Road Tests :: Porter Protect Messenger
Getting jiggy with a cracker of a messenger
Any frequent reader knows that we froth for Porter. The god-fathers of good urban carry, this Japanese brand have been producing carry classics for years, with very little exposure to the west. On a recent Tokyo jaunt, we found a little brown messenger that has mostly won Hadrien’s heart. Read on…
During the last few months I’ve been using the Porter Protect messenger for my day to day life, and I love it. It is not a revolution in the messenger bag world, but some of the annoyance of that class of product has been addressed, resulting in something very enjoyable.
The bag itself is by no means fancy, but if you look closely you’ll see the work they have put into it. There is nothing not to like – enough texture to be interesting without looking over designed, and a feel for folds that is much more elegant than the ‘flap wrap’ we have in most messenger bags. The Porter gives you the look of a messenger but the details link directly to garment folds. So it can better integrate with whatever you are wearing.
The material is a twill nylon made by Gore Tex. Showing just enough personality, but without over-powering what you can wear with it. It feels very durable and after many months of abuse I can’t see any mark of wear and tear.-
The main insight for this bag is in the opening design. The whole shape of the opening/flap is designed to seal the bag when closed. They moved the opening above the fold-line to not only close the bag, but also seal the edges of the opening. It’s not a new trick, but it is still surprisingly rare.
To ensure that the fold will happen every time you open and close the bag, they have added a PE board strip in one side of the opening panel reinforcing the lip of this one. Very clever!
The attachment of the strap to the bag has been thought through very nicely so it cannot twist on itself. They placed the two buckles at points that don’t open the bag every time you lift it by either the handle or the strap! Those designers at Porter have spend the time to think about it and gave their product the attention and love it deserve.
“The details are not the details. They make the design.”
– Charles Eames
The other key insight with this bag is about pocketing. Messengers are known to be great for light loads and few items, but when it comes to organization it can throw them out. Not this one. They have thought about quick small stuff access versus main storage.
This results in the design of the wide pocket on the flap, so you can access all your small stuff like iPod, camera, pens and other stuff without having to open the bag. Sounds pretty simple but most messengers fail in this area. Generally, pockets on the flap are flat so they make their contents push inwards, or it makes the flap way too heavy. This pocket is designed so it is not in your face, very practical and feels part of the whole bag even though is it a gusseted pocket. Absolutely love this feature!
Buckles and compression straps:
The webbing lengths for the front buckles are just enough, resulting in no annoying tangling webbing. They also wrap under the base so you could roll a rain jacket and slide it under the webbing.
Maybe we could have a hint of a pop colour somewhere to lift the sober look. Having a mono color bag is fine, but I would have loved a little surprise detail somewhere.
To be honest there isn’t much I don’t like about this bag. While I love it 90% of the time (carrying my note book, laptop, camera and other small stuff), as soon as I include a bit more like bottle of water, food or even a jumper, it all mixes with charger cables and the bag starts to hit Struggle Street. You can do but it, but it looses its elegance.
If it was 5% larger in volume, I could travel with it as well. I guess that is often the issue with messengers, they often bulge out when filled as all content are fighting for the same middle space.
The shoulder strap came with a small pad, that feels pretty cheap and useless. I removed it, and just let the webbing sit on my shoulder (surprisingly comfortable in a small bag like this). The bag is not heavy enough to feel any discomfort from the nylon webbing strap. This is a case when brands include parts to fill the general idea of product requirements, without thinking about reality (on’t get me started on the headphones cord rubber badges in backpacks).
The Messenger comes with an internal document sleeve in which you can slide a 15” laptop without cover. For most people this can be an issue. I didn’t use a cover and find 2 things. First I was more careful with the bag, secondly every time I placed the laptop in the bag I made sure the screen part of the laptop was facing the inside of the bag over being against my body. It was a good trick to avoid pressure on the screen. Of course for most people the idea of having a cover around the Laptop would be a lot better.
One of the things missing, and I should say that it is missing in all messenger bags, are side pockets. If you ‘fill’ your messenger you can practically always find more room in the sides. It would have been great to have some simple pockets there. The center hanging pocket wasn’t much use for me as the outside one took the role and when I had the bag full whatever I put in the internal pocket was starting to fight with the bag content and opening the whole bag to get a pen felt a little too much.
Best suited to:
If you’re looking for a bag that works at work, as well as everyday life, this will suit. Just keep in mind you need to have a minimal approach that requires moving around with just what you need, not the just in case clutter.
Not suited to:
Those who carry a weeks worth of paperwork or a 17” laptop. You guys will need a much larger bag. Also, the price of this stylish bag can sting a little. Porter is known to be on the expensive side, which is why I guess you get so much love into a clever bag.
I’ve always struggled to find good bag that works in different places and times. Work and play are merging and finding products that fit in this new middle ground is far from easy. Ask for a functional stylish timeless touch and you might as well start believing in Santa again. However this Porter messenger is getting pretty close to it – clever, functional, nicely finished it just need a little more elegance to be just prefect for those who carry only a few important things everyday.
The hitch? Try finding one outside of a Porter flagship store in Japan!
The Porter Protect large messenger retails for 30,975 JPY (almost US$400).