Aug 18 2011

Rickshaw Bags Zero Messenger Review

I have a thing about “out of the box” experience. I love that feeling of opening a package up and seeing your precious, obsessed-over piece of purveyed commercialism nestled there waiting for the touch of your greedy little hands!

I love it even more when there is that little bit of something extra in the box. A piece of candy, a sticker, a hundred-dollar bill (still waiting on that one).

I got that when I opened up my new Rickshaw bag.

A sticker, a postcard with the story and yes, a little handwritten note…with a heart on it. They like me! They REALLY like me! Of course, the heart is part of their corporate culture.

All kidding aside, that little touch is the kind of thing that really pushes a company over the edge for me when I deal with them. I guess I should tell you a little about the bag so you can share my feeling!

The Bag

When I first came across Rickshaw, I breezed right by the Zero Messenger as I assumed that the Zero referred to its size or features.


I hate it when I prove to myself that I am stupid. (Note to self: strike these paragraphs so everybody else doesn’t know how stupid I am). I had actually looped back around to being interested in the Zero with the mentality of it being a great bag when I wanted to forego the laptop and just sally forth with the iPad and a couple of accessories in tow.

The Zero has nothing to do with size and everything to do with environmental impact. The bag is made entirely of nylon for toughness and recyclability. The material is domestically sourced and the pattern is carefully laid out to “optimize fabric and eliminate manufacturing waste.” Pretty cool for a company that makes their bags by hand in downtown San Francisco, one of the highest cost areas in the world! It will also hold a lot more than I had mentally prepared myself for.

The review bag they sent me had me channeling my inner college professor immediately. The performance tweed fabric of my Zero was a gorgeous, rich color called tweed redcoat. I had to read through their website three times to confirm that this tweed was also nylon. It certainly did not look like it!

The outside of the bag is simple, but well thought out. The strap is permanently attached but it is affixed to these little flaps of fabric that come off the sides at about a 30 degree angle. These make the strap hang well and flex nicely whether worn single shoulder or cross body. There are also D rings on these flaps and on the bottom edge of the bags if you want to add an optional cross strap for extra stability. If you don’t want to use the cross straps, D rings are good for all kind of other things as well!

The 2 inch thick shoulder strap does not have additional padding but was comfortable for me even given the silly amount of stuff I tend to drag around. There are length adjustments on each side and a robust cam for quick adjustment of the strap to pull it up against your back when walking.

I have never been much of a messenger person but this approach worked well for me. Probably a testament to the flexible fabric in the bag and how well it conforms to your body.

The fold over flap on the Zero secures with a seven-inch strip of Velcro which makes it easy to secure the bag even if it is over stuffed. The front of the bag has two LARGE pockets (8.5 inches wide by 9 deep) that are slightly gusseted to expand a bit. An iPad in an Apple case or an iPad2 in a Smart case will easily fit in these slots as will a Kindle or any of the 7 inch tablets.

Table of Contents: Deluxe Drop Pocket, MBPro13 in Rickshaw Sleeve, Mac and iPad power supplies and cables in black pouch, FireWire and USB drives in blueband green pouch, clear pouch with cables and widgets, HTC View, Verbatim Bluetooth Keyboard in green bag, iPad 1 in Apple case

The big center section of the Zero will hold a lot of stuff and Rickshaw’s unique Velcro organizer system lets you configure the bag how ever works best for you. It also lets you reorganize it quickly for different applications. There are two strips of Velcro on the back of the bag and one on the front. These are the “soft” side of the Velcro so if you don’t have anything attached to them you won’t scratch anything you are putting in the bag. The “hard” side of the Velcro is actually on the accessories.

I got to try the deluxe drop pocket and the 13 inch laptop sleeve.

The deluxe drop pocket is a 7.5 inch by 9.5 inch zippered pocket with a key retainer clip inside of it on a strap. It has 3 pen slots, a windowed business card/ID pocket and a 4.5 by 4.5 inch open top pocket that would fit a cell phone or small notebook nicely. The zippered pocket will just hold a Kindle or 7 inch tablet.

The laptop sleeve has nearly a quarter-inch of padding all the way around and seals with a big, old 2 inch square of Velcro. It is not going to accidentally come loose!

It is soft on the inside with a sort of Chinese Lantern red color. It works well and seems to do a nice job protecting my Mac. I have to confess though, I loathe the color. The sort of prison gray of the sleeve clashes really badly with the warm and lovely tweed and sandstone theme of the rest of the bag. A tribute to Alcatraz maybe? Well, you can’t have everything I suppose, where would you put it? Oh, yeah…in a Zero messenger bag!

(Editors note: Since writing this Rickshaw have debuted a whole line of laptop sleeves in a wide range of colors!)

There are many other accessory options for the Zero including larger and smaller pockets, a waterproof insert and even buckles if you want to overstuff your bags even more than I do!


While the Zero has a lot going for its ecologically responsible self, it does have a couple of downsides. There is not a single pocket on the outside of the bag. No place to stuff a phone or stash a pair of ear buds. Nothing. Nada. Zippo!

In fact, if I were going to recommend an accessory it would be one that I didn’t play with. The Smartphone on Strap case would add a nice, external pocket even if you didn’t use it for a phone.

The other thing I miss on this bag is a handle. I find it a bit awkward to manhandle it completely by the strap, particularly if it is overloaded and I think that little touch might help.

The upsides though are numerous. Construction quality is excellent. The recycled and recyclable materials are luxurious feeling and look great. Also, the website allows you to do EXTENSIVE customizing. If you don’t like any of the preset combinations there are 40 external fabric options, 27 internal fabric options and 37 binding color options with a great configurator to let you see just what kelly green, hot pink and mandarin would look like together! I need to find a sorority logo to photoshop on the outside of this bag!

The accessory system lets you set the bag up to be a laptop bag, a grocery bag and a laundry bag all on the same day. Sometimes what you need is a really big open bag and sometimes you need a bunch of little organizer pockets and the Zero can be both! Just not at the same time.

The baseline Medium Zero is $70, which is really quite inexpensive for a handmade product at this level. The Zero as I reviewed it with the additional accessories (13 inch laptop sleeve and drop pocket) is $125.

Given the flexibility of the Zero and its expandability, it would make an excellent commuter or school bag and will last for a long time with this kind of construction. It looks good and feels good and carries a whole lot of stuff while doing some good for the environment. That is a lot of good in that bag and that run on sentence!

Zero Messenger Bag

Rickshaw Bagworks, Inc.
904 22nd Street
San Francisco, California 94107
Phone: 415.904.8368
Fax: 415.723.7530

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