Hands-On with the Everyday Messenger: The Bag That Raised Nearly $5 Million

Hands-On with the Everyday Messenger: The Bag That Raised Nearly $5 Million

While running a Kickstarter campaign might be a bit easier for veteran company Peak Design, there’s something to be said for raising over $4.8 million of excitement over a messenger bag. What is so special about this bag that merits this reaction? After reaching out to Peak Design, they sent a just-finished version of the Everyday Messenger the "Trey Ratcliff bag"  for review so I could answer some of those questions.

Introduction

Reviewing bags is a bit like reviewing pens. There are certainly bad ones. But once you get in the realm of great pens, they all do their job pretty well, and distinguishing between one another becomes a futile practice of navigating tastes.

There is one more problem with reviewing bags: everyone wants that magical Mary Poppins bag. They want it to be lightweight, they want it to fit all of their gear without growing heavy or bulky. Doesn’t fit a 15” laptop? Subtract points. Feels bulky with two bodies, three lenses, a laptop, and a pair of hard drives? Subtract more points.

This unrealistic expectation of bags to defy physics against the reality that at some point, we either have to slim down or deal with carrying our own weight — literally — leads us (yes, despite knowing better, I too am guilty of this thinking) to forever search for the “perfect bag.”

While the perfect bag is a complete illusion, it is true that modern ingenuity and new materials can give us at least a partial remedy for our silly first-world problems. The blistering success of the Everyday Messenger’s Kickstarter campaign is indicative of this thriving and relentless hope. But whether or not it’s the change we can believe in has yet to be decided.

 

First Impressions

In this case, “First Impressions” will easily bleed into the “pros” list of this review. Everything you first see about this bag stuns as much as it does in the video. I could give Peak Design an award from the shipment packaging alone (animation above). And the materials the bag is made with seem to be robust enough to serve for twice as long as the bag-to-last-a-lifetime verbiage alluded to in the Kickstarter promo.

It has to be mentioned that my girlfriend walked in on me opening the package and immediately exclaimed it was the ugliest bag she’d seen. While I don’t care about a bag’s looks too much compared to its practicality, I personally could see someone saying the Everyday Messenger looks anywhere from “rad” to “not quite my style,” but “ugly” seems far too harsh. Too each his (or her) own. But three guys recognized the bag in the coffee shop I frequent and loved it. Maybe it’s a guy thing…

Of course, the standout features that were likely responsible for the stellar pre-launch excitement over this messenger really do stick as the strong selling points for the bag. The magnetic latch system is way, way better than it looks — and it looks awesome (am I right?). How could it actually be better? Because it actually works, which is a "feature" that's quite rare when coming across new ways to do the same, basic things. I would go as far as to say that any flap-opening bag should try to emulate this type of closure.

With the flap to the main compartment closed, a soft, water-resistant zipper provides ample room through which to grab anything from a banana to my D750 with an attached lens. This quick access is great to have as it removes one more barrier to taking your gear out to get the shot.

A slight amount of elastic “give” allows the process of opening and closing to be done quickly, securely, and easily. And those three traits are the key to a good open/close system. Not enough for you? The top zipper that provides access to the same main compartment is another genius add-on of which I really wonder why we don’t see more. From quick access to a laptop charger resting on top of your gear to grabbing a full-sized lens, the main compartment's added access flexibility makes for a lazy-man’s dream (because the true lazy man is the most efficient, is he not?).

Perhaps the least exciting (but still practical) part of the bag is the small front compartment that has more than enough room for my favorite Seagate 4TB Backup Fast drives, memory-card-specific slots, and a general accessories you might have.

I want these dividers for every bag. If you want them tall, keep them standing. If you want to protect a shorter lens while allowing extra packing room above your gear, fold over the top third or so in a split second.

