PK Shiu checks out the X-Tote three-way convertible messenger from Code Of Bell.

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Tech Specs

Height15.5 in40 cm
Width12 in30 cm
Depth5 in13 cm
Weight (estimated)4 lb1.81 kg
Capacity1160 cu in folded
2136 cu in expanded
19L folded
35L expanded

Quality and Comfort

The X-Tote is made solidly of technical fabrics. CodeofBell does not specify the exact material variants used in the construction on the product page, however the bag does feature tags from Cordura and Dimension Polyant. The main fabric used in the soft compartment exterior is from Dimension-Polyant, commonly known as X-Pac, and is likely VX21. The rest of the case is made of Cordura Nylon, which I believe is the 500D variety. The inside is lined with a bright orange liner that feels more like 420D Cordura. Zippers are the matte, water repellent YKKs with hypalon pulls to help complete the technical look. The overall quality of CodeofBell bags are always excellent. This is especially important in a complex bag like the X-Tote since it uses long seams and complicated corners in the construction.

Despite the name, The X-Tote is actually a 3-way messenger bag. First, it can be carried by the short handles as a tote. The bag comes with a detachable handle wrap that makes carrying tote style with the 1 inch webbing handle easier. I find that tote style carry is best when I am carrying the bag for a short distance. The handles are also length adjustable; at their longest, they are long enough that you can also carry the X-Tote on a single shoulder. 

As mentioned earlier, the top handles can be wrapped together with a detachable wrap. If they are wrapped together, they will be in the way of the top opening. CoB solves this problem with two magnetic clasps at the ends of one strap. The user can unbuckle the handles on the opening side of the top lid. I find this mechanism fussy since I have to reattach two clasps each time. I just leave the handle wrap off. A bonus in this mode is I can move the handle wrap to the front side handle.

The third way carry uses the more robust 2 inch webbing that is attached at the top back side of the pack for cross body carry. The back of the X-Tote is slightly padded. When I am carrying a fully loaded X-Tote, I tend to use this crossbody mode as it’s the most comfortable for carrying weight.

Organization and Access

In typical CoB design, there are a lot of compartments and organization options with the X-Tote. Starting with the main compartment, the laptop area is padded and suspended. Apart from the laptop compartment, there are two additional pockets in the main compartment. The main pocket fits my older 15 inch MacBook Pro, as well as my 15 inch portable LCD display together with my 13 inch Retina MacBook Pro. I then put my 11 inch iPad Pro in the front pocket.

The front wall of the main compartment has a large meshed zipper pocket running the full width of the compartment. I am not a fan of these loose pockets as they are only good for smaller items that would not catch on the meshed material.

The lid has two small zippered mesh pockets. If one can find the right items to put in there, they are great for quick access — AirPods or dental floss came to mind.

There is an external collapsible water bottle pocket on the X-Tote. The side of that pocket is a light mesh material. The pocket feels small as I had a hard time getting my 20oz Hydroflask in there. The side compression strap also gets in the way. I worry that mesh material will be easily damaged with consistent use. That pocket is better for smaller softer water bottles.

The main compartment also has two water bottle pockets. I use them much more often. They are also good for mini tripod and keys.

There is a quick access pocket in the top lid that is about eight inch in width. It is not padded. Instead of using it as a phone pocket, I use it as a mask and sanitizer spray pocket since it is easy to access. There is another vertical zipper pocket in the very pack of the X-Tote that is padded. That is a much better phone or a wallet pocket.

The back of the X-Tote has two other features. There is a luggage handle passthrough behind the padded back. There is also an open pocket running the full width with a magnetic snap closure. I like these easy access pocket for storing random items like receipts, and other items. I threw one of my small pouches in there for quick access.

There is one more pocket on the side of the X-Tote. It is a small, non expandable pocket with a snap closure. It is a tight pocket without drainage hole so I wouldn’t put an umbrella there. However, my mini tripod does fit that space.

The X-Tote has the classic CoB expandable compartment on the front side of the bag. It has two vertical straps and two side compression straps to compress it down when not in use. You can get into that compartment via a top zipper along the top of the bag, as well as a center zipper that you can operate if the compartment is fully expanded.

With a bag this large, if you fully stuffed this soft expandable compartment, it looks ridiculous and the weight distribution will be off. I own several CoB X-products and have never fully filled this type of compartment. However, using the top zipper, this compartment is useful, usually for a jacket, or items that you picked up while out and about. There are also two vertical zipper pockets that are useful because of the easy access.

To use the soft compartment, I really have to remove the vertical compression straps from the front of the bag. Those straps are useful, for example to hold something on the outside of the bag. But with the expandable compartment, they are redundant. I removed the full set of straps immediately.

What’s Perfect

  • This is a great tote for someone who doesn’t like totes, like myself. It looks more like a briefcase to me.
  • The main compartment has just the right amount of organization, together with the spacious laptop pockets and the bright interior makes packing for the office easy.
  • It is a fun bag — it will take you awhile to dial in how you would use the bag effectively. A lot of options are available. This is one of the great plus for CodeofBell products. Once dialed in, you will have a place for everything.

What’s Not

  • It is a complicated bag. It requires time and effort to learning how it carries and how to use it, without investing time one can get frustrated.
  • CoB should replace the mesh material used in various places on the X-Tote with some other, more robust material that is less likely to catch on content.
  • Top main opening can be difficult to open because the bag is not as structured as it looks, and there are two square corners for the zipper pull to navigate around.

Wrap Up

I am happy that CodeofBell managed to take the X product line and expands the design ideas to a larger bag like the X-Tote. There is a lot to this entire package. Take some time to try different configurations. Allow yourself to remove straps and buckles that you are not using and store them away. If you like the understated technical look of CoB, this is a very good bag for taking to the office, or day trip around a city if you need a bit of expandable storage along the way.

Since the X-Tote is a bit complicated, It will take time to try out different configurations and ways of carrying this bag — it will beneficial to remove the straps and buckles that are not getting used.

The X-Tote is available directly from Code of Bell for $249.

Disclaimer: The X-Tote was provided by CodeOfBell for use in this review. The content of the review was not discussed with CodeOfBell prior to publication. Our reviews are unbiased and never modified to keep a brand happy.

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