by Johnny Tse
Timbuk2 began as a bike messenger bag manufacturer in San Francisco; they built their reputation off of their bag’s durability. In recent years, they have increased their variety of bags and have started producing notebook messenger bags, some based on their classic messenger design whilst others were designed specifically as notebook bags. The Timbuk2 Outtawhack has unique features that set itself apart from designs on the market today.
Reason for Buying
Back in April, I purchased the Pakuma Choroka K2 notebook messenger bag after reading good reviews about its notebook compartment and good materials. Indeed, I found the notebook compartment was excellent in terms of protection. The material seemed to be of good quality and its shoulder strap was excellent. Seven months down the line and I find that the material has ripped in a two places; also there are holes on the bottom of the bag. With my impulse buying tendencies, the search for a replacement began immediately. Several $150+ options were considered but at the end I settled for the Outtawhack due to its price, capacity and uniqueness. The retail price is $125, however I bought it through an eBay retailer for an excellent $79 ($55 bag, $24 delivery) which is around the same price as the K2 at the time of purchase.
- Unique 3-panel design and rugged ballistic nylon exterior
- Main zip compartment with ample room for papers and files
- Second zip compartment with 360-degree padded laptop protection and corduroy liner
- Headphone port
- Under-flap organizer for quick access; MP3 and cell phone pockets; key ring tether
- Zip change pocket
- Padded back panel and airflow channel provide comfort and breathability
- Safety flasher attachment loop
- Timbuk2 Quality Guarantee
- External dimensions:
- W – 18.5in (46.9cm)
- H – 11.0in (27.9cm)
- D – 5.3in (13.5cm)
- Notebook compartment:
- W – 16.0in (40.6cm)
- H – 10.5in (26.7cm)
- D – 1.3in (3.3cm)
- Fits 17″ or smaller notebooks
- Weight: 3.2lbs (1.42kg)
- Capacity: 1,525cu. In. (24.9L)
- Colour: Black/Grey (Dark brown/Rusty and Navy/Blue also available)
- Material: Ballistic Nylon
Build and Design
The outer most compartment of the Outtawhack is secured by two buckles and Velcro strips. The plastic buckles found on the Outtawhack are identical to those found on the K2 which I have had no problems with and can be easily operated with one hand. The Velcro strips provide enough resistance to avoid accidental openings even if the buckles were not secured. With the outer flap lifted, there is a zipper pocket and an open pocket. Moving inside, there is a cell phone compartment, portable music player compartment, three pen slots and a card holder. Behind that is a zipped compartment with two additional slots; this compartment can be useful for items that are commonly accessed but require that extra bit of security. The main problem with this outer compartment is that because it was designed for easy access, the material only goes up to 2/3 of the bag, leaving the top end open. Although items are secured with straps and the main flap, it gives a sense of insecurity about the items stored within.
The main compartment is a general area for your daily goods. The compartment can easily fit two or three text books with room to spare. There is also a smaller slot for things you want separated from the main section. All zips on this bag are made by YKK and plastic parts are produced by UTX, both of which are quality parts and widely used in related products. The taps attached to the zippers makes unzipping easier, although it is not an essential part of the bag. There are reflective taps attached which is an inherited feature from the classic messenger bag line; this should be useful for bicyclers.
The K2’s capacity was surprisingly large with its classic messenger bag style, meaning its size was very flexible as illustrated. With the Outtawhack I had an expectation with its 1,525 cubic inch volume which is about 50% more than the K2’s supposed capacity. I decided to write or rather, capture a dedicated section on capacity because during the picture taking of the bag, I found that the main compartment looked very small. I decided to do a few simple demonstrations to show how much it can really hold. Enjoy the pictures.
The bag’s material was a major part of my purchase decision as I looking for a bag that was built to last and water resistant. My initial impression upon opening the packaging was that the ballistic nylon is definitely thicker than the cordura fabric used for the K2. Although the material used for all parts of the bag are seemingly impressive, only time will tell whether or not the Outtawhack will be able to handle to uses thrown at it. One downside of the Outtawhack is its weight, over twice the K2’s nifty 0.68Kg (1lb 8oz), the Outtawhack, 1.42Kg (3lbs, 2oz) is not the lightest bag around. This is mainly due to the heavier materials, extra compartments, and un-detachable double shoulder straps which you will encounter later on in this review.
1050 denier nylon is what’s referred to as Ballistic nylon. 1000 denier Cordura was used for the K2; it is also a nylon. Both materials were developed by DuPoint. 1050 denier nylon is the strongest and most durable fabric for its denier weight level. Against common mis-conception, a high denier level does not necessarily mean a stronger fabric. As you can see from the pictures, the surface of the bag is “shiny” but this is the general appearance of ballistic nylon. Cordura has a finer weave giving it a rugged (matte) look and is also the lighter material. A urethane back coating give both materials water repellant properties.
