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tomtoc Explorer-H52 Messenger Bag Review

The tomtoc Explorer-H52 Messenger Bag has a sleek business-class look with the functionality you need for daily commute and travel use.

Our Verdict

7.3 /10
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  • Top opens wide for easy access to gear
  • Nicely padded shoulder strap is comfortable during extended wear
  • Well-padded laptop sleeve with false bottom to protect electronics


  • Exterior pockets lack significant organization
  • Small items can get lost in the large main compartment
  • No small internal pouch for items like pens, lip balm, etc.

Technical Details

92 %

Carry-on Compliance

View 134/145 Airlines

26 %

Like the Look

Polled on Instagram

  • Weight (lb)

    1.3 lb (0.6 kg)

  • Dimensions

    11.81 in x 16.54 in x 4.72 in (30 x 42 x 12 cm)

  • Notable Materials

    CORDURA® Ballistic Nylon, Polyester, YKK Buckles, YKK Zippers

  • Manufacturing Country


  • Laptop Compartment Size


  • Warranty Information

    tomtoc Warranty Policy

Buying Options

Amazon Logo

Full Review

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tomtoc’s Explorer-H52 Messenger bag is sleek and all business. It won’t win any awards for a dazzling personality but is great for those looking for a functional way to carry the daily commute and travel essentials. Business travelers rejoice! It can easily fit underneath an airplane seat in front of you and would likely count as your “personal item” for many airlines. The wide-open top makes accessing gear easy as long as you ensure small items are secured in the side pouches.

tomtoc Explorer H52 Messenger Bag Walking
tomtoc Explorer-H52 Messenger Bag | Crossbody mode makes it easy to carry.

A standout feature of this bag is the durability of the CORDURA® Ballistic polyester and nylon. It can hold up to scrapes and the external flap, while it can look a bit crinkled like an unironed shirt, has an extra layer of water resistance to protect the gear inside.

It can hold a lot of gear compared to its size and is easy to keep well-organized even with a large and open interior pouch.

External Components

The main external material is CORDURA® Ballistic fabric that is tightly woven and water-resistant nylon and polyester. During testing, we were constantly dragging the bag along the ground to rearrange our workspace and weren’t worried about rips, tears, or abrasions to the bottom of the bag. The front flap has an extra layer of water protection that looks shinier than the rest of the bag and is a bit wrinkled, but worth it to protect gear from the elements. When we walked short distances in the rain, (think car to building and back) there was no hesitation that the electronics inside would stay dry. The front flap features a small sewn rectangular patch in the bottom right side with the tomtoc logo. Material sewn on the outside edges of the external flap creates a barrier to prevent fraying and rips which is helpful in case the outer flap gets snagged on something as you walk.

To close the bag, there are two plastic security buckles on the bottom left and right of the external flap. The receiving ends are hidden under the flap and giving ends are secured on straps sewn near the bottom edge of the bag. The ends of each strap have rectangular red accent stitching. Under the main flap is a hook-and-loop fastener strip on the inside. The hook-and-loop fastener is great if you are transporting the bag a short distance, such as moving seats in the coworking space or coffee shop. Instead of having to fasten the external clips, which can be cumbersome for such a short jaunt, the hook-and-loop fastener can be relied on to hold items in without spilling and is quicker to open and close.

tomtoc Explorer H52 Messenger Bag Brand
The tomtoc Explorer-H52 Messenger Bag | The crinkled, yet water resistant, external flap.

This bag can be carried crossbody, one-shouldered, or briefcase-style with the carry handle. We prefer the crossbody carry as it helps distribute the weight of the bag across our chest and shoulder rather than putting all the weight on one side. The longer strap is easy to adjust to your desired length and the padding easily slides up and down the shoulder strap so it can be adjusted to your preference. It also has a clip on it that can be undone to make adjusting the strap length easier or to clip the bag up out of the way when you reach your destination. Daisy chains on the outside of the strap padding can hold clip-on items like a bottle of hand sanitizer or a keychain.

The back of this bag is well padded and rests comfortably on your hip when it is carried in the crossbody or one-shouldered position. The carry handle is sewn in at the same point as the front flap and is accented with the same red stitching as the front clips. On the bottom left side is a small tag with white and yellow writing advertising the CORDURA® Ballistic fabric.

Fit Notes

tomtoc Explorer H52 Messenger Bag Side By Side
Left: Eric Hergenreder, Height: 6’0″ (183 cm), Torso: 18.5” (47 cm) | Right: Lauren Loria-Corbat, Height 5’4” (162cm), Torso: 18” (45 cm)

The tomtoc Explorer-H52 Messenger Bag is minimalist and professional with its sleek black color and red accents. Catch it at the office with your most practical coworker. Being a messenger-style bag, a fully loaded bag can make you feel a bit lopsided, but the crossbody carry and soft shoulder padding help create a comfortable fit. The ability to adjust the shoulder strap makes it versatile for folks of different sizes. Plus, you can switch the bag between each side of your body if you start to feel fatigued.

