Peak Design: Everyday Messenger vs. Everyday Backpack

In Gear by Brent Huntley7 Comments

Anyone who has followed me for very long knows I love Peak Design.  I own a lot of their gear and have reviewed a handful of things in the past, including one of their straps, clips, and a couple of their pouches.  I like Peak Design for their innovation and willingness to step out of the traditional way of doing things to create products that are more user friendly.  Having enjoyed using many of their products, the next step was getting one of their popular bags.  Picking one was tough.  They have four options:  The Everyday Messenger, the Everyday Backpack, the Sling and the Tote.  The Tote was not an option and, while I love sling bags, I wanted something I could use with all my gear.  I decided to test out the messenger bag and backpack to see which one I prefer.  I have been using them both for a couple months now and am ready to give you my review of each bag.

3 KEY POINTS

Before I get in depth with my review, I want to address three key points that will help make more sense of my thoughts.

  1. The Everyday Messenger was the hands-down winner for me.
  2. These two bags are tough to compare because they are completely different.
  3. These bags are, as their names suggest, designed for everyday use, but not necessarily for hiking or traveling (in my opinion).

KEY COMPONENTS OF BOTH BAGS

Both of these bags share a number of key components that distinguish them from others in the market.

FLEXFOLD DIVIDERS

These moldable dividers are insanely popular among users of these bags.  I honestly don't feel like I can adequately describe how they work, but essentially, the dividers have edges that fold over so you can better organize your gear.  The best part of these dividers is they allow to stack gear, such as lenses, on top of each other.  In the messenger bag, I loved these dividers.  They allow you to take full advantage of the depth of the messenger bag by creating different levels of gear.  In the backpack, I did not enjoy them as much.  While they were nice to be able to adjust the size of the dividers for different gear, the set up of the bag really only makes it convenient if you are putting lenses or larger equipment in the dividers.  As I use a mirrorless system, I don't have large lenses so I had extra space.  I also could not get my X-T1 body to fit smoothly and a lot of my smaller gear got jumbled together.

MAGLATCH

The Maglatch and expandable compartments are seriously the coolest feature I have seen on any bags I have tested.

The Maglatch might be my favorite part of these bags.  The Maglatch is a magnetic latch that opens and shuts the main pocket of each bag.  The bags each have four different connection points that allow you to close your bag tighter, and essentially change the size of the bag, depending on how much gear you have in your bag.  The ability to contract or expand the bags is amazingly convenient.  More importantly, the attachment mechanism is very quick and easy to use.  I keep the messenger bag  on the passenger side of the car and have been able to get my camera out quickly enough to capture quick-happening scenes I could not have had my camera been in another camera bag.

WEATHERPROOF SHELL

One of the coolest things about these bags is the fabric out of which they are made.  Peak Design claims they are weatherproof.  I did not dig into what level of weatherproofing that means, but I had no concerns carrying these bags in light rain for extended periods or heavy rain for short periods.  The fabric is a really cool material where the water runs right off.  It also looks great so I am a big fan.  I did not even bother carrying a rain pouch with me when I used either of these bags and never had an issue when I found myself in the rain.

1. THE EVERYDAY MESSENGER BAG

I have been using the original messenger bag, which is barely big enough for me.  There is a great outside pocket for easy access to your laptop.  The bag says it fits a fifteen-inch laptop, but I have a 15.6 inch laptop.  Luckily, I can just cram the computer into the pocket.  Unfortunately, it doesn't fit well enough for me to be able to use the zipper on the pocket.  If your laptop is smaller than 15.6 inches, you will love the laptop pocket.  If it is bigger than 15.6 inches, you won't be able to use it all, and if it is 15.6 inches, then you can use the pocket, but it will be a little annoying to get the laptop in and out.  Overall, I still use the bag all the time so the annoyance with the laptop doesn't bother me too much (as long as it is not raining outside).

You can see how great this pocket is for organizing all your small items.

