Timbuk2 Messenger Bag Review

Contemplating a new messenger bag for hauling around a laptop computer? Read this Timbuk2 Messenger Bag Review first.

I have been a big fan of Timbuk2 messenger bags for over 15 years. My original custom bag was ordered with the water proof interior, the extra layer of ballistic nylon for the bottom, and probably every single add on feature that was an option at the time.

[purple bag]

That purple bag was a beast of construction and functionality. Hardly a day went by that it wasn’t slung over my shoulder for my daily bicycle commute in San Francisco, or later on my daily motorcycle commute of 30 miles each way. This motorcycle commute was accomplished in all weather conditions, in extreme heat, wind and rain, and here and there at rather spirited triple digit speeds where “appropriate”. The bag just kept on going, and kept my various electronic devices dry and safe. My purple commuter bag did everything I asked for and more!

One year I rode my Aprilia Falco every day without fail and for 67 straight days of rain. All my motorcycle gear got saturated and rather disgusting, but the Timbuk2 held up and never allowed the contents of the bag to get wet. The contents most often included a delicate laptop computer, expensive cameras and lenses and paperwork.

[purple bag worn out]

I also used my Timbuk2 while offshore fishing in the Pacific Ocean on boats that never had dry decks. I over loaded the bag with fishing tackle, my lunch, water etc. Often I’d find the bag on the deck with salt water sloshing around it, but once again never a leak. Salt water is pretty hard on any metal parts, and the salt seizes up zippers. But, once again, that Timbuk2 Messenger bag just kept on doing it’s job.

Well, 15 or so years of heavy use finally took its toll and the seams started coming apart, and the strap separated from the bag to a large extent. It was time to either repair under the lifetime warranty or buy a new bag.

Contacted Timbuk2 and of course that many years of use and wear and tear us not covered by a Lifetime Warranty. Curious, what then is a lifetime warranty other than a bunch of fine print that renders a lifetime warranty void of any coverage. I call that a marketing warranty, good only for selling shit.

So I thought, I’ll just bite the bullet and buy a new custom bag.

[new custom olive bag]

olive timbuk2 messenger bag
olive timbuk2 messenger bag

Ordered up a Custom Timbuk2 Messenger bag with the Ballistic Nylon fabric and all the features currently offered including laptop sleeve, and a gazillion pockets inside. Got the bag, and it seemed well made and yet lighter than my old bag.

Fast forward a year and half, and wait just a cotton picking minute, my heavy duty strap is separating from the bag. The small, very tiny section of where the strap gets sewed on has seams unraveling. Both sides of the strap are affected, and I’m about to lose my super maxed out MacBook Pro.

So I contact Timbuk2 and they say, sure pack up the bag and prepay either $25 or $35 for us to look at the bag. We’ll repair it, and if it looks like a warranty issue then we’ll refund your money. Otherwise the $25 or $35 will cover the repair. That PISSES me off. What in the hell is a Lifetime Warranty? Apparently in the mind of Timbuk2 it’s whatever they decide at any given moment.

Here’s their email:

Good news we can fix your bag!

How to get this done?

  • Please find our repairs page and select the type of repair that needs to be processed http://www.timbuk2.com/search?q=repair
  • Add the repair to your cart and proceed to checkout. There is a $25 or $35 processing fee that is assessed up front (depends on type of bag you have). If we receive the bag and it is determined that the issue falls under warranty we will cancel the charge and process the repair at no cost. All final decisions will be made once we have the bag in hand and have an opportunity to assess it.
  • The online system will email you an order confirmation that is going to act as your warranty claim number
  • Package up your bag, include a copy of the warranty confirmation email and a note telling us what is wrong with your bag
  • Write the order number on the outside of the package.
  • Send the package to Timbuk2 – you can use any service you wish, but we recommend using a service that will give you a tracking number.

Once we receive the bag it will take us 3-7 business days to process the claim. You will receive notice once the bag has been repaired.

