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Travel gear is an essential part of life these days. As anyone who has been “in tune” with bicycle bags and the like knows, Timbuk2 is a name to be reckoned with. They were formed more than 23 years ago in San Francisco, and have built up an amazingly loyal follower base (this is something that differentiates the top-rated bags from others). They expanded their line numerous times to include messenger bags (A review of the Commute will be forthcoming when mine arrives), backpacks, and everything in between. For a long time though, Timbuk2 had an empty spot in their line up – put simply, they had nothing to distinguish themselves and make people go “WOW!”. Yes, Timbuk2 makes bags that have more customization options than you can shake a stick at, but those aren’t something to showcase what you can do – the Especial line are these showcase pieces.
The Tres is a very LARGE bag – so much so that it is one of the largest bags in my collection (even topping the Titan for sheer size), but it is easily one of the most approachable. If you prefer something smaller but also versatile, check out the Timbuk2 Classic. The look of it isn’t anything high fashion like the Titan, but neither is it homely – the Especial Tres is in a class all of its own. It is more rugged looking than any of my previously reviewed bags, but it also has an air or simplicity and playfulness around it. In fact, the playfulness starts as soon as it arrives at your door. Unlike getting a package in the mail in one of those ugly brown boxes like everything else, products from Timbuk2 are shipped in a bag that has a bike map of San Francisco printed upon it. Now even though I don’t plan on taking a bicycle trip across the nation any time soon, I still was compelled to save the bag (much to the dismay of my wife).
At any rate, back to the real bag – the Especial Tres comes in two color options – a distinct departure from the extreme color customizations that Timbuk2 offers on their other bags. There is a nice Cordura Rip algae green with a non p-PVC gunmetal, and there is the model I was sent which has a very simple black color scheme, with black for the Cordura Rip and for the non p-PVC sections. Personally I like the black on black better, as it pairs with pretty much anything I’m wearing while using it. Not only that, but it stands out against the other bags in my inventory because it isn’t flamboyant in it’s colors. It reminds me of the Under Armour Undeniable Medium Duffle.
The one issue that I have with the Especial Tres deals directly with it’s large size though. You see, having a bag as deep as the Especial Tres is in theory a great idea, until you realize that there is almost no way to separate things inside the bag, and trying to get something off of the bottom of it can be a tedious challenge. If the Especial Tres would have some extra pockets sewn into the lining inside, it would have alleviated the problem but the few that are there don’t let you sort out much in the way of smaller items. Now I can’t completely be down on it for this though, because the Especial Tres does have a zipper on its side that allows you to open the entire bag from it. This lets you easily access anything provided you can find it – making it much easier to get say, a fresh shirt out of it, but still not offering much if you’re looking for an elusive USB cable, or searching for your small point and shoot.
One of the absolute best features of the Especial Tres though, comes in the form of it’s internal welded laptop pocket. This pocket is designed for laptops fifteen inches or smaller, and it guarantees to waterproof your laptop. Now I wasn’t bold enough to put a laptop in and take it into the pool, but I did stick one inside and lay into the bag with a hose. The laptop stayed dry as promised, which instantly pushed this bag to the front of my wardrobe for when I’m going out cycling and still want to be able to get work done when I stop to rest. Being able to withstand the full force of a garden hose made me feel that no rain would ever be a problem for the Especial Tres and any laptop inside of it. Another bonus is if you have a smaller laptop and a tablet, you can fit both inside easily (useful if you tether your laptop or ultrabook when on the road) – as long as the compartment closes, it’s waterproof.
On the front of the special Tres is another small pouch to put things for quick access – and while you can not put an over abundance of items inside of it, it works good for something like a cell phone. On the back side is the extremely comfortable shoulder straps (one of those straps has a very useful bottle opener sewn into it), as well a molded frame to ensure it rests soundly on your back. I have only used one other roll top bag in the past, and it was nowhere near as sturdy as the Especial Tres – this beauty stands on its own, and the roll top it stiff enough to stay open when you need it to. I do wish that the connectors for the roll top straps were of a bit more heavy duty material – out of how high quality everything else on the bag feels, those are probably the cheapest feeling components. That’s not to say that they’re not good – because they work, but in my opinion they should have been metal rather than plastