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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.