Timbuk2 Detour bag

A new bag

My old backpack has served me well. It has been with me pretty much anywhere I've travelled. To work, to the Nurburgring, to Scandinavia and generally to see family and friends. There's nothing broken on it (apart from the scuff that I induced to it when it fell off my bike), everything works and apart from a wash, it's perfect. I'll definitely keep that bag.
Despite that, a backpack isn't really the ideal bag for travelling on the trains and tubes. A more ideal bag to me is what's called a messenger bag, that is a bag you usually carry on your back/side with one strap across your shoulder. It's more practical because you can (more) easily put it on and take it off, and you can carry it in different positions. Something that's very useful in crowded tube cars.
When it comes to security I guess a backpack and a messenger bag are about equal, the messenger bag has got a big flap covering everything, so it might be a tad more secure than having tons of visible zips on the outside. But if they want it, they'll get it regardless of bag type.

The Bag Hunt

As per usual my research started on a murky night in the west tower of the castle the Internet and by asking friends. I initially headed over to computer stores, via Google of course, looking for a laptop bag. I found tons of bags that were suitable for huge laptops, 15" to 17". My laptop is a widescreen 12" so I don't need a huge computer bag. I also didn't want the bag to look like it contained a computer, IN-COG-NITO, please.
Right - a bag that doesn't look like a computer bag, with a space for a small laptop, but the bag still has got to be fairly roomy. I do want to carry my lunch, a book, a magazine, some other gadgets and in some cases I want to stuff a small jacket in there too. Quite an impossible combination!
The laptop bags I found were not suitable. The hunt continued. It all started klicking when a friend of mine mentioned that people he knew were very happy with the Timbuk2 brand. Without further ado I started to investigate the Timbuk2 website. The products I found on the website wasn't superly impressive. I couldn't really get a concept of the sizes of the bags and the computer compartment in particular. Many of the bags also didn't come with interior pictures - sure I could change the colour of them but not peek inside. What I did spot though was that there was a shop quite near where I work, and one not too far from where I live. I decided to go have a peek.

Timbuk2 Detour

The Timbuk2 Detour Messenger bag with laptop compartment, Click here to view larger image (NaNkb)

Timbuk2 Detour messenger bag - in the new black; Black. (White will never ever be the new black!)

Timbuk2 Detour messenger bags mineral water pocket, Click here to view larger image (NaNkb)

One of the very useful bottle pockets.... This is probably the mineral water one...

I walked into a (push) bike shop and asked for bags, and especially the Timbuk2 range. Turned out they had one model that would suit (the other one didn't have a laptop compartment), but I didn't like the colour. I asked if they had another colour and after a phone call and so forth they did find another colour; all black. Excellent, just what I wanted.
When I got home I noticed that the bag I got was the Detour model. Therefore, a free tip for bag manufacturers; Customers don't care what model they're buying, they care about the size and functionality (and sometimes colour). Focus the website on displaying the size and fuctions/pockets instead.
Anyway. This bag is really well made. I mean really well made. When you pick it up you can feel that the material is soft, but still sturdy (it's "ballistic nylon" on the outside, whatever that means). The rubberized and waterproof bottom means you can put the bag down on the floor without worrying about your laptop an books sucking up water. The flip is also from some waterproof material which in turn means you don't have to cover you bag with a newspaper when you're caught out in the rain. You can use the newspaper to cover your hair like every other "sensible" person. The straps, both the backpack ones and the single over-the-shoulder one, are made of a nice flexible material and they use good clips that are hard to open with one hand (makes it tough for scum to tamper with your bag hehee). The shoulder strap has got a quick adjust which I've found extremely useful. You can adjust the length of the strap to suit walking, or when you're resting the bag on the tube floor, you can adjust it to be a bit longer so you can still hold the strap whilst reading your book standing up.
There's three pockets on the outside; Two bottle pockets on the sides and one narrow zipppered one on top of the flip. Being Finnish I'm assuming the reason for the two bottle pockets is that you need one for the Vodka and one for the sparkling mineral water. Or something...

But let's go inside...

