CourierWare Old School Basic Courier Bag Review

Minimalist Messenger Bag

You probably already know that when I look for something, I'm not just looking for anything. No, I'm always looking for exactly what I need. 

I'd rather live without something new than buy something unsatisfactory. So when I decided I needed a very lightweight travel & photo bag there was no way I was going to settle for just any bag.

First, let's talk about the mission: I needed a bag that would hold the following:
  • 13" MacBook Pro
  • Fuji X100S (or whatever small camera I happen to be dragging around)
  • 3 cans of Vanilla Coke Zero
  • 1 pair of jeans
  • Miscellaneous small supplies and assorted unmentionables
The truth is that all of this (save the MacBook Pro) will fit handily in my paper bag of choice, but it seems this option is no longer domestically acceptable. 

The other truth also is that pretty everyone and their brother (and sister) make messenger bags or, more accurately, have some kid in China, or India or Bangladesh make bags for them. Those kinds of bags may be fine as far as bags go, and they certainly may be fine for some folks, but they're just as certainly not fine for me. Why? Does it really matter?

CourierWare has been around since 1986. In fact, they're celebrating their 25th Anniversary though I must say they've not yet invited me to attend the celebration. Boo. I lurked around their site for a day or two before I settled on a Old School basic bag in their small size. A lot of bags get the length and height of a small bag right but many bags are too shallow. At 11x14x5.5" the small was perfect for my needs and it's that 5.5" that really sealed the deal. The bag's internal volume is 762 CuI. I choose the gray to match my dreary personality.

My bag hanging from a Per Madsen rack
It's no accident that I show my bag hanging from my Per Madsen record rack. Per Madsen was a very cool dude, the kind of guy CourierWare's Eric Truran would have liked. Per had a small cabinet shop in San Francisco. For decades, Madsen made the most cleverly designed, light weight yet solidly constructed LP (and CD) racks I've ever seen. My only regret is that I didn't buy a whole lot more of his stuff before he departed this realm of existence and his company slipped beneath the waves along with him. I confess to being a fanboy for companies like CourierWare and Per Madsen Design.

CourierWare offers buyers a lot of flexibility. You can elect to have buckles and velcro or no velcro. You can have a handle or no handle (I sadly forgot to order mine with said handle) and select between a standard or upgraded shoulder strap. I ordered the standard strap and it's just dandy. The adjustment mechanism seems especially stout.

The bag itself is a model of lightweight ruggedness and it looks good, too. The gray panel adds just enough lightness of look to give the bag a little style but not so much as to call undue attention to the bag or the guy lugging it. The stitching is simple perfection and I cannot imagine wearing any part of this bag out. The bag is not overbuilt in a way that would make it bulky or heavy. Rather, it's built to maximize durability and ease of use. It's most amusing feature (or lack thereof) is the absence of any kind of external marking or label. Trujan's only surrender to brand building is the small logo on the insideof the bag that has the company's phone number on it. I had to put on my reading glasses to see the numbers. No kidding.

There's something scarce about the quality of this bag and the ethos of its company's owner. Both are like happy little shadows of what used to be quite common in this country. The good news is that there are still practitioners of the art of excellence in design and manufacture here in the U.S.

There's a very illuminating article about Eric Truran and CourierWare at the New York Times. It says a lot about the guy and his company. Anyway, I hope I have the need to buy from CourierWare again. 

Both the products and the guy are a pleasure to work with.
Relentless brand building, a la CourierWare

Mission critical strap buckle

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