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Wednesday
Jun122013

Bluelounge MacBook Pro/Air Messenger Bag Review

Bluelounge heavily invests in designing products with simplicit refinement. But while the company is most known for its useful set of desk-cleansing organization tools and tablet accessories, Bluelounge is a newcomer to the gear bag side of things. It has, however, managed to grab our attention with its relatively new and quite impressive selection of crafty-looking and eco-friendly bags. We're going to be taking a look at the appropriately named Messenger Bag, which predictably is a messenger style bag capable helping you carry a MacBook Air or MacBook Pro up to the now uncommon 17-inch model - all the while knowing you've bought a 100% post-consumer recycled product. Catch our full review on the Messenger Bag down below!

Bluelounge's line of svelte urban transporters includes just about every kind of bag from the usual backpack to the unusual including totes, slings and postal bags. Somewhere here there's a bag that will fit your lifestyle. Two colors are available to pick from. Black has been a standard every since the initial release, and recently Bluelounge made this gorgeous rust color available as well. It's a very burnt shade of orange that just looks spectacular with the brown and silver accented elements found throughout the bag..

The Messenger Bag sports a clean-cut styling that's very much up-to-date. You could almost say it has a minimalist approach to a messenger type of bag, and in fact it actually is as you'll soon find out when we dive deeper into the inner workings. The Messenger Bag comes in small and large sizes that virtually fit any MacBook and then some for the price of $135 and $139.

Gadget & environmentally-friendly materials made out of 100% recycled PET plastics is a good thing

So while we concluded that Bluelounge indeed knows how to create an aesthetically pleasing messenger bag, we should point out that material Bluelounge has used to manufacture its bags including the Messenger Bag. It's made out of what Bluelounge claims recycled plastic bottles. The fabric is called PET, and it's very much like the nylon fabric that just about every other bag is made from, with the exception that this particular material was treated with a weather-resistant coating.

The overall construction of the bag hasn't particularly stood out to me as anything more impressive than what we have come to expect from such types of bags. With that said, Bluelounge has done a great job putting this together in what seems to be a very durable and well knit messenger bag that'll withstand the usual day-to-day commute. There's plenty of heavy-duty stitching around critical points and metal hardware to give the bag a high quality look and feel.

The strap is very much a big part of the Messenger Bag's styling. It is boldly displayed across your body when wearing the bag, but in a good way. Due to the wide, padded construction of the strap it is actually very comfortable to use. It's wide enough so that it distributes the weight of the bag across your shoulder evenly and I really like the feeling of how it helps carry the actual bag itself and the gear it houses. A conveniently placed large aluminum-made quick release lever relies on friction to effortlessly allow you to adjust the length of the shoulder strap. Not to be confused with an actual quick-release mechanism, this particular lever doesn't come apart nor can it detach the strap into separate parts.

The Messenger Bag is designed to be worn as a sling, hung across your chest and back unlike many messenger style bags which have a straight shoulder style type of carry strap. You can't wear this one slung over your shoulder though because of its sling-style cross-body strap design. The bag sits right behind your back like a regular backpack would unlike other messenger style bags you can wear to your side. It's an adjustment if you're not used to such a formality, but it's not to say that it'll be uncomfortable. On the contrary in fact. Instead of having your bag swing off the side loosely, the Messenger Bag sits snug against your body which is ideal if you're riding a bike or would like to run the distance for what ever reason. At the end is a cinch that keeps the excess end of the strap nicely organized.

If I'm honest this wouldn't be my ideal type of carry style. I prefer my bags with either two shoulder straps backpack style or one straight shoulder strap that I can wear like a business man/photographer. Cycling thru the city streets with a messenger bag slung across my chest isn't on my list of things to do. While I haven't got the need for a low-profile sling messenger bag such as the Messenger Bag, I wouldn't see why anyone else looking for a sling type of messenger bag should not pick one of these up and set out. There's a style to fit everyone's personal needs and taste, and Bluelounge is delivering it with the Messenger Bag. 

