Booq Boa Courier: A rigid, lightweight, comfortable and versatile messenger bag [Review]

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When it comes to portable technology, finding the most comfortable and practical way of carting it around can be a challenge. Finding a bag of any kind that not only fits everything in that you need, as well as remaining comfortable to shoulder, isn’t a walk in the park. Needless to say, the Boa by Booq was in for some tough criticism if it failed one element.

Design wise, the Boa Courier is a messenger bag with the typical single strap to sling over your shoulder. The exterior is all covered by the same dark polyester/nylon weave, with some neat reflective trim around the edges to keep you a little more visible when on the road. For safety, there’s only one external pocket/sleeve, placed at the back and in constant contact with the carrier and one at the front, constantly underneath the front cover and zipped shut. The back compartment has enough room to carry important documents, a small pocket for your phone/wallet or anything else that fits, and a clip-on tag to secure your house keys in place. There’s little room for anything more than a document in the front sleeve.

The interior has so much room, it’s hard to fathom what to do with it. I was trying the 15″ version, which – unsurprisingly – has enough room for a 15-inch laptop in its own section towards the back. This laptop compartment is pleasingly lined with a soft-touch fabric, and separated from the rest of the back with a stiff partition, and features a velcro-attached strap to keep your precious MacBook from sliding out.

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In front of the laptop compartment is a section big enough to fit in all your chargers and cables as well as two pen holders, and two large pockets. Plenty big enough to carry portable hard drives, CDs, DVDs, chargers and the like. And, just in case all that room isn’t enough, just on the outside layer of the main bag (underneath the flap) is another large pocket sealed by a zipper. All in all, there are plenty of pockets and compartments to fit in almost all you need.

If I can criticize the design and layout for one thing, it’s that it doesn’t lend itself to carrying my DSLR. Most of the bag is reinforced with some kind of stiff card, which – while adding a reassuring rigidity and protection – ensures that it’s not as flexible as I’d like. Placing my camera inside distorts the shape of the bag making it slightly off balance and uncomfortably to carry over the shoulder.

One part of the bag that really needs its own paragraph: the strap. It’s really fantastic. Most of the shoulder strap is covered by a very spongy pad, ensuring it’s as comfortable to carry as you could hope for. Booq has even thought of bike-riding professionals who don’t need a messenger bag drooping down by their side. A second smaller section of strap clips on to the body of the bag, and loops around the main shoulder strap and can be adjusted to bring the bag up closer to your back. It’s a messenger bag that doubles as a back-pack. It’s pretty awesome.

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My own use case for the Boa Courier is walking in to town to take work to my other office (also known as Starbucks). I walked about 35 mins there and back, and not once did I get uncomfortable, or want to swap shoulders. That in itself is a pretty rare result. I fit in everything I needed to take with me. My 13″ MacBook Air (in its own protective case), iPad mini, iPhone 5, wallet and necessary chargers all fit in with room to spare.

All in all, it’s hard not to be impressed by Booq’s Boa case. If you want a stylish, protective messenger that’s versatile and has plenty of room for your gadgets, you won’t find many better.

If you want to buy one yourself, they’re available now from BooqBags.com or BooqBags.co.uk. The 15-inch model I tried costs £108.30 ($129.95). There is a Courier 13 for 13″ laptops for £99.97 ($109.95) or a Courier 10 (iPad) for £83.29 ($99.95).

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