We love multi-functional products on this travel gear blog, so I’ve been pretty excited about this Tommy Pannier bag, which is good as a briefcase, a messenger bag, or a bike bag.
The bike is where the pannier part comes in. You hook this over a back tire rack and clip it in with the Velcro straps. You’ve then got five different pockets to utilize, from two small ones on the outside to several that can hold a laptop or tablet. (One is padded.) All have heavy-duty zippers with leather pulls, the three outer ones covered by a flap. You can quickly unfasten it on the other end to take it into a coffee shop or work.
When you’re not using it as a bike bag, it’s a perfectly fine brief or messenger. It’s got Velcro patches that hold the two halves together. There’s a nice leather handle on the top or a heavy-duty adjustable shoulder strap included. (It tucks out of the way underneath just fine in bike pannier mode—no need to waste pocket space on it.)
As with most Property Of… bags, there’s a retro feel to this one, evoking a time when the best travel-worthy products you could buy were sold in an Army-Navy surplus store or in the original Banana Republic—before they became just an upscale version of The Gap. This bag won’t win any prizes for lightness because it’s made of thick canvas, leather, and metal. It’s small though, so who cares? When you pick this bag up and feel it, you know it’s not just retro looking, but is retro in the “really made to last” sense.
This quality makes the Property Of bags and accessories stand out from the pack. Yes, they cost a lot more, but when you see them on a display at a store like Nordstrom or Bloomingdales, they definitely stand out.
The old-school fabric is supposedly treated with wax, but in my tests it didn’t do much to repel water. All the pockets are lined with waterproof fabric though, so this should keep your valuable laptop dry even when the bag is soaking. If you’re a bike commuter in Seattle or Portland though, you’re probably going to need to treat the exterior more heavily with wax or some other waterproofing product from the likes of Nikwax to be safe (and to keep the weight from doubling after a downpour).
There’s one big benefit of this bag I’ll take advantage of for sure: it is under the very stringent limit for a free carry-on bag for Allegiant Air and Spirit Air, the two U.S. ones that have the gall to charge you luggage fees for a carry-on if it doesn’t fit under your seat. This one comes in under Allegiant’s dimension limits, which is hard to pull off even with a standard laptop bag.
Besides the fashion-level price tag ($339 list), there’s nothing I don’t like about this Tommy Pannier bag really. It looks cool, it takes on a lot of different jobs, and I know it won’t wear out in a couple years. Over time it’ll develop more character instead of just looking old, something synthetic fabric bags never seem to pull off.
You’ll have better luck finding this designer brand at a department store than a gear store and it’s almost impossible to find online except direct from the company. It comes in four colors to choose from.
If you’re feeling flush and want to buy an impressive gift for an urban bicyclist on your list, or want to treat yourself with something that’ll last longer than your bike, go check this double-duty bag out.
Tim Leffel is founder of the Practical Travel Gear blog, as well as the Cheapest Destinations blog and the narrative webzine Perceptive Travel. He is the author of The World's Cheapest Destinations (now in its 4th edition), Make Your Travel Dollars Worth a Fortune, and A Better Life for Half the Price.
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