As a lifelong user of backpacks, I’m fully aware that it borders on heresy to admit that I’ve secretly been coveting messenger bags for a while. Perhaps it’s simply a side-effect of growing older, but I’ve slowly come to appreciate the way that messenger bags can carry a lot of stuff while maintaining a sleek, business-casual look that eludes most backpacks. The Booq Boa Courier ($109.95 list) is one such example, merging function and style in a versatile bag that can accommodate your MacBook (or any laptop up to 15 inches) while looking clean enough to bring to work and cool enough for happy hour.
The Boa Courier is available in 10-, 13-, or 15-inch sizes. Our review unit was the 13-inch model, and its exterior accordingly measures 10.8 by 17.1 by 4.7 inches (HWD) and weighs two pounds like the Ju-Ju-Be Be Hip (Messenger Bag)’s timber model. The Boa Courier’s nylon exterior rocks a graphite finish that’s decidedly more understated than the Magic Eye-like prints that we saw on the Ju-Ju-Be Micra Be Laptop Bag . In addition to its waterproof coating, the Boa Courier’s nylon exterior also features a reflective piping along the flap’s outer edges to help increase visibility when making moves during the night.
Since it’s a messenger bag, the Boa Courier is designed to be slung over your shoulder. Accordingly, its seatbelt nylon shoulder strap runs across your chest in a manner that allows the bag to hang over your back in a 45-degree angle. A removable shoulder pad can be fastened to this strap to increase its overall comfort. There’s also a removable “crossbody strap” that supposedly improves stability by running under your armpit to connect the shoulder strap to an extra buckle on the bag’s bottom portion. I found this feature unnecessary, though, and ditched it early on. Although the thought of my bag dangling from a weird angle initially freaked me out, two sturdy plastic buckles kept it securely closed. While I’d choose buckles over Velcro any day, it may not be your cup of tea if you like buttons or zippers.
Despite its compact size, the Boa Courier boasts ample interior storage space by virtue of its many compartments. The main compartment houses a dedicated laptop sleeve that closes over your system with a thick Velcro strap. Between its dense plush padding and snug fit, your laptop feels secure. The rest of the main compartment, meanwhile, is made from a soft herringbone nylon material that protects your gadgets from getting scratched. Here, you’ll also find a pen holder and a smartphone compartment. An external zippered pocket beneath the bag’s flap serves as a storage pouch for miscellany. On the opposite end of the Boa Courier, a rear external sleeve can hold thin materials like magazines and loose papers. This section also sports a key ring that can conveniently be removed via a sliding buckle mechanism. Nearby, you’ll also find a single briefcase handle for carrying the Boa Courier by your side. While two handles would have made more sense, the handle nevertheless feels durable enough to transport a heavy load.
The interior of the Boa Courier also houses a metal-framed Terralinq serial tag, which allows Boa Courier owners to register the unique serial number on the Booq website. In the event of losing the bag, the finder can enter said number on the site, and Booq will in turn contact the original owner and assist in its eventual return. It’s a nice idea, in theory at least.
I put the Boa Courier to the test by using it as my primary bag for two full weeks, a period that entailed frenetically zipping between crowded trains and some bicycle riding. In both instances, I stashed my usual necessities inside, like my 13-inch MacBook Pro, a bottle of water, an umbrella, a book, and (in one instance), a six-pack. Throughout, the Boa Courier comfortably rested on my back, and its shoulder strap allowed it hew close enough to my body so it didn’t jut out and bump into others on crowded trains. Thanks to its compact size, I was able to deftly swing the Boa Courier in front of me and sit in those rare instances that I got a seat. Moreover, the Boa Courier never lost its shape or sagged, an attribute that became apparent when, at one point, the train’s doors closed onto the bag and I had yank it out. Much to my surprise, the Boa Courier took this unscripted stress test in stride.
Even while riding a bike, the Boa Courier never felt burdensome. Thanks to the semi-vertical angle that it rested on my back, it never bumped into my body with my every movement—one of my biggest pet peeves with messenger bags. Moreover, all of my wares consistently remained accessible, making interior navigation and organization feel like second nature. I especially liked the key ring since I was able to grab my keys without having to fiddle with any compartments or zipper every time I needed to enter or leave my apartment.
So the question remains: After two weeks of using the Booq Boa Courier, am I a messenger bag convert? The answer is a resounding “yes.” The Boa Courier proved itself to be a highly functional and comfortable way to carry my gear around without compromising my style. For students, commuters, and wavering backpackers looking for a cool way to tote their gear around, it’s definitely worth checking out.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc