Agency Aspect Hybrid Messenger Review
The Agency Aspect Hybrid Messenger is a messenger bag with plenty of space for long, flat items, although we wish the straps were easier to adjust.
- Includes an effective stabilizer strap
- Uses durable and water-resistant outer fabric
- Has good capacity for lengthy and flat items
- Strap’s buckles are difficult to adjust
- Front pockets can catch rainwater
- Overall shape doesn’t make the best use of available space
2 lb (0.9 kg)
23.5 in x 11.5 in x 4 in (59.7 x 29.2 x 10.2 cm)
CORDURA® Nylon, Leather, Polyurethane, EVA Foam, YKK Zippers
Laptop Compartment Size
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Messenger bags come in all shapes and sizes. We have classic designs like the IKEA DROMSACK Messenger Bag and more contemporary and technical designs like the Peak Design Everyday Messenger 13L (V2). The rectangular shape serves as a canvas where companies try their hand at executing their vision of what a messenger bag should look like and what features they want to add—and that’s exactly what Agency Aspect did.
Agency Aspect was founded in 2018 by Liana Delucca Johnson and Michelle Rose, both former design team leaders with The North Face. Their vision is “to bring freedom of movement, beauty and confidence to every aspect of women’s lives.” Kicking things off is one of their first products: the Hybrid Messenger.
The Hybrid Messenger doesn’t break the mold and is still a messenger bag through and through, doubling down on water-resistant materials and a mostly comfortable harness system. Unfortunately, along with its pros, the Hybrid Messenger has one main corresponding con that needs to be addressed.
Materials & Aesthetic
Messenger bags typically come in a rectangular shape to make them suitable for carrying important documents like notepads and textbooks. Agency Aspect spices things up with a different geometrical shape: the trapezoid. Despite not being the usual rectangle, it’s still a messenger bag through and through. It’s just that it’s grown in some places, and now it looks a bit of a boat.
The shape is one thing, but the material also plays an important role in a bag’s aesthetic. The main material is technically the 500D CORDURA Nylon, but a vast portion of the outside is covered in Saffiano-style abrasion-resistant leather. Combine this duo of materials with the boat-like profile, and you end up with a polarizing look. It’s not bad per se, but looks are subjective, and we wouldn’t be surprised if we have both ayes and nays among you. As for us, it’s starting to grow on us, especially after the leather saved us from a light shower one drizzly afternoon. That said, we also think the Pixel Grey’s two-tone white and black color is more appealing than the Pixel Grey we have in this review.
Branding is kept to a minimum, with just a small logo on the YKK zipper pulls and an equally tiny one on the front middle pocket. It’s a good thing that the latter logo is a bit off-center; otherwise, we might have missed it, thinking it was a third snap button.
The Hybrid Messenger can be summed up as both durable and structured. The leather contributes a lot to achieve these traits, but the CORDURA Nylon and EVA foam at the back also plays a major part in keeping that vibe.
The Hybrid Messenger’s main strap is fairly wide and appropriate for its size. Each end is stitched to the tips that form the horns of the bag. These tips aren’t just for aesthetics; and they actually flex and wrap around the body when you tighten the strap. This makes the Hybrid Messenger sit better against you, leading to a more comfortable carrying experience. The wrap around effect we observed is easy to notice, and we appreciated the thoughtful design that made an otherwise large, flat bag sit better on our bodies.
Equally easy to notice was how difficult it is to adjust the length of the strap. The strap adjusters do not slide easily, and we have to feed the nylon strap through the aluminum adjuster bit by bit to loosen it up. That’s good if you’re annoyed by straps that seemingly readjust themselves after some time, but it’s also tedious when you do want to tighten or loosen things up. Our tip is to get the adjustment right as soon as possible rather than deal with it on the fly.
Considering the relatively wide profile of the Hybrid Messenger, we weren’t surprised to find an included stabilizer strap. It’s not as beefy as the main strap, plus it’s much friendlier to length-adjust. It loops onto one of the two bottom corners via a snap-button and hooks up to an opposite corner using a G-hook. We have one nitpick with this strap, and that’s how the snap button’s extra bit of fabric catches on the loop when you try to slide it out. Not a huge deal since you can easily remove the strap from the opposite G-hook instead.
Once you’ve got the adjustments dialed in just right, you’ll find that the Hybrid Messenger carries well for its size. The back panel’s reasonably comfortable, and the stabilizer strap does a good job of mitigating bounciness. You even get a luggage pass-through so you can slide the Hybrid Messenger on your rolling luggage while you’re queued at the airport.
The top handle’s not half-bad either. It’s not quite the full-fat foam-laden handle you’ll find on more brief-style bags, but it has just enough EVA foam padding so you can carry the Hybrid Messenger by hand in relative comfort.
