I'm incredibly hard on my gear. It gets used a lot, whether I'm working or just out on the weekend. When tools like my phone, watch or even a simple notebook don't perform well, they get replaced -- which, in my case, usually happens after about a year. So when my last bag had an unfortunate run-in with a fire, I embarked on a personal quest to find the absolute best way to carry my camera, a laptop, multiple lenses and any other gear I need for work or fun. And after trying out over a dozen bags from multiple companies, I've finally found my answer: Peak Design's $220 Everyday Messenger.
Design: Perfect for photographers; fantastic for regular folks, too
The Everyday Messenger is available in two sizes (13 inches and 15 inches) and two colors (charcoal and heritage tan). With its sleek, minimalist lines and clever hidden features, the Everyday Messenger strikes the perfect balance between form and function. It really feels like Peak Design has thought of everything. Although the bag's 500D Kodra exterior isn't fully waterproof (there are small holes on the sides where its flap folds over its main compartment), it does have a waxy coating that helps rain bead up and run off -- even on a couple of occasions when I got caught in torrential downpours.
You might also think that its 2-inch strap -- which is narrower than what you'd get on a Chrome or Mission Industries bag -- might be a bit painful, but it's not. The strap also features an adjustable quick release so you can cinch it down and wear the bag high on your back (good for bike riders) or let it hang loose from your shoulder. It also can be reversed for people who want to wear the strap over the other shoulder, and if you have a really heavy load, you can use the hidden hip bands on each side of the bag to distribute the weight better.
Inside, the front pocket has a bunch of built-in pouches for things such as tools, spare camera batteries (which fit perfectly) and passports. There's also another zippered pocket sewn into the inside of the front flap, and a third padded pocket that is good for storing lens filters or other delicate objects. The pouches even have color-coded stitching so you won't forget which pocket contains your extra SD cards.
On the back of the bag, there's one more big, zippered pocket with two padded sleeves. The 15-inch model can hold most laptops, up to the size of a 15-inch MacBook Pro, although some 15-inch gaming systems won't quite fit. In contrast, the 13-inch Everyday Messenger is strictly for smaller ultraportable systems. My one complaint about the bag -- and it's a pretty minor one -- is that when it's fully loaded with a big camera, multiple lenses and a laptop, you can sometimes feel your computer poking into your back while you're walking around. However, that really only happens when you are carrying a large laptop closer to hitting the bag's max capacity.
Oh, and remember when I said Peak Design has thought of everything? I meant it, because the bag even comes with a stretchy silicone band that you can use to strap a tripod to the bag after you thread the legs of the tripod through the Everyday Messenger's front flap. That means the Everyday Messenger can carry pretty much everything you need for a photo shoot in a bag that measures 17 x 12 x 70 inches and weighs just 2.5 pounds (for the 15-inch model).
And this is all before we talk about the Everyday Messenger's best feature: its latch.
The Buckle: Superfast and supersnug
Usually, buckles on bags don't deserve more than a passing mention, but the latch on the Everyday Messenger isn't an ordinary clasp. As its name implies, the Maglatch has a built-in magnet that automatically fastens itself whenever you fold down the front flap of the bag. The Maglatch connects to a series of ladder-like metal catches that are sewn into the front of the bag, which means there's always something for it to grab onto. And if you really want to strap things down, you can pull the bag's flap down further to the next rung to create a tighter fit. Then, when you want to get back into the bag, all you need to do is tug gently on the bottom of the latch, and voilà!
For someone who is constantly annoyed by the fidgety buckles or noisy Velcro used on other bags, the Maglatch really does feel like magic. It catches every time, never gets stuck or jammed, and puts an end to worries about whether your bag is closed. It's so simple and effective that you wonder why no one had thought of it before, and it's what separates the Everyday Messenger from pretty much every other bag on the market.
Dividers: Create your own perfect fit
Even with all of the clever features on the outside, the Everyday Messenger's inside is pretty neat, too. Instead of using static compartments sewn into the sides, Peak Design created foldable inserts with Velcro tips so you can move and adjust every cubby hole to make sure your gear fits snugly. You can even fold down the dividers to create pseudo shelves inside your bag and add even more storage. The only downside is that you run the risk of stuffing more gear into the bag than your shoulder can really take.
Capture: Fast and secure access to your camera, at all times
Peak Design has a solution for photographers who think it takes too long to pull out their cameras. On each end of the bag, there's a loop you can use to attach the company's patented Capture quick-disconnect system. It works pretty much exactly like the quick-disconnect plates you'd get on a tripod head, except that it comes with a rotating push-button lock to ensure the camera won't fall off by accident, and an optional tether to ensure that even if it does, it won't fall all the way to the ground.
After using the Everyday Messenger daily for four months and covering numerous events in multiple countries, I can safely say it's the best bag I've ever owned. Yeah, there are a couple of minor annoyances, like a back panel that could use a little more padding, and a relatively high asking price of $220. But that's OK, because this bag is totally worth it.
It's stylish, and its comfortable, easily adjustable strap and interior dividers make the bag work with me, instead of against me. With the Everyday Messenger, my bag is the anchor holding my traveling tool kit together, and I wouldn't trade it for any other tote on the market. For those who want a bag with two shoulder straps instead of one, Peak Design makes a backpack version of the Everyday Messenger, too.