briefcases, and the totes and bags. The difference should be pretty obvious. The Stanley Traveler in black would just about fit Mark’s criteria, except that it doesn’t have a lot of pockets. Their Saddlebag Sling is another that’s maybe not quite wide enough for Mark.

    For a mini-gearbag for my PDA, cell phone, reading glasses, pen/pencil, medications, small gadgets, note cards, checkbook, etc.–i.e., a “guy-purse,” I like the Lewis N. Clark Travel Organizer. It’s hard to find the Bicentenial version now (and mine is actually darker than the pictures), but there is a cheaper “Frontier” version (may be made of less sturdy fabric). It has a multitude of pockets and can be worn on the waist or over the shoulder or, as I do, just grab the shoulder strap in my hand.

    I’ve tried lots of laptop bags and “personal” bags by Waterford, Traeger, Brenthaven, eBags, Ameribag, Timbuk2, Eagle Creek, Lewis N. Clark, Ogio, Kensington and others. For a roomy, well-organized laptop/carry-on bag, I like the Kensington Contour series–I have the notebook bag, the roller bag and the overnight bag from that series.

  • Julie November 3, 2006, 12:44 pm

    gslusher:

    But the Stanley Traveler bag is shiny leather. Even in Black, it would be shiny. I thought shiny was a no-no for guys ;)

    This Vaja bag isn’t ‘shiny’ in my opinion. I would say it has a more satin finish.

  • gslusher November 3, 2006, 7:02 pm

    Julie wrote:

    gslusher:

    But the Stanley Traveler bag is shiny leather. Even in Black, it would be shiny. I thought shiny was a no-no for guys ;)

    Actually, it’s not shiny. Click on the “zoom” button and the “More Photos” button. The Stanley Traveler is made from full-grain pebbled leather, not smooth leather. The “shiny” appearance comes from the high-intensity lights used in the photos. The photographer would use several lights (check the shadows and highlights in some of the photos, especially the zoom view. Those would be impossible with a single light source. (The “highlights” show that there is a high-intensity source above and slightly to the left of the camera position. However, the shadows/reflections show that there are other sources, almost surely diffused.) Some parts of the bag will reflect more light than others and appear shiny.

    Another thing: notice that, when you click on the swatches to change the color, NOTHING else changes. The two photos have the bags in EXACTLY the same configuration, down to the smallest detail. That makes me wonder if the photo of the black bag was “Photoshopped” from the original photo of the brown bag. (That is often done with clothing.) If you compare the upper-left photo of the black bag on the “More Photos” page with the “zoom” photo, you’ll see the same thing–the bags are “posed” identically, again down to the smallest detail that I can see.

    As for the Vaja bag (and I have had 4 Vaja cases, myself–3G and 5G iPods, Nokia phone and Handspring Visor Deluxe), check the color choices. Most are rather “outstanding”–only a few are muted (e.g., Friar Brown & Butterum, Black and Steel Grey).

    Sure, a lot of messenger bags are bright colors (e.g., the Timbuk2 line)–and they’re even carried by guy-people. However, they’re not leather and they’re not $400. If I were to pay $400 for a bag, it had better be useful for business, as well as casual situations. Only a few of the Vaja color choices would fit that requirement and even they are iffy because of the accent stripe and contrasting interior. The Stanley Traveler is not “formal” (Levenger sells bags that are), but it would fit with a lot of business people, even attorneys who don’t wear three-piece pinstriped suits.

    The Vaja photos do show that their bag has a smooth satin/matte finish. That’s typical of the Caterina leathers Vaja uses (my iPod cases use Caterina leather). (Go here and click on the Caterina link.) It’s quite different from the Stanley Traveler’s pebbled leather. Smooth matte finish leather can be OK for “guy” bags–attache cases are supposed to look smooth and the Levenger Cambridge Briefbag and others have smooth leather. However, note that their leather briefcases are brown, black, or British tan and don’t have accent stripes. (The same is true for many of the Levenger briefcases for women; it depends upon their personality and profession.)

    A local store that carries medium-to-high quality briefcases and the like had (last time I checked, overa year ago) some very nice-looking cases in grey, navy, deep red, and a sort of French blue. They were all “women’s” cases. (One can tell, in part, because they’re usually slimmer than the “men’s” or “unisex” cases, which are all brown, black, or tan. They have brown, tan, and black “women’s” cases, too.) According to the manager of that store, who’s been selling quality bags for 20+ years, women will buy “women’s” OR “men’s” cases, but men almost never buy the “women’s” cases for themselves.

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