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Trager Courier Bag Critique

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    Trager Courier Bag Critique

    I've been looking for a new messenger bag for about two months now. I finally decided on a Trager Courier with a Brain Cell for my 15" powerbook.
    I am very picky about things that I use everyday, and now that I have one in hand there are some issues I have with this combo. I would like to give this bag a try, but I'm afraid after a couple weeks of use if I am unhappy with it, and wont be able to return it.

    Issues I have with the Trager Bag:

    1. The interior Picture on the website shows two CDs in the front pocket, but a CD doesn't fit in that pocket, let alone two.

    2. Cellphone pocket:
    I have a small cellphone. When I put it in there it goes all the way to the bottom. I have a hard time getting it out since my hands are big. If I have gloves it becomes a whole lot more difficult. My old bag had a great cellphone holder. The sides were made of a thick spandex material which only covered parts of the sides, similar to the mesh on the braincell. That allowed for quick access.

    3. Interior: I bought the citrus for two reasons. First I like color. Second I was hoping the interior would be all citrus. The contrast would make it easier to find objects in the bag under lower light. As it is the main compartment is very dark. To add to that, the section to hold the laptop and case, is attached to the sidewall and not the bottom, which means that things can get lost under the computer. Kind of like losing things under the bed.

    4.Organizer pockets. I know this is a feature, but I hate organizers. Not just in this bag, but in all bags I find them annoying and usually cut them out. If there are too many pockets I can never remember where I put things. On this particular bag I have a couple issues. The clear ID holder. I have a wallet, I'm not going to take my ID out of my wallet and put in into the slot there. The pen/pencil slots are tight, which means that I cant slide them in without using two hands. The pockets in the main compartment also too loose, so when I put folders in I often get snagged.

    Issues I have with the brain cell.

    1. The handles are too small for my hands. Once again if I want to carry it with gloves on, it is a real struggle to move my hand in and out of the handles.

    2. Velco top. I'm fine with velco, I just wish that the two flaps closed flush. The brain cell is a clean sharp bag, except for the top. This is just an aesthetics issue.

    I know I'm just picky, but I have to use this object over and over all day. The only way I'll be able to tell if I like it is using it everyday. Maybe I'll get over the issues or find things I like about the combo that I can't tell now. There are things about this combo I like, for instance the quality of material and construction of both.

    Maybe if I describe the idea bag for me, you can recommend a different bag that I have not looked at.
    The things I want in a messenger bag are: (not in order of importance)
    1. Protected space for laptop
    2. One large main compartment that I can put books and binders. The access to the compartment should be as large as the compartment. Preferably with a light interior
    3. One or two accessory pockets that also are large.
    4. Cell phone pocket that is easy to get into.

    My current bag from the Walking Company is no longer in production but has most of these things. I could send a picture if you wanted. I have modified the bag so that it closely fits my needs. I had to make a case for my laptop. But it has lived a good two years and is now falling apart and needs to retire.

    I look forward to any suggestions.

    Marc Davenport.
    [email protected]


    Thanks for the excellent review.

    We tested the handels on the Brain Cell and you're right - so we will make them a bit longer in the next batch. It can be tricky...if the handles are too long, they may catch on things or just become annoying.
    Have a question? @Darcy (to make sure I see it)

    Current carry: testing new potential materials in the form of Original Large Shop Bags.


      I've alerted the folks at Trager regarding your comments about their Courier bag - I hope to see their response here soon.
      Regarding your problems with the Brain Cell:
      The handles are not really intended to see a whole lot of use outdoors with mittens. As with many things in our product line, we made some compromises with the size of the handle loops: since many folks never use them at all (they leave their Brain Cell inside their bag all the time), we wanted to make them as minimal as possible and still be functional.
      That being said, we will be making them a little longer in the future based on your feedback.
      Regarding your comment about the flaps, what do you mean by "I just wish that the two flaps closed flush"?


        If you're thinking about the Courier...

        ...have you given any thought to Tom Bihn's Empire Builder? I have been promising myself an upclose and anal review of the bag (complete with pictures)? It would appear to answer all of your desires listed at the end of your post, specifically the protected laptop space (Mine's a 12" iBook) and an organizer that is more thought out than a bunch of mesh poskets. The EB's outer flap covers an open pocket to the walls of which have been eight pockets of exact;ly the right size for PDA, MP3 player, pens, a pocket knife, b'cards and a bunch of other stuff.

        The flap itself offers three flat pockets (1 each horiz. and vert. zipped) and an open diagonal pocket that is perfect for a celle fone. Better yet, the diagonal pocket has an opening about 5 inches wide, which allows me to shove my hand down into it.

        Your "under the braincell" concern is a valid one, but I think the snaps (really more like clips) are sewn at the height required by the braincell you order. I just slid my hand down in the bag and pulled out a paper clip from under the cell but there not space for much else.


          Courier bag critique

          Thank you for the valuable input. It is great to get consumer input about our designs. Trager strives to design and manufacture the highest quality bags available anywhere. As in all designs there are compromises between features and cost. We have to balance the cost involved and whether you as a consumer will pay for all of the extras. We do our best to offer the best of both. All of our Trager bags are designed and manufactured here in Seattle WA, USA. We are proud to be Made in the USA since 1914.
          Best regards,
          Brian Lasley


            I've owned many courier type bags and my biggest grip with them is that after the laptop, anything else makes things heavy on your shoulder. This is why I LOVE straps like the one made by op/tech for Tom Bihn. I have one on one of my carry on Swiss Army luggage things and it's a lifesaver! Now, if only bag makers put straps like that on their messenger/courier/laptop/briefcase type bags!! Why don't they?

