Hazard 4 Tonto Mini Messenger Bag Review

Since 9/11 there has been increased popularity in military-inspired products.  Known as ‘tactical’ gear (or ‘tacticool’ by some), many of these items go beyond merely inspiration and are in fact quite well designed and built and are functional and rugged.  Civilian Lab, a company in this tactical gear this category, has a growing portfolio that includes the Hazard 4 brand of products.  I had the opportunity to review the Hazard 4 Tonto mini messenger bag, and to put Hazard 4’s motto “progressive tactical” to the test.  Let’s see how it fared!

Inside the Box

Opening the shipping box, I found the Tonto bag itself, the shoulder strap, and a 2010 Hazard 4 product catalog.  Everything looked very professional and well built from the start.  From the outset, the bag had a nice, hefty feel to it, which is important to me in making a good first impression.

Shipping box contents

Overview and Dimensions

I found Tonto’s name to be interesting.  Fans of classic TV from yesteryear will remember the name Tonto as the Lone Ranger’s sidekick, forever faithful and often pulling the ol’ Ranger’s fat out of the fire.  The marketing folks at Hazard 4 must have had something similar in mind with the Tonto bag.  The Tonto bag is classified as a mini messenger, presumably due to its fold-over flap with buckle fastener design, features which are common to all messenger-style bags.  The Tonto I reviewed was in ready for night ops in all black color, and it is also available in a desert scheme coyote tan, both of which are popular ‘tactical’ colors.  The majority of its construction is from DuPont® Cordura® 1000D, a water-, stain-, and rip-resistant nylon.  Tough stuff indeed.  Its approximate external dimensions are 7.5 x 10 x 5 inches (19 x 25 x 10 cm).

Carry Handle

Starting at the top of the bag is a carry handle with an interesting design.  The core of the handle is a nylon strap that traverses from the left side of the top of the bag to the right side.  This nylon strap is surrounded by a flexible rubber outer layer.  The top of the rubber portion has small circular holes, while the bottom is a bit more exposed. All this in combination results in a strong, ventilated handle with a nice, grippy texture.  One of the finest I’ve evaluated.  Just feels great in the hand.

Carry handle - top

Carry handle - bottom

Front Flap Pocket

Moving down the front of the bag is a zipper pocket that is actually integrated into the front flap.  This pocket has two zipper pulls (as do all the zippers on this bag) and inside is a strip of Velcro loop material for mounting modular accessories and also a divider with Velcro strip closure.

Zippered pocket on front flap

Velcro Patch and Flap Bottom

Continuing on down, in the top portion of the front face of the bag sits a rectangular section of Velcro for affixing IDs, morale patches or other items.  The bottom portion of the front face, which is the bottom of the flap, is made from a tough material that has a vinyl-like feel, presumably because this is a high-use area where one would tend to routinely grab when opening the flap.  A nice touch.

Front of bag showing Velcro patch and tough material on flap bottom

The rear of the bag has two notable features, a belt-strap and a concealed pocket, each described in greater detail below.

Back of back

Belt Strap

The back of the bag has a short strap that is stitched at the top and attached with Velcro at the bottom.  I presume this is a belt strap, but this bag seems a bit largish to have hanging from my belt.  Perhaps it could also be used to attached the bag to a MOLLE-style modular webbing system that is found on many other tactical-type items.

Back showing belt strap

Concealed Back Pocket

The back of the bag also has a long pocket that is secured at the top with Velcro.  This pocket runs the entire width and almost the entire length of the back of the bag, but is rather thin and might be best for papers, maps and so forth.  However, it is nearly concealed, and that might come in handy, perhaps for packing a small pistol.  This is a tactical bag, after all.

Rear concealed pocket

Buckle

Also at the bottom of the front of the bag is the main buckle, used to secure the flap.  This is one of the most well-designed buckles I’ve encountered.  It is large, robust and feels very solid.  It can be operated one-handed, sliding home with a tactile and audible click.  It also includes a slide button that indicates “Lock” and “Open.”

Buckle with locking slider

The buckle is on a wide nylon strap that has some excess length that can be loosened or tightened depending on the volume of the bag’s contents.  There is a plastic D-ring attached to the end of the strap’s loose end so that an item can be clipped to it.  The loose end of the strap can also be tucked into a smaller strap on the bottom of the bag, to keep it from flopping around:

Tucking the strap underneath

Under the Flap

Under the front flap is an elastic strap that connects via Velcro on end.  I have to admit I’m unsure of the purpose of this feature.

Mystery Velcro strap under flap

Another concealed pocket, this one under the flap

The entire flap itself actually has a pocket in it that closes with a strip of Velcro.  Like the thin, concealed pocket on the back of the bag, this one might be good for maps, notebooks, and so forth.Also under the flap, on the front the bag, is an array of MOLLE-style modular webbing into which can be clipped all different types of items.  I’ve placed a few different types of pens and one of my EDC knives in the view on the right as a demonstration.

MOLLE-type webbing under flap

Front Fold-Down

There are two double-pull zippers under the flap.  The zipper towards the front of the bag accesses a fold-down panel that contains several organizer pockets of various sizes on the vertical side, and a large, transparent pocket with a Velcro closure strip on the fold-down side.  There is also a narrow strap on either side of the fold-down flap that only allows it to go to horizontal, and no farther.  My assumption here is that the transparent pocket can be used to protect a map from the elements and when the fold-down flap is opened, the two straps keep it level so that the user can read it hands-free.

The front fold-down, loaded with pockets

The organizer pockets can be used for all sorts of things like notebooks, flashlights, batteries, rulers, chop sticks, Pixie Stix…you get the idea.

Organizer and front fold-down detail

I’ve included a close up of the logo patch because, well, it looks pretty cool.

Hazard 4 logo patch

Main Compartment

The  main compartment of the bag is accessed through the second double-pull zipper.  Incidentally, all of the zipper pulls on this bag are knotted paracord, which cuts down on sound for operations in which silence is essential.  They are also easier to grab, in my experience.

Under flap: main compartment access

The main compartment of the bag has several interesting features as well. The main body is padded, which affords a level of protection to the contents.  It’d like to report that the main compartment has enough space for an iPad, but alas, it does not.  Though iPad compatibility may not have been one of Hazard 4’s design considerations for the Tonto, I consider this to be somewhat of a miss, considering the popularity of the iPad.  Perhaps this can be updated in Tonto 2.0.  The main compartment also has a thin pocket on either side into which items can be placed.  These pockets are thin enough that they can be pushed out of the way to accommodate larger items in the main compartment if needed.

Main compartment

Along the back wall of the main compartment are two horizontal Velcro strips that can serve two purposes.  The first purpose of the Velcro strips is that they can be used to retain modular Velcro items.

Main compartment divider, tucked aside till needed

The second is that the Velcro strips can work in conjunction with a fold-over partition located on the inside front wall of the main compartment.  This partition is sewed into the bag on one end like a hinge and attaches to the bag with Velcro on the other end to keep it out of the way.  When needed, the Velcro end of the partition can be removed from the front wall of the bag interior and attached to the corresponding Velcro strip on the back wall of the bag interior, thus creating a divider to separate items in the main compartment.  The divider is padded to keep the contents from being damaged by bumping into or rubbing against each other.  You might use this to separate your DSLR and a lens, or a bottle of water from your bag of Doritos.

Main compartment divider in action

Sides

Not to be outdone, the sides of this bag contain several features as well.  First, there are two sets of suspension rings, two along either side of bag, and two on either side of the top of the bag, to allow the user some flexibility in how they wear it–high and tight or low rider style.  The right side (when the bag is viewed from the front), has more horizontal MOLLE-style webbing for attaching modular items or holding small items that you may want to access quickly.  In the image below, the right side of the bag is show with several items for demonstration.  The left side of the bag has a vertical strip of MOLLE-webbing over a zippered compartment.

Left and Right outside

The zippered compartment on the left side of the bag has a thin pocket (similar to the two in the main compartment) that can be sued to hold items or as a divider.  The compartment also is large enough to hold a can of soda or a bottle of water.  And by Jove, it actually does.  Look at that!

Left side zipper pocket

There is a also a small spring-loaded hook attached to the outside front of the zippered compartment for keys, a small flashlight and the like.

Left side spring hook

Shoulder Strap

This bag has one of the most comfortable shoulder straps I have ever used, and it also has several integrated features.  The strap itself is made from a durable nylon material, wide enough to feel comfortable by distributing the load.  There are not only one but two buckles to adjust the length of the strap.  The hooks are swivel-type, durable plastic with metal spring-loaded latch mechanism.  In addition, the shoulder strap includes a separate stabilizer strap which can be used to help keep the bag in place while you are out on maneuvers.  The stabilizer strap is fully adjustable and can be removed and repositioned easily via a Velcro connection to the main strap and a hook to the bag.

