Chrome Citizen Messenger Bag

Since reviewing the Timbuk2 Bag In A Box messenger bag, I’ve come to the conclusion that messenger bags are my gear bag style of choice these days. As such, I’ve been trying to find other brands to try out. Today I’m going to take a close look at the Citizen messenger bag from Chrome. Like Timbuk2, Chrome is located in San Francisco, California. Unlike Timbuk2, Chrome makes all of their bags here in the USA. Timbuk2 ships some of their work off to China for manufacturing there. I’ll be comparing the Chrome Citizen to the custom bag which I reviewed from Timbuk2. Both are made here in the USA.

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Constructed with a 1000d Cordura shell, a 18oz. weatherproof truck tarp liner, military spec. seam binding and nylon 69 thread, Chrome bags are heavy duty tough and carry a lifetime guarantee to be free of defects in materials and workmanship. For this review, I chose the medium sized Citizen in cammo / black which measures 22 x 11.5 x 6 inches (flat dimensions). This bag is similar in size to the medium sized Timbuk2, which measures 19 x 11 x 8 inches.

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One main feature that sets this bag apart from a typical messenger style bag is the shoulder strap with a chrome plated metal seat belt buckle. The Chrome logo in black and red is located on the release button for the buckle.

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Half of the shoulder strap (the part that rests on your shoulder) is padded with EVA foam, the other half is made of the same type of material that is used for seat belts. The strap is easily adjustable by pulling on the either the tail, or the metal D ring. Pulling on the tail tightens the strap, pulling on the D ring loosens it. There is also a stabilizer strap that is goes under your arm and clips into the black plastic clip located right above the buckle. This keeps the bag from shifting around on your back as you’re walking, or biking.

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Messenger style bags typically have one large interior storage area, without many (if any) dividers and the exterior is usually devoid of pockets. These bags have been designed like this so that bicycle couriers can keep their parcels within easy and safe reach.

The flap of the Citizen bag is held closed by two strips of heavy duty Velcro, each 2 inches wide. Two black plastic pinch clips also help to secure the flap. I have found that the Velcro is strong enough that the snapping the clips aren’t even necessary.

You can see in the picture above that the flap is made in such a way that the contents are protected from weather getting in, and items falling out. The sides of the bag extend up past the fold of the flap. This is a nice design, but I found that it also caused me to wrestle a bit to get into the interior. This is especially true when I would fold the flap behind the back of the bag.

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An organizer panel is located under the flap. There are 3 vertical slots that can hold items such as pens, pencils, sunglass clips, etc. Behind these slots is a zippered pocket big enough to hold a good sized wallet, PDA, etc. Behind this pocket is an open pocket (you can see the card poking out of it in the picture above).

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On either side of the open pocket, is another open area that can hold whatever you like. I use one for my cellphone and the other for odd bits of paper. That’s a total of 7 pockets before we even get to the interior of the bag.

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The interior has one big storage area except for an almost hidden pocket on the front wall that is held closed with Velcro. This pocket is great for papers, mail and magazines.

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The interior of my Citizen is lined with black vinyl. No need to worry that rain or snow will soak in and touch the contents. The black color makes it a little difficult to find a dark object at the bottom of the bag, but other than that, it is water resistant and easily cleaned if you happen to spill something in it.

This bag has great storage capacity. You can’t really see what little I have in the bottom of it in the picture above, but there are 3 Waterfield pouches full of gear, my blood glucose meter, and another pouch with the Palm TX. I also have 3 magazines in the other area. There’s plenty of room left for a rolled up shirt or light weight jacket, a McDonalds bag with an Egg McMuffin in the morning, and whatever mail I have waiting for me in the mailbox when I get home from work.

