Dec 07 2013

Timbuk2 Embarcadero Review

Timbuk2 has been in the messenger bag business for almost a quarter of a century. They made the tricolor Italian flag bag of messenger bike joy and they haven’t looked back since. Well, unless they were making a turn across traffic.


I was serious about that Italian flag bag…

In doing this for a long time, Timbuk2 has learned a bit about making a bag that works for you, and they have a long track record of pushing the envelope in the way you pick your bag. They were the first company to allow you to configure a three panel messenger online so you could get a custom bag with exactly the vibe you want.

Of course, having that much history means you have the luxury of looking back nostalgically as well as surging forward, and the Embarcadero is a nod back to Timbuk2’s halcyon days in the Mission district of San Francisco. The name is a wonderful tribute to an iconic street in San Francisco and it makes me think of bicycling along the piers. In fact, it has me craving clam chowder and sour dough bread as I write this.

The Embarcadero is a mini messenger bag that is a throwback to the early days of Timbuk2, even featuring a retro version of the logo. The version I looked at was navy blue with brown accents. The stitching was great and the bag has a feel of solidity, even at its petite size.


The Embarcadero is made of polyester and features the traditional fold over flap that secures to the front of the bag with two horizontal strips of velcro. The only external feature on the bag is a loop for a light on the front center of the bag. Safety first!

The shoulder strap features a wrap around shoulder pad that secures with velcro and a quick adjust cam for easing the process of setting the length of the strap. This is really nice when you are moving fast and you want to snug the bag up against your back for security. I find this feature essential on a messenger style bag, but I do find it a bit curious how the cam is attached. It is locked to an immobile part of the strap so you are forced to use two hands to adjust the length of the strap. Also, be aware that the cam is on the right side of the bag, so it is best worn on your left shoulder if you want to adjust the strap a lot.


Opening the flap reveals a fairly simple approach. There is a lightly padded slash pocket on the back wall of the bag. It is perfect for a full-sized iPad or similar tablet even if it is in a protective case.

The balance of the bag is an open space to put the rest of your things. A lunch, a light sweater or a netbook in a sleeve will fit in here. At roughly 13x8x5 inches, the Embarcadero will hold a reasonable amount of stuff if you are looking at it for a small commute bag or a day on the town bag.


The front panel under the flap features a couple of organizational pockets. There is an open top pocket roughly 4 by 4 inches in size and a zippered pocket on top of it that is basically the same size. Tucked inside of this pocket is a key ring on a ribbon of fabric. I love having this here, and I wish all bags and packs had somewhere to secure a key.


The front panel also has what Timbuk2 refers to as a Napoleon pocket. This has a vertical zipper on it so you can slide your hand in it horizontally and grab something you need to get to quickly. This is a really clever addition to the bag because of where it is placed. The velcro is in such a position that this pocket can be accessed while the bag is being worn without opening the flap. Simply unzip the pocket and slide your left hand in and grab your phone. Very cool and well thought out.

In Use

I have taken the Embarcadero along on several trips where I was traveling light. It is small enough that it fits in a piece of luggage to hide away while traveling, but capacious enough to pack my electronic needs for a day about once I get to my location. This makes it a perfect light travel briefcase for a tradeshow or short business trip where a tablet is your computing device of choice.

I only have two complaints on the bag. As I mentioned before, the quick adjust cam is not mounted on the strap the way I would prefer. It requires you to use one hand to unlock it and then a second hand to pull slack through it to shorten the strap. If the cam were mounted on the strap this could be done with one hand. Secondly, I would really like to see a quick grab handle on the Embarcadero. While I would seldom carry the bag this way, it would make it easier to manipulate when not on your shoulder.

Other than that, the Embarcadero is a pleasure to carry. The construction is solid, there is nothing fussy about it, and it is a great size to carry out for a day with a tablet and some essentials. The strap is comfortable even with the Embarcadero a little overloaded, and the velcro shoulder pad is adjustable, but stays in place nicely.

If you are looking for a bag as a companion to that brand new iPad Air you just acquired, the Embarcadero is a great choice.


Timbuk2 Embarcadero Mini Messenger Bag $69

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