The top handle is always available for carrying briefcase-style if both shoulders get sore on a longer commute.

We found that the bag is best used in the crossbody position and adjusted so the shoulder strap lets the bag sit on your hip. This helps the bag move with you as you walk as well as prevent it from constantly bumping you in the stomach or getting punted by your upper thigh.

Inside The Bag

When the main compartment flap is lifted, it reveals two additional external pouches with zippers for secure storage. Both pockets have convenient red string zipper pulls with rubber tips, making access to these pouches a smooth process. These pockets are also covered with shiny, extra water-resistant material, making it ideal to store documents (such as travel visas, passports, etc.) that you definitely don’t want getting wet.

The key clip pocket zips vertically on the right-hand side of the bag and is fairly small. The opening only measures in at about 5.5 inches and not much else but keys will fit. A nice feature is that the key pocket is close enough to the edge of the main flap that it can be accessed without unbuckling the clips or pulling apart the hook-and-loop strip. This makes your arrival home easier since you don’t have to undo the entire bag just to access your house or apartment keys.

tomtoc Explorer H52 Messenger Bag Key Leash
tomtoc Explorer-H52 Messenger Bag | Two zipper pouches to carry keys and small items.

The second zippered pouch is about ¾ the length of the bag and is good for storing flat items like travel documents, paperwork or a small field notebook. Anything bulky, such as sunglasses, would make the bag bulge out and be more likely to get caught or bumped on things like corners and doorknobs as you pass by.

The Inside of the main compartment is lined entirely with a water-resistant material that feels like a windbreaker jacket. The entire internal pouch’s material is printed with stripes and the tomtoc symbol and logo.

tomtoc Explorer H52 Messenger Bag Laptop
tomtoc Explorer-H52 Messenger Bag | Inside the main compartment.

All the walls and the laptop sleeve of the sling are padded, protecting gear inside from the inevitable bumps and scrapes of daily use. The large main compartment is about 12 inches deep and 17 inches wide, leaving plenty of space for tablets, notebooks, and other essential items. On the side closest to the user are two smaller organizational pouches that are made of the same windbreaker-type material and both open about 6 inches on the top. These two pouches do not reach all the way to the bottom of the bag. In these pockets we store pens, which need to be clipped to the side so they don’t sit sideways and are more convenient to reach, and a small 1 TB external hard drive. Be careful with the items in these compartments when the bag is open as they could easily slide out if the bag tips on its side with no elastic to hold items in place.

The other two pouches flank the left and right edges of the bag and are made of the same material as the other pouches. The difference with these two sections is that they reach all the way to the bottom of the bag and have elastic on the top to hold gear in their place. If you are comfortable putting a water bottle in the same pouch as electronics, either of these compartments easily hold a tall and skinny 16 oz water bottle.

The laptop sleeve is well-padded and can comfortably hold a 16-inch laptop sitting horizontally. The sleeve has a false bottom that floats about an inch above the true bottom of the bag to protect your laptop from damage when that bag is set down. Be aware a smaller laptop may slide back and forth a bit horizontally in the pouch. Additionally, there is no loop or strap to hold the laptop down from the top. Care is needed to ensure laptops do not slide out if the open bag tips over when set down on the ground or a conference table.

tomtoc Explorer H52 Messenger Bag Carry Handle
tomtoc Explorer-H52 Messenger Bag | It’s easy to carry.

The main open pouch can hold all kinds of items from travel documents and work spreadsheets to a fun book and tablet (lunchtime read, anybody?). We found that a tablet and book or journal fit quite nicely and did not make the bag feel super bulky even when there was a laptop in the sleeve as well. We also like how we can see the edges of our gear in the main compartment so it’s easy to grab when needed. The downside to this large, cavernous pouch is that small items could easily get lost in the bottom if they are placed there or fall out of the side storage compartments.

tomtoc Explorer H52 Messenger Bag In Use
tomtoc Explorer-H52 Messenger Bag | You can fit a lot of gear here.

Overall this bag is great for everyday and travel use due to its durability, easy accessibility, and weather resistance. We wouldn’t put it in the best-dressed category, but if you are looking for a sleek and minimalistic bag with exactly what you need and nothing that you don’t, this bag may be for you.

Usage Timeline

Initial Usage

Condition: Excellent

  • Digging the well-padded shoulder strap
  • Buckle and VELCRO opening seems like overkill
  • Pretty minimal built-in organization for small gear
2 Weeks of Use

Condition: Excellent

  • Outer closing hook-and-loop fastener is helpful for moving bag small distances without worrying about dumping the entire bag out
  • Carry handle is well secured and there is no hesitation to use it when bag is filled to capacity
  • Water-resistant outer material takes away the fear of damaging electronics when walking out in the rain
  • Comfortable padding on the shoulder strap
1 Month of Use

Condition: Excellent

  • Still in great shape—nothing to report!
By Pack Hacker Team
Created July 10, 2023 • Updated October 17, 2023
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