One of the main concerns for notebook bag buyers is the notebook compartment, which is supposed to protect the valuable laptop computer. The K2’s notebook compartment is excellent and is one of its main features. My bag has been dropped with the notebook inside and wacked against a lamp, but what’s important is that my notebook came out unharmed. Before the purchase of the Outtawhack, I looked at several Timbuk2 notebook messenger bags and can safely say that the K2’s notebook compartment outshines the Outtawhack’s in terms of protection. That said, the Outtawhack’s notebook compartment will provide similar amount of protection when compared to standard neoprene notebook sleeves. One area where Timbuk2 bags in general do better in terms of protection are the corners. The K2’s foam pads protected the main body of notebooks but less so for the corners. With the Outtawhack, the corners are completely covered. The inside of the compartment is lined with corduroy backed by a thin layer of foam padding. There is also a pocket fro random items, it fits a standard size magazine.
While the K2 was advertised for 15.4″ notebooks (17″ for the K1), many of Timbuk2’s notebook bags are designed for the Macbook and Macbook Pro. The Outtawhack is no different; its compartment is made for the 17’’ Macbook Pro, which is thinner than most 17″ notebooks on the market. To find out whether or not slightly thicker notebooks would fit, I borrowed a HP dv9000z for a quick test. As you can see from the pictures (middle), it fits “like a glove.” My 15.4″ HP 8510p fits well without wobbling around in the larger compartment.
The Outtawhack retains the classic 3-panel Timbuk2 messenger bag design and comes with a detachable messenger bag strap with good padding. The metal rings which you attach the shoulder strap to are not attached to the same position on both sides. This is done so that the bag can be comfortably worn behind like a messenger bag. The handle has a stiff core underneath the ballistic nylon with foam padding on the underside for comfort.
You are now in the last quarter of the review and you are probably starting to wonder if this bag can be worn like a backpack and whether it has a padded back panel with an airflow channel. Furthermore, you’re probably wondering about the “uniqueness” that was mentioned earlier in this review. Let’s start with the padded back panel, a feature taken from Timbuk2’s backpack line and also featured in the Commute notebook messenger line. It is a dense yet soft layer of foam backed by a semi-rigid sheet of plastic. In a simple sense, it’s like a 1cm thick layer of neoprene backed by a thicker than usual sheet of plastic used for plastic ring binders. The “airflow” feature relates to the unpadded channel diagonally placed between the top right and bottom left of the back. Hidden between the back of notebook compartment and the back panel are two shoulder straps and two metal rings for these straps to attach to. One strap attaches to a ring placed near the top left corner and the other to the center of the bottom. It’s hard to describe what it looks like so here are some pictures to go along with the bulge of words.
Yup, best of both worlds: some people prefer messenger bags due to their style and back packs for their capacity and comfort. Well, with the Outtawhack you get both! But this uniqueness also brings another moan. Although the messenger style shoulder straps are detachable, the backpack shoulder straps are not – they are either out or hidden inside the bag which adds to the weight and also produces a non-uniform surface to the back panel which reduces the degree of comfort.
Traveling experience with the Outtawhack
For my first trip using the Outtawhack, I traveled from Ottawa to Newark via Toronto. The travel weight is estimated to be around 13.7lbs (6.2Kg), including 15.4″ notebook, 90W AC adapter, mouse, travel document, mp3 player, several other items and weight including the bag itself. 13.7 lb is not exactly a light travel weight for a standard messenger bag, but when worn as a backpack the weight is distributed and caused no discomfort while walking around the airport. I would like to point out that the straps should be tightened for the maximum comfort, meaning the bag should be right up against your back. Going through the security checks were no problem either; the notebook was easily removed from the compartment and slotted back in nicely. The bag fits under airplane sits with ease.
I set out to find a bag with several key elements, quality materials, capacity, comfort, good notebook protection and value for money. Whether at the price of $125 on the Timbuk2 website or at the $79 street price, the Outtawhack strikes a good balance between these five elements, but it is not without flaws. The supposed 24.9L capacity left me wanting just a little more. As for the front compartment, it does not give me 100% confidence about the safety of the items inside. The advertised backpack strap feature worked well, providing the Outtawhack with the style of a messenger bag and the comfort of a backpack. It would have been nice if the straps were detachable. All in all I am happy with this purchase; I can only wait and see if the Outtawhack will live up to Timbuk2’s reputation in terms of durability.
- Double shoulder strap and comfortable back padding
- Good price
- Top quality materials and parts used
- Non-detachable double shoulder strap
- Not so secure front compartment