A good travel bag has to meet a few key prerequisites: It must be light, but still be able to take abuse. It must large enough to hold your laptop, electronics and a few days worth of stuff, but not so large that you can’t carry it on the plane. It also needs to afford some level of security-friendliness.
Plenty of bags fit that bill, but few are as versatile or as comfortable to carry fully loaded as Timbuk2’s latest traveler, the Wingman.
I discovered those final points as I ran to the last gate at San Francisco International Airport (why does my flight always board at the last gate?) with the bag Timbuk2 loaned me. It has a messenger bag strap, but when you need to hoof it fast and hard, it has backpack straps that can be untucked from inside the bag and clipped into place. The Wingman conformed to my body as I cinched the shoulder straps down, making that dash to the last gate a sprint instead of a schlep.
The Wingman is further enhanced by handles on both the sides and on the top, making it easier to get the bag in and out of overhead storage bins. The handles also let you carry the bag in multiple suitcase-style configurations on public transit.
Timbuk2 already has a good rep for its hip-looking messenger and laptop bags. They’re colorful, comfortable and nearly indestructible. Unlike the Timbuk2 Command, the messenger-style travel bag we reviewed last year, the Wingman is technically a duffel, though it doesn’t wear like one. It’s also made from a lighter-weight weaved ballistic nylon, but it takes all the cramming and squishing of air travel as well as the rest.
On first surveillance of its main compartment, you might think the Wingman is only big enough to serve as a weekend bag. After all, it’s a travel bag, so it has to be small enough that you can use it as a carry-on. But appearances are deceiving. I crammed it with a sport coat and enough clothes for five days. Unpacking was like seeing the multiple circus clowns exiting the Volkswagen Bug. It also has a zippered pocket on the main flap that’s a convenient place to store things you need to retrieve quickly or remove for security checks: travel documents, phone charger, snacks, reading material.
When carrying the Wingman as a backpack, a capacious wet/dry compartment on the bottom gave me a place to stash my dirty clothes during my trip. It’s also good for extra shoes, bathing suits, bananas, or anything else you don’t mind getting squished.
Finally, there’s a pocket meant for toiletries located on the side to enable quick removal in case the TSA agent wanted to check out my shave kit.
Speaking of airport security, the Wingman’s padded exterior compartment can fit a laptop up to 17 inches. But because of its location on the rear, closest to your back, the padded compartment proved not-fully-TSA-compliant. I still had to take the laptop out of the bag to go through security. If you don’t want people scoping out your hardware, I’d recommend adding Timbuk2’s $25 computer Zip Sleeve. The padded TSA-approved sleeve slides easily in the rear compartment. I just pulled the sleeve from the Wingman (no need to open it) and then slid it back in after the trip through the X-ray box, an exercise equal to most other TSA-compliant laptop cases.
WIRED All those pockets are a traveler’s dream. Just over three pounds of ballistic nylon construction makes for a lightweight but durable bag. Holds a surprising amount of stuff. Trio of carry methods — messenger strap, backpack straps and multiple handles. Fits all but the largest laptops.
TIRED When carrying the bag as a backpack, a 17-inch laptop may be a tad uncomfortable since it’s pressed against your back. Laptop compartment is padded, but storing your computer anywhere else in the bag necessitates an extra padded sleeve. It’s not a rolly, so if you want wheels, this isn’t for you.
Photos by Jon Snyder/Wired