Chrome Messenger Bag
Chrome "Pawn" Messenger Bag Backpack Review
by Glenn W. for webBikeWorld.com
| Owner Comments (Below)
Very heavy-duty, no-compromises
backpack is waterproof and versatile but comfortable to
I'm a fairly new webBikeWorld contributor, but I guess
I've become the go-to guy for messenger bags and motorcycle backpacks.
Some riders don't like to wear a backpack, but I have
yet to find any type of motorcycle luggage more
versatile and easy to use.
I commute to work as often as I can in downtown
Washington, D.C. and, unfortunately, I can't leave
luggage attached to my bike. Well, I can -- but it
probably wouldn't be there when I got back.
It's also too much of a hassle to stow all my gear
into saddlebags or a tank bag, then transfer it to a
backpack, which I wear anyway to carry my stuff, then
reverse the process when it's time to go home.
I could probably bungee the backpack somewhere on the
bike, but that has its own problems, including trying to
fit an odd-shaped backpack across a narrow seat,
scratches from the bungee cords or worrying about
whether or not the backpack is secure, and
I can throw all my gear and my laptop inside of a
backpack and use it all day long as I walk back and
forth downtown to various meetings. I know I'll
always have everything on hand when I need it because
the backpack is always with me.
So far, so good. But some of the motorcycle
backpacks are too...weird looking. For me anyway.
When I'm walking into a meeting, there's a difference
between wearing some kind of slicked-down, aero
motorcycle backpack and a basic cool-looking piece of
This is all very subjective, of course, but since
many of my colleagues are either carrying courier bags,
shoulder bags or backpacks, I needed something that
would fit right in, and this Chrome "Pawn" backpack is
just the thing.
Chrome Pawn (L) is the smallest of the Roll-Top
backpacks. Strong and comfy straps and buckles
Chrome Messenger Bags and Backpacks
I'll admit I didn't know a thing about Chrome backpacks
until The Ed shoved one under my nose. My first
impressions after seeing this "Pawn" model were "This
thing is big" and then "This thing is brown".
I took it home and there it laid for a few days until
I got motivated to swap my gear out of the
Roadgear MultiTasker I've been using lately and into
the Chrome. That's when I started to carefully
look over the Pawn and realized this is one serious
Chrome Industries is located in what is probably the
heart of "messenger bag & backpack central" in the
United States; San Francisco. Their M.O., as they call
it (modus operandi) is simple: "build products that
withstand the daily abuse of the everyday world".
And they're pretty serious about that. After
using the Chrome Pawn for a few weeks, I can easily say
this has to be one of -- no, scratch that -- this is THE most rugged piece of soft luggage I've ever
encountered. It is a no-nonsense, tough, working
tool. This is the real thing -- fakirs and faux-nies not
Which means it's perfect for
The Chrome product line includes (and I'm
upper-casing here because these are the Chrome
no-nonsense product line names):
Messenger Bags; Messenger Packs, Roll-Top Packs (which includes
the Pawn); "Dart" Bags (smaller over-the-shoulder bags)
and some apparel and accessories, like a manifest
holder, radio holder and cell phone carrier.
Each of the main product lines, including the
Messenger Bags, Messenger Packs, Roll-Top Packs and Dart
Bags, comes in small, medium and large sizes and the
only concession to marketing are the somewhat cute
1,150 cubic inches (19
liters) of unencumbered, waterproof storage
space. The Pawn shown above is holding a large HP laptop
held inside of a soft laptop portfolio; two pairs of gloves;
two water bottles; an umbrella and a T-shirt, and
it doesn't break a sweat.
Chrome "Pawn" Roll-Top Messenger Backpack
Believe it or not, the Pawn backpack shown here is the
smallest of the Roll-Top category. All I can say
is, if this is what they consider small, I'd hate to see the large "Sultan"
because the Pawn has a huge internal-to-external volume
The outside dimensions may seem small when you look
at the numbers: 16" at the widest point by 12" tall with
the top rolled up by about 6" thick (41 cm x 31.5 cm x
But that's 1,150 cubic inches, or almost
19 liters of storage! And it's all usable too.
You can overstuff mass quantities of consumables in here
and I guarantee you'll buckle at the knees before the
Indeed, it's hard to believe the Pawn is the smallest
of the Roll-Top collection.