While I like the practical use and look of a messenger bag, I have never been a huge fan because I have never found them to be very comfortable.  I think Peak Design did about as good as you can with this one.  They used their famous seat belt strap style and it was comfortable wearing sling or over-the-shoulder style, but as you would expect, the comfort fades the more weight you put in or the longer the duration for which you carry it.  Unlike other messenger bags I have used, this bag has a hidden-away belt/chest strap that can really help with the comfort when needed.  By far, the coolest part of this strap is the adjustment mechanism.  There are few things I hate as much as fiddling with straps that are difficult to adjust.  This strap was the easiest to adjust that I have ever used.

I really liked the nice front pocket of the messenger bag.  It that can fit quite a bit more than you would expect.  I often used it to carry my Platypod Pro max together with all the little things like batteries, remotes and chargers.  The front pocket has many smaller pouches inside that are great for organization.  In fact, the inside pocket has three dedicated battery pockets that are great for easy access and keeping things organized.

One of my complaints with this bag was the side pockets were tighter than necessary.  I often wanted to carry a standard bottle of water with me and could just manage to squeeze one into the side pocket, but it was not convenient to get in and out.  I would have loved to see a side pocket that could expand out to fit a larger bottle or a ball head.

It may not be the most convenient way to carry a tripod, but I don't know how you could do any better with a messenger bag.

A bonus to this bag is that it is designed to carry a tripod.  You don't find that in a lot of messenger bags, but it is a great feature that can significantly add to the practical uses of this bag.

I was lucky to have my camera in the messenger bag when I walked out of court to find a black panther protest on the court steps.

Overall, I am really happy with this bag.  I think the best test for a bag is to see how much you actually use it.  Since I have about 10 camera bags right now, I have to really like a bag to continue using it.  The Everyday Messenger has passed that test for me because it fills a very specific need.  The professional look of this bag, combined with all the features, has led me to ditch my normal work briefcase to use this bag almost exclusively at work.  I even use it when I am not carrying my camera just because I love the look and feel of the bag.  Carrying my camera is a big plus as I sometimes have to drive a lot at work or get stuck with downtime  from time to time between court hearings or other meetings and it is fun to easily have access to my camera.  This bag is not one I will ever take hiking and I probably won't travel with it (outside of work), but I love it for what it is–a bag I can use from day to day for having a camera with me as I go on with my normal life.

You can currently pick up the Everyday Backpack at Amazon or head over to Peak Design and get 10% off with the code (bdh12) they provided for Improve Photography Readers.

2. EVERYDAY BACKPACK

I was really excited when Peak Design recently launched their new backpack.  I was able to secure a pre-release version of the bag in time to take it on a recent 16-day trip through Europe.  I will admit I was pretty excited when the bag came.  Like the Messenger bag, the backpack as a sophisticated sleek look and is full of functional innovations.

The compartments in this bag just didn't do it for me as I felt like they were good at holding a few items, but anything smaller didn't have a place.

I am sad to say I did not love this bag for extensive traveling though.   I think it has a lot of potential for use around the town or short day trips, but I would have rather had a different bag with me in Europe.  I discussed the Flexfold dividers above.  They just did not work well for my mirroless system as the items in the top portion of the bag were falling onto my camera body and smaller items were mixed in with my lenses.

Not the best image, but you can kind of see how the double zipper works on the side pockets.

That leads to another somewhat annoying, but also really cool part of the bag.  The bottom half of the bag can be accessed from either side with zippers that can come down from the top or up from the bottom.  This is nice as you can quickly access any portion of the bag at any time.  Inside the flaps on each side are surprising large pockets that are separated from the rest of the bag by another zippered compartment.  Inside those compartments are organizational pockets, with each side being designed for different gear.  This was really cool to organize smaller items.  I kept a speedlite  and batteries on one side and remotes, memory cards and other small things on the other side.  Surprisingly, there was a lot of room in these side pockets, but as they got fuller and heavier, accessing the bag became more cumbersome.  The separate compartment also meant going through two zippers to access anything in those pockets.

I really liked the adjustable chest strap on this (before I lost it) better than any other one I have used, but I just didn't feel the overall bag was very comfortable.

The most important part of using this bag is I did not find it to be very comfortable.  While it was fine for short distances, I found it pulled at my shoulders at a weird angle.  The chest strap was really cool as it was easy to latch and you could change the height of the strap to the most comfortable position.  Unfortunately, there was nothing securing the strap to the bag and I lost mine somewhere in Barcelona.  I was also disappointed there was no waist strap as that would have helped take the pull off my shoulders.

The Maglatch on this bag is awesome.  You can fully expand the top portion of the bag to fit a lot of extra gear in the top of the bag.  The Maglatch makes it very easy to access that portion of the bag and lock it back down so you can access it quicker than with a normal zipper or the more annoying latches used by some bags.

I like the handles on this bag too.  They put nice, heavy-duty handles on both the top and side of the bag.  I ended up not using the side handle nearly as much as I expected, but it is still nice to have.  I used the handle on the top a lot as I think that is a necessary feature on any backpack.

Carrying a tripod is a must for me.  The tripod holder in this bag ended up much nicer than I thought it would be.  The legs slide nicely into the side pocket and a low-profile slides out and hooks around the top.  The easy latch system is much nicer than the normal clips most bags use.

Finally, the bag had no problem with my 15.6 inch laptop as it had a dedicated laptop pocket.  This worked great for normal use, but when my bag was stuffed full for the plane, I had some difficulty from time to time shoving the laptop all the way to the bottom as the inside of the bag would be pressed too tightly against the pocket.

In the end, I am really torn on this bag.  I really wanted to love it, but I do not think I used it to its best potential.  Like the messenger bag, this is probably better used around town on a day to day basis.  It is also probably best for someone using bigger gear that is going to make better use of the bag's structure.

You can currently pick up the Everyday Backpack at Amazon or head over to Peak Design and get 10% off with the code (bdh12) they provided for Improve Photography Readers.


About the Author

Brent Huntley

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Brent Huntley is a 32 year old partner at a litigation-focused law firm. He is a hobbyist photographer focused primarily on landscape and travel photography. He also writes articles and shares his work at photographyandtravel.com and is active on instragram @brentdhuntley.

Comments

  1. Which backpack would you recommend for mirrorless camera? I cannot use any Messenger bag due to neck and back issues and I’m about to buy a Fuji XT-1 or XT-2 and I’m looking for a good backpack.

    Thanks.

  2. We just picked up the messenger bag for our British Isle vacation. The construction is absolutely stunning, I’ve never seen a bag built better. It looks like it will be much better carrying my gear around the museums in London then my Mindshift 26L. Although the 26L will go with me on the photo tours I’m taking in Scotland.

  3. There is a waist strap in the Backpack. It is hidden in two holes in the lateral pockets, placed near the lower attatchment points of the shoulder straps.

    Anyway, I have a similar problem with it: the shoulder straps are not well designed, and they are not confortable at all… It’s a pitty, as I like the bag a lot…

  4. Also, try to put the dividers upside down, with the flexed parts looking to the bottom of the backpack, instead of to the top. That way you have three separated compartments for your mirrorless camera gear and another top compartment for anything else. It works better for my micro 4/3 gear.

  5. I have the Messenger which I love. So I immediately jumped on the backpack. And it’s just not comfortable for me.

    I think a lot of this is because I am short. I am only 5’4″. Now Peak Design does say that for someone my height they recommend the 20L. But I got the 30L anyway because, hell, I’ve got a 75l REI backpack I have no problem with. But the Peak Design backpack is not built like a hiking backpack and sits completely differently. Specifically it sits a lot lower. To the point that it ‘rests’ on my tailbone unless I tighten all of the straps as tight as I can making it extremely uncomfortable.

    I got it on Kickstarter so I couldn’t return it. I might try and sell it. I was thinking of trying out the 20L, but at that point I don’t know why I wouldn’t just use the Messenger bag instead since the carrying capacity wouldn’t be that much different.

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