Swiss Army: Trek Messenger

Pros Great looking, well built and lots of room in main pocket. Well cushioned laptop compartment.
Cons Strap needs to be re-thought.

Swiss Army: Trek Messenger » Bag Review

Here's what went in this bag: Dayplanner (analog version), spiralbound notebook, water bottle, lunch, point-and-shoot camera (again, analog), address book, checkbook, wallet, sunglasses w/case, keys, pens, etc.

It's what you might expect from the makers of the famous Swiss Army knife: A bag that's stylish and functional, yet at times somewhat baffling.

Though I wouldn't say this bag is courier-ready, it gets it right in a lot of ways and works fine day to day. The bag I carried is black and gray. Besides a tiny red and silver Swiss Army emblem mounted to the front, there's no decoration on the bag. Very understated, very elegant. It's made of some sort of durable nylon weave. It's very sturdy -- excellent stitching, zippers that are heavy-duty and tagged, closures that sometimes pull double-duty with Velcro and plastic clasps.

Let's start from the inside out. The main pocket is spacious. (The bag's dimensions are listed at 19.5 inches wide, 14 inches deep and 6 inches across.) There's plenty of room in the main compartment for a jacket, notebooks, lunch -- whatever.

Inside the main compartment is a padded laptop pocket. It's very nice -- cushioned on all sides and outfitted with pockets on its front for computer disks. The computer pocket is mounted on the inside wall closest to the wearer. It closes with a Velcro flap. That flap has a pocket for carrying a portable CD player (or whatever you use to get your music on the move). That pocket closes with a zipper, and directly above that pocket, in the bag's main flap, is a portal for an earphone plug. Very convenient. When not in use, the earphones can be stowed in the bag's outside pocket closest to the wearer.

However, I didn't put my portable player in this designated pocket. Instead, I kept it in the outside pocket closest to the wearer; it was much easier this way to get to the player to turn it off and on, adjust volume, change discs, etc.

I've already mentioned one outside pocket -- there are two total. This is such a must. It's amazing how so many bags forego this feature. It's common sense that you don't want to be constantly opening and closing a big flap to get at what you're after. The Trek Messenger gets it right here. Both pockets are basically squared-off upside-down triangles. The outside pocket closest to the wearer closes with Velcro. The one on the front of the bag closes with a zipper. This pocket has discreet pleats that give it a little extra room. I carried a bunch of stuff in hereó keys, glasses, wallet, pens.

Underneath the main flap, which closes with Velcro and a pair of black plastic buckles, is another pocket. Here's where it gets a bit baffling. This pocket's sides are zippers. I've seen this on another bag I reviewed and didn't understand it then, either. OK, so I can unzip this pocket and get a really good look at the storage space inside for pens, disks, spare change, key holder, etc., but I don't want to carry things in a pocket that unzips. I will say, though, that even a really good tug on this zippered pocket doesn't loosen it. Still, it seems extraneous.

The bag also has two mesh pockets on either side for a water bottle or whatever. I kept my camera in one of them. They're not padded, but you could put a cell phone in there (no specific pocket for that) and they close with a bit of Velcro, which I appreciate. There's also a nylon strap mounted to the top of the bag for hand-carrying.

Up until now, it's been so far, so good. But all good things must end, and here's where it does: the bag's strap. Excuse me while I rant a bit about all bags before getting specific about the Trek Messenger.

Why do the manufacturers of top-quality, high-dollar bags treat the strap as an afterthought? Anyone who carries a bag will tell you the strap is critical as to whether the bag is a winner or a total stink-bomb. Because you can have the nicest, best-looking, sturdiest, most functional bag in the world, and if it's a bear to carry and gives you a hernia and pulls your spine out of alignment, who needs it?

That off my chest, let me tell you about the Trek Messenger strap: It's not terrible, but it's sure not great. First of all, it's mounted to the bag's sides at a very strange angle, which actually promotes the bag's falling away from the body when carried across one shoulder, rather than cuddling up to the body. A definite drawback, especially with a bagful of gear. My second beef is that the strap itself simply isn't worthy of this nice-looking bag. It's a 1 1/2-inch-wide length of floppy nylon. It's adjustable from one side, and when the strap is tightened over my shoulder, as I like to wear my bag, there is literally a 2-foot length of nylon strap left flapping in the wind. On the pro side, there is a free-moving shoulder pad that helps make the strap bearable, and a waist strap (detachable at both ends) so cinching the bag is possible. However, both of these features are little compensation for a strap system lacking in major ways. There's no getting around that this part of the bag needs an overhaul.

My recommendation: Keep the bag in mind, but let the designers have another go at it before committing to the purchase.

Swiss Army