I’ve been waiting…patiently this time…for my custom-made bag to arrive. After trying the Ona Union Street Bag and finding it terrific but with a single, fatal flaw (that wouldn’t bother most people, but I’m a little whack about certain things), I went in search of another messenger-style bag that would fulfill my needs.
This review is going to be long enough that I’m breaking it up into 2 parts, so let’s get an overall summary out of the way for the short-attention-span crowd who are already dying to be done: I got the large Timbuk2 Laptop Messenger with the medium Snoop insert. The bag is very roomy with lots of pockets, and holds literally everything I own from a photography and mobile technology standpoint. The Snoop insert is well-padded and fairly flexible. The bag carries well and looks terrific, especially if you get a custom-built bag like I did. The quality appears to be fantastic. I have a few minor quibbles – It isn’t perfect, but it is highly recommended.
Now that those folks are playing on their xBox again, let’s get to some details on the Snoop, and I’ll do a bag writeup in the next day or so. You might want to read the Ona review, but here’s my recent list of what I’m looking for in a bag:
- Versatile – lots of easily accessible pockets and places to put stuff. Travel well.
- Spacious – hold my body and 4-5 lenses. One lens would be replaced by a flash (when I own one and decide to carry it…). It needs to hold my laptop and various cables, notebook, pens, etc. so I can have a single bag when I travel.
- Protective – don’t let me break my stuff. Please.
- Comfortable – my equipment felt more comfortable to carry in the Ona bag vs. my current LowePro 202 AW, and actually felt lighter. Also, don’t have fiddly designs – be simple and easy.
- Attractive – as I mentioned in my other article, I travel in the corporate world, and I want something that has some style and design. The very serious and pro photographers roll their eyes at this, but I’ll steal my own quote: I don’t want a bag that looks like it belongs on “That 70′s Show or “Star Trek” – I want something that looks good. Attractive design and high function aren’t mutually exclusive. They just seem to be in the world of camera bags…
After scouting around, I came upon Timbuk2. They are famous for their messenger bags. As it turns out, a buddy of mine has their “Commute” bag for his laptop and is a big fan. They have just recently announced a “camera bag.” I put that in quotes because they didn’t announce a bag so much as they announced a variant of their current messenger bag with straps for a tripod (on the bottom) and an insert for camera equipment that slips into the bag. They call it the “Snoop” and there are two sizes: small and medium. These correspond to the same sizes of their bag or +1 size (small Snoop in medium bag, medium Snoop in large bag) if you are customizing want some extra room. I’d recommend the +1 strategy. You’ll see what I mean later. Since I was looking for a laptop case and a camera case, I went with the Laptop Messenger and added the Snoop insert instead of the standard, dedicated Snoop Camera Messenger.
While I was considering my order, I e-mailed and called Timbuk2 more than once. The people were friendly and helpful. Their website is excellent, and the customization process is almost too fun. If I have a criticism, it is that the build-your-own experience has taken over their website a bit, but whatever – it is a very nice website with a lot of cool products as well as a fair number of videos about the products.
I decided to go with a custom bag and stick with the waxed canvas theme I liked so much with the Ona bag. I chose black with an olive center panel, black trim and logo and a light blue interior. Yes, you can choose a different color for all of those things. There are a lot of colors and fabrics, so you can end up with something uniquely yours. There are, of course, pre-made bags in a variety of colors. I configured away and had a merry time, also adding Compression Straps so I could cinch the bottom when I wasn’t using it as a camera bag. They also provide a handy place to tuck my tripod in a pinch, too. Ultimately, I stuck with a conservative look, but you have lots of options to add color and texture to the bag. The Snoop itself does not customize.
I’m not sure how their process works, but build/ship took a little longer than I expected. I think expedited shipping might get expedited build as well. I ordered on Dec. 5th, it shipped on Dec. 9th and the bag itself arrived on Dec. 19th (original arrival estimate from UPS was 12/16). Poor performance on the part of UPS, holidays notwithstanding. Especially if you live much farther east than the Rockies, upgrade the shipping. The Snoop arrived several days earlier, so I’l make that the focus of Part 1 of this review:
There is a carry/pull handle on the top of the Snoop that allows you to pull it out of the Laptop Messenger or light portability. It is for moving it from storage to the bag and back, not for transportation.
The Snoop is gray nylon canvas on the outside. They call the color Gunmetal, and it looks great – if I ever build a laptop-only case and go custom again, it is high on my list. The interior is blue soft terry lining with minimal padding on the outside and nicely padded dividers. Since the insert is inside a bigger bag and has multiple layers of protection, I’m not worried about the side padding. Interior room is excellent.
I got the Medium Snoop, and it carries my D90, four lenses (a large one, two med/lg. and a little prime), my filter case, Black Rapid strap, FlipCam and other various stuff with room to spare. In an insert this size, a few extra dividers would be a good thing, but you can get extras from them separately. The top of the Snoop zips shut to make it a self-contained unit, which works great for me. When I’m not using this as a camera bag, I can store the Snoop an make the bag my daily laptop case.
Other than additional dividers, my only criticism of the Snoop is that it has no pockets or accessory storage at all. They could make use of the top flap for a couple memory card slots and a small pocket for a cable release, etc. Some slide-in pockets on the side wouldn’t be a terrible idea, either. Yes, there are plenty of pockets on the bag itself, but if the idea is to make this a modular piece of a carry-system, I’d like to see the Snoop be a little more self-contained for my photography equipment. A minor point, though I’d love to see them update the design.
Outside of that, I can’t find much to fault with the Snoop, especially as part of the overall system in the bag. I’ll be carrying the bag in three modes: Laptop, Camera and Laptop+Camera (travel only). I’ll cover it more in Part II, but I think the fact that the Snoop is removable will make this bag much more flexible than anything else I’m aware of, which is fairly cool. It isn’t without drawbacks – I’ll cover more in Part II, but I’m very happy, which is a good thing: Custom bags can’t be returned…
I’ll get the second half of the review up as soon as I can, holiday duties and preparation call, and I’m going to try to get out and take some photos, too!