- Buyer's Guide
I prefer a backpack in everyday life, but sometimes a good messenger bag is handy – especially if that bag is lightweight, comfy, simple, rugged, and reasonably weatherproof. And on top of that, it was designed with the expertise of a legendary gear designer – Dan Matsuda. During my Bornholm exploration this past summer, I extensively used it as my EDC and camera bag. Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome the newest iteration of the ITS Tactical Discreet Messenger Bag!
Who It Suits
Any gray man who prefers to go unnoticed in daily life. This bag is simple, modular inside, not flashy, and easily accessible. It’s a good office or commuting bag but could even be a perfect solution for undercover operations. With a slick exterior, it’s a “high speed, low drag” messenger bag. If that is what you want – this bag is perfect for you.
Who It Doesn’t
Suppose you need tons of internal organization with dedicated zipper pockets, MOLLE panels, a Velcro area for patches, and all the bells and whistles. This one could be too simplistic for you. Also, if you want to carry a lot of gear, the bag’s moderate volume of just below 15 liters could be a limiting factor.
Name: Discreet Messenger Bag
Brand: ITS Tactical
Format: Messenger Bag
Measures: 18″ (tapers to 14.5″) x 11″ x 5″
Capacity: 14.6 liters
Weight: 42 oz. (2.6 lbs.)
Hardware/Materials: Weatherproof TPU 600D fabric, Fidlock magnetic buckle, tubular nylon webbing, magnetic zipper in rapid-access pocket
On the outside, it is as discreet (and quiet in operation) as possible. It is comfortable even without a padded shoulder pad (but it could be handy for heavier loads). But the tubular webbing belt was just fine for my use and moderate load. Quality-wise, it’s a very well-made messenger bag with easy access to the inside and a rapid-access secret front pocket. It could look too gray and simple for some, but that’s the whole point! It’s slick, it’s smooth, it doesn’t attract attention, it won’t catch on things with any loop or MOLLE on the outside. On top of that, it can be compressed almost flat for storage or as a backup bag in the trunk of your ride.
It’s not a watertight bag, but waterproof materials and self-folding side flaps protect the contents from the elements quite well. I checked it this past summer a couple of times during my Bornholm trip when I had to keep going in the rain and even a sudden summer storm once.
Inside, it is undoubtedly NOT as minimalistic as on the outside. First, it’s a multilayer construction with the back panel and bottom padded with high-density foam. It’s not thick, but it is meaty and will protect the stuff inside from hitting the ground and your back and hip from edgy stuff inside. The sides and front also have multilayer construction, but the padding is considerably thinner. Still, the bag is robust enough to keep its shape even if empty (but can be flattened and packed inside oversized luggage).
There are multiple open-top pockets inside: a big one for a laptop and two front pockets sized perfectly for ITS Tactical’s Zip Bag or ETA Trauma Kit pouch. I found out that the Magpul DAKA small fits there perfectly too. There are also two side pockets (big enough for a 500ml Nalgene or bottle of similar diameter) and two clever “corner pockets” for a pen, folding knife, flashlight, etc. The central big cavity is excellent for bulky stuff like a camera, jacket, oversized cargo pouch like the ITS Gizmo Lite bag, Dan Matsuda EDC pouch, etc. You can see here two loads inside my Discreet Messenger: one with pouches and another more traditional with items stored directly in the pockets.
The main flap has small side wings, which additionally restrict side access when the bag is tightly closed. So you won’t lose stuff easily during dynamic movement, and it’s crowd-safe, too. ITS Tactical used a magnetic Fidlock to keep the flap in place (with two levels of closing), and it works fine. But why just one central Fidlock, not two as with most bags? Well, the Discreet Messenger has one more trick up its sleeve (which requires a central lock) – a hidden quick-access pocket on the front, which you can access from both sides via a magnetic zipper. You can keep it shut via a regular zipper for extra safety. Still, in standby mode, you can unzip it, and linear magnets hold the sides of the opening together – it’s safe to carry something inside, and access is now almost instant. A very unique and very clever feature! So, with one central closing point on the flap, you can quickly draw from the rapid-deployment pocket by holding the flap. You can carry inside one of many quick-access items like a flashlight, pepper spray, or whatever you want. It’s also where I have a knife when exploring the wild, so it’s always easily accessible without opening the bag. The pocket is lined with Velcro so you can position your flashlight (or other gear) in a Velcro-backed sheath.
The Not So Good
There are three things a bit too minimalistic for me about this bag. One is the lack of an internal zipper pocket for a wallet or keys. I know that tactical-minded gurus advise carrying a wallet “on you” for safety, but such a pocket would still be excellent in many situations. Or at least a loop/lanyard, so I could permanently attach one of the pouches inside my bag for double safety.
Another one is the lack of even a simplified carry handle. It is not the end of the world, and it’s also safe, as it makes grabbing the bag from you even harder. But still, a carry handle comes in handy quite often.
And a third one – like it or not, the bag is available only in a gray melange color scheme.
I’ve been using my ITS Tactical Discreet Messenger for 12 weeks as a vacation EDC bag (when exploring Bornholm), camera bag (forest, city), and office bag, and I never had a single issue with it. It held up great, also in light summer rain. After the summer season, it still looks almost brand new, which is a testament to the quality of materials used. It is even more functional if paired with ITS pull-out Zip pouches or the new small Trauma Kit, which are tailor-made to fit inside the pockets. Or rather, the pockets are tailor-made to accept the pouches, which have been available at ITS for years.
And lastly, you’ll also get an outstanding Dan Matsuda limited-release orange and black patch with the bag. Dan is a true legend among the designers within the ‘carry’ world, and his patches are some of the most sought-after among patch junkies (yeah, like me).
Price? Well, at $199.99 regularly (including the Matsuda patch) this bag is a pretty good deal, but at just $99.99 on sale at the time of writing, this bag is tremendous value! The ITS Tactical Discreet Messenger Bag is a solid option to stay gray in today’s world. Jason Bourne would carry it, I’m sure!
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Space & Access
Look & Feel
Build, Materials & Hardware
Warranty & Support