Messenger bags – if you carry one, you’re either a bike messenger or professional trying to appear urban or outdoorsy. We’ll admit to falling squarely in the second camp. But, even for a non-messenger, they still come in very handy. With the right combination of features and design, they can cover the spread between everyday briefcase and commuter bag. The Hyperlite Mountain Gear Messenger Bag is available this week. It falls squarely into that sweet spot. (You can buy it at that link.)
Hyperlite Mountain Gear is not an urban company. They don’t make packs for hipsters (although we’ve run into the oddly appropriate #ultralighthipster tag on Instagram). These guys are focused on making the lightest, most functional, most durable packs you can find without adding complications. That can be refreshing in a world dominated by decision fatigue. It also informed their design with the new Hyperlite Mountain Gear Messenger Bag. The bag doesn’t have extraneous pouches, pockets, and straps hanging off. It’s sleek, simple, and minimal. And, it expects you to be sleek, simple, and minimalist when you wear it.
HMG decided to make a messenger bag because their core customer base – alpinists and through-hikers – needed something to carry their laptops around in while they aren’t in the wilderness. These people spend weeks and months paring down their backcountry gear to the necessities. HMG thought it made sense that they’d want to lighten their load in town as well.
HMG’s Messenger Bag measures 18″x12″x4.5″. They designed the bag to fit a 15″ laptop in a divided pocket. There’s thin foam padding on the back and bottom of the bag to afford a little extra protection. The fabric is a burly 150 denier cuben fiber/polyester hybrid with Dyneema gridstop inside. Despite all this durability, the bag weighs 18 oz. We measured it and it comes in right at 18.25 oz. You can select either white or black cuben fiber. Either provides excellent water resistance. The fabric itself is waterproof, but because the bag doesn’t seal, we wouldn’t call the whole thing waterproof.
The main, shoulder strap cuts across the bag at a slight downward angle. It’s designed to be carried over the left shoulder. (We asked if there would be a right-shoulder version. No plans yet. Sorry, lefties!) The strap has 3D mesh padding on the inside, giving it a bit of breathability, and a daisy chain on the outside for clipping on extras. The main buckle adjusts on 1.5″ webbing. HMG added a cool feature here – for quicker adjustments, there’s a D-ring that sits in between the strap and buckle. Pull up on the D-ring and you can adjust length quickly without any resistance. Let it go and it slaps back down onto the buckle, locking the strap in place. Another D-ring is sewn into the tag end of the strap and there’s an elastic loop to hold the slack in place. Our assessment? The strap is comfy.
Closing the bag is a simple and secure affair. It’s all covered with a single flap that closes with velcro and two buckles. The velcro runs the width of the flap and the height of the bag, so closing the flap is easy – no need to match things up to secure your goodies.
Inside, you’ll find the laptop pocket separated from the main pocket by a slightly elasticized gridstop divider. The main pocket has no other complications. Under the flap, there’s one small open pocket with a key clip and one small zipped pocket to secure valuables. Again, simple and minimal.
Outside, the bag and main strap are rimmed with reflective piping. The straps securing the flap are attached with reflective webbing and offer places to clip lights for nighttime safety. HMG also includes a removable waist strap made of 3/4″ webbing that helps secure the bag during more vigorous activities. There’s a handle on the top for carrying in a more “traditional” fashion.
We posted a picture of our first ride with the bag on Instagram not too long ago. It showed our daily carry – a MacBook Air, a windshirt (Patagonia Houdini in this case), some Luna sandals to wear instead of bike shoes, and the everyday pocket contents – wallet, phone, pen, etc. – stashed in the zipped pocket so they wouldn’t accidentally fall out during the ride in to the office.
Now, the bad news is, you’re not going to be fitting too much more than that in the HMG Messenger. It’s not a large bag. There’s room for a water bottle and a spare shirt, but you’re not fitting your life in there. We think that’s just fine. This bag isn’t for going on a week-long bike tour. It’s for carrying the bare necessities to get you where you need to go. If you carry more than this bag can carry on your commute, Hyperlite Mountain Gear may not be your corporate soulmate. That’s ok.
We’ve really tried hard to find something not to like about HMG’s Messenger Bag. Our sample came with the main buckle installed backwards, making the strap less secure, but that’s already being fixed before production. It’s small, but fits everything you need for a commute. It’s ultralight, but ridiculously burly. Is it not as cool looking as those urban-focused messenger bags? Honestly, we think it’s pretty darn attractive and can fit into situations where a messenger bag would look tacky.
Honestly, it’s hard to hate on it at all, until you see the price. HMG does not make cheap gear. They make gear that’s designed to last for a long time under a lot of abuse. We read a review of one of their Dyneema Duffles that involved filling it with gear and dragging it behind a truck for a mile down a gravel road. That was after the reviewer sent his kids after it with rocks and sharp sticks. It was dirty, but barely showed any wear. So, with all that prefacing and jibber jabber, you know this bag is going to hurt your wallet a little.
$275. There. That wasn’t so bad, was it? But really, compare to some of the more messenger-focused brands, it’s not even much of a premium. With them, you’re getting a bag that was made in a garment factory. With HMG, you’re paying for a bag that was made in Biddeford, Maine, that you’ll likely be able to pass down to your grandchildren. For us, that’s a no-brainer.
(HMG provided us with a pre-retail sample of the Messenger Bag. All opinions are Engearment’s own. Also, we’re sorry for using HMG’s PR images to show you the bag. We’ll try to replace them later this week.)