The flap pocket is the only pocket to be secured using a zipper closure. Coincidently placed across the front side of the Messenger Bag flap, this zippered pocket will be useful in keeping your essentials or even a small portable wireless speaker and perhaps even a mirrorless compact camera too. Do keep in mind that anything you put into this pocket will bulge very easily because the flap isn't very thick.

As we make our way into the interior, we find one deep front pocket and a much shallower one made with a mesh net which are both covered by the flap and kept closed. You can store things like an iPad mini in the larger front pocket, and other things such as cables and chargers in the smaller mesh pocket. You won't find any specific accessory spots for things like pens and business cards. 

Compared to various different messenger style bags we've reviewed in the past namely Thule's Crossover, Waterfield's Cargo and Muzzeto Outback; Bluelounge took a more simple route in equipping its Messenger Bag with the most basic arrangement of compartments, pockets and other features. This is made apparent by the basic main compartment which lacks small organization slip pockets typically found in such bags.

This is definitely one of the more basic messenger bags we've looked at in a minimalist standpoint I should note, and that's not a downside if you aren't in need of a bunch of accessory pockets and compartments. Finally, the large main interior is one deep and narrow compartment sleeve, which in our case due to the small Messenger Bag model we're reviewing, is wide enough to fit a 15-inch MacBook Pro of any model with any hard shell protective case or skin installed. With that, there's still more room for a 10-inch iPad or two, plus a book or magazine. Forget your change of clothes, this bag is about keeping a low-profile. The padding is very flat but it does keep the main compartment isolated to some degree.

The nice thing about how the flap is designed is when you have a tall or protruding object inserted into the main compartment, you can adjust the height of where the flap comes down and is secured. There are a series of levels which are basically loops for the flap's aluminum buckles to grab onto along with strips of Velcro on either side where the flap has enough height freedom to securely overlap the compartments thru the various levels of defined closure areas.

The more you stuff the interior compartments, the larger the bag becomes. That is why the flap was designed with freedom to accommodate the change is size and length. The flap can be secured in multiple levels of height thru the use if Velcro strips and two wonderful aluminum buckles that attach onto loops along the Velcro strips that run along the front side the Messenger Bag. The two aluminum buckles are optional, but add an extra layer of security to keep the flap closed besides it being Velcroed down.

The detail and level of finish on these aluminum buckles including the quick release lever is just impeccable. They're lightweight and have a beautiful matte sand-blasted finish that compliments the bag in a very big way. We've seen similar buckles implemented in Thule's Crossover messenger bag, but nothing beats the large, eye-catching form factor and finish of these Bluelounge ones I must say. Granted it's a small detail, but we're always happy to see such well designed features.

It is indeed weather, or I should say water-resistant as we've mentioned earlier. Water just slides off the bag leaving it completely dry. That's great and all but the only problem I have with the design of the Messenger Bag is that it isn't completely sealed against rain. Rain can still find its way into the main compartment due to the poor coverage of the flap which leaves an exposed bit on both ends. Granted it's a very small exposed area, but if you're spending a good amount of time riding a bike out in heavy rain, you'll most likely need a bucket for draining out all the water that sipped into your bag and maybe even an up-to-date backup of your hard drive too while you're at it. Bluelounge made a rookie mistake not putting more thought into designing its messenger bags with true weather-sealing in mind.

If you live in New York or London, this bag isn't for you. You might be attracted to it, and so am I, but the fact that it isn't designed to be used out in rainy conditions is a deal breaker for a lot of people. Me, I live in California. A place where rain isn't even a word in the dictionary. So for someone that really likes the simple functionality and urban styling of Bluelounge's Messenger Bag, but hasn't got the need for an extreme all-weather protection pack of armor, you might really like what the Messenger Bag has got going on. This bag is built well, looks great and best of all - it's extraordinarily comfortable to work with and wear.

While we like the weather-resistant finished recycled material and all the good it does to the planet, the bag itself isn't completely weather sealed as necessitated by its claim to fame. It's also expensive at $135 considering its pretty basic features. And we recommend that before you set your mind on Bluelounge's Messenger Bag, have a look at what other brands like Incase, Booq and Thule have got to offer. Start with Booq's $110 Mamba Courier.

Bluelounge.com

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