Tenba Messenger Bag (Large) Review

Another small step on my eternal quest for the perfect laptop/camera bag.

I’m still looking out for messenger style bags because I like the access to the open bag without having to take the backpack off my back first. After I found out that the Timbuk2 was not really meant to be a camera bag I saw the Tenba Messenger bag mentioned on a DSLR forum.

I found the bag on Amazon, it arrived this morning. I started loading it with all the stuff I carry in my Tumi backpack to see if it would suit my purpose. (You can click on the images to get to my Flickr page, there are notes on the images)

Tenba Messenger (Large)

As expected, the closed bag is pretty full when everything is in. The carry-on strap that comes with the bag is fantastic – well padded, and does not slip off easily. The flap has two small zippered pockets, perfect for ID cards or your wallet.

Let’s have a look at the bags features.

Tenba Messenger (Large)

The back of a bag has a full size zipper to store documents, plus a few small pockets for business cards and other small stuff. Very good, so you can get at your documents without having to open the main compartment. It’s the same feature the Timbuk2 has.

Tenba Messenger (Large)

The main compartment has a removable insert padded dividers that can be arranged at your liking. That allows me to savely store my Nikon D40 and use the rest of the space for all the other small stuff I carry (mouse, cables, 3G adapter etc.).

Left and right of the insert there’s ample space for my notebook AC adapter and a pocket umbrella.

The front pocket has another zipper that could be used to store cables, but when the laptop and the camera insert are in, there is really not a lot of space in there.

Tenba Messenger (Large)

When you carry the bag and need to get at your camera fast, there is a zipper that allows you to get into the camera insert without opening the flap.

Tenba Messenger (Large)

The front has a few small pockets, the two large ones left and right are perfect for mobile phone and/or iPhone, the small ones in the middle could hold the headphones.

The verdict?

Tough one – as with the Timbuk2, I REALLY REALLY want to like that bag. It’s well built and designed,but it has just about the same drawbacks the Timbuk2 had:

  • When fully loaded, it’s REALLY full. Honestly, it feels like it’s too full. The bag will close, but it just doesn’t feel rigth
  • With a laptop AND the camera insert, the front pockets become useless, as they can’t expand enough
  • There is an inside and an outside zippered pocket at the front. When you fill both, the stuff in there expands at the bottom of the bag. Not well designed.

Overall, the bag shares the standard messenger bag problem: when you carry the bag, its weight will press the contents together. Getting at small items in the from pockets is a PITA.

So, either as a laptop bag or as a camera bag I’d probably recommend it, but as a bag for both it’s just too cramped.

Another bag I’ll have to send back, unfortunately ;(


  1. Pity! It really does look like if you want both a lappy and a DSLR you'll have to get a backback. And then it's not as easy to get at the camera as you'd want.

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