Whatever you call them – messenger bag, man purse, laptop carrier, ammo satchel, the purpose is pretty similar. It’s a method of carrying something over the shoulder, slung, or in a fashion convertible from one purpose to the other. The origins of such a piece of gear can be found as far back as the first use of cavalry and gun powder. Saddle bags, ammo bags, map cases, paratrooper bags and so on have been used the world over. While the design itself may be more traditional than people realize, the cookie cutter products out there are just as plentiful. Enter the Helikon-Tex Urban Courier Bag (Large). Supplied to us by one and only clearinghouse of outside-the-box kit – Military 1st, this bag performed and outperformed anything similar I have used.
Let’s start by addressing the size. While the “large” descriptor is accurate, it is still not the largest of messenger bags out there. And I am happy about that. I have come across designs which in size may be better suited for a duffle, and in that defeat the purpose of low key, discreet or even efficient carry. The Helikon-Tex Urban Carrier Bag lists at 15″x13″x5″, and is pretty much as big as I would want a messenger or a courier bag to be. I think the dimensions can be a bit deceiving, since the design, much like the shape of the bag is rather outside-the-box. I would say that overall the Urban Courier can fit pretty much anything you would have in a small day or . Adding to the purpose function of to-the-point features true to the Helikon-Tex brand, are the pleased and elastic sides, multiple compartments and ability to expand or compress the load. Not the least of those features is the waist strap, which can be stowed into one of the adjacent side pockets when not in use, or secure the bag when moving with a purpose or with heavier loads.
The Courier Bag provided by Military 1st was a Wolf Grey color, which has become a favorite of many, and definitely this writer. The color is consistent among items and garments, stands up to the elements thanks to the Cordura nylon, and is a perfect “urban” compliment for those who don’t want to stand out, as much as be able to utilize the intended function. The large shoulder strap of the Urban Courier Bag is not only generous in adjustment, allowing for shoulder or across the chest carry, it is padded better that some packs. The wide and solid padding keeps the bag stable on the user, and comfortable with heavy loads. It’s tapered toward the ends, adjustable on the fly, and has smart tabs to keep the working ends of the strap. There is no unnecessary exposed foam, as the entire shoulder pad is enclosed in the same nylon as the rest of the bag, and can be easily detached from each end of the bag. The quilted appearance gives it an appealing look, and the padded sections covers most of the length of the strap, making it even more usable by having a single row of MOLLE webbing. As in all Helikon-Tex products, the main shoulder strap offers more than ample room to adjust, and stow away the working ends.
The outside compartment of the Urban Courier bag is uniquely sewn to stay flat when not in use, or accommodate bulkier items such as clothing, food, cords and so on. It is accented by two well-placed buckles on each tapered corner of the flap, and a generous, yet unassuming velcro pale on the outside. Underneath the main flap are two rows of hook and loop tape The flap can be secured with buckles and tape, or just hook and loop. The later obviously allows quicker access, or more security if used in conjunction. If stealth is your forte, the velcro can be easily covered by appropriate hook-loop on each side of the bag and flap, making the access quieter, but leaving only the buckles to secure. Buckled access is easy when moving with the bag, and in gloves.
Open the main flap, and the Urban Courier offers in effect three different compartments. A forward zippered pocket lined with smooth loop secured with its own zipper, and a main compartment padded toward the back of the bag, with s sturdy divider. The front of the main pocket also has a large mesh pocket, again with its own zipper. The computer/laptop section, if you choose to use it as such due to the padded back, also offer loop surface, and is further secured by a large hook and loop tap at the top. Not the least of the smart features are the smooth nylon inner pockets, which are place on the inside and congruent with the exterior side utility pockets. Much like the front inner zippered pocket, the exterior water/utility pockets are pleaded. This is a basic feature, but one which allow for a number of carry configurations. From being bale to conceal 2-3 full AR type magazines, to a large coffee mug, to an umbrella. All features are robust and heavy duty, utilizing quality 500D Cordura. The external side/hydration pockets are topped with a very sturdy elastic. With no contents, the pockets stay basically shut, and secure any items placed otherwise.
The rearmost compartment of the Helikon-Tex Urban Courier bag is a self-contained flatter pocket, accessible through its own zipper. The outer side of it again has a look surface, and the inner abuts the padded internal laptop section. While this loop area is more suited for smaller and lighter items as heavier ones might cause a bit of an external signature, the whole loop attachment theme throughout this bag is perfect. It allows for an unlimited number of duty and recreational carries of anything from ammunition, to tools, first aid kits, and down right to your entire Spotter Up patch collection. All zipper pulls use 550 cord, and have a rubber tab covering them. The zippers are smooth, and I have had no issues with them holding up or being perfectly placed. On may notice that the Urban-Courier does not have a carry handle. Not in the traditional sense. There is a single reinforced hand loop sewn toward the back of the bag, just behind the main flap. While this may be an adjustment feature for some, I found it keep the design clean and be just enough of a functional piece to keep the bag from looking too formal. Thanks to the sturdy and padded shoulder strap, most carrying and moving the bag, mostly to and from vehicles, seems to be instinctively done by the strap. Not the least of the least of features are the two compression straps on the bottom of the bag. They work well to control the contents and shape of the bag, but are just as handy in securing anything you may need to access quickly on the outside, or which doesn’t fit inside the bag: bulky clothing, rescue litter, or your favorite Woobie.
At $67 current price on Military 1st, and with 7 colors which include traditional black, grey, OD grey, and Coyote, as well as combination of same, the Helikon-Tex Urban Courier bag is a top-rating messenger-style bag, in this reviewer’s opinion. The more you use it, the more you seem to appreciate the direct and functional elements of a Helikon-Tex approach. The designers seemed to go after pure function, but have done a great job of combining fashion with almost unassuming tactical capabilities of their product. In categories of appearance, function, price, and value, this scores an easy 5 out of 5. Not the least of the top performance reasons is how easy Military 1st is to work with, and how far they will stand to offer quality customer service.