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Wearing this bag is not quite as convenient as the TimBuk2, only because of the big buckle on the front. With the Timbuk2, I can easily fling it across my shoulder bandolier style using one hand. The Chrome bag is a bit heavier and not as easy to maneuver. I’m also afraid I’ll whop myself in the head with the buckle if I’m not careful ;o). On the other hand, I have found that wearing the Chrome bag over one shoulder (3rd picture above on the right) is comfortable for light loads and short distances. It won’t slide off your shoulder like the Timbuk2. Wearing the Chrome bag bandolier style is the best for walking long distances or while on a bicycle. Even with heavy loads, it’s comfortable due to the padded shoulder strap. FYI: I purchased the right shoulder version of the bag because I’m ‘different’… ;o) Most people will buy the left shoulder version.

What this bag really needs a grab handle. It’s an option with the Timbuk2, and I really miss not having it on this one. I’d have to say that the lack of a handle is probably my only true complaint with the Citizen Chrome bag. Everything else about it is first class all the way. The materials and construction are definitely more rugged than the Timbuk2 bag. This bag is built like a tank (fitting for the cammo design huh?) and I have no doubt that it will last for years even with heavy use. At the moment, I’m undecided if I’ll ditch the Timbuk2 for the Citizen. I think that the heavy duty shoulder strap / buckle combo is best suited for someone that has to walk or bike long distances, unlike myself, who only has a short walk from the parking lot to my cube every morning.


Product Information

  • Rugged
  • Waterproof interior
  • Lots of extra pockets
  • Padded shoulder strap
  • No grab handle

28 thoughts on “Chrome Citizen Messenger Bag”

  1. Gadgeteer Comment Policy - Please read before commenting
  2. I recently was on a similar quest for the ideal messenger bag, I checked out the Chrome and the Timbuk2 and was not quite satisfied. My requirements are a bit unique I bike commute to work some days so the bag needs to be able to carry laptop, clothes, lunch, and be water proof. In my quest I came to the conclusion that I actually prefer a backpack for riding. So I purchased an Ortlieb Velocity Bag, my only complaints are I should have gotten a bigger bag and it is black with little reflection ( That requirement filled I now need a messenger style bag for business trips. I was not quite satisfied with either of the TimBuk2 or Chrome offerings. I was looking at my camera bag and realized I really liked the design and functionality. The comapny name is Crumpler, so i did some research on the web and ended up getting a Crisp suit bag. I am not sure they make the bag anymore but it is big enough to carry both laptops when necesary (I am a mac user in a company that builds applications for PC’s, so as a product manager I have to test the developers work). The bag has no less than 13 pockets and three storage compartments, plus I just love the website tagline “crumpler australia – you bring the beer, we bring the bags” ( not very good web design kinda hard to navigate but visually fun). I really think you should check out Ortlieb and Crumpler bags on your quest for messenger nirvanna 😀

  3. claytor:

    Thanks for your comments. I’ll check out Ortlieb for sure. As for Crumpler, I’m already familiar with them 🙂 We have a review coming up soon for one of their photography focused backpacks.

  4. Great review Julie thanks! Couple things – from the chatter I have read on some biking forums – everyone really seems to agree that this is an across the shoulder bag and that the seat buckle needs to be used. A couple of people have posted on one forum the same concern that you had about whacking your head w/ the buckle – and that once they got used to unbuckling it, it worked much better for them.

    I would also suggest a review of Crumpler messenger bags – especially if you haven’t found the “perfect” one for you. I just bought a Complete Seed bag off eBay. There are several vendors selling new bags via eBay – I saved about $30. It’s a great bag – I like it much better than the Timbuk2 I had been using. No grab strap (but “real” messenger bags apparently don’t have those:) )

    Would be happy to work up a review of the bag w/ pics if it would be helpful.

    Be sure to update your gear list – when you finally choose between the 2 bags as your daily “driver”

  5. What is it about the Crumpler that you like better than the Timbuk2? I really like the thicker material that Chrome uses. I also like the pockets sewn into the front wall.