The "Ivan" is the
mid-sized Roll-Top backpack; it's 20” x 14” x 6”
(51x35.5x15 cm), giving it a volume of 1,680 cubic
inches or 27.5 liters.
Not big enough for you? Then how about the
"Sultan": it's 22” x 15” x 7.5” (56x38x19 cm) and holds
a massive 2,475 cubic inches, or 40.5 liters!
The padded backing is permanently attached and the
adjustable straps for the chest and stomach
are also padded and comfortable.
Ajustable D-rings for attaching a radio or flashing LED marker.
Waterproof zipper under the flap and the two back
You have to be doing some very serious messengering
to haul around one of those dump trucks on your back. Do they really wear
those on a bicycle?
Maybe Chrome sells an optional
hydraulic tilt bed to dump the goods out of the bag and
into the customer's inbox!
But the heavy-duty, real-world, working design of the
Chrome backpacks means no fancy internal dividers for
your Saint-Géron water bottles and Ashbourne biscuits.
Roll open the top and you're faced with an endless
waterproof cavern. Throw the stuff in there, roll
up the top and take 'er out for another day on the road,
beating the sleepy cagers at their own game.
The Pawn has two outer patch pockets added on the
back for smaller gear; each pocket closes not with fancy
snaps or -- heaven forbid -- Velcro, but with real
honest-to-goodness metal hooks. Yeah baby!
Bring it on!
Under the flap in the back lives a waterproof zipper
to keep the paperwork clean and dry. This 10" by
12" deep (25.5 cm x 30.5 cm) pocket is lined with vinyl
that looks like it was cut from the stuff that lines
atomic waste dumps to prevent leaching into the water
table. Rugged stuff, and probably adds to the
overall tough feeling exterior.
These backpack caverns are wrapped with a very heavy
canvas-like 1,000 denier Cordura, which feels heavier
and stiffer than any of the Cordura or nylon I've seen
used in motorcycle clothing or luggage.
Maybe they use some internal backing -- certainly in
the main body of the backpack, because it's completely
lined with a waterproofing vinyl material -- that makes
it stiffer, but overall the Chrome Pawn is as rugged as
The available colors are fairly muted, which is a bit
of a surprise, but I guess the brown, olive or black
choices for the Pawn work very nicely, thank you, at
hiding dirt. No Paris runway high-viz yellow or
orange here folks.
OK, so the Chrome Pawn may not have the sleek looks
laptop backpack, but let me tell you, the Mobile
Edge, although smooth-looking, has nowhere near the
capacity or usefulness of the Pawn and it feels much
heavier when empty.
The shoulder straps on the Pawn are comfortable and
they're cut on a curve into the top of the pack in a
sort of mini-shoulder harness. Just above the
harness is a handy carrying handle made from nylon
The shoulder straps are fully adjustable, and the
Pawn also has a cross-chest strap and a waist strap that
easily adjust. The shoulder straps are 3" wide (75
mm) and padded, which comfortably distributes the
The straps have an added feature with big metal
D-rings that can be adjusted; I'm not sure what these
are for, but they can be used to hang a cell phone or
radio holder or attach one of those mini-LED lights for
The roll top works fine, and in my experience it actually
works better than
After the bag is stuffed full, simply
roll up the top; a special semi-hard insert sewn under
the fabric keeps the lip square and easy to roll.
After it's rolled up, a separate flap covers the
tube of material and secures it with big wads of Velcro.
keeps the contents dry and maintains the waterproof
integrity. This is a simple design (also found on
some Ortlieb bags) that works and
again shows the utilitarian nature of the Chrome design,
with the minimal amount of thingies that might break off
just when you least expect.
Absolutely my favorite backpack, the Chrome Pawn has won
me over due to its rugged, no-nonsense approach, minimalistic styling and the avoidance of any feature
that isn't functional, which consort to make this a winner.
Yep, maybe it's a bit pricey for a
backpack, but quality and ruggedness is uncompromised.
Besides -- I'm expecting it to last way longer than me...
wBW Product Review: Chrome "Pawn" Roll-Top Backpack
Retail Price: $180.00
|Colors: Black, Olive or Brown.
||Made In: U.S.A.
|Review Date: March
2009. Note: This product was provided by the
manufacturer for this review according to the
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From "S" (February 2012): "S" wrote
to let us know that Chrome now makes smaller bag, the "Yalta",
which is 29L vs. the Pawn 35L.