Timbuk2 Custom Laptop Messenger Bag Review

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When I find something I like, I tend to stick with it for a long time. Case in point, the Timbuk2 messenger bag. I reviewed their classic messenger back in 2005 and carried it everyday till I reviewed their laptop messenger bag in 2008. You guessed it, I’ve been carrying that one for the past 2 years. I noticed that they had updated the design with different materials and more pockets, so I asked if I could take another look. They agreed to let me create a custom bag for this review. Let’s check out my creation. My previous messenger bags have been ballistic nylon. As you can see from the image above, I decided to go with their new shiny vinyl fabric. At the time I went through the custom creation process, Red was an available color. Unfortunately, that color isn’t available now… but they have lots of other choices including some new vinyl colors.

The exterior of this bag doesn’t differ much from the previous version. It has a grab handle at the top and the same standard 3 panel design that Timbuk2 is known for. If you decide to create your own custom bag, you can make each panel a different color. You can also choose the color of the piping around the edges, the interior color and the logo color.

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The main change to the outside of the bag is the new shoulder strap adjustment lever. It has the same job – to allow you to easily shorten or lengthen the shoulder strap while you’re wearing the bag. The new design is just a bit easier to grab than the previous version.

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Lifting the flap will reveal a panel of pockets on the outside of the main compartment.

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This new grouping of pockets is quite a bit larger than the previous version of the laptop messenger. There are now 3 flat zippered pockets and a roomy open topped pocket at the top. I like to store my wallet and company card key in the open pocket and lesser used items in the zippered pockets.

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There’s a new vertical zippered slot behind the panel of pockets. It’s kind of hidden, which might make it a better location for a wallet.

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Check out the roomy interior. I went with the Medium sized messenger, which continues to be the perfect size for me. There’s plenty of room for all your gear and then some. I decided to go with Pebble as the interior color, to make it easy to see small items at the bottom of the bag.

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The new love glove laptop sleeve as Timbuk2 calls it is a nubby foam sleeve with a webbed Velcro tab to secure your computer. This sleeve is quite a bit thinner than the padded corduroy sleeve that was used in the previous version of this bag.

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Although it accommodates my 15″ Macbook Pro with no problems, I prefer the old sleeve. It was thicker and was attached the back wall of the bag by strong Velcro on the sides, bottom and sewn along the top edge. The current sleeve is only attached by the sides.

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The laptop sleeve does have some handy straps on the front that you can use to clip things too. What, I’m not sure…

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The main storage area (other than the laptop sleeve) in the main compartment of the bag is sewn into the front wall of the bag. It’s been redesigned from the previous version to include several new pockets.

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There’s a velcro flapped pocket, 3 pen / pencil slots with an open topped pocket behind them. There are also two soft lined open topped pockets for your cell phone, MP3 player, etc. They are large enough to hold an iPhone and lined with soft material that won’t cause scratches.

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A zipper behind those pockets and slots reveals another large pocket with more open topped pockets. When it’s all said and done, this bag has 21 storage compartments (counting all pockets, slots and the laptop sleeve). You can never have too many pockets right?

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Whoo, flashy right? I like it though 🙂 For a size perspective, this is the Medium sized laptop messenger bag and I’m 5’5.75″ (every quarter inch counts when you’re height challenged ok?).

Timbuk2 bags are comfortable to wear, their wide shoulder strap doesn’t cut into my shoulder even when I am carrying a laptop along with other gear. Timbuk2 sells a shoulder pad as an option for this bag if you like that kind of thing. I just like it plain.

Other than the laptop sleeve (and I’m being really picky there), I can find anything to complain about with this bag. It’s made really well and if my 2 prior Timbuk2 bags are any indicator, they continue to look brand new for years to come. The only worry I have is that vinyl might get scuffed on the bottom after day to day use. I’ll add an addendum to this review in a few months with an update on how well this particular material is holding up. If you go with the ballistic nylon, I know for a fact that it looks new even after a couple years of carrying it every day. Timbuk2 continues to be a favorite of mine for classic messenger style bags.

Update 02/05/15

Although I don’t have this exact same bag anymore (I accidentally tore off one of the flap straps and Timbuk2 replaced it), their messenger bags are my favorite. Here’s the one I’m carrying now:


I’ve been using this one for for a few years and am considering creating a new one soon-ish because I get bored with the colors after years of using the same bag. I think the newer bags have some extra pockets inside. That said, it still looks good as new except for the zipper pull tabs that have frayed ends due to Velcro strips sticking to them.

Update 05/18/17

I just recently switched back to this bag for my everyday carry. I had been using the Peak Design Everyday Messenger bag for over a year but started missing the floppy form factor of the Timbuk2 compared to the stiffness of the Peak bag. Switching back reminded me why I love Timbuk2 bags. For one thing, they hold up really well to being carried day in and day out for years and years. This blue one does show some wear here and there, but for the most part, it looks new.


Product Information

Price:Starts at $140. $195 as reviewed.
  • Many color, pattern and material choices
  • Lots of pockets
  • Grab handle
  • Adjustable shoulder strap
  • Laptop sleeve not as padded as previous version

23 thoughts on “Timbuk2 Custom Laptop Messenger Bag Review”

  1. Gadgeteer Comment Policy - Please read before commenting
  2. Thanks for a great review! Several years ago, I spent almost a year in an exhaustive search for a new laptop bag and I finally decided on the Timbuk2 2008 Commute. I’ve carried it to and from work every day since and I love it. Timbuk2 is my favorite brand of messenger bag (though I’d be open to trying others), and they appear to have stepped it up a few notches with the new custom laptop messenger design. Now there might just be enough pockets in this thing for me to consider switching from my beloved 2008 Commute, and that’s saying a lot!