    I’m still looking for a small bag… I guess you could call it a purse… but I won’t 😉 Just something to throw over my shoulder to hold my cellphone, sun clips, wallet, PDA, carmex lip balm, some chewing gum, etc. I think I’m going to just make one of my own. Seriously… Gadget Craft 101 😉

  6. A few things about the Crumpler Complete Seed bag I really like:

    Fabric: The bag is a heavy cordura type nylon – 1000D nylon w/ an inner lining of 420D. It seems waterproof but without the laminated, stiffness of the Timbuk2. It still has structure, and will stand up on it’s own when you set it down without tipping over – but it’s just less stiff.

    Strap: The strap on the Crumpler is about 3″ longer than on the T2. It has the same type of plastic cam adjustment buckle – but the strap is just longer. At 6’3″, I still have some slack in the strap even if I’m wearing it across my chest. Not so w/ the T2.

    Also – the pad on the strap is just a little nicer. It is not as thick – but still padded enough to do it’s job.

    Finally – the strap on the Crumpler is not nearly as stiff as the T2. It’s as wide, and looks to be about the same material, but it’s as relaxed as a seatbelt belt. The T2’s strap feels very stiff – and even has almost a sharp edge to it which I really don’t like. If I’m grabbing the strap in my hand, and grip it tight, the Crumpler strap flexes nicely while the T2 really doesn’t.

    Accessories: The Crumpler has a couple of extra straps sewn in the side so I can add some of the add-on pouches etc. that Crumpler sells. This is kind of like the higher end backpacks – that have straps sewn in for add-ons.

    What I don’t like as much:

    Crumpler’s website is the worst! It cute, it is amusing, etc but try to figure out what you are buying, how many pockets there are, what the colors really look like, what the bag looks like on the inside, etc. It is impossible. I spend way too much time figuring out that the Complete Seed had the most pockets inside and out – and was the one I probably wanted. I still wasn’t sure what I was getting until the package arrived.

    Pockets: Other than the main storage area, there are 6 pockets on the Complete Seed. As I said, this is the model with the most pockets (as far as I can tell anyway) There are 3 pockets on the inside of the bag – essentially created by sewing another flap (like a divider) in the bag of the 420D ripstop – and then running a seam up the flap – to make 3 pockets. They are very deep (as deep as the bag – so 12in) The center pocket is secured by velcro.
    On the front of the bag, they did the same kind of arrangement – sewed an extra flap on it (of the 1000D this time) and ran 2 seams up it – again, the center pocket is velcro closed.

    This is where the T2 beats the Crump. I’d love to have a pocket or two that had a zipper. A pen slot would be nice, and I like the tether in the T2 to clip my keys to. I will say the pockets are plenty deep – and I don’t feel like my iPod, keys or wallet is in any danger of falling out. I’d just feel better if I could zip that closed. I will say that the pockets that are there feel more padded than on the T2 – so I feel my Ipod is safer in the Crumpler.

    Hope that helps

  7. I’m debating between the Chrome Metropolis and Citizen messenger bags. I’m a college student and have a laptop I bring with me; will a laptop fit comfortably with textbooks and other things in the citizen bag, or would I be better off with the Metropolis bag? Thanks!


  8. Kristy:

    It depends on the size of your laptop 🙂 The Citizen is pretty roomy though, I don’t think you’ll have a problem. One thing though, you also have to remember that this bag is not padded. I would suggest buying a padded sleeve of some type to protect it.

  9. Thanks Julie! I think I’m going to a bike shop when they sell them and look. I’ll definatley look into the padded sleeve though, didn’t know they had on!


  10. Hi, I am looking for a replacement for my backpack. I don’t really find backpacks very comfy, so I am looking into messenger bags. Although I am not a messenger (I don’t even have a bike anymore), I would like your advice on what I should get. I find the Chrome Citizen bag really nice and it looks like it has good quality. I will be using this for school and going to other places. In other words, I will be packing books, clothes, and other little things in it. I hope you understood that….:unsure:

  11. Secura:
    You can’t go wrong with Chrome. The make great bags! The only issue I have with the one I reviewed is that the back isn’t quite made in way that you can just sling it over one shoulder like some of the other messenger bags that I’ve reviewed. The shoulder strap on the Chrome is made for wearing the back across your back like a bike messenger. If you’re ok with that, then you’ll love this bag.