Diving in a little deeper, the padded dividers are among the best features of the bag as well. Thin, yet protective, these dividers’ best part is their literal flexibility. Instead of Velcro-ing dividers horizontally above gear — simultaneously restricting access to them — in order to lay items on top of said gear, these dividers are made to fold any number of fractions of themselves over and on top of any gear their protecting. This same foldability lets them shrink, expand, and generally adapt in size to the specific configuration of the bag. These dividers won’t act as support beams that push your bag out, wider than it needs to be, or that fall apart when the gear in the bag pushes it wider than a standard divider’s set width. Major, major props on this one.

The size of the bag lends itself well to the “Everyday” moniker. While you can certainly fit a DSLR and two or three lenses, one of those could be a 70-200mm f/2.8 in a vertical orientation. Likewise, the extra vertical space can be home to a jacket, some earbuds loosely thrown in on top of the bag, a light meter for fall those street film shooters I know are out there — you name it. The point is you can fit your lunch and your extra gear in the bag with ease.

A sturdy, reinforced, thin "bar" on either side of the bag allows for a secure attachment of Peak Design's popular Capture Camera Clip to hold your DSLR wherever you see fit. Thin but well designed pockets behind those flaps are perfect for a large phone or medium-sized accessories like thinner hard drives, earbuds, etc.

While not entirely necessary, the side “loop” that can hold your DSLR with the help of Peak Design’s companion product, the Capture Camera Clip, is a nice touch that some will certainly enjoy. And the laptop compartment has been expanded slightly from the original design to fit thicker 15” laptops compared to the thinner, sleeker Retina-MacBook-Pro-like products. If I push it (though I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it), I can even get my 15” Retina MacBook Pro to fit with an SD card sticking out. This isn’t an idea situation, but once you get it past the zipper opening, it actually has enough breathing room to make me feel safe. Where this is a better feature is when you’re charging your phone from your laptop on the go. A USB cable providing power to your phone has no trouble resting inside my laptop’s port while allowing me to snake the cable outside of a small opening I keep in the zipper so I can still access the phone. And in this case, who care’s if there’s a little extra pressure on the cable?

Pictured is a 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro, although the Everyday Messenger will easily fit a thicker 15-inch laptop if needed. As-is, I can even have room to have a few peripheral cables hanging out while still plugged in if I'm careful when I slide the computer in its slot (realistically, though, the bag probably wasn't designed for this...I'm just "that guy").

 

A quick side note: the Everyday Messenger features a handy built-in waist strap that hides away nicely. In fact, you almost don't notice the compartment it slips into if you're not looking for it. It does its job well for the more adventurous shooter, but I don't see this bag as your best hiking buddy in the dark green, lush Northwestern forests that seem so popular these days. So while it's a nice addition, I'll remain thankful that it's virtually unnoticeable for my own use.

The waist strap is inside that tiny red pocket to the bottom right. You never think about it when you're not using. Perfect.

Add to all of this the small additional Velco-fastened tablet compartment within the laptop area as well as a document sleeve in the main compartment, and you have a very well rounded bag. But that just wouldn’t be enough…

The flap itself has a small zipper pocket on its underside. But the latest and most ingenious change since the Kickstarter campaign’s prototype is the addition of a tripod-carrying system. And it’s so simple I want to cry. Put one leg of your tripod through the added opening in the flap and add an included, sturdy, Livestrong-like rubber band around the ends of your legs, and you’re instantly carrying your tripod. Because the other two legs, the head, and, generally speaking, most of the weight and form of the tripod is carried outside of the bag, you can add a tripod no matter how full your bag already is. This is brilliant.

A hidden elastic piece adds a solid, easing give to the metal latch closure that catches and releases in the best setup I've seen on any bag. Even so, this latch is one of many highlights to the Everyday Messenger. Meanwhile, the zipper pocket is perfect for extra accessories like batteries or the heavy-duty rubber band that comes with the bag for holding a tripod (one leg of which slides into the opening behind the zipper pocket with the Peak Design logo).