    Say, do you have a pair of red leather pants to go with that messenger bag? ;-D

  3. I actually just got one of these (though, not so shiny) about a week ago (I’ve been carrying one of Timbuk2’s older laptop messengers since 2003). I’m also confused about the utility of the straps on the front of the laptop sleeve… if you ever figure out what those are good for, please enlighten me. And I’m not yet sure how I feel about the loop of shoulder strap that hangs off the side of the bag when the strap is shortened. Also, they got rid of the bottle pockets on the ends of the bag, I miss those already.

    1. @Andy my 2005 laptop messenger did not have bottle pockets on the sides. I agree that I would like them. They would be handy for a cellphone while you’re wearing the bag.

      As for the straps on the outside of the laptop sleeve, I guess you could clip a pen to them…

  4. @ Andy Simmons – I have a 2008 Commute and to my knowledge (though I’ve been wrong plenty of times before), I think only the Commute models had the outside pockets on the ends.

    @Julie – Yep. Pens, highlighters, laser pointers and small penlights were the first things that came to mind when I saw those straps on the outside of the laptop sleeve.

  5. I’ think I read elsewhere that the straps on the sleeve (outside) are for modular pouches you can secure with velcro.

    @Julie – I’ve read all your reviews about the Timbuk2 messenger in order to get one. Thank you.

  6. i love timbuk2 bags. ive been using a timbuk2 blogger for the past 2 years to carry my macbook + other gadgets daily… they updated this one too to be airport ready with the whole laptop compartment opening up for x-ray scans. no need to take out the laptop out of the bag!

    also got myself a timbuk2 freestyle which is a mini messenger designed for netbooks. got it last week for my ipad when i just want to carry that without my laptop.

    @julie – maybe you can review the freestyle as well. im loving it! im sure others will be interested in what you would have to say about that one. just rediscovered your website again and added it to my subscribed feeds. i used to be a frequent visitor during the palm days. yes i was one of those old school visitors hehehe.

  7. Julie,

    I’m starting to HATE your site :p

    While there’s lots of stuff you review not available in Australia, there’s stuff that is………

    I’ve been hit by the All-Ett Wallet bugs, the Saddleback Leather bug ( this was an expensive one … ) and now the Timbuk2 bug.

    I’ve been in search of the perfect satchel/man-bag/messenger for years and been carrying round a local made one for overseas travel for 15 years + . It was looking worse for wear and the company that made it has gone belly up.

    What are the chances that I had to go for a trip to San Francisco for work and that the hotel I was staying at was around 20 minutes work…….ARGHHH it must be fate.

    Coupled with the additional fact that a week before I flew out they released a canvas messenger, my ideal fabric because of the “old style” look……

    Yes, get off the plane, drop my bags off but my rooms not ready yet….so straight to the Timbuk2 retail shop and hand over my cash.

    This bag is perfect.

    Note that it’s the newer style than the one you’ve reviewed here, with the cam buckle and napoleon pocket, both features that came in extremely useful during my 2 week stay in San Fran.

    Please stop reviewing all these lovely bits of kit 🙂

    It’s costing me too much money … 🙂

    Perhaps I should write up a review of the new design .

  8. Oops, just noted the one you reviewed does have the napoleon and cam quick adjust buckle however you didn’t mention how useful the cam buckle is to put on and also to get stuff out of the bag…. 🙂

    1. @limbot I’m sorry that I’m making you go broke 😉 I’ll try my best to not to make you use the rest of your life savings on cool gadgets. So don’t read this site for the next couple of weeks because I have some fun items planned 😉

  9. ”The only worry I have is that vinyl might get scuffed on the bottom after day to day use. I’ll add an addendum to this review in a few months with an update on how well this particular material is holding up.”
    I’m curius, how is the material holding up, is it still shiny? 🙂

  10. Hey Julie!
    I’m looking to get a timbuk2 laptop messenger bag, but i was wondering how the bag maintains its composure? does it stand up by itself when you put it down or does it fall over? does it bend or is it somewhat rigid in its framework? thanks in advance! 🙂

    1. @CJ That’s what I love about Timbuk2 bags. They don’t fall over when you set them on a table or the floor. The bottom of the bag is flat and it retains its shape even when you don’t carry many items inside.

  11. CJ

    Here’s a couple of quick and dirty photos of my Empty Waxed Canvas Medium Messenger in my office ( they ain’t gonna win any awards )

    You can see it stands up fine by itself. I suspect that this is because of a number of factors, the flat bottom, the TPU liner and the foam divider.


    Hope this helps. 🙂

  12. Hahaha, just notice there’s a couple of products in the second photo that frequently get mentioned on this site.

    There’s the Timbuk2, in the top left that’s a STM Sports 2 bag, and on the LHS of the Timbuk2 is a Saddleback Leather luggage tag….

    Damn you Gadgeteer …. :p

  13. Hows this holding up? I’m looking for a messenger bag, and so far haven’t found any I like. Although it is pricey. whoo

  14. Fantastic and thorough review. Years later this is still relevant to those of use looking to dip our toes into the Timbuk2 waters. Thank you for the great photos as well which show every angle of the bag; they were extremely useful!

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