After going through a couple of purchase/return cycles with messenger bags from Chrome Industries & Timbuk2, I finally settled on a great bag which fulfils most of my needs at this time – the Tenba DNA 15. I have had this bag for about 3 months now, and so far it has been great. There are definitely a few caveats which I will explain below, but overall this is a great bag.
I truly believe that Tenba set out to create a bag with the highest quality materials available. The fabric (600 Denier Helix) is light and strong and looks great – it is graphite in colour which, in my opinion, gives it a nicer look than if it were just plain black. They used a section of heavy-duty tarpaulin for the bottom of the bag – which is abrasion resistant, waterproof, and easy to clean – an excellent choice for the portion of the bag that typically gets the most abuse. The YKK zippers all glide extremely smoothly and have really nice contoured zipper pulls – I have yet to encounter any type of snag of any type on the zippers. The shoulder strap is one of my favourite material choices they made – it is made of 5-bar seat belt material and has a nice smooth finish – this will certainly stand the test of time – no question. Last but not least, the stitching around the bag is all done with precision and purpose – I am confident that every stitch will stand the test of time.
One of the first things that drew my attention to this bag was the overall style – I really like the graphite colour and contrast of the black strap down the front. I think Tenba did a great job of making a bag that is functional and also looks great. However, in order for a bag to be great, it has to do more than just look great – it has to function great.
The Tenba DNA messenger is able to stand up on it’s own – after owning multiple messenger bags, I became increasingly frustrated with how they all tend to flop forward over top of the main access flap – this makes entering the bag frequently for smaller items a bit of a pain. So having the ability to stand the bag up has made it much more user friendly in my experience.
Tenba included a quick-access zipper along the top of the flap to get into the main compartment of the bag without having to open the main flap. However, the location of the zipper is a bit too far forward to make it easy to access a laptop without opening the flap. I am able to access my 13″ MacBook Air through the zipper – but it is a tight squeeze, and not practical for every day use. If you had a larger laptop, I don’t even think it would be possible. As it turns out, I rarely use the top access zipper on a day-to-day basis, though your milage may vary.
The padded laptop sleeve works great, and I really like having the extra padded sleeve for a tablet. This is perfect for my needs, as I always carry a laptop and a tablet with me. The other part of the main section comes with a removable padded camera insert with multiple dividers to move around as you see fit – I have personally taken all of the dividers out, and just left the main structure in there.
The rear compartment holds papers or file folders as well as a few pens and a couple of thin pockets for smaller papers. On the outside of this pocket is a trolley-strap – a must-have in my opinion on any messenger bag that you plan on travelling with. Another perk included with the bag is a WeatherWrap rain/sun cover – it is silver on one side to reflect heat in the sun, and black on the other side for a more stealth look at night.
Fidlock Closure System
I wanted to dedicate a section to the Fidlock Snap Buckle closure system that Tenba decided to use on the front flap. I would say I am somewhere in the middle of being a proponent of this technology. For those of you who don’t know what the Fidlock closure system is, it’s a type of magnetic closure system that allows blind, drop-on attachment, while requiring a sliding action to remove the clip. I love trying new things like this, and while I think it has some potential, it also has come downfalls. It’s definitely easy to attach the clips, but in my opinion, they disengage a little too easy – simply rubbing against a wall or hitting the car seats can knock it loose. I do think it will have its advantages in the winter when wearing gloves though. Overall, this closure system is quicker/easier than traditional side-release buckles, but far less secure. I think it works well for a front flap of a messenger bag, but I don’t think I would trust it anywhere else. My ideal messenger bag would have dual AustriAlpin Cobra quick release buckles on the main flap.
I am quite pleased with the function of this bag during everyday use. I really don’t have any complaints about the bag. I do wish that the top zipper was moved towards the rear of the bag a few inches so that I could remove my laptop/tablet without opening the flap, but I understand that is not what the zipper opening is for – it is for quick access to interior items such as camera equipment – which it would function for quite well. The only other minor issue I have run into a handful of times is that the sewn hinges on the front flap, which are designed to keep rain out of the bag, sometimes don’t tuck in properly when closing the flap – the good thing is that they will keep the rain out whether they are tucked in or not, so it’s more of a cosmetic issue than anything else.
In conclusion, Tenba has made an excellent bag with the DNA 15 messenger. I am quite happy with the design, build quality, function, and storage space that this bag offers. I would give this bag a solid 9 out of 10 and would definitely recommend this bag to anyone looking for a spacious daily tech messenger. If you have any questions about the Tenba DNA 15 that I didn’t cover in this review, please don’t hesitate to reach out via the contact form on this site, via twitter.