Product review: Timbuk2 Stowaway Ballistic Nylon bag

Popular messenger bag manufacturer Timbuk2 has recently begun selling products geared towards travel. You can see their travel-related products at their Web site here.

Nothing particularly revolutionary about their travel products, but they do now have a wheeled bag, as well as carry-ons that have that general Timbuk2 feel. They do have a few notable products, though, including what I think is their most travel-friendly product: the Timbuk2 Stowaway Ballistic Nylon bag.

The Stowaway Ballistic Nylon bag is a very streamlined shoulder bag with an adjustable strap that lets you wear it as an over-the-shoulder bag or as a cross-body bag.


The Timbuk2 Stowaway Ballistic Nylon bag. Image from Timbuk2.

The neat trick with this bag is that you can expand its height based on where you clip your strap. If you clip the strap to the center D-rings, you can fold the “flap” over and the bag looks like a purse or a streamlined messenger bag.

If you clip the strap on the D-rings near the edge of the flap, you unfold the flap and suddenly you go from landscape to portrait, and increase the height and capacity of your bag twofold.


The Timbuk2 Stowaway Ballistic Nylon bag with the strap clipped to the end D-rings turns the landscape-perspective messenger bag into a portrait perspective shoulder bag. Image by Timbuk2.

How simple is that? I love these clever little ideas that provide simple, yet elegant solutions.

The bag looks like it’s designed specifically to be travel-friendly as well. Take a look at the strap. It uses the same fabric as the bag itself, which means it’s pretty lightweight and lies flat. No fancy plastic snaps or clips here; everything is compact and flat.

The main opening has a zip closure, and I really like this feature when the bag is folded over. Thinking back to my Rome trip last year, I’m thinking that this bag will be much harder to pickpocket. If you zip the bag closed, fold the flap over, expand the strap to wear it across your body, and flip the bag so that the flap is on the inside facing you, a pickpocket has almost zero ability to get to the bag’s contents short of slicing off your strap or a slashing a hole on the bottom of your bag. The pickpocket would have to manage to unzip the edge of the flap (which is against your body), then extend his whole hand into the unzipped flap opening, reach up, then bend his wrist down to be able to access anthing. In the meantime, he would need to bring his elbow down so that he can try to gain access without lifting the flap up too much. Definitely an awkward position, and one that would be almost impossible to pull off quickly or without notice.

I also really like the simple solution for how this bag expands. A lot of expanding bags will hide the extra fabric under a zipper, where neither that zipper nor the expandable portion of the fabric is serving any purpose when not in use. The Stowaway, on the other hand, actually incorporates the expandable portion as part of the contracted form, in the use of a flap.


The Stowaway includes a smaller pocket compartment, which you can either hide altogether when you fold the flap over, or have it be easily accessible by folding the flap the other way. Image from Timbuk2.

The bag weighs just under a pound. And when emptied, the easiest way to pack this would be to simply line this along the side of your carry-on bag. You probably won’t even notice it.

The only drawback, if any, is that it is currently only offered in one color scheme: “silver/lemon.” It’s a  gender-neutral color combination, but I would love to see this bag made available in other travel-friendly colors like brown, khaki, tan, or black.

That said, there are technically four ways you can wear this bag, and two of them let you hide the yellow center front panel. In the following diagram from Timbuk2, you can see that the center panel is only on one side of the bag. You can choose to wear the reverse side outward so that the bag looks just gray. Doing so lets you access that smaller pocket directly as well.


This Timbuk2 diagram shows the four ways you can wear this bag. Image by Timbuk2.

I’d give this one a rating of 4.5 out of 5. And that half rating may go up to 5 when there are other, more travel-friendly colors available.

Details:

  • Product Web page
  • Price: $50, plus tax and shipping (can be ordered directly from manufacturer)
  • Dimensions: 11.75″ by 9″ expanded, 2.25″ deep
  • Weight: 0.9 pounds