Review: InCase Range Messenger is just fine (but not fantastic)
At a Glance
Generally, you don’t spend a lot of time thinking about the bag you’re carrying—you just throw your stuff in it, head out the door, and deal with your life. At least, that’s the idea: A bag so well designed that you don’t even have to think about where your stuff is. And if you’re on a bike a lot, having a big, well designed, no muss, no fuss messenger bag is pretty essential. Unfortunately, the InCase Range Messenger doesn't quite fit that bill as its features were more fussy than functional.
InCase is a company well known for streamlined backpacks and sturdy mobile cases, and it’s clear what they were aiming for with the Range. The bag’s design is painfully straightforward: two external side pockets, Velcro to close the top flap and interior pockets, and a large main compartment with a laptop sleeve make up most of the Range (and put it in direct competition with other popular messengers such as those from Chrome).
The Range is constructed from a durable green twill material with a weather resistant coating; the inside lining of the bag is a highly water resistant tarp liner. While the liner is a nice bonus layer, if something gets spilled inside the bag it’s likely to pool there—which means you’ll want to avoid carrying anything liquid inside the main compartment.
The body of the Range measures 13 inches by 17.9 inches by 6.2 inches, and it’s capable of carrying a laptop up to 15 inches (there’s a smaller version of the Range intended for 13 inch laptops). It can carry 22 liters worth of stuff; indeed, while I was carrying the Range I had no issues fitting all manner of objects within the bag including laptops, lunches, sweaters, and extra equipment. The main compartment also holds the zippered laptop sleeve which has a luxurious faux-fur lining, but is a tad thin on the padding.
The Range doesn’t have a wide variety of pockets, however—just the two water bottle pockets on either side of the bag (both open, with no snaps or seal), one smaller zippered pocket ideal for a bus pass, keys, or cell phone on the top flap, and the interior front of the bag which has three open pockets and a few pen slots and is closed via the same two Velcro flaps that seal the top flap.
While at first using wide strips of Velcro to close both the interior pockets and the top flap seemed ingenious, it soon became cumbersome: Velcro is both loud (when opening in a movie theater or library), and it tends to grab at hair, scarves, and clothing which means you will often need to detangle yourself from the Range. Also, because all the front pockets also relied entirely on the Velcro to seal, items inside were constantly slipping out and shifting around.
The only external pockets—the side water bottle pockets—have no closure, so I’d hesitate to use them for anything valuable such as a cell phone or wallet; and the padding on the shoulder strap was problematic. The shoulder pad couldn’t be held in place, so I was constantly grabbing at it and shifting it to the right place; meanwhile, the bonus padding near the clasp of the bag, which is held in place, was extraordinarily helpful in tangling up my headphones.
There are no other pockets or pouches on the rear of the bag, no way to slide it over a luggage handle. There are some nicely positioned clasps that will occupy the buckles for the top flap if you’re content to rely on the Velcro alone—that was admittedly a nice touch that kept them from dangling and getting in the way.
Likewise, I always like to see the addition of a loop or strap to hold bike locks, which the Range has. But to me, messenger bags are what I prefer to carry because I can find what I’m looking for as I’m walking—I can reach my hand into a pocket or a compartment and find what I need. However, with the Range, it was often a bit of a hassle to attempt such multitasking. (Ahem, Velcro). With a few adjustments to its features, the Range could be much more useful in real life scenarios.
Even despite these shortcomings, the Range isn’t a bad bag—it was still more than capable of comfortably carrying a laptop and all my day-to-day items all over town. It easily expanded to include lunch or occasional grocery trips after work and it’s well constructed: There were no snags in the material or stitching, and the materials all feel of good quality. Its features were just slightly missing the mark on being truly useful. InCase specializes in, and usually exceeds at, simple design and the Range is a fine bag for the most part. It might seem a bit nitpicky to complain about the little things, but honestly, constantly fishing my headphones out of the shoulder padding and buckle was driving me crazy.