            Now, it doesn't say this on the homepage or product page, but what kind of strap is on the courier (Trager) bag? Is it like this or simply just a 'padded' strap? I'd hate to spend $150 and still just have a sore shoulder. What do you guys think? BTW, does Tom Bihn design these bags or are they made by someone else? ie is trager another company that sells bags or is it a line of Tom Bihn bags (like Camry is to Toyota)? If not, what does Tom Bihn do to make the bags different? Just wondering what's going on because I saw the absolute strap but it was made by op/tech (Knew them from my camera stuff!).

            I'm still in the search for a new bag.... (Seems to be my life story)



              I decided to use the bag despite what I thought I didnt like about it and here is my field review. I'll try to address things in my initail reaction as well.

              Two Month Review

              Brain Cell:
              Tom was right; I hardly ever remove it, and never use it on it's own, so the straps havent been a problem. With regards to the flaps being flush. It is a non issue. I just mean since both parts of the flap are padded, when you close it it doesnt make the nice right angles that the other sides do.

              Main compartment:
              I still wish the main interior was citrus as well. It can be hard to find things in there. I just think that is a good idea. The four pockets that are in the main compartment are too loose, so I often would catch them when I was putting in folders. I removed the two large ones. The remaining two are not as loose and work great for what I need.
              I'm considering removing the divider for the brain cell for the very same reason. Perhaps if the divider was made of spandex or something like it, it would be better.

              front compartment:
              Front picture:
              It really bugs me that the picture on the website shows two CDs in a pocket that cant zip with a CD in it.

              I wish that the 1" depth provided for the front compartment was given to the main compartment. I'd prefer one larger compartment rather than two seperated parts. That means the organizer would be on the outside of the bag, replacing the center(too small for a CD) of the front three pockets under the flap. I still dont like most pocket organization systems, but this isnt particular to this bag, I'm just picky. I still have yet to put my ID or anything in the clear spot. There are some pockets I have yet to put anything in.

              Flap: I like the two side pockets on the outside that are still exposed with the flap down. They are great. I also like the clips for the flap as opposed to velcro. The clips release is easy.

              Cellphone pocket:
              I use this pocket for all sorts of other things and it is handy for them, just not for my cellphone. I took my old cellphone holder from my old bag and put it on my new bag. I attaches to the strap.

              Straps & Handle:
              I love the waist strap. It is great, especially when I bike to class or work. It also puts the weight close to my center, which makes is more comfortable. I would have trouble buying another messenger bag that didnt have waist straps.

              The main handle is nice. The grip is comfy. Having the grip on the back of the bag is nice. My previous bag had grips that were centered between the front and back, so if flap is not secured, picking it up can be funny. This does not happen this way. I carry it by the handle often, but I have no complaints when I do. My old bag was horrible for this since it was centered and the flap was secured with velco. If the things in the bag were heavy it would open as I was carrying it.

              The main strap is nice and wide. The shoulder pad is comfortable but has one problem. The sholder patch rotates around and ends up upsidedown. It is like wearing those toastie socks with rubber grips on the soles. They have traction and end up rotating to the top of your foot. The only solution I have is sewing it in place so that it cant turn upside down. Any cobbler can sew through the material no problem and I'll probably try that soon. The strap also doubles over and started to crease. I think this is a result of the shoulder strap rotating. Sometimes I have to fiddle with it to be flush on me.

              It is a very high quality bag combo. It looks great. It is comfortable. It is built well. And after altering it somewhat it does the job very well. I do not regret buying it and will continue to use it for quite some time. I would recommend it to anyone with a laptop looking for a good messenger bag.

              Any comments always welcome.

              Marc Davenport
              [email protected]

              p.s. I looked at the Empire Builder, but I really want a messenger bag.
              Last edited by Marc; 03-11-2004, 12:58 AM.


                Great post! Quick question, can the straps be interchanged?

                I too, looked at the empire builder and found the courier to 'look better' IMO, and the empire builder seemed to be just a 'little' bit bigger in dimentions to 'fit' stuff in like books etc (I think they're the same volume though).



                  Interesting stuff about Trager's Courier bag - I hope Brian from Trager is still listening. I will certainly take this feed-back into account as I design our larger-than-the-ID messenger-style bag.
                  Regarding interchanging the strap: yes and no. The Courier's strap is 2" wide and the Absolute strap is only 1-1/2" wide. You could put the Absolute strap on the Courier but it would be funky with narrow webbing going through a wide buckle; it would look a little odd and might not hold as well either. Plus the buckle on the Courier has big nasty teeth that would be somewhat exposed (for 1/2" of its width) and might bite you.


                    This review made a customer out of me

                    I'm awaiting my new 17" Powerbook, and have already returned the Brenthaven case from Apple. It was bulky and cheap looking. I have been reviewing bags for days and must admit to being quite confused.

                    I was interested in the Courier / Brain Cell combination, but was not sure it would meet my needs. This thread was well written by all and highlighted both the strengths and weaknesses of the combination. In addition to the conclusion that this is appears to be a great product, I was further encouraged by the fact that the people at the company were so responsive in the discussion, including the CEO. The willingness to reevalute design decisions based on a single customers feedback is also impressive. Customer service is a lost art in so many companies.

                    I'm going to go order by Courier and Brain Cell now.