While most outdoor enthusiasts are already familiar with the Arc’teryx brand, this new release comes from their LEAF (Law Enforcement & Armed Forces) division. The Arc’teryx LEAF Courier 15 is a different offering than what we usually expect, almost bridging a gap between the very polarizing LEAF and luxury Veilance lines. And though it looks very much like a Veilance bag, its features are very much in line with the typical LEAF customer.
Unlike other earth-toned LEAF products covered in MOLLE and attachment points, the Courier 15 was designed to blend in while still providing the features that LEAF clients demand. Weighing in at just 970g / 2.14lbs, this messenger bag is constructed of Arc’teryx’s DONGJIN 310gsm/9.1osy 630d HT Nylon Plain Weave with DWR. That might be a mouthful, but what that means for you is that its waterproof, durable, and lightweight. To really deliver on the promise of waterproofing, every stitch that could be an entry point for moisture is seam taped from the inside.
|Capacity||915 cu. in.||15L|
Quality and Comfort
I don’t think it’s any surprise here, but Arc’teryx quality is hard to beat. Everything from the materials to each small design decision is well thought out and made with purpose. The outer shell material looks slick while being light, abrasion resistant, and weatherproof.
The zippers are a mix of proprietary over-sized Arc’teryx pulls on the main compartment and heat-shrink wrapped nylon cord everywhere else. This way your main compartment zippers stay easy to find and grab, even with gloves on, while the smaller openings and compartments stay accessible but understated.
The front flap, which acts as an extra cover for the main and secondary compartments, is held down with standard ITW buckles, but thanks to bag man extraordinaire, Taylor Welden, it’s become a popular modification to swap them with Fidlock buckles, as you’ll see in the photos here. The Fidlocks offer easier one-handed opening and closing, and I hope Arc’teryx thinks about adding them in future iterations of this bag.
The back, top-side of the bag has a small but necessary grab handle. I almost always end up using it when entering and exiting transportation. At first glance it might look too thin to be comfortable at 1/4″, but I’ve found it’s actually quite perfect and like everything else on this bag, well thought out. It’s wrapped in a soft rubber which helps it not cut into your hands. And typically, you’re not grabbing this with your palm, but with your proximal phalanx (the area between your first two knuckles), which isn’t that big. After using this handle, I now find a lot of others’ quite over-sized.
The shoulder strap is fairly standard for a messenger bag, so there isn’t much to talk about here. It has three points of adjustment. One at the attachment points to the bag, and another mid-strap with some quick-adjust ability. The shoulder pad is beefy and comfortable, since messengers typically ride up on your back rather than at your side. The strap management here and elsewhere on the bag are 1/2″ elastic straps that work well enough. There’s also some one-wrap used for the main flap’s buckle straps.
The Courier also ships with a stabilization strap which is common on most messenger style bags. I don’t find myself using it very often but when you’re on a bike or hiking around for a while it’s nice to have.
I’ll take this opportunity to say that I’ve never been excited about the shoulder strap adjustment and management on any messenger bag, and I’m patiently waiting for someone to innovate and figure it out. Despite the simplicity, I found it can be somewhat awkward to initially set up for your body type and then adjust on the fly.
The Courier 15 has a unique, removable frame sheet of sorts, which also acts as a laptop compartment, divider, and padding and structure for the bag. But, we’ll talk more about that in the below section.
While the Courier 15 doesn’t have much in way of organization, it provides the essentials while giving you a platform that you can tailor to your needs. There are only two compartments; the main compartment underneath the front flap which also has a zipper closure, and a small accessory pocket underneath the front flap enclosed via a weatherproof zipper.
The main compartment access is unlike any I’ve personally seen on other messengers which are usually just closed by folding over the front flap or via roll-top. The Courier 15 takes it a step further and adds a zipper to the main compartment for a little more peace of mind. I thought it would make it more annoying to access, but that hasn’t been the case at all, and I now prefer it to the alternative.
The main compartment can also be accessed via ambidextrous zipper openings on either side. While Arc’teryx designed this feature for LEAF-type customers to be able to draw a firearm without attention, it works just as well for grabbing your water bottle or headphones while wearing the pack.
An internal frame sheet attaches via hook and loop and buttons on either corner that allow you to adjust the size and hold of the laptop compartment. The removable frame sheet also provides the only other organization in the main compartment: a loop face to add anything from small hook backed organizers to IFAKs and holsters.
Look at this bag. This is one of the best looking bags, let alone messengers, I’ve ever had the pleasure of getting my hands on. Arc’teryx did the impossible by making a LEAF product for the every day user, or even the fashion forward Veilance customer. It’s simultaneously impossibly functional and slick.
I believe the internal setup will be a love or hate thing for most people, but there’s no denying the ingenuity of it. The single removable divider provides an adjustable padded laptop compartment, a loop panel for extending organization, and all around structure for the bag. Removing the divider lets the bag really shrink down for throwing in a suitcase or other bag for on-site use at your travel destination.
Everything else is just so incredibly well thought out. The side-zipper access to the main compartment is really a key feature on this bag which might get overlooked at first glance. The strap management all over the bag keeps it looking neat. And the zipper selection for each compartment is perfect.
So I know I talked up the abrasion resistance, but while I was reviewing the Courier 15 I accidentally brushed up against a resin counter top with an edge and the bag didn’t come out completely unscathed. While most of what looked like a scratch was just some material rubbed off from the counter top, there was a light scratch left in the bag face. Am I worried about the durability of the Courier 15? Absolutely not. This is simply a cosmetic blemish rather than any sort of damage or a potential rip, but I was still a little let down at how easily it happened. Time will tell if it eases out or disappears after more use.
On a similar note, the abrasion resistance also makes the bag itself a little abrasive. No matter what I rubbed up against or bumped into, the Courier 15 seemed to take some paint with it. The bag won’t do damage to your walls, but it might get a dusting or two of whatever color you’ve decided to paint your entryway. I’m not in the bag manufacturing industry, so I’m not sure what the solution is here, but I’d imagine some sort of coating could alleviate both above issues.
One thing I do wish this bag had was a slightly more easily accessible outer pocket. There is an accessory pocket, but it still sits behind the main flap of the bag, requiring you to unbuckle the bag to get into it. Personally, I would have given up a side-entry pocket for one externally accessible pocket.
The other (small) thing I will ding the Courier for, which I’ve already mentioned above, is the decision to not use Fidlocks. It’s by no means a necessary upgrade, but it is a nice quality-of-life upgrade and makes opening and closing the bag one-handed quite a bit easier. Hopefully we see this on another iteration of the Courier.
Finally, and this might be my personal preference, but the wide range of adjustability and the option to wear this bag as a messenger or a satchel is a detriment to this bag rather than a feature. A jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none kinda thing. I would have preferred a commitment to one or the other, as the adjustment points and shoulder pad locations could have been tailored a bit better. If you look at seasoned messenger bag creators like Mission Workshop you’ll see that the shoulder pad sits a bit higher and attaches directly to the bag, allowing the bag itself to sit just a bit higher on the back. The main strap adjustment is also based around slightly more simple one-handed usage. This type of setup also leaves you with a less “strappy” bag, which the courier does suffer from a bit even with pretty decent strap management built into the bag.
I hope my praise of this bag outshines any of my critiques. As a reviewer, it’s natural that we try and point out perceived flaws and improvement points in a bag as plenty of other mediums exist to sing praise alongside general marketing. But, this might be one of the best bags I’ve had the pleasure of using, and I typically don’t jump for messenger style setups.
The Arc’teryx Courier 15 retails for $279 and is currently only available in black. Arc’teryx has had trouble keeping these on the shelves, but if you find one, I truly hope you make the leap and check it out.
Disclaimer: the LEAF Courier 15 was purchased privately and used subsequently for this review. The content of the review was not shared with Arc’Teryx prior to publishing and our reviews are never edited to keep brands happy.