Around the front are three large pockets. The two outer ones are slanted and secured with snap buttons, which means that they’re better suited for large and bulky items like bundles of keys, a beefy power bank, a water bottle, or a bottle of sanitizer. Items that are too big to sneak through the snap button work best, or you can use a small pouch to keep small things together but not have them fall through the gaps. One thoughtful touch we like about the snap buttons on these pockets is that the male side is mounted on nylon loops. This means you can align it easier to the female side without having to mash things blindly.
Perhaps for aesthetic reasons, the middle pocket instead uses an embedded pair of magnets to seal itself closed. The pocket itself is a little bit bigger than the two flanking it, making it ideal for much wider items. To give you a better picture, our iPhone XR fits inside sideways. If you’re looking for a little more security, there’s also a zippered pocket inside.
Snap buttons and magnets are neat and all, but they do leave the trio of pockets vulnerable to catching rain like buckets. This makes the Hybrid Messenger not the best option in a sudden downpour. That said, it made for a good makeshift umbrella when we found ourselves in one during the testing period thanks to the leather at the front.
Inside The Messenger
First up’s the laptop compartment, where you’ll find a bright red interior fabric—the same one you’ll later see in the main compartment. We won’t take this for granted, as there are bags with separate laptop compartments that are lined with dark fabric, and it’s not too uncommon to hear stories of missing dongles and adapters that turn up at the deep, dark end. With a bright interior fabric like this, however, the chances of that happening should be lessened.
The compartment itself has a good amount of padding, both at the front and at the back. The edges also have some padding for protection when you’re placing the bag down on a surface. Our 13-inch MacBook is easily dwarfed inside here, and the bigger 15-inch or 16-inch MacBook Pros fit inside without a fuss as well.
A water-resistant YKK zipper guards the main compartment’s opening. Opening it up, you might get the impression that it seems short relative to the overall width of the Hybrid Messenger, however it’s still fairly long and is able to swallow a compact keyboard fully lengthwise. It still doesn’t run edge-to-edge, though, so you’ll have to shimmy and push your gear to the sides once you get it in.
Thankfully, navigating the internals of the Hybrid Messenger is an easy task because of the bright red interior fabric. There’s also some means of organization inside. Two liner pockets are built-in, which are great for computer mice and travel chargers. Additionally, there’s a zippered pocket at the top for things you want to be secured, like travel documents such as passports, airline tickets, hotel keycards, etc.
The Hybrid Messenger has plenty of space, provided you limit most of it to long and flat items. Items like textbooks, notebooks, files, folders, wireless keyboards, and tablets fit inside nicely. Bulkier items like thick hoodies, medium-sized packing cubes of clothes, shoes, DSLR cameras, and large photography lenses may fit, but with uncomfortable difficulty. To be fair, this isn’t out of character for a messenger bag, but it’s worth keeping in mind anyway.
So far, the Hybrid Messenger has the right stuff for the makings of a good messenger bag. There’s enough space for the right items, some organization for small gear, and good interior visibility. There’s a catch, though: balancing the load.
Due to how the Hybrid Messenger is shaped, most of the items packed inside will more or less end up around the center. Our humble loadout of a few notebooks, a tablet, and a wireless keyboard ended up stacking next to each other around this position. Further still, our wallet and smartphone in the middle front pocket add to the stack, creating a noticeable bulge. This affects the Hybrid Messenger’s overall shape and appearance, making the outer leather wavy in form. You can mitigate this with careful packing and moving things around, but it takes quite a bit of effort.
The Hybrid Messenger definitely has its pros and cons that might not make it a clear winner in the eyes of some. On the one hand, it has plenty of easy-to-navigate space, straps that are fairly comfortable to carry, and reliable water-resistant materials. On the other hand, the shape somewhat compromises the space, the strap’s difficult to adjust, and the pockets can catch water. Regarding the space issue, the Hybrid Messenger does just as well as most messenger bags since most of them have a difficult time with really bulky items. Ultimately, whether the pros outweigh the cons will depend on the user, but the Hybrid Messenger still makes a solid case for itself.
- The top side is wide, but the zippers doesn’t extend edge to edge
- Twin side pockets and center magnet pocket are seamlessly integrated
- Has an integrated luggage pass-through sleeve
- Leather accents are sleek, durable, and repel water with ease
- Flat profile fits notebooks, laptops, and tablets well but struggles with bulky items
- Back panel easily collects lint and pet hair
- Twin pockets on the outside are large enough to fit a water bottle as well as other bulky items like sunglasses or keys
- Cross-body strap is very difficult to adjust
- Removable stabilizing waist strap adds support during biking or on longer walks