When I test a bag I like to put it through its paces by taking it out into the field and using it. So naturally, when I got the ECBC Zeus Messenger K7-203 in for review, I did what anyone would do to get a feel for the bag’s usefulness and durability—I took it to a tradeshow in Taiwan.
From JFK International in New York to Taoyuan International Airport in Taipei, and back, and on to dozens of booth visits and press events in between, the Zeus Messenger served me quite well. For most of Computex I carried with me a laptop, camera, mobile hotspot, paper notebook, a handful of pens, several papers and travel documents, a handful of snacks, and a few dozen business cards. For some meetings I usually also brought along a number of other odds and ends (Spare memory card and batteries, USB SD Card reader, a USB-to-Ethernet dongle, and a pair of headphones), and I usually left meetings with more stuff than I brought, gathering brochures, flash drives, and various branded tchotchkes along the way.
Design and Features
The Zeus Messenger measures 18 by 13.8 by 3.5 inches (HWD), and weighs 2.1 pounds when empty. While that’s by no means the lightest such bag we’ve reviewed, it’s a fairly light weight for a sturdy single-compartment messenger bag. The bag itself is constructed of rugged Kodra Nylon, which is not only resistant to abrasion and tearing, and it’s also waterproofed to protect your stuff from splashes and drizzles. The Zeus Messenger can be purchased in black, blue, green, linen, or berry. The look is pretty conservative—the blue or black will blend into any office environment—but it’s definitely a case of form following function.
Inside, the bag is portioned out with dividers made of light rip-stop nylon, which doesn’t monopolize the space meant for stuff but should be fairly durable over the months and years you use the bag. The bag is closed with one main flap secured with both Velcro and buckling nylon straps. This use of two different kinds of closures gives you the option of simply closing the flap when in a hurry—knowing that the Velcro will keep it securely closed—or to snap the buckles for more security.
Behind the large flap is an array of smaller pockets, fitted to everything from pens and sunglasses to notebooks (the paper kind), wallets, and passports. A zippered interior pocket is large enough to slip documents into, but it’s just inaccessible enough—you have to peel open the Velcro-secured flap to get to it—that it’s not immediately convenient, and I would have preferred a similar zippered document pocket along the back of the bag for more convenient access.
The Zeus Messenger has a single main compartment, which includes a padded laptop sleeve. The lining in this sleeve is soft to prevent scratching the plastic or glass of the laptop, and a removable foam block lets you adjust the pocket to more snugly fit a 13- to 15-inch laptop. Next to the laptop sleeve, inside the main compartment, there are two elastic-topped mesh pockets for stashing a power adapter or two without having to worry about removing a snarled tangle of cords later.
On the outside flap, there’s a large zippered ticket pocket. Inside this large pocket is a smaller padded phone pocket (which incidentally works well for a digital voice recorder). On one end of the bag is a mesh pocket for loose objects, and at the other a zippered pocket that can either zip closed to secure small objects or pull out to comfortably store a water bottle.
The wide nylon shoulder strap is easily adjusted, thanks to a large lever-locking clasp that opens for simple adjustment buckle closes and clamps down to keep the strap secure. On the strap is an adjustable shoulder pad, with a stripe of textured rubberized fabric for traction. This alleviates a common problem seen on many messenger bags, wherein the adjustable shoulder strap will adjust itself out of proper position, settling somewhere in the small of your back instead of staying on the shoulder, where it belongs. Instead, thanks to the extra traction provided by that textured strip, the shoulder pad stays put, even as you shift the bag’s position to get in or out of a car, or to grab a seat on the subway.
The bag also features a stout nylon handle, which gets extra padding and grip thanks to a strip of neoprene just inside the handle grip. The sturdy nylon always left me feeling secure while carrying the bag, with the weight properly distributed and no sagging. The neoprene underside of the handle made for a more comfortable grip, which was especially important when stuck carrying the bag briefcase style through a customs line at the airport.
On the back of the bag is luggage trolley pass-thru—a wide padded panel that pulls out from the bag and can be slipped onto the extended handle of a rolling suitcase. It’s secured with Velcro, so when not in use, it’s just a padded panel on the back of the bag, but when you’re slogging through the airport with two other suitcases, trying to pull one and carry the other, maintaining enough of a normal posture to keep your shoulder bag from swinging wildly or slipping off a shoulder can become a giant pain in the butt. Being able to slip you shoulder bag onto a suitcase and not have to juggle with the larger bags is a big benefit, and anyone who travels for work or commutes with a second rolling bag will welcome the thoughtful addition.
So, after taking the ECBC Zeus Messenger halfway around the world and back, how did it do in regular use? While hauling my daily loadout of laptop, camera, notebook, and assorted stuff, it did pretty well. The bag was spacious enough for all of my gadgets, and the assorted pockets and compartments gave me plenty of options for keeping it all organized. The strap length was easily adjusted, but stayed secure after doing so, and the adjustable shoulder pad was good enough that I want it on any messenger bag I use.
My only complaint with the bag, as mentioned before, was the placement of the document pocket—I wanted a way to access my papers without opening the entire bag. One other thing I would have appreciated, and this is purely a personal preference, would be one or two loops on the outside of the bag for attaching a carabiner or similar clip. Aside from these two rather negligible issues, the bag was everything I wanted it to be.
All in all, the ECBC Zeus Messenger K7-203 is a well-constructed messenger bag, with room for all your stuff. The design is thoughtful and orderly, and the bag’s structure and sturdy materials let me feel secure filling it with expensive and essential equipment without worrying about whether my things were loose in the bag. After a week of heavy use in three different countries and dozens of unique scenarios, it’s safe to say that this is one bag you’ll want to grab.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc