I’ve generally been a backpack person. Decent quality backpacks have held what I needed, and it helped that my biennial trip to a Microsoft conference resulted in a new backpack each time.
Recently though, I was introduced to the ALPAKA 7ven Messenger Bag. I’ve been given a pre-production sample to use… which I really wasn’t sure if I’d like it or not based on the style of bag with my backpack history, but was happy to at least try it.
ALPAKA have just launched their Kickstarter for this bag too, which makes this review rather timely. They have a lot more photos and technical information about the bag there too – if you’re curious, have a look at their campaign.
Anyway, back to my experience. The bag turned up a month or so ago, and I’d already watched some videos on it’s features (again, check out the Kickstarter for those) and was getting rather interested in how it all worked.
The first thing I wanted to play with – and needed to get past anyway, were the magnetised latches. I hadn’t seen these in real life before, and wondered how they worked. Through some impressive engineering the latches go straight in and ‘click’, but will only come out if you slide them sideways:
Fancy German-Designed Magnetic Latches
There are three of these clips on the front, and the middle one took me a minute to work out how to do it – not that it’s tricky, I just didn’t realise it was another of these clips! I was already impressed by the engineering on a simple clip, and continued to explore how the bag works:
The left and right clips had two different ‘clip slots’ they could go into, depending how you wanted to close the bag. There’s compartments all over the place, and a velcro laptop protector strip that can either be tucked inside the bag, or onto the front. You can see above the entire front pouch has the slightly fluffy material that velcro sticks to – it’s also softer than what you’d normally expect from velcro fluff.
There’s leather bits such as the handle and some of the corners, and the bag itself is waterproof too. I found that even though this is a pre-production sample, the quality was very high and after a month of constant use, there’s no visible wear and tear on anything… and I’m generally throwing the bag down whenever I reach my destination.
Of the bag’s three holding styles (suitcase, over one shoulder, messenger) I found the messenger mode to be the best for me. Here’s a picture of myself awkwardly posing for a selfie, wearing the bag:
Strap padding is removable but it has a picture of an alpaka on it.
It was actually really comfortable in this mode, which I wasn’t expecting at all comparing to a backpack. There’s an option to pull out another strap and clip it across for extra stability, but I found I didn’t need to do this for normal walking – but I can see it useful if you had to jog/run/bike somewhere, and it’s another magnetised clip that’s easy to attach and remove. Also there’s a small zip in the front to store something for easy access – not big enough for a mobile phone, but a bus ticket or credit card will fit fine.
One of the other big impressions the bag left on me was the thoughtfulness that went into the design. Most straps have a strap management solution and are adjustable, so you can size the straps to your requirements, but also slide the strap holders in place or tuck extra cables away, meaning you don’t have a bunch of straps dangling off your bag.
Size wise, I first saw the bag and wondered how much it could hold, and if it could hold a decent sized laptop. Here’s the bag behind a Lenovo ThinkPad P50 – a 15.6″ laptop:
and here it is inside the 7ven Messenger Bag:
It passed the ‘will a big laptop fit?’ test rather well.
Since mucking around with the bag, I’ve been using it every day for work. It’s easy to flick over the head and walk around, and is better balanced than having a backpack over 1 arm – I’ve found I walk better when using it.
I also didn’t think I’d be that interested in a bag, but this bag certainly proved that wrong. I’ve shown it in person to several people who have all liked it; it looks smart, while being very practical.
I’m very happy that ALPAKA sent me this to keep – if you want your own, you’d better get onto the Kickstarter!