Hands-on: the Tomahawk Messenger Bag for Laptops

Just recently ECBC, a manufacturer of high-quality backpacks, messenger bags and tote bags, sent along a premium messenger bag ideal for transporting your 17-inch laptop, your tablet and additional accessories in one carry-all solution. It's labeled as premium due to its incredible number of storage compartments, the materials used to piece it together, and the resulting $139.99 pricetag. Is it worth it? That depends on the size of your laptop.

Called the Tomahawk Messenger (B7204), the body is comprised of 840d HD Ballistic Nylon with a water repellent coating, and the base is comprised of 1680d HD Ballistic Nylon. It features four main compartments that are lined with 210d Double Diamond Ripstop material. Overall the dimensions are 22.3 x 13.5 x 4.5-inches, making it one very large, very durable messenger bag. All materials are from Korea, and the bag itself is manufactured in Vietnam, the company says.

What drew me to the Tomahawk Messenger was its FastPass feature, allowing for quick security checks in airports and whatnot. We'll call this compartment #1, and honestly it's ingenious -- and probably why this zippered flap compartment is becoming increasingly common on modern carry bags.

Tomahawk's TSA-compliant feature.Tomahawk's TSA-compliant feature.

Compartment #1 is on the back, located just behind what looks like a pull-out eating tray but is in fact a convenient and sturdy pass-though sleeve for a luggage trolley handle. This compartment actually unzips and folds open to lay flat when the bag itself is standing upright. This is where the laptop is stored, and clearly says so with a label reading "laptop only in this sleeve". It provides extra padding on the walls and additional removable padding at the bottom of the pouch to reduce bumps. There's even a Velcro strap to keep the device intact.

The point of this specific feature is so that the laptop itself doesn't have to be removed when security digs through your personal stash. It simply folds out, providing a visual confirmation. It still seems a little scary seeing the laptop semi-exposed for all the world to see, but at least it's cushioned, contained, and not fondled by some stranger.

My 17-inch HP and Toshiba laptops would not fit in the designated pouch.My 17-inch HP and Toshiba laptops would not fit in the designated pouch.Now here's the bad news. I have two 17-inch laptops – one from HP and one from Toshiba – and neither one would fit in the designated laptop compartment. That was after I removed the cushion placed in the bottom, labeled as the modular insert and clearly designed for small laptops, netbooks, and hybrid tablets. Will this compartment fit any other 17-inch laptops? That I can't say, but the clearing area is 16.875-inches when this pouch is flattened for a possible ultra-thin notebook, and around 16-inches if it's pulled out to fit a thick notebook like my HP and Toshiba. At this point, I have to store my 17-inch laptops in the main compartment (#2) which unfortunately defeats the purpose of the whole TSA-compliant design.

As for compartment #2, access is located at the very top, and is protected by a zipper embedded in a super-long flap that also plays host to compartment #4. The former compartment is seemingly cavernous, large enough to store a small dog (no, I didn't try it), and contains roomy sleeves locked with Velcro straps on each side. The bottom is roughly 3.5 x 19-inches, and the height is roughly 14-inches. Even more, one sleeve features four pockets, meaning you could essentially pack some clothes, bathroom necessities and work files all in this one roomy, padded space. As previously mentioned, I was forced to shove my 17-inch laptop into one of the main sleeves because it wouldn't fit into the designated TSA-compliant compartment.

My Toshiba had to be stuffed in one of compartment #2's pouches.My Toshiba had to be stuffed in one of compartment #2's pouches. The zipped point of entry at the top of the bag leading to compartment #2 also leads to compartment #3 which is technically on the front. This is closed with an additional zipper, and provides an excellent place to store your 10-inch or smaller tablet, or notebook accessories. On the outside of this compartment are three large pockets, and two smaller pockets large enough to hold a smartphone. There's also three little pockets for holdings pens, and another pocket protected with a zipper that looks to be designed for holding change and other important items that can't be lost.

As mentioned earlier, the flap folds over the top of the bag, protecting compartment #2 along with compartment #3 and its numerous external pockets. This flap can be secured to the bag with both Velcro and snap-in straps, and features our last compartment. This is where you'll likely store quick-access items while on a trip like books, magazines and whatnot. There's even a little built-in pocket specifically designed to hold your tickets and passport.

Compartment #3 and its external pockets.Compartment #3 and its external pockets. This bag also sports two additional pockets on each side, one for holding a drink and one for holding a smartphone. The shoulder strap is huge with an equally large adjustable shoulder pad that's secured to the strap with Velcro. All zippers are heavy-duty YKK and water-resistant, the company says, keeping liquids out of your belongings and electronics. There's also a carrying handle constructed of Nylon tube webbing and foam, making it easy to carry despite its weight.

Given the size of this bag, it seems that I've missed something. There are lots of little details like all the little straps and what the company calls the "iPhone fleece lined pocket" which I originally mistook for the ticket/passport sleeve. It's a premium offering made with premium materials, and should provide enough storage for a short business trip without the need for a second bag. Its TSA-compliant design should also make life a little easier when going through security checks, although as noted, it doesn't support all 17-inch notebooks.

For more information about this Tomahawk Messenger Bag, head here. It's available now, costing $139.99 USD.


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