Review: Timbuk2 Command, The TSA-Friendly Laptop Messenger

I like bags.  I like bags that can easily carry a lot of stuff, handle travel, look good and are built to last. I recently picked up a Timbuk2 Command Messenger, which does all of these things.  The Command is TSA compliant so you don’t have to take your laptop out of the bag even when you have to strip everything else off while going through those security lines. I’ve used Timbuk2 bags before, and have to admit I like them quite a lot.  They make custom bags and bags that can meet just about any sense of style out there, with a wide range of materials.

My previous daily-duty bag (also a Timbuk2) is still in great shape, save for a buckle coming off in San Diego two years ago.   The only thing was that I used it carry quite a bit — laptop, chargers, cables, moleskin notebook, and anything else I may need on-the-go for work.    The problem is that if I fly I have to take my laptop out of the bag and hope that it doesn’t get bumped around while making it’s way through the TSA checkpoint.  While looking for a possible replacement I came across the Command.   Given my previous experience with Timbuk2 and the fact that this new style was TSA compliant, I had to try it out.

I’ve been using the Command as my primary bag for over a week now.  Let’s look closer and see whether the Command safely handle your travel needs as handle the daily grind in style…

Unlike some of Timbuk2’s offerings, the Commander is only available in black, an olive nylon “potrero” and a gray gunmetal.  I opted for the black.  The oxford nylon has a sheen to it, but I’ve found the black suitable for professional appearance at the office.  The Timbuk2 styling is just edgy enough to be different from the regular, nondescript office bags to stand out, without looking silly.  That’s just a personal preference 😉

I mentioned before my previous Timbuk2 bag is in great shape after over 2 years of abuse, save for a buckle that came off — ok, got ripped off while trying to get the bag out of a taxi — on a trip.  So, one of the first things I looked at when I got this bag were the buckles.   Gone are the plastic buckles.  The Commander has nice metal buckles that slide into the nylon fastening straps to secure your gear.

The next thing is the amount of pockets in the Commander.  Seriously, this bag is cavernous. One of the best features is how the bag was designed with new front pocket organization, including a “Napoleon pocket” which allows you to quickly access items through the front side pocket without having to open up the entire bag.  Nice!

The organization theme is repeated in the interior, but before we go there we have to check out the most important part of the bag — where you store your laptop:

Unlike other messenger-style bags or even other Timbuk2 messenger bags is how the Commander has been designed to store your laptop or netbook.  The pocket is actually in the rear of the bag; so it sits against your hip while wearing the bag — instead of having the laptop in a sleeve-compartment in the interior of the bag itself.  Timbuk2 had to design the bag this way for the TSA-compliant design (when you unzip the bottom of the bag it lays flat to go through the x-ray screening machine so you don’t have to take your laptop out of the bag at all).

If you look at the photo above, you’ll see this red oddly ribbed lining.  That’s there to protect your laptop.  In fact, Timbuk2 calls the sleeve-pocket their “studded condom technology.”  Hmmm. Ooookay.   Not sure I want to  think about my laptop being protected by a studded condom, but fine.  We’re all adults here.

[Dear Studded Condom Laptop Sleeve-Pocket Thingy…don’t scratch my laptop!]

The sleeve does a good job, although I do wish there was a little more padding there…but maybe I’m paranoid.  Since the pocket is in the back I am a bit (overly perhaps) worried that any type of accidental drop or, forbid, buckle- strap mishap using the bag would end in a slow-motion crash where the only sound would be the splitting crunch of my laptop breaking into a thousand little pieces.  Hopefully not.

The inside of the bag has much more interior storage than my previous Timbuk2 laptop messenger.  I LIKE that!  I like being able to organize the bag and have everything stay in its place.  There are pouches and pockets, and straps (not pictured) where you can store even more stuff.  Cables, water bottles, maybe a small thermos, go wild.  Unless you’re trying to carry a live animal — or child — in the bag, you’re probably gonna find a good spot for it.

[Another interior organization pocket!]

[Even the shoulder-strap pad has nylon straps looped to clip or hold extra stuff!]

At the bottom of the bag, you’ll find zippers allowing you to quickly open the bag to lay it flat for your next TSA security checkpoint screening.  Woo hoo!

[The Timbuk2 Command opens wide, to prepare for some x-rayin’ goodness]

I really like bags that are TSA compliant.  I just don’t like taking my laptop out of the bag at checkpoints.  One, it’s just too crowded and easy for you or someone else to accidentally knock the laptop down to the ground before (or after) you set it in those plastic screening baskets.   The other thing is, frankly, I don’t want everyone eying my goods waiting to go through the x-ray machine.  There’s always that uncomfortable few seconds, that seem like an eternity, as you go through the metal detector only to wait for your bag.   While it may not be easy for a ne’er-do-well to snatch your laptop, better to be safe than sorry.

[Here’s the Commander opened up flat on my desk, tags and all]

Overall I really dig this bag, and currently plan to continue using it on a daily basis.   It keeps everything secured in place.  It’s comfortable, and I like that it is TSA compliant for when I need to travel.   The only thing I am adjusting to is the fact that the laptop isn’t stored inside the bag’s main compartment like other messengers — or even other Timbuk2 bags.  The laptop is stored in the rear pocket.  It’s padded, but even so since the laptop rides next to your hip when wearing the bag it can be awkward.  That said, I’ve found the bag to be comfortable to wear even when fully packed to the gills…and I’m a pack-rat! 😀

Check out this video from Timbuk2 running through all of the  features of the Command laptop messenger.

MSRP: $130 Medium (Reviewed) and $140 Large from Timbuk2.

What I Like: Great build quality.  Tons of pockets and storage built into the bag.  Comfortable to wear even when fully loaded.  TSA-compliant, so you can unzip the two main compartments (laptop and rest of the bag) to lay it flat for X-ray screening….you don’t have to pull your laptop out of the bag.  Waterproof materials, so your gear won’t be soaked even if you are.  Front Napoleon pocket makes it easy to get items stored in front without opening up the entire bag.

What Needs Improvement:  I’d like a little more protection with the laptop sleeve section of the bag.  Depending on the size of your laptop, it may feel a bit awkward since the laptop isn’t in the inner portion of the bag but in the rear zip pocket.

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