Review: Incase Skate Messenger Bag Feb 14, 2010

To say this is long overdue is an understatement. Incase first sent me their Skate Messenger Bag back in May. Yes, May. I used it throughout most of the Summer months and still use it when I need to travel, carry home some loads from the office, or take bike parts to a shop. I guess that’s one of the good things about a delayed product review; it really lets you use the product for an extended period of time and allows you to really break it in.

To start off, this bag is filled with details designed around urban cyclists, commuters and couriers.There’s a 3M flap at the bottom of the main compartment flap and 3M accents around the stash pocket. The hardware is resilient and regardless to the abuse I’ve given it, has yet to snap or break. Like all of Incase’s products, the Skate Messenger Bag has small, subtle branding. No gaudy logos or graphics, just a sleekly-designed bag clad in a waterproof nylon shell.

Read the rest of the review below.

The Skate Messenger Bag is part of Incase’s Courier Collection. Included in this collection are the Messenger Bag, the Skate Messenger Bag and the Messenger Hip Pack. When Incase teamed up with HUF and DQM to produce their limited, NYC and SF-themed bags, they decided to make an all black colorway of the silhouette.

The major difference between the Skate Messenger Bag and the Messenger Bag are these Velcro straps used for securing a skateboard to the bag. The detailing of this strap system is really well thought out. The little rubber bumpers on the bag protect the custom weather resistant 1680D nylon shell from being damaged by the grip tape. Since I don’t really skate anymore, I never used these straps for their intended purpose, but I did find them really useful when hauling a bike frame home. Or for carrying wheels. There’s a nice velcro strap to hold your u-lock, which I never really used. It was always easier to back-pocked it or stuff it in the bag’s compartment.

Probably the most impressive thing about the bag is the detailing and branding incorporation. The straps themselves have some of the most comfortable padding I’ve ever used. The annodized alloy hardware is a nice touch too; really secure cinching system. One thing to note is that the bag is ambidextrous, allowing you to make it a right-handed or left-handed bag by swapping the pads and cross-strap. More on that later.

The bag is fully waterproof, including this exterior stash pocket.

Which I mostly used for stickers and other small items.

Inside the bag are a series of zippered and Velcro enclosures. The large laptop compartment is lined with a fake fur and can fit up a 17″ laptop.

There’s plenty of room inside the main compartment. I never had an issue carrying my daily needs around, or my dog for that matter. You can kind of make out the subtle topography lines printed on the inside of the bag in this photo; another nice detail in the bag’s branding. To light the interior up a bit, I popped a flash in this photo, which illuminated the 3M coating on the hip pack that comes with the Skate Messenger Bag.

Some more shots of the compartments. There’s a nice pump Velcro strap too. I never used it though. Not that there was anything wrong with the design, I just found it easier to toss my pump in the main compartment. Here you can also see the hip pack buttoned into the reinforced interior.

Again, the hardware is durable and really ergonomic.

Each side of the bag has an eyelet which the cross-strap attaches to; the strap that secures the bag from sliding around. Depending on if you need a right or a left-sided bag, you can switch the pads and this strap to convert the bag to one side of the other. A lot of thought went into this system. Unlike other bags, there’s no need to specify whether you need a right or a left sided bag.

Here’s the hip sack that comes with the Skate Messenger Bag. Now, again, it’s detailed slightly differently than the Messenger Hip Pack. There’s no u-lock holster on this one. Which as I said before, I would just back-pocket or belt-loop the lock anyway.

Here you can see the buttons that attach to the interior of the Skate Messenger Bag. I honestly use this hip pack everyday, but not as a hip pack, as a tool pouch. It fits all my tools and two tubes inside with no issues. When I want to ride in the neighborhood, but don’t feel like taking a ton of stuff with me, I’ll use the hip pack. It fits everything I need and has a fake fur-lined pocket for a cell phone. The nylon buckles are again, very durable. My only complaint with the pack is that the straps aren’t removable. It’d be nice to at least have the option for lacing your belt through it.

One really smart detail is the zippered top. It allows you to access the bag without opening the main flap. Comes in handy when you want to open it up quickly to get your phone or your camera.

The hip pack fits everything you need without being too bulky.

To give you some reference for the size of the Skate Messenger Bag, here are a few shots Luke took of me wearing it, with the hip pack on my side. One of the main reasons why I liked this bag so much was the size. A lot of standard-sized messenger bags feel small to me. I’m a bigger guy and this bag felt perfect. That being said, It may be a little large for most riders. It’s a tough niche to fill but I think the size of the bag is perfect.

The bag is probably about 30% full at this point, to give you a bit of a reference to its silhouette when filled. The hip sack is around 80% capacity.

Again, due to the ambidextrous design, it can be assembled to be either right or left shoulder specific.

And a close-up of the hip pack included with the Skate Messenger Bag.

Like all messenger bags, is easy to access when you need to. This leads me to one critique; the closure method. The buckles are perfect, but because of the skateboard straps, the main flap has only one Velcro strip for closure. This is enough to keep the bag closed, but the sides of the bag kinda flap around if you don’t buckle it closed. Most messengers will keep their buckles open while making runs to make it easier to get in and out of the bag and if this center stip is the only means of securing the flap with Velcro, it could get kind of annoying, especially when filled.

Also, the cellphone holster that comes with the bag worked well for about a month, then the Velcro closure wore out and I lost my iPod and iPhone a few times. Luckily, they weren’t damaged, but if you plan on buying this bag, you may want to use a different holster.

Another small complaint is the length of the closure straps. I found a few times when I had to tote something bigger around, that an additional 6″ – 8″ of strap would have been useful. It’s a small thing and only a minor design flaw.

Overall, the Incase Skate Messenger Bag is definately one of the better messenger bags I’ve used. The straps are definately the most comfortable and as you can see, after about a year of use, it’s still in one piece. Granted I’m not a messenger, so I can’t put it through the same test as they could, but friends of mine who are messengers have used it and generally had the same critiques I had.

I emailed Incase my criticisms last Fall and they forwarded them to their designers. Not sure if these will make it (or have made it) to future production runs, but they were great about communicating to their consumer base (me).

After using this bag, I have purchased other Incase products (their digital SLR case for example) and I’ve been more than pleased with the construction, price and detailing. They really do a bang-up job at addressing a market niche.

Even though this review is a bit late, hopefully it’s been helpful in answering any questions you might have had about it.

For more product reviews, shots of their bags, photos and video, head to the Incase website’s Courier Collection page. They’ve done a much better job at photographing the Skate Messenger Bag details and I can assure you, their product shots depict the bag in a new condition quite well.

If you have this bag and would like to add anything to this review, feel free to do so in the comments.

  • I’ve been riding with this bag for about a year and all I gots to say is mega props. as you mentioned, Incase obviously painstakingly thought this one through, front to back. I’m not a messenger and normally ride with a backpack, but for trucking my DJ isht, groceries, laundry, nasty pointy metal things, or whatever else, this bag kills it, for both functionality AND style points.

  • justsomedude

    I bought this at Chari right when the DQM/HUF ones came out was stoked that they made one in all black (that’s slightly cheaper). The major reason I bought it was for the skateboard straps,I had been looking for a decent messenger bag with skate straps for a long time.

    I don’t know about yours, but a problem I have with mine is that the shoulder strap can loosen up on me, even though I have it double looped at the top.

    And it’s not completely waterproof, as a beer exploded in my bag and leaked all over my back.

    Also, I’m a smaller dude, and at their tightest, the straps on the hip pouch just barely fit me.

    Minor problems aside, I would definitely recommend this bag.

  • friend of mine used it for 3 months and the bag ripped where it connnects to the bag. i guess its good for light loads, but if you are constantly lugging stuff, there are def. better bags that are much more affordable and a lot more durable. i guess the skate board feature is a plus though.

  • andres t

    i heard it wasnt fully water proof from a miami messenger who won it at an alley cat.

    might just be that miami rain though.
    fucking riding through brickell having to do the bottom half of a crank rotation under water.

  • Yeah, the material is waterproof, not the bag body. Big difference. If you filled it with water, it would leak because there’s no welded membrane like a Reload or a Bailey Works.

  • Andy

    Killer review. Thanks for the insights.

    Messengers end up such a close part of your life, that I kinda get OCD when I need to chose a new one.

    The Skate Messenger has been on the hitlist, but it looks too bitsa – and sounds like those bits often bust.

    The guys at Carryology had a good post where they rated some of their favourite messengers:

    I’m now thinking I might go the Nike ACG. Seems cleaner and maybe even more versatile.
    Has anyone been riding with one?

  • pazzmore

    I sent mine back. I thought it was really uncomfortable when filled with heavy loads and like mentioned above, it isn’t designed for smaller people… the hip bag was too big at the tightest settings. I got a R.E. Load instead and have been much happier.

  • oneangrytoast

    damn that really blows about the iphone case. i was just about to buy one and remembered this post. glad i double checked or i would have been pissed.

    was the worn out velcro repairable? i have been looking for something to keep my phone a bit more accessible than in the bag or in my pocket….

  • designling

    I originally purchased this bag a year ago. I have to say this review is spot on the functionality of the bag is pretty amazing. I bike 18 miles to and from work and this thing was exactly what I needed especially to lug a 17 inch mac book pro back and forth. The hip pack is a little silly, but its cool that it comes with it.

    The problem started when the water proof zipper started falling apart. After jumping through a ton of hoops with incase, I got it replaced. I had to pay shipping to return it ($18). The bag that I got back has definitely been resourced and is made of much cheaper nylon, interior lining, and reflective tape. The buckles aren’t lined up or symmetrical and puckering at almost every seem. Its even smaller! I would no longer recommend this bag after the quality drop, there are better quality bags out there for this premium price.

    Overall, I’m noticing a significant drop in quality from incase with this product and other products I’ve purchased with them. I understand the margin game but come on! Its clear that their design team is very talented, but quality is half of the game.

  • Brizzlefoshizzle

    So I’m 5’3, this bag is a no go I’m guessing, I was going to just get the courier edition without the skate stuff. I must be too short for it. Someone let me know if I’m wrong. Thanx