  12. First off, hi. My name stands for ‘Twilight Zone’ if anybody was going to ask.

    Second, Julie, you are AWESOME. Your reviews have saved me hours of research.

    Third, I have a question: Since you’ve owned it now for longer than in the review, how’s the wear and tear? I’ve heard the D-ring can come completely undone/wear the handle a lot. How’s that doing? Any problems?

  13. t.z0n3:

    After the review I gave the bag away because I prefer more of a throw-on-your-shoulder style messenger instead of a wear-it-bandolier messenger (bike messenger) style bag.

  14. Ah, darn. Well, thanks for the review, in any case. I’m trying to decide whether to replace my XL Timbuk2 bag or not. You see, I love it’s simplicity and style, it’s just… well, it’s an XL. 😮 It’s a bit too big for what I really need.

    And also, you’ve got to love that seat belt buckle. :unsure:

    Thanks a lot for your help Julie! Keep at it! 😀

  15. Just a note, in the first two pictures where the bag is slung over the shoulder its made for, you’re wearing it WAYYYY too loose. The buckle should be somewhere near your chest cavity so the weight is centered.

    (It makes a huge difference)

  16. Hi Julie,

    great site,i visited it few days ago for the first time.I am so out of date,omg:))

    Wandering which bag to buy: chrome or timb2 ? I am all day wanderer through
    downtown,so i need relativly big and strong bag for all stuff that i need to carry
    (laptop,books,phone/pda,mp3,glucose meter,lancets,1 or 2 meals,some chlothes,
    etc etc).Being a type 1 diabetic,i must bring whole miny lab with me,including lunch
    and tons of other stuff.
    I am closer to Chrome,but it cant be worn as shoulder bag (which is sometimes
    very comfy).Timbuk2 has this option,but Chrome seems more durable to me.
    Help me on decision,i dont have 200+ $ to bye both bags :))

    Greetings from Serbia,Europe

    1. @Sveta Chrome makes very nice bags, but I prefer Timbuk2 for the exact reason you stated – ability to wear it as a shoulder bag. 🙂 I still use the Timbuk2 laptop messenger that I reviewed a couple years ago.

  17. Thanx on advice,Julie,i will decide which bag to by in about 3 months (time i need
    for sparing my money).
    I carry a lot of stuff every day during my home/downtown commuting,and i really
    need a durable,big,quality build bag.
    Recently i bought one of the Caterpillar’s laptop/messenger bags,and i was veeery
    dissapointed 🙁 It blow up on me after just 10 days o medium usage.Really bad
    build,loose stiches,and shoulder strap is disaster.Very dissapointing for manufacturer
    that has “build to last” moto.
    Now its a CHROME/TIMBUK2 duel,and i will decide which side of the force i will embrace.
    Thanx once again 🙂

  18. p.s.
    watched couple of clips on youtube,and i am def.closer to Timbuk2 now than to Chrome.
    That laptop bag that u have also reviewed,seems strong as hell to me,yet really nice and
    esteticly appealing 🙂 They also have those ”make your own bag” options,so i will check
    it later.

    Big plus for Timbuk2 is veeeeeeeeery usefull grab handle.God i miss that on my current

  19. wear the bag tighter, get it on your shoulders and cinch up the shoulder strap so it fits onto your back nicely and its 100 times as comfortable as how your wearing it in those pictures.

  20. The Chrome, as attractive and well built as it is, is a true “messenger” bag, and designed for people who are mostly on a bike and need easy access to whats inside. The T2 is not so much strictly for a messenger and not popular with messengers because of the strap design which runs straight up the sides. This makes a great bag for walking about but is terrible for cycling as it tends to slide about. For someone that wants a durable bag to walk with then T2 are great and well built, also DeMartini are another great bag for this purpose. Ironically, they built the original messenger bags in NY but the strap design has vastly improved since for riding while carrying a load.

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