The movie Alien (1979) is great. So is Aliens (1986). They’re very different films: the former decidedly horror, the latter firmly action. Which one’s better? It depends on who you ask, or even what mood you’re in. So it goes with Peak Design’s redesigned Everyday Messenger. The original was excellent, and so is the new one, but in different ways.
On a technical level, I’d have to give the edge to the new design. It’s more comfortable to wear, especially under load, and the organization of its interior is much improved. The already-excellent magnetic latching system has been streamlined for faster opening and closing, and the whole bag feels tougher.
But some of the unique features from the original are gone, particularly the ability to access the main pocket’s contents without opening the entire flap. It also looks less distinctive, less angular, and more round. It makes for a better bag overall, but a less interesting one.
While the original Everyday Messenger spread its storage around with a laptop sleeve accessible via zipper on the back, this one is all about a huge bucket of storage underneath the main flap. That’s where the laptop sleeve (with a second interior sleeve for tablets) and main chamber hang out. It’s big enough for a 13″ MacBook Pro (12 inches wide, .6 thick), so let that be your guide on whether your laptop will fit. On either side, you can see stretchy pockets ideal for a small water bottle or sunglasses case.
There are two extra zippered sections, one inside the flap itself and one on the front, replacing the diaphragm front organizer. Both are approximately phone-sized, but the front pocket also includes some small organizer pouches ideal for camera cards. (This is primarily designed as a photographer’s bag.)
One other thing to mention before we move on: the laptop sleeve now includes tall narrow pockets on either side. I’d call them “pen pockets” if they weren’t so long. I’m not sure what they’re designed for.
On either side of the main bag, you get zippered side pockets. These are pretty small—I struggled to get my phone inside them. There’s a clip inside both for the included key fob, and on the stiff upper section you can attach Peak Design’s unique camera clip. These have been reversed for access from the back (or side, if the bag is slung on one shoulder) instead of the front.
On the bottom (tough to see on our all-black review unit) is the extra-tough bottom material, 900D nylon versus the 400D waterproof nylon on the rest of the bag. Head to the back and you’ll see what looks like another laptop sleeve, but is really a pass-through strap for the handle on your rolling luggage. Very handy.
See those little loops? Those are for the all-new exterior strapping system. If you can’t fit something on the 13-liter internal capacity, or even in the 16-liter main pocket with the magnetic closure on its largest setting, you can strap things down with the two included straps and clips. The plastic tabs snap into place with surprising security, and they can be tightened for awkward items. They’re perfect for things like tripods that are a little too bulky to fit in the main pocket. There are four external straps and six internal.
The bag’s biggest plus remains the MagLatch closure system, which allows near-instant opening and closing of the main bag pocket. This improved version is even stronger and more secure without losing any speed. It seems like the whole bag has been designed around it.
That’s good, because the big zipper at the top of the flap, formerly allowing quick access to the bag’s interior without opening it fully, is gone. So is the little quick-grab pocket that was perfect for your phone. I suspect that Peak Design got some user feedback and found that this feature wasn’t used all that often.
Another carryover from the original design is the strap, with a unique adjustment system that makes on-the-fly changes to its length easy. But there are some subtle improvements here. The rotating points of the strap now attach to the back of the bag instead of the sides, making it sit easier when you’re walking or biking. It also has little hidden pockets for tucking away excess strap length on the main adjustment points. The expanded luggage straps double as a chest strap if you need more stability.
Peak Design has kept its innovative interior divider system. The bag comes with two origami-inspired folding dividers that can reconfigure the main compartment in a variety of ways, thanks to three folding sleeve or shelf positions on each.
These are made even more versatile by their camera bag-style velcro attachments, so the dividers can be placed at more or less any spot in the bag’s interior. Of course, you can remove them altogether if you want maximum storage.
Improvements and Drawbacks
The biggest functional change to this bag is moving the laptop and tablet compartment from the exterior to the interior. It’s also considerably bigger—I can fit my much larger ThinkPad T450s in there now, which was impossible on the older 13-inch bag.
I’m in two minds about this. I can see that it makes sense if you’re carrying your laptop in a secondary capacity, as a sort of backup for your phone and your other gear (a photographer’s mind-set). But for someone who wants quicker access to a computer more or less all the time, it means having to open the main flap much more often, and make sure that it remains well-organized so that access to that slot isn’t blocked.
I’m also not a fan of the redesigned smaller pockets. There’s no quick-grab place for my phone, or at least none that doesn’t require a zipper for the sake of safety. The side pockets are reversed and use zippers instead of magnets, and are much smaller in capacity, again, making me rely more heavily on that larger main interior.
The changes to those side pockets also make the bag more ovoid and less angular, losing a bit of the distinctive appealing shape of the original design. Beauty’s in the eye of the beholder, of course, but I appreciated the original’s almost polygonal look. Maybe this is less of a problem on the grey version of the bag, which has more offsetting accents to give it a defined shape.
Call It Even
The updated design trades flexibility in the smaller pockets for quicker access to a bigger main pocket. I’m not going to say that’s the wrong decision, and it certainly has benefits on paper in terms of carrying capacity and comfort.
But if I could take the improvements of the shoulder strap, magnetic latch, and external strap latches, and bolt them onto my older Peak Design bag, I would—even sacrificing a bit of carrying capacity to do so. It’s a “grass is always greener” situation.
That isn’t to say that there’s anything bad about the newer Everyday Messenger. It’s still head and shoulders above almost every other bag I’ve used, including some of the competition at this premium price level ($220 for the 13-liter version). But having made the comparisons to the original model, I’m glad it’s still easy to find for those readers who may want it.
Here’s What We Like
- Improved storage capacity
- Excellent, comfy strap
- Stronger magnetic latch
- Tougher material
And What We Don't
- Fewer options for smaller storage
- No access while flap is closed
- Less angular appearance