Gear Review: Gregory Vibe Messenger Bag

One little bag...so much room.
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One little bag...so much room.

I have a problem–I have too many messenger bags for bike commuting. How I got all of them, I am not entirely sure, but last spring when I wandered into the BACKPACKER office and I was offered the Gregory Vibe bag ($96) to test I questioned the need to introduce another bike commuter pack into my life. My wife [a BP staffer] did as well and said that if I held onto the pack for over a month I had to give an old messenger bag to Goodwill. I took the bait.

My initial thoughts upon seeing the pack were not pleasant. First, the Vibe looks like a backpack. Why should I use a backpack when all the cool riders have messenger bags? There was a time, in grade school, when all the cool kids started wearing their backpacks with only one strap –soon everyone else, myself included, started to as well. Eventually, I reached a point in high school or college where I was carrying so many engineering textbooks that I decided fashion over function is a foolish idea.

For me, going from a messenger bag to the Vibe was the same revelation. Suddenly my back and shoulders felt infinitely better post commute. The straps have an ergonomic design to form around your chest while riding; they also contain just enough padding to be comfortable without being overly bulky. Additionally the back has some mesh padding, with a gap along the spinal column, to ease the discomfort of heavy loads.

My next concern was the size of the pack (10.5 x 25 x 46 cm, 835 g). It looked small, and compared to the Novara messenger bag I had been using for the past three years, it was. I typically end up leaving a number of important items at work to lighten my load but to really test the Vibe I filled it with my work clothes, a pair of shoes, a towel, laptop, and a lunch sack. Everything fit in, albeit tightly, and I remembered an overused expression from my father that "anything above the minimum is a waste" (you can argue for yourself when to apply that statement).

My final issue with the pack was the rubber-esque TBU fabric using EPO (Environment Pollution Omitting) technology; I have no idea what that scientifically means other than, apparently, it is all very environmentally friendly (toxin, PVC, and chlorine free) and water resistant. Now, I live in Colorado where it barely rains, so why would I need a super water-resistant pack? But this spring and summer turned out to be the wettest in the last five years in Boulder. The Vibe did an excellent job keeping all my stuff dry, even around the edges—the usual weak spot on most messenger bags. And hopefully the EPO will not show up if I ever have a doping test...

When all of my initial complaints were proven false, the Vibe also surprised me with an unexpected bonus. After more than a month of commuting with it I "discovered" a wondrous side stash pocket. Previously, I stored all my emergency bike repair gear scattered on the bottom of the bag’s main compartment and monopolizing the front organization pocket. The stash pocket is the perfect size to fit a mini-pump, tire levers, multi-tool, and a spare tube freeing the front pocket for its intended duty as my wallet, phone, and keys holder.

If you find my old messenger bag at Goodwill I wish you the best– I am sticking with the Vibe.

–Dan Corbett

You can follow Dan's (usually) clothed outdoor escapades on his blog, climbtrees.com.