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ITS Tactical Discreet Messenger Bag
1/30/11 - The Discreet Messenger Bag from ITS Tactical is a messenger-style bug-out/bail-out bag with a compliment of practical features intended to meet the needs of the tactical and everyday user alike. The lack of external PALS webbing or velcro contributes to the discreet outward appearance of the DMB. It's custom made for ITS Tactical by Zulu Nylon Gear.
Overall design and features
- The DMB is a medium sized, all purpose messenger-style tactical
bag approximately 15" wide x 12" tall x 7" deep (external
seam to seam dimensions including organizer pockets, but not the side
bottle pockets). It has flap with external
and internal pockets, a hidden velcro panel, one main compartment
with a padded divider/compartment, a rear pistol compartment, two
external zippered organizer pockets, two bottle pouches, and a secret
compartment. A 2" wide adjustable webbing shoulder strap is permanently
attached to the DMB, and a removable waist belt is included. The bottom
of the bag has abrasion-resistant material with removable shock cord
for attaching a rolled-up jacket. It's available in black, foliage
green, coyote brown (shown here) and Crye MultiCam. All zippers have
550 paracord pulls.
Flap - The DMB has a large front/top flap that covers the top and front of the bag. On the outside of the flap are two pockets (more on that later). A 2" wide webbing top carry handle is sewn to the flap. A large 15" x 4" loop velcro field for patches is located on the front of the flap, with a removable cover that can be used to cover it if no patches are to be used for a more discreet look. The DMB comes with both ITS Tactical and Zulu Nylon Gear patches. I've also shown it below with some reflective patches that I use when I'm riding my motorcycle. It's still dark when I ride to work before 6am in the morning.
There are two female SR buckles sewn to the front of the flap. Adjustable 1" straps come from the bottom with the male buckles to secure the flap in the closed position. The straps are long, and can also be used to cinch up anything carried on the bottom of the bag. They route through a couple of loops on the bottom of the bag and also have triglides ot 'fix' the length. I pre-adjusted the loops to the length I wanted and tucked them back through the loops because the loose end would be very long if I didn't, and it wasn't necessary to cinch down the straps every time I closed the flap.
The bottom of the DMB is covered in textured, black rubberized SlipNOT material for abrasion resistance. Two drain hole grommets are located on the bottom of the bag. There are also six tab loops on the bottom through which elastic shock cord is woven. The shock cord can be used to store a rolled up jacket on the bottom of the bag, or secure other items. It's removable, and I normally store it inside the bag unless I have a need for it, as it's subject to wear and tear on the bottom of the bag.
Straps - The 2"-wide webbing shoulder strap is sewn on, and wraps all the way under the DMB. The side-release buckle will be on the front when the bag is worn on the right side of the body, and at the back when worn on the left side. The initial length of the strap is adjustable by the length of the loose end, which loops through a triglide sewn to the bag. A second triglide keeps the loose end secure. Normal strap quick adjustment is accomplished via the sliding triglide.
A 1" wide adjustable waist strap is also included, which quick-attaches and detaches to the tab loops on the back of the bag near the top. Side-release buckles are provided at each end, and it's adjusted with a triglide.
Outside Compartments - The DMB bag has two water bottle pockets on the sides, a rear pistol compartment, and pockets on the flap.
Side Bottle pockets - There are two side pockets on the DMB. Each will fit a Nalgene bottle of USGI canteen. There's an adjustable/removable 12" long velcro strap to secure the contents. There's a velcro strip on the inside of the pocket which keeps the pocket folded flat against the side of the bag when not in use, for a low profile look. Putting a Nalgene bottle in the pocket does intrude on the interior space a bit, but not by much. When not in use, I usually stow the strap inside the pocket so that there's no exposed loop to snag on anything.
- At the rear of the DMB is a 14.5" x 11" slot pocket/compartment
designed for the concealed carry of a pistol. It's closed by a 4"
strip of 1" wide velcro, so the height of the pocket is actually
9" if you want the contents secured by the velcro. The compartment
is lined with loop velcro on the inside of the pocket (not the bag
body). The pocket itself has a 9" wide x 11" tall HDPE stiffening
sheet sewn into it, to support the weight of items attached on the
inside. The HDPE sheet is stiff enough to support the contents without
the velcro strip opening. No accessories are included, but it's compatible
with most velcro accessories. I've shown it below with a Glock 19
in the EMDOM TNT bag pistol holder. It's roomy enough to hold a full
sized handgun and mags. Of course, it can also be used for flat items
like documents .
Flap map pocket - Inside the flap is a full-sized 14" x 11" map pocket with clear marine-grade vinyl. The zipper entrance is on the side.
Main Compartment- The main compartment of the DMB measures approximately 15" x 12" x 5", seam to seam. The inside front and sides are lined completely with loop velcro for attaching and organizing velcro-compatible accessories. It's also a convenient location to store the front flap velcro cover.
Laptop compartment - The main compartment has a padded laptop compartment against the back panel. It should fit most 15" screen laptops, and is contoured so it'll accommodate the thickness of the laptop. It's lined with black velcro-compatible material, so if you choose to put velcro accessories in the laptop compartment, you can do so.
Both pockets have a large rear slot pocket against the bag body, and two expandable magazine pouches with elastic retention. These will hold two M4 mags or one AK mag each. They'll also hold flash-bangs, notebooks or anything else that will fit. I like these pockets a lot. The elastic can be used to hold flash lights, chemlights etc,
The left pocket flap interior is set up as an admin pouch, and has one large slot pocket. Two smaller slot pockets are sewn to it, with large elastic loops on the outside and two small elastic loops inside. I think that this pocket layout is one of the most practical I've seen in a bag.