Shoulder strap

Shoulder strap pad

The strap pad is removable and slides along the strap to adjust for comfort.  The top of the strap pad has yet more MOLLE-style webbing to attach gear.  The strap pad is thickly padded for weight distribution and comfort and the bottom of the pad has a mesh texture that helps grip and also allows moisture to dry.

Actual Use

The bag is easily adjustable for various heights and preferred wearing styles.  I tend to wear my gear bags across my chest and slung behind me in the classic messenger bag style rather than over one shoulder and hanging beside me in, well…purse style.  I found that in my preferred mode of carry, both with or without the stabilizer strap, it rides quite comfortably.  I like to throw in my camera, some protein bars, pen and notebook and still have room for other stuff.  I can also report that on a weekend trip to the Indiana Dunes, my 9-year-old daughter wore the Tonto while hiking.  It adjusted down to accommodate her size quite well and she enjoyed using it.  One other thing to mention here is that some may make comparisons between the Tonto and a purse-like or Euro man-bag.  Although I can understand this perception, with the color, style, and ruggedness of this bag, I see this as a weak comparison.  This bag looks much more hard-core than haute couture.

WITHOUT stabilizer strap

WITH stabilizer strap

Final Thoughts

Hazard 4’s Tonto 4 mini messenger bag is the real deal.  It is very solidly built from high quality materials and well constructed.  Many features have been packed into its small size, and it has been well designed to include not only lots of pockets and compartments to stash gear of all shapes and sizes, but placement of the features make ease of use intuitive.  It can be adjusted for multiple wearing preferences to suit the user’s preference.  The only drawbacks I could find are that it is not large enough to accommodate an iPad and its remotely purse-like appearance (though a very manly, hardcore purse).  It’s a great kimosabe to accompany you on missions, whether they be of the tactical, urban, or rural variety when you don’t want to lug your ginormous gear bag.  I’m looking forward to trying out more of Hazard 4’s products.

 

Product Information

Price:$69.98
Manufacturer:Hazard 4
Pros:
  • + MANY pockets and places to stash items
  • + Small, compact size and intuitive, functional design
  • + Solid, high-quality construction
  • + Comfortable to wear
Cons:
  • - Can't fit an iPad
  • - Potentially purse-like in appearance
Posted in: Gear, Reviews

14 comments… add one

  • Julie October 8, 2010, 4:25 pm

    Wow that’s a hardcore bag! Pockets, Pockets, Pockets. It kind of reminds me of a bag I reviewed ages ago. The Infusion Threads Pack Sport Gear Bag: http://the-gadgeteer.com/2003/11/26/infusion_threads_pack_sport_gear_bag_review/

    Hey, what is the knife(?) in the photo with the caption “Left and Right outside” ?

  • Ray Mackey October 8, 2010, 5:27 pm

    I find the Hazard 4 stuff to be very well made and quite reasonably priced. Much better priced than Maxpedition, who are one of the trendsetters in the whole “Tactical for joe public” bag scene.

    If offered both for free, I would still go for Maxpedition, if only for the simple reason that I have been abusing their gear for longer than Hazard4, and have yet to suffer a failure……

    Still, this is a nice looking bag, and it is almost christmas !!!

  • Hazard 4 October 8, 2010, 6:02 pm

    Great thorough review!
    We just want to address the “Mystery Velcro strap under flap” section – both the velcro strap on the back of the bag and under the flap is for belt attachment, so that it keeps the bag from bouncing. And when using Tonto as concealed-carry, the belt strap prevents the bag from pulling up when making a draw.

    The main compartment does fit iPad, but the zipper will need to remain open.

    We are also in the process of making a larger version of Tonto – stay put!

    Thanks again!

  • Ted Dandridge October 8, 2010, 9:36 pm

    You had me drooling right up to ‘won’t fit an iPad’.
    Glad to see Hazard4 sez there will be a larger bag coming up.
    I would be most happy to review that one for you. [hint,hint!]

  • James October 9, 2010, 3:54 pm

    Will the larger one also accommodate a netbook?