We’re sorry that your bag didn’t hold up the way that it should have! We’ll do all that we can to
get you out the door with a working Timbuk2 on your back.”

I am here to say that Timbuk2 used to make heavy duty Messenger Bags that were designed to carry a load on a daily basis, and hold up. Now-a-days, they appear to be cutting corners and not taking care of their loyal customers. Interestingly a majority of their bags are no longer made in San Francisco, but are, yep, made in China. We all know the benefits of this. Folks in San Francisco no longer have those manufacturing jobs, and quality tends to go downhill.

Timbuk2 seems to be focusing on the decorative layer of Messenger Bags rather than the pure robust functionality of the original design. Why? Is that market gone? Have customers decided that quality and functionality and durability no longer play a part in their product desires? For me the question is easy. I choose quality,function, and durability first. I pay extra for the custom colors, and features. I thought I paid for the quality, function and durability, but I am sadly mistaken.

Now, things get even more interesting. Last Christmas, I ordered a Custom Timbuk2 Messenger Bag for my wife. Her 15 year old Timbuk2 finally had seams bursting, and it was time to get her next bag. So I ordered a custom bag, with all the features of my last bag. Turns out Timbuk2 has stopped offering Ballistic Nylon, and instead offers only the Cordura Nylon, which by their own original descriptions is not as tough or heavy duty. Then it turns out, the bag has fewer internal pockets, and the strap, the main part of the bag, that carries all the stress of the weight of the contents, has been downgraded to a soft and wimpy strap. The old heavy duty strap is no longer available. And it too suffers the lack of reinforced stitches on the ends where they attach to the bag. What the Hell.

I did not know all these details, since I did not open the bag before Christmas, but since we were traveling over the holidays, I gave my wife the bag as an early Christmas present so that she could use it while flying. Well, what a flipping disappointment. After the holidays I contacted Timbuk2, but was given the runaround. “We no longer offer the Ballistic Nylon, or the heavy duty strap. ”

My wife hates the new bag, and I am annoyed, since this was not a cheap proposition to order a custom bag. We both feel cheated, and have resolved to not buy anything else with the Timbuk2 logo on it.


I finally said screw it, and ordered a C.A. Myer’s Awl for All, sail maker’s awl with waxed cotton thread. An on my commute I re-stitched or resewed the strap back on the bag. Unfortunately Timbuk2 did not leave enough material on the buckle side of the strap to greatly improve on the amount of material sewed. So it’s hard to reduce the stress on this very crucial load bearing part of the bag.

I was thinking about how they stress such a small area, and then recalled, my old Domke canvas camera bags I used as a pro-photographer had their straps completely wrap about the bottom of the bag making the whole bag a distributed part of the load bearing of the strap. Now there’s an idea. A bag meant to carry a sometimes heavy load of camera gear and do so in a way that the strap is never, ever going to be stressed, and that you could lose a large portion of the stitching and keep on going with no fear of losing your precious cargo.

Timbuk2, time for you to find your way, or just get out of the business, and let the cheap Chinese knockoffs take over.

One thought on “Timbuk2 Messenger Bag Review”

  1. Be happy your bag lasted 15 years! I mean how long do you *expect* a bag that is carried daily to last? 50 years? 100 years?

    I don’t know what Timbuk2’s warranty was in 2000, but today the fine print is pretty clear:
    “If there is a defect in the materials or workmanship we will repair the bag at our discretion. Damages not covered are those resulting from abuse, normal wear and tear, accidental damage, and cosmetic damages that do not affect the functionality of the bag (such as scratches or stained fabrics).”

    Clearly, normal wear and tear is not covered.
    The days of the “return it for any reason” warranty are over. L.L. Bean ended theirs in 2018.

    Today Timbuk2 has to make products that must be replaced every few years just like everyone else. If they kept making bags that last a decade or more they’d go out of business because nobody would buy one for more than a decade after their first bag! LOL!

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