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December 2, 2021

Review / Brief thoughts on the Trakke Bairn Messenger Bag

I like the idea of Trakke bags - a UK brand, based in Scotland, and, rather wonderfully, they make their stuff in the country too. I wish this were more the case and a Black Friday offer (and good return policy) edged me to the door of making a first order.

I’m always in search of the optimum small everyday carry bag and decided to get a Bairn Messenger Bag in black. It’s the Mark 4 version of the bag - further details: https://trakke.co.uk/collections/waxed-canvas-bags-backpacks-messengers-slings/products/bairn-mini-messenger-bag

At 10 litre it’s a little larger then my usual carry - the 8 litre Tom Bihn Daylight Briefcase (https://www.tombihn.com/products/daylight-briefcase) and it feels incredibly well built in a stiff dry waxy cotton. It includes a dedicated space for a 13″ laptop and I liked the idea, if my laptop, a Thinkpad X1, is 14“. But it’s a small 14” and often seems to fit in 13” laptop spaces. It proves a tight fit but the Thinkpad just about fitted, if it was tight and perhaps didn’t go all the way to the bottom of the dedicated compartment. I think if everything else was brilliant then I might have persevered but alas that was not the case.

A fair few comments about the Bairn (on the Trakke website) talk about the difficulty in using the buckles at times. And if you look at reviews of the bag many show an earlier version with very different buckles. It’s clear they have been experimenting with different approaches to lashing the cover flap down (to fully close the bag and secure the contents) and the Mark 4 is just the latest. On the web page for the Bain they are rather coy about how the buckle operates. There is a video to show the bag but it starts with the flap unsecured so you don’t see the difficulty, or otherwise, in opening. Before it arrived it was the big thing I was concerned about.

The good news is that if the bag is off your shoulder on a table or your lap then undoing the buckles to open the bag seems to work well enough - mainly because in such circumstances you can see how the buckles hook into the webbing closures that are under the cover flap (rather than on top). But there is a problem when you are carrying the bag and swing it around to your front to open, get something out and close. The open is OKish but closing is a pain of trial and error. You might get used to it, but not being able to easily see what’s happening just feels too haphazard and unthoughtful design to me. They need to think again and should go for something more conventional rather than trying to reinvent wheels as they seem to have been doing in the two buckle versions I’ve seen to date.

What exacerbates the problem of access is that all pockets on the bag are under the cover flap - there is no small external zipped compartment where you might quickly store a ticket or passport. To do anything you have to totally open the bag each time.

Where you might put a small external zipped compartment, there is instead a side mounted handle. It feels like a kludge because using it has the bag hanging at at an odd angle. The handle is wide but also tries to look flush with the bag, rather then standing proud to properly grab, and that makes it uncomfortable to use. All up it feels like it should be abandoned, if it can’t be resited to perform properly.

All up I think this is a well build and bombproof bag that would probably last decades, but it’s not as well designed as it should be. It needs a better buckles solution, a small easily accessed external zipped compartment so you don’t need to open the cover flap all the time, and to dump the handle or relocate it to a more conventional position. Trakke obviously know how to make a lasting bag - they just need a better design for all their sewers to do their magic on.

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