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Review: Collins Messenger Bag by Brenthaven

According to Wikipedia,

A messenger bag (also called a courier bag) is a type of sack, usually made out of some kind of cloth (natural or synthetic), that is worn over one shoulder with a strap that winds around the chest resting the bag on the lower back. Messenger bags are often used by bicycle messengers, though they are now also an urban fashion icon. Some types of messenger bags are called carryalls.

The nature of a messenger bag should be clear. It’s a shoulder sack, instead of a back pack, designed for accessibility while carrying fewer contents.

Given that description and criteria, Brenthaven’s Collins Messenger Bag hits the target. Like the rest of the Collins Collections, the snappy gray exterior and pinstriped interior is eye-catching and sleek looking – an accoutrement to the well-dressed, fashion-conscious professional.

Design and Features

For accessibility, and like most messenger bags, the Collins bag favors a large flap over a zipper to close the bag. This flap is held down on one side by a large Velcro patch while a magnet secures the leather wrap-around tab. This clever idea minimizes the auditory rrrrr-rip factor of peeling apart the Velcro hook-and-loop. Well done Brenthaven.

The well-padded flap has a small zippered pocket that, like the Collins Backpack, has a zipper at the bottom that is sewn inside out. Last week, I questioned the design and wondered if it was meant to be that way or if it was a flaw. In the Collins Messenger Bag, however, I believe the design was intentional as a way to awkwardly reach and remove the the padding. (Unfortunately that doesn’t explain the same design on the backpack.)

Pull open the flap to reveal two compartments: a large front pocket and a generously padded interior.

The front pocket region is kept mostly closed by a single large Velcro dot and where I kept my laptop cord and brick. There is a small nylon accessory panel with two pen/stylus holders, 3 card holders, and two small index card sized pockets. Personally I would prefer fewer card holders and additional pockets.

The interior has densely padded sides, a padded spot for up to a 15″ laptop, and single interior pocket (approx. 4″ x 6″). While the thick padding protects the valuable contents – including a dedicated iPad / tablet slot – it also adds considerable bulk. I wouldn’t want to carry the contents below slung over my shoulder for very long.

The last two features to mention are accessible while the bag is closed: an iPhone-sized side pocket (too small for a water bottle), and a zippered rear pocket for folders and papers.


While a messenger bag is a specialized sack, I think there are some functional concerns of the Collins’ version.

First is the issue of a carrying handle. With a messenger bag flap design, a handle can’t be attached to the top of the flap without strongly securing the flap, say with buckles like a satchel. Alternatively the handle can be attached to the back side, which the design favored by Brenthaven here. Unfortunately with the bulk of a fully loaded bag, the bag puckers around the handle and lists forward as if it could dump out. Although having the laptop area at the back side of the bag helps distribute the weight, it is worth mentioning that the handle is not for sustained carrying but for lifting the bag to put on and take off.

Second is the strap. Without a padded shoulder cover, the thick, slick shoulder strap falls off a single shoulder while walking. This bag almost has to be worn as a sling across your chest. It is a messenger bag after all, so that shouldn’t be a big surprise, but padding on the strap would help lugging a bag around more comfortable.

Last is the lack of dedicated accessory spots. This was a feature of the Collins backpack that I thought could also be improved. And given the quality and design of my original Brenthaven laptop bag, I know what the company is capable of designing and producing (see review here).

Should You Buy?

As a manufacturer, Brenthaven’s attention to high craftsmanship for decades, commitment to the environment, and the lifetime guarantee for their products should definitely weigh in your choice. You’d be hard pressed to find a company with higher quality products and dedication to a smaller environmental footprint.

If you know how a messenger bag differs from a computer bag, then the $89.95 Brenthaven Collins Messenger Bag is a viable choice. Its sharp look will likely contribute to your own “urban fashion icon” appearance. Be aware, though, that storing a laptop in this bag adds significant heft while taking valuable space.


The Collins Messenger Bag was provided by Brenthaven for review on iSource. For further information regarding our site’s review policies, see the “About” page.


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