The tripod carrying system only takes up space on the outside of the bag. So no matter how full the bag is, you can always add a tripod to your kit without having to free up an extra hand for carrying.

Overall, the bag is just so well made. The strap’s hinge, the strap itself with its sliding function taken straight from the company’s already popular camera strap, the combination of sturdy construction and light weight feel in the zipper’s glide, the overall sturdiness of the bag’s form to protect gear inside from the klutziest of travelers… It’s all such a wonderful world (read over the captions of the images for added mentions of all of the bag’s other compartments and features). But it’s time to get real.

The fantastic strap on the bag is generously wide and features the same smooth-sliding adjustor -- a Peak Design trademark -- as the company's standard camera strap. The anchor points to the bag are as solid as they look (and they look nice, too, after a slight post-prototype makeover). However, the strap could be a bit more grippy on the flip side that's made for use while carrying the bag as a shoulder bag instead of as a messenger.

 

Cons

It’s just not fair to talk about “cons” in a bag like this. But life isn’t fair.

The biggest realistic complaint that I have with this bag isn’t fair, either. The bag is stiff. I really like the fact that it’s stiff. The sturdiness helps it be protective against a bang on a pole or a biker while getting around in the city. I have no trouble throwing the bag (semi-gently, but without much thought) onto the ground next to where I’m sitting, I don’t worry about anything falling on it, and the material’s water-shedding feature adds even more mental security.

But once you add the gear, you can forget about the bag conforming to your body, especially with a laptop inside it. That said, what do you expect when you add a 15” almost solid aluminum support in the rear pocket of a messenger bag? And without a laptop, the bag should soften quite a bit over time (I could already sense some mild softening after a week or so that I would only expect to go a bit further).

What does this mean? For short trips around town, this is a great way to carry everything you’d need between the house, the coffee shop, and in between. But for all-day shooting, if you’re one of those people that has to have a laptop with them, I would recommend sticking with a backpack-style bag. Note that I wouldn’t even be mentioning this if the bag lacked a laptop compartment altogether. And the fact that it has one is massively helpful for those times you need it. Again, this is just a realistic reminder to those hoping they found the all-elusive magic lamp.

 

My main gripe with this bag, however, is that it’s not a Mary Poppins bag. For that matter, no bag is. This is merely a warning to those that think this is magically going to fit everything you own while distributing weight off of your shoulder and onto the air around you. Guess what? It won’t.

What it will do, however, is serve as a great everyday carrying bag for your modest amount of gear. It wouldn’t be fair to say that you don’t want to plan a long trip with this as your only photo bag because some people could definitely do just that. But for most of the photographers that I know, this will be a supplement at most.

 

In short, if you’re a gear rat, stick with a large strapped or roller backpack that TSA agents think must be beyond carry-on standards, but that you can wiggle your thumb at when you show them it’s made to be a carry-on… just barely. But if you can live with a couple lenses in a bag you throw over your shoulder for a while, the Everyday Messenger is exactly what it claims to be, and perhaps is the best at it.

The Everyday Messenger as well as a matching "Field Pouch" for accessories are available for pre-order for $249.95 and $39.95, respectively.

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25 Comments

TImothy Tichy's picture

" a light meter for fall those street ilm shooters I know are you there" huh?

Adam Ottke's picture

That was odd.... No clue what happened there. Thanks for the notice (fixed).

Chuck Eggen's picture

I can't see what all the hype is about this bag. I own PD products and like them. This bag however, nothing earth shattering and the style is meh.. And the price.... wow!

It's an amazing bag. Last weekend I had the chance to hold one in my hand.

edit: I just want to point out that it is also possible or actually this bag was designed to store your tripod inside your bag. You can buckle the top of the bag a little higher to make more room for your tripod for better weight distribution.

The guys at Peak really know their stuff. This may not please everyone, but it will please a lot of people.

And I'm disappointed that you got one before me.

The bags were just displayed for show and for trying them out. I think in about 2 weeks they will be available in europe.

Adam Ottke's picture

I may have gotten one before you, but I have to send it back.....as always... :-( I already have too many bags, but maybe I'll end up buying one down the road...who knows?

I need another bag like a hole in the head. But I do like their stuff, so I at least need to check one out in person. Hopefully, they will be at ORWM in January.

It seems big and with a rather large load capacity. Meaning you need a Hulk shoulder to carry it along for just a half day :-)

This looks like a terrific bag. I keep buying bags looking for the perfect one. It's a sickness. no matter how good this is I just can't justify the price. all camera bags are too expensive so I'm not just singling out this bag. $250 is just too much

It looks handy with a lot of great features, but it's honestly really ugly.. Also, ditto what the other guy said about needing hulk shoulders for carrying it around with it fully loaded.

To me the best all-around bag is the Lowepro Protactic 450AW. I love the bag for it's design and flexibility on how you access your gear (top, side access, back access!) I can carry 2 bodies, my nikon trinity and primes in one bag. But I still went ahead and ordered the Messenger bag for those days I just want to carry light equipment (one camera, 2 lens and maybe a flash). Also, the idea of I can use it for work got me sold. I love PD products and the quality and workmanship on their products got me hooked.

Fritz Asuro's picture

Good bag but still I'll stick with my ThinkTank Urban Disguise 50.

This looks to have a lot of features I've been looking for in a form factor I have not explored yet.

Can anyone verify where this bag is manufactured?

Adam Ottke's picture

I'll work on verifying this for you when I can. ;-)

Sam Bond's picture

Does anyone know if it's big enough to hold a Pentax 67ii and Nikon F100?

Adam Ottke's picture

That's interesting... The F100, for sure. The Pentax 67 AND the F100...it might work. But the 67 is just so gargantuan that if you want to put it in with the lens on (and therefore, "sideways" and not along its slimmest profile), you might run into a rather imperfect fit. Without a lens attached, you could definitely fit the Pentax 67, a lens or two, and a small F100 kit...but you probably don't need me to tell you it would be heavy...

Mr Hogwallop's picture

It looks nice but so do all the other bags and cases I've bought in the past. The price seems on the upper end of it's category. I recently priced out some of the ThinkTanks and Tamrac roller cases to replace my 15 year old case...talk about sticker shock! $300 to $500...gulp

George Popescu's picture

I got the bag a week ago since I pledged on Kickstarter and they sent it early. It's very well made, and I know you can't carry a lot of gear inside it but that's not the point. If you need something for a lot of gear and weight distribution then buy a backpack style bag, this is a messenger style bag. Keep in mind that you can wear it straight on your bag with the help of the straps on the side if you so want, but it's mainly a messenger bag. So you'd probably just have one camera body, 1-2 lenses, 1 flash with off camera triggers/receivers and maybe a laptop/tablet as well as small knick knacks, maybe a notebook, some pens, sd cards, etc...it's a daily bag which can substitute very well as a business bag due to its looks. I haven't had a chance to try it out of the house yet but I'm sure it'll get quite a few looks. I usually have a business bag for carrying papers/laptop, and I have a backpack for carrying any photo gear that's more than 1 camera and 1 lens, 1 flash type of set up.

Martti Suomivuori's picture

Does anybody know its inside measures? I would like to know if the Tamron 150-600 fits inside?

Paul Watt's picture

I like the features of this bag but I know this sounds really shallow and petty, the looks of the thing stopped me from entering my card details. It's fugly, let's be honest here.

Adam Ottke's picture

This is something that I really find odd. Every ten people I talk to are convinced it's not pretty (and that puts it lightly for some comments I've heard). My girlfriend is in that group. And yet, I, along with others, simply disagree... So I'm not sure....it's weird that something can get such varying, strong opinions.

Paul Watt's picture

I guess it's like the art we practice, it's subjective.