Zit Seng's Blog

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Timbuk2 Command Laptop TSA-Friendly Messenger Bag

Those of us who regularly lug around a notebook computer will definitely appreciate a great notebook carrying bag. The Timbuk2 Command Laptop TSA-Friendly Messenger Bag reviewed here is voluminous enough to swallow plenty of gear, has an abundance of compartments, sports some nice urban sophistication, and travels easy. TSA-friendliness is an added bonus.

Timbuk2 is renowned for their line of messenger bags, many of which are designed for carrying notebooks. This Command Messenger (yes, let’s just shorten this this simple name) is one such, and its been around for a few years. In fact, there’s a newer version called the Command Plus Messenger, whose design is a little different. Timbuk2 continues to sell the Command Messenger, so it’s not like the latter has been obsoleted.

This is my first Timbuk2 bag. I’ve not considered their bags previously, because I felt they were severely overpriced, particularly if I had to buy them in Singapore (S$193.60 on Qoo10 right now). It’s still not all that cheap when bought from overseas online stores, like Amazon, which sells for US$129 currently. But there was a discount sale, and with free AmazonGlobal Saver shipping, the Command Messenger became quite attractive. I got the small sized bag. Small is more than big enough for the 13″ Retina MacBook Pro.

Timbuk2 Command Laptop Messenger Bag

The Command Messenger is made from oxford nylon material. It’s both durable and yet refined at the same time, and even gives off a slight subtle sheen. Instead of the usual clip buckle, the front flap of the bag is secured by a hook buckle made of anodised aluminium, which lends a more premium look to the design.

There is no shortage of compartments and pockets in this Command Messenger.  In fact, so many that I worry that I might have difficulty remembering where I put my stuff if I use all of them. You count along as we tour around the bag, alright?

Timbuk2 Command Laptop Messenger Bag

There are three obvious pockets on the front. You’ll notice another pocket on the right side. It’s known as a napoleon pocket, one that you can reach from the side of the bag without opening the front cover. It’s convenient for putting things that you need to quickly access, such as your travel documents while going through an airport.

There’s another zippered compartment at the bottom, which you can use to contain heavy stuffs, like the power bricks for your electronic gadgets.

Notice also the velcro strips, with included silencer strips. You can choose to use the buckle or the velcro to secure the front flap, or both. For me, I like to be able to quietly open the flag without drawing attention to myself, especially if I’m at a meeting in a quiet room. I’ll leave the silencer strips on.

Timbuk2 Command Laptop Messenger Bag

The main compartment is very voluminous. Really, really, big. You can even put in a six-pack of beer if you so wish and still have plenty of space to spare. In fact, I think it’ll swallow up four of those 1.5 l PET drink bottles. So don’t worry about books, clothes, or even camera gear. Of course, with camera gear, you’d want to add some additional protection to keep them in place.

In this main compartment, you can see a number of pockets against the divider wall. The centre pouch fits my Sony RX100 camera. There are three more pockets for cards on either side, as well as some pen slots.

Timbuk2 Command Laptop Messenger Bag

On the other side of the divider, nearer the front of the bag, there’s space to slot in some files. It’ll fit A4-sized documents just nicely. There’s also a zippered pocket to put in more documents, smaller sized ones of course.

Timbuk2 Command Laptop Messenger Bag

The notebook compartment is at the back. The main space is for containing a notebook, while a separate pocket sleeve will comfortably hold a 10″ tablet. The notebook space can hold a 13″ Retina MacBook Pro with plenty of space to spare. In fact, I think it’ll even hold a 15″ Retina MacBook Pro.

The red perforated material you see provides cushioning to the notebook, and at the same time plenty of breathing room so that heat from the notebook won’t get trapped. I’m not sure why a notebook bag will need to be concerned about cooling a notebook. I suppose a possible usefulness is when you need to keep your notebook immediately after you’ve been using it intensively, and it had been running very hot.

My worry with the protection material is that it isn’t rigid enough for my comfort. I prefer to have significantly more impact protection and shock absorption. As it is, I think if you swing the bag casually but purposefully (though not with significant force), and a hard object were to strike the back of the bag at the centre, I think a notebook contained within might possibly sustain some damage. Unless, of course, the notebook itself is pretty robust. I will take note to make sure my 13″ Retina MacBook Pro always has its bottom facing outward.

Timbuk2 Command Laptop Messenger Bag

The slot at the back allows the Command Messenger to be slotted over the handle of a trolley bag. Great for travellers. If you don’t need this feature, the bottom of the slot can be sealed with velcro, so you basically get yet another pocket to keep things.

There’s just one more compartment, a bottle holder on the right side of the Command Messenger.

Timbuk2 Command Laptop Messenger Bag

What is this TSA-friendliness feature about? The Command Messenger can be unzipped in the middle, around the sides and the bottom, so that the notebook compartment can be pulled apart, attached to the rest of the bag only by the top. This allows the Command Messenger to lie flat with the notebook compartment on its own. You don’t need to remove your notebook from the bag during X-ray security scanning at U.S. airports, because the bag enables a clear and unobstructed X-ray image of the electronic gadget to be produced.

I assume, of course, that in this case you won’t be allowed to carry a tablet in that same compartment.

Of course, this probably only works in U.S. airports. In all likelihood, security staff at airports in other parts of the world are not going to readily understand this, and it’s not going to be worth your time to explain or argue with them. Just take out the damn notebook.

Oh yes, when the notebook compartment is zippered up with the rest of the bag, technically, it makes yet another compartment. I don’t suppose Timbuk2 meant it to be one, but you could use it. So now, how many compartments have we got? Including all the pockets, but not the pen slots, there are 16. See what I mean about potentially losing stuff in the bag.

Timbuk2 Command Laptop Messenger Bag

The padded shoulder strap is comfortable and really well made. There’s the usual 360° swivel attachment to the bag, and the quick adjust buckle. There’s also a a quick release clip to lengthen the strap, enabling you to take off the bag easily and quickly. The strap has length adjustments at both ends.

Suffice to say, the should strap should be infinitely adjustable to suit your carrying preference. There’s still the option of hand carry, since a grab handle is also provided.

The Command Messenger is a great bag. Timbuk2’s attention to detail, from the durable build, to the optional use of velcro, shows much thought has gone behind the design of this messenger bag for the road warrior.


The Timbuk2 Command Laptop TSA-Friendly Messenger Bag is great bag for anyone who needs to lug around a notebook and plenty other gear regularly. It’s durable and sports some urban sophistication. TSA-friendly travel is an added bonus.


  • Large main compartment
  • Plenty of compartments and pockets
  • Comfortable


  • Notebook compartment needs more protection

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