The inside of the Timbuk2 Detour bag, Click here to view larger image (NaNkb)

There's plenty of storage space in the Detour. However, it's all 100% width, wich means that a lunch box, or some extra gadget-cables, or even a book doesn't fit well. Big sheets of paper on the other hand do fit well. I guess it's designed by the lowest common denominator (or should I say widest).

Looking inside the bag you have two main compartments. One at the back for your laptop. This compartment is nicely padded (for your "mad" computer work), and has got a velcro strap on the top to keep the laptop really snug and safe.
The other main compartment is "just there", nothing really special in the pocket, but towards the outside, there's a large zippered pocket. This pocket includes a key-line, and the key-hook is even made of metal. That's a nice detail.
In front of those you have a "wall" that contains a lot of smaller pockets, including business card pocket, pen pockets and one that's nicely lined with the same soft material as the laptop compartment. One would assume it's taylor made for the iPod Nano and it's scratch resistless case.
In front of that "wall" is another "plain" pocket that will hold A5 papers (and a bit larger) quite easily. good pocket for a smaller book, I'd say.
And finally in front of that there's a narrow pocket at the front, and in front of that is the second zippered pocket on the inside.

Stowing Practicality

There's two areas where a bag like this can win or lose. The first area is how well it stores my stuff, the second area is how easy is it to transport the bag around.
Obviously this bag stores my laptop, that's a very important start. However, as I have a (slightly) special laptop the laptop compartment is too big, which isn't a problem, it just wastes space.
Then it also stores my auxilliary gadgets; charger, USB cable, Nintendo DS, small computer mouse, headphones etc. And on top of that it'll keep a book or two and some printouts safe. In the small pockets I can keep a Lemsip sachet and some other emergency stuff.
I don't have any real complaints about the stowability, but it could be closer to perfection. What I'd like to see is a medium sized zippered compartment for my gadgets.
I'd also like to see a dedicated lunch-box compartment. I don't want the lunch box to break and spoil everything else.
If the flip (lid) could close up a bit tighter that'd be good too. Just to keep some prying eyes and hands away.


The Timbuk2 messenger bag showing one of its two back-back-straps., Click here to view larger image (NaNkb)

View from the back - one back-pack-strap out and the other one tucked away. Having the choice between carrying the bag over your shoulder or as a back pack is a great plus.

As I said, the second area where a bag might win or lose is how easy it's to transport.
This bag is very very versatile versatile. It's primarily a messenger bag and as such it works well. The handle on top of the lid is good to control the bag when you're swinging it around yourself. It's also good to lift it there and generally move it around. The long adjustable shoulder strap is very practical.
The backpack-straps are easy to take out and put away. They also clip very securely to the bag so I don't have to worry about that either.
When carrying the bag it's comfortable in all positions thanks to the padded back. The bottle pockets are easy to access if you need a drink while walking of standing around waiting.


I really like this bag. The material is nice, it's sturdy but still flexible. It stores my laptop with ease and it's comfortable and it's quite good looking. If I could get the interior a bit more to suit my gadgets it would get close to perfect marks. The really big question mark is around the price and the value of the bag. You see, I paid £80 (yes eight-zero, eighty) for this bag. To me that's a ridiculous amount for a bag. Seeing them on sale for $99 (~£59) I know I'm being shafted a bit. I also have a sneaking suspicion that this bag is last years model (Shafted++;). Despite that it is a very good bag. I've kind of adapted the following philosophy about this bag. It's a quality bag, and my track record shows that I keep my bags for quite a long time. The question for me isn't really if the bag is worth £80 but more if I can afford to pay £80 for a bag right now. Obviously I could. I guess any bag would be between £40 to £50, so an extra £30ish pounds for a top quality bag that I like doesn't seem so horribly wrong. Having a bag that I like is quite important for me to use it. I'm going to spend about 4h per working day with this thing and if the bag annoys me it's a huge burden on my commute.
I'm also quite sure that I could spend well beyond £100 on a bag should I wish to.
The bottom line therefore is; If you can afford to pay "a bit too much" for a quality bag, I think you should seriously consider one of the Timbuk2 bags. They're of good quality, look good and work well.
Update: I recently had to bring my backpack into work, and it didn't take me very long before I realized how incredibly impractical a backpack is when you're travelling on the train and the tube. The Detour is really very very nice to use!