The right pocket flap has a loop velcro field for velcro-compatible accessories. There's also a keychain lanyard D-ring on a length of webbing sewn above the main slot pocket on the body. It's also possible to mount a full sized handgun in this pocket.
Hidden pocket - The DMB also has a hidden/secret pocket for holding documents or other items that the owner doesn't want readily discovered. The location of the hidden pocket is only disclosed to those purchasing the bag, so I won't disclose it here either. The pocket entrance is well concealed and is unlikely to be found. Depending on the items hidden inside, and the tenacity of the person performing the search, it's still possible to feel the items and try to discover how they're contained, so be aware of that.
General Impression and Notes - As a designer, it's sometimes difficult to remain unbiased when evaluating someone else's designs. I designed the EMDOM TNT Bag for a similar role to that the ITS Discreet Messenger Bag, and decided against a messenger bag design because of the flap. I felt that the flap limits speed of access to the bag, and wanted to enable each compartment to be accessed without having to unbuckle a flap, lift it out of the way (and keep it out of the way) while items were retrieved or inserted. Another reason was that a messenger bag flap doesn't 'seal in' the contents as well as a zipper, as there's always going to be a potential opening at both ends at the top. Knowing this, however, the user can pack accordingly, and ensure that small, loose items are stowed in the zippered pockets.
However, I do realize that not everyone has the same taste in style, and that some prefer the look of the messenger bag style. Having the flap also conceals whatever pocket layout is underneath, and offers a measure of security for the covered pockets at the expense of some convenience of access. Depending on the situation however, that might not be an issue. Also, the messenger bag style is very common as most laptop cases are similarly styled, so it blends in discreetly in all public venues. So, I thought about what I'd do if I adapted the TNT bag to a messenger bag style, and I came to conclusion that it would have many of the same features as the DMB.
The DMB is very well made - quality of the stitching and workmanship is excellent. Something with this level of detail and features is defintely not cheap to produce in limited quantities; something I can attest to with my struggles to get the EMDOM TNT bag made under a target price point. My main use of the DMB was as my EDC bag (I normally use my TNT bag or Arc'Teryx Blade 21 pack), in which I carry my basic work stuff (breakfast, a canned drink or bottle, planner, documents, etc), along with some 'emergency' items like flashlights, tools etc. I ride a motorcycle to work about half the time, so I need to be a little more equipped than when driving a car. It's also one of the reasons a waist belt is important to me, as it prevents the bag from swinging around to the front. It's essential for me to keep the bag stable and planted on my back. Easy access to the contents is also a key factor for me, as taking a bag on and off while wearing a bulky armoured motorcycle jacket isn't desirable, especially when I'm carrying my helmet in one hand. I found myself using the exterior flap pockets my most of my frequently needed items (keys, badge, phone, sunglasses), as I didn't have to unbuckle and lift up the flap to access them. The larger of the two flap pockets was also big enough to carry quite a bit in addition to the main bag compartment and I had to stop myself from being lazy and overloading it.
Being a fabric bag, the DMB can hold quite a lot of stuff as you can 'stuff it out' until it bulges out. On cold mornings, I wear my Arc'teryx Atom LT jacket under my motorcycle jacket, but it gets warmer in the afternoons and I usually stow it inside my bag. There was more than enough room to stuff it in there; even the bulkier Atom AF on occasion.
I did question ITS about having the pistol compartment against the body, as I found rear-located pistol compartments more difficult to access when wearing the bag as the weight of the bag presses against the body. Not impossible; just a bit more difficult. ITS replied that if the user didn't want to mount a pistol in that compartment, the velcro-lined front drawbridge pocket can carry a handgun which can be accessed by positioning the zippers so that one opens to the front. That way, the handgun can be accessed without lifting up the flap. A small frame weapon would be able to fit in there horizontally. The one thing I'd caution about doing that is to ensure that the drawbridge 550 cord is routed or tucked in so as not to snag or interfere with the draw of the gun.
The size and interrnal layout of the two drawbridge pockets are probably the most practical I've come across on this type of bag. The two elasticized magazine pockets are a great size for a variety of items (wish I'd have put them in the TNT bag front pockets). The admin layout in the left pocket is also very practical, with its small slot pockets and elastic loops. I didn't use the velcro field in the right-side pocket, as the sewn-in layout accommodated all that I carried. The drawbridge pockets are deeper than they look, and like the main bag, can be stuffed out with a ton of items. While I wouldn't recommend it, It's entirely possible to load the DMB up so it looks like you've got a duffle bag under your arm rather than a messenger bag. But, it's nice to know that you can do it if you need to.
The one small thing I'd like to see on the DMB is to somehow make the main shoulder strap ambidextrous for right or left shoulder carry, so that the emergency release buckle can always be positioned at the front, and some sort of pull tab be incorporated into the triglide so it's easier to adjust the length of the strap when the bag is being worn. This desire comes only from my use with it on the motorcycle. As I mentioned before, I wear a bulky motorcycle jacket that has armour in the shoulders, back, elbows etc. I have to lengthen the strap to don the bag, then shorten it so that the bag rides up on my back vs. hanging down at my side.
I found the ITS Tactical Discreet Messenger Bag a very well made and thought out tactically oriented messenger-style bag. I'm certain that its practical features will be appreciated by those who are looking for a bag like this. When partially loaded, it retains its slim profile for every day use, but still retains the ability to swell when needed. It doesn't hurt that it's a great-looking piece of nylon. For the story of how the ITS Discreet Messenger Bag was conceived, visit this page at ITS.
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