ITS Tactical’s Discreet Messenger Bag

    Discreet Messenger Bag

    A messenger bag, Tom? Really? Yep. Let me tell you about it. I had an earlier iteration of ITS Tactical‘s Discreet Messenger Bag and carried it every working day of my previous career. And it was my full “Get Home Bag”, along with off-body carry pistol. I had everything from my full size pistol, to a medical blow out kit, to the “basics”.

    This article is not to open the debate of “on body” versus “off body” carry (and for what it is worth, I also carried a small backup in either a pocket holster or ankle holster). Suffice to say the concept of a “discreet messenger bag” was the best “off body” carry option I found for the business environment I was working in at the time. A backpack covered in PALS webbing would have stood out, and not in a good way.

    Construction

    This version of the ITS Discreet Messenger Bag is the result of feedback, trial and error, and design decisions since the first version five years ago. It is much more modular and standardized than any of the previous versions.

    The outer material is Martexin Weather Resistant Waxed Canvas and does a great job of keeping water out (I did run it under the sink, and water just beads off the surface).

    It has a large main compartment capable of holding a laptop, Kel-tec Sub2k, or a Grease Gun (you know, if you happen to have one laying around). The main compartment is fully lined with loop fasteners which means you can mount nearly anything to the inside.

    Huge main compartment...

    Huge main compartment…

    It can hold a folded Kel-tec Sub2k (assuming you have one or can find one)...

    It can hold a folded Kel-tec Sub2k (assuming you have one or can find one)…

    Thanks to BMC Tactical for letting me try out the bag with their grease gun...

    Thanks to BMC Tactical for letting me try out the bag with their grease gun…

    There are four external pockets. One on either end and two under the main flap. They are dubbed (and trademarked) as SnapPockets because they have little snaps at the top to cinch the neck down.

    Snaps. Because SnapPockets.

    Snaps. Because SnapPockets.

    The Zip Bags are small zippered pouches with loops on the top and bottom.

    Front of the zip bag. Loop field for labeling...

    Front of the zip bag. Loop field for labeling…

    Back of the Zip Bag

    Back of the Zip Bag

    The ITS Tech Sleeve is a padded insert for a laptop or tablet or other sensitive gear. It is hook lined on the outside and VERY firmly attaches to the inside of the main compartment. It has some adjustments that can be used to adjust it’s shape.

    Simple padded sleeve to protect your laptop.

    Simple padded sleeve to protect your laptop.

    You can adjust the size of the sleeve.

    You can adjust the size of the sleeve.

    Elastic loops for holding pens, pencils, small rectangularish thingies, and Red Swingline Model 747 staplers.

    Elastic loops for holding pens, pencils, small rectangularish thingies, and Red Swingline Model 747 staplers.

    A couple of other accessories are the ITS Holster Insert (which will accommodate a sidearm and backup magazine) and the ITS Shock Cord Insert (which is a sort of “ladder” that you can attach any number of things to; I used to use one for medical gear).

    Shock cord insert. Super versatile.

    Shock cord insert. Super versatile.

    Simple hook and loop based holster for a sidearm and a magazine.

    Simple hook and loop based holster for a sidearm and a magazine.

    The lid contains a hidden pocket, concealed by a front flap (which can be tucked back into the hidden pocket). Underneath the front flap is a run of loop fastener for patches.

    Closed front flap

    Closed front flap

    Exposed loop field. Front flap is tucked in the "hidden" compartment

    Exposed loop field. Front flap is tucked in the “hidden” compartment

    Hidden compartment runs the full size of the messenger bag lid.

    Hidden compartment runs the full size of the messenger bag lid.

    Each bag is handmade in Texas using 100% U.S. Materials.

    Features

    • Genuine Martexin Weather Resistant Waxed Canvas
    • Hidden Pocket for Tuck-Away Cover and Concealed Front Loop Panel
    • AustriAlpin Cobra Buckles for Rugged Durability
    • Pass Through Zipper for Quick Access to Bag Interior Via Right or Left Hand Paracord Pull
    • Four Expandable Interior SnapPockets™, Lined for Increased Visibility
    • Modularity with Optional ITS Zip Bags in Matching Canvas Colorways
    • Loop Lined Bag Interior for Attachment of Optional Hook-Backed Accessories
      • ITS Tech Sleeve
      • ITS Holster Insert
      • ITS Shock Cord Insert
    • Continuous 2″ Shoulder Strap with Hidden Independent Side Adjustments
    • Grab Handle for Off-Body Carry
    • Removable and Adjustable Waist Strap for Added Stability During Movement or Luggage Attachment
    • Available in Surplus Green and Midnight Black Colorways
    • Measures 15″ wide x 11″ tall x 4″ deep (average dimensions, bag will expand/contract)
    • Weighs 3 lbs. Naked
    • Carry On Approved (fits under seats)
    • Made in Texas with 100% U.S. Materials

    And here is a product video where Bryan explains the pack:

    Observations

    This past year at ITS Tactical’s annual “training retreat” (a.k.a Muster) we had a class in bag/pack load outs from each of the instructors (all of whom came from different perspectives). The biggest take away for a lot of us was that your system needs to be compact, configurable, and correct (it wasn’t said exactly like that, and I am stealing that from somewhere else in my history, but it is still applicable).

    For me, “correct” means that I will have a firearm readily available (along with everything I need to run it) as well as a small medical kit. The configuration comes in as I can easily swap out the “ITS Zip Bags”. If I am going to remote work at a coffee shop, I may have a couple of pouches with tech gear (battery pack, cell phone booster, cables, etc). If I am going to the range, I can yank those “tech” pouches out and swap with ones preloaded with a cleaning kit/tools, eyes and ears, additional magazines, and some “lickies and chewies”.

    I have used (and still use) my original discreet messenger bag as a vehicle bag for road travel. As comfortable as my IWB holster is, sitting with it in a car for eight to ten hours on the road starts to suck after a while. I can have the bag sitting on the seat next to me, or down on the floor beneath my legs, and have secure and ready access to my pistol (as well as other “grab and go” gear). Another benefit is that I don’t have to mount anything in my car (rental companies also tend to frown on that).

    Carry strap, and off-body carry handle

    Carry strap, and off-body carry handle

    I asked my wife to carry the bag for a few days to her job and give me her observations (she was unable to carry it “hot” due to policies at her workplace). The Discreet Messenger bag is quite a bit bigger than the purse she normally carries but is smaller (volume-wise) than the pack that hauls her larger items.  Overall the total volume was a wash, and with some repacking and reorganization she could probably fit all of her EDC into the Discreet Messenger Bag. In terms of styling the bag worked very well in her environment. She liked the look and feel of the material, and the extensibility of the organization was the best feature in her opinion. She found the strap to be a bit too wide and a little uncomfortable for her (but she noted that she has made the same observation of all messenger style bags we’ve had in the house). She likes the security of the buckles and ease of getting into the bag from the top without having to fully open it. Another observation she made is that the material won’t really look bad as it is used and aged–the distressing will just add more character to it.

    Cobra buckles. Definitely an upgrade from side releases.

    Cobra buckles. Definitely an upgrade from side releases.

    During my review of this new version, I was able to contain everything I needed for a Ballistic Gel Ammo Test (the next in the series we are doing). I had my laptop, charging cable, two pistols (“two is one and one is none”), magazines, ammo, eyes and ears, two GoPro cameras and mounts, extra batteries, mini tripod, and a medical kit… I was able to swap this over from the configuration my wife had set up by yanking out the pouches she had loaded up (swapping with the ones I had loaded and ready to go) and adding in a couple of hook and loop holsters with the guns. Basically a couple of minutes to go from a business casual messenger bag carried by a professional lady, to a bag of doom ready to support my efforts to slay some evil ballistic gels.

    Loaded for bear... Or ballistic gel...

    Loaded for bear… Or ballistic gel…  Even fully loaded the SnapPockets are slim lined and pretty secure.

    I was initially concerned about the SnapPockets as they don’t fully seal at the top. That ended up not being a problem though. They work really well with the Zip Bags, and if the main flap is down things are pretty secure. That said, I wouldn’t store small things in there (like paperclips, pens, etc) without the use of a Zip Bag. The SnapPockets are capable of holding a full sized Nalgene bottle (or liberty bottle).

    The two inboard SnapPockets have some elastic loops that interestingly enough holds AR magazines with enough space to still put in Zip Bags.  I had a small concern with the elastic as it seems “lower quality” than the rest of the materials, and I have had elastic bands wear out in the past.  I’m not saying this is the same type (or that it will wear out the same way), but given the rest of the construction of this bag it seemed to be the lightest material used.

    The internal hook and loop is VERY strong, and it can make reconfiguring the Tech Sleeve a pain if you want to change it around a lot.

    Accessing the pistol is super easy and quick via the zipper in the lid. It takes a little bit of tweaking to get the holster in the right location for your preferred carry, but once it is set, it is very natural to reach in the bag and extract your sidearm. It is arguably faster to deploy than from an on body holster and is a little reminiscent of a drop leg holster.

    Simple reach and grab for the pistol.

    Simple reach and grab for the pistol.

    Opened a bit wider for better visualization.

    Opened a bit wider for better visualization.

    Conclusion

    Is the bag pricey?  It depends on what you are willing to pay for a quality bag you will have for years.  To me, the $299 price tag is something I am willing to pay. Especially for something made in the U.S. and as well constructed as this bag is. I paid $350(ish) for my original bag, and it doesn’t really show any wear and tear despite pretty much daily usage (and even some of my trademarked “enhanced usage”). This new version is arguably even more rugged.

    It is important to note that the “ITS Zip Bags, Tech Sleeve, Holster Insert and Shock Cord are available to purchase separately and do not come included with the purchase of an ITS Discreet Messenger Bag”. Configuration of this bag is going to be a very personal thing. Personally I would rather see it come with a couple of the Zip Bags or at least have the option to purchase in a couple of preset configurations: “The Nerd Bag” (tech sleeve, a shock cord and a couple of Zip Bags), “Bag of Doom” (holster insert, zip bags for all of the external SnapPockets, and a Medical kit), etc.  I’d also like to see some beefier elastic, though I am being nit picky there.  Other than that I can’t think of anything I would change.  I love the original bag.  This version is a great upgrade for the product line.

    I pride myself on being a bag/pack connoisseur and would not give props to something I wouldn’t buy and carry. This bag is worthy in my opinion and something I will be purchasing in the near future.

    If you are interested in such a bag you can find them on the ITS Store at: https://store.itstactical.com/nylon-gear/its-discreet-messenger-bag.html

    Tom is a former Navy Corpsman that spent some time bumbling around the deserts of Iraq with a Marine Recon unit, kicking in tent flaps and harassing sheep. Prior to that he was a paramedic somewhere in DFW, also doing some Executive Protection work between shifts. Now that those exciting days are behind him, he teaches wilderness medicine and writes for a number of publications, including The Prepared, a site devoted to self-preparedness. He hopes that his posts will help you find solid gear that will survive whatever you can throw at it–he is known (in certain circles) for his curse…ahem, ability…to find the breaking point of anything.

    You can reach him at tom.r AT thefirearmblog.com


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