Don’t kill the messengers; invite them on a trip

Kelty Saunter bag ($80)

Sometimes a messenger bag can be just the ticket when you want to travel with something quick and simple. Unlike a backpack, there is only one strap to contend with and usually one or two simple fasteners to open and close the bag. Taller and thinner than a duffle and easily swung from side to back, a messenger lends grace to a walk down an overcrowded bus or airline aisle, or a quick hop onto two-wheeled transport.

 Kelty Saunter at an ancient ring fort in Ireland
Kelty Saunter at an ancient ring fort in Ireland

Kelty has a line of such bags, and earlier this summer I took one along on a two-week hosteling trip through western Ireland. Called the Saunter, the bag blended into the trip marvelously, and along with a sheep’s-wool sweater, I didn’t feel like such an obvious tourist. Well, at least not until I opened my mouth to order a pint. 

While the Saunter wasn’t my only bag for the trip, it served well as a carry-on for the flights and an overnight bag for the hostels. One thousand cubic inches of capacity and two main pockets carried a change of clothes and a sweater, toiletries, and a few other miscellaneous items. Two smaller front pockets (covered with the the flap closed) easily held business cards, pens, and small electronics.

Kelty Saunter bag in Ireland
An old cemetery along the Ring of Kerry

The bag material is made of sixty percent recycled polyester fabric with a TPE coating and looks and feels remarkably like cotton canvas. The sewn-on flap straps, small pocket edges, and wear-patches on the bottom corners are all made of vegetable-tanned leather. The retro-metal hardware is solid aluminum and the shoulder strap webbing is recycled polyester. There is also a nifty little tote bag (also recycled polyester) that stuffs into itself and hangs from a small clip inside the Saunter. Easily carried in the palm of my hand when compressed, I unclipped and deployed it often on sorties to local markets for picnic supplies.

Bumming around Dublin
Bummin’ around Dublin 

The bag held up well to rough handling on the trip, and all summer for that matter. The appearance of the bag is no worse for the wear after hanging from fenceposts and being tossed about, from Irish pastures to all manner of floors, sidewalks, seats, car trunks, bar stools, and the like. One detail I’m not so crazy about is the use of Velcro for the buckle straps and main flap. No fault of the bag really, I’m just not fond of Velcro. I might reconsider if it could do its job silently, be impervious to grime and water, and not stick to non-Velcro fibers. Despite the TPE coating and tidy, strong stitching, the bag isn’t waterproof. It held up fine to minor splashes and spits of rain, but some seepage occurred when I purposely tested it by pooling water on the threads. After using and abusing it all summer I can report it’s a very sturdy bag and considering the classic appearance, you’d never guess it’s made with recycled plastics; a nice bonus. 800-423-2320

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