  • kryptik October 10, 2010, 9:53 am

    I love my Maxpedition Versapack. I bought it after reading the review here a few years ago, bought a second one, then a third, and have loved them ever since. In fact, several of my friends have purchased one after seeing mine, and then in turn several of their friends purchased one as well. After buying my iPad, I was disappointed to see it did not fit in my Maxpedition bags. I purchased the Tom Bihn bag after seeing the Gadgeteer review, and found it to be very well designed. I really like it, but it has no functional way to carry my Glock 27. I have to carry my smaller Ruger LCP now, and I really miss having my Glock with me, available with just a quick zipper pull. Hazard, if you are following these comments, I’d like to make a suggestion for your larger bag. Allow it to hold the iPad, with the zipper closed, and design an internal holster that will accommodate a subcompact handgun, allowing for fast access to its otherwise concealed location. That is what is important to most of us that buy these types of bags. The rugged look is great, but if practical, it is something that we simply can’t live without. If it will hold a mini Glock, and an iPad, not only will I buy one, I would stand in line for it, and pay practically any price without hesitation…

  • GODMODE October 10, 2010, 10:11 am

    I LIKE IT ! (to quote the dude in ROBOCOP)

  • Andy Jacobs October 10, 2010, 2:45 pm

    @Julie – Wow, that Infusion Threads bag does look quite similar, but to me the Hazard 4 Tonto is a new and improved version. ;-) The knife you are asking about is a H.U.G. (Halligan’s Ultimate Gadget) by C.R.K.T. (Columbia River Knife and Tool). http://www.crkt.com/HUG Stay tuned and you just might see a review of it. ;-D

    @ Ray Mackey – I am familiar with Maxpedition, but haven’t yet evaluated any of their gear myself. However, my brother is a pretty hardcore weekend warrior, and he is a Maxpedition junkie. I told him about the Tonto and he was impressed by it as well.

    @ Hazard 4 – Thank you! Thanks for the explanation on the ‘mystery strap.’ And thanks also for mentioning the concealed carry aspect of the Tonto. Not having any firearms myself, this aspect of the Tonto’s features didn’t really occur to me, but I can see how it would be quite useful for this. Bit of a bummer about having to leave the main compartment unzipped to fit the iPad, but I’m happy to hear an updated Tonto is in the works. IMHO, just please don’t make it TOO large, or it will lose its appeal as a smaller bag and stray into the mid-sized messenger category. Thanks for a great product; I’m looking forward to evaluating more of your stuff!

    @ Ted Dandridge – I’m with you on the iPad thing. Though I don’t yet have one myself, I see one my near future, and the Tonto would be perfect as an iPad hauler.

    @ James – Good question–we may have to wait to find out!

    @ kryptik – Great comments! It seems to me that many of these tactical style bags were designed before the iPad exploded in popularity, which may explain why the iPad does not quite fit in most of the. However, if Hazard 4’s comments here are any indication, I’m sure they are taking your feedback to their R&D folks to make an even better next generation of products!

    @ GODMODE – Great quote from ‘Emil’! Equally fitting whether applied to the Cobra Assault Cannon or the Tonto bag! LOL

  • James October 16, 2010, 12:39 am

    Just to let you guys know, though the iPad may not fit without leaving the zipper open but a 8.9″ netbook or smaller will fit. I got the bag for my dad and tried my Eee PC 901 and it fit! Even enough room to use the sleeve the Eee PC came with for a nice snug fit.

    So can definitely use this for smaller tablets, older sub 10″ netbooks, and UMPC’s, along with the obvious things the bag is made for…

    It’s an amazing bag and I can’t wait till they make a bigger version to get one myself.

  • Andy Jacobs November 18, 2010, 11:28 am

    @James – Thanks for that additional feedback! With the popularity of the iPad, a lot of us tend to be very iPad-centric, and we forget that Eec PC’s, netbooks and the like are also out there.

  • Marios October 22, 2012, 6:05 pm

    I know that is old, but this was the best review a have ever read.
    Very nice job.

  • Andy Jacobs November 5, 2012, 4:09 pm

    @Marios – Thank you for the kind words. Always nice to get feedback from Gadgeteer readers—especially nice when it’s positive too. ;-)

  • Andy February 15, 2013, 6:45 pm

    Buddy. Read your review a while ago and again today. Ordered my Tonto a few minutes ago. It looks ideal for EDC and I have an iPad mini / Kindle Fire in my sights! Props from the UK

  • Andy Jacobs February 20, 2013, 3:05 pm

    @Andy – (great name :)) Let us know how you like the Tonto!

    I really like the Tonto and use it quite a bit, but would use it more if it fit my iPad. However, after I reviewed the Tonto, Hazard 4 released their Kato bag (part of their Sidekick collection of bags) that is designed to fit an iPad-sized tablet. If I had an iPad mini or Kindle, the Tonto would be that much more useful for me. I’d love to evaluate and review a Kato at some point in the future as well. Actually, Hazard 4 has just come out with several new products that I’d like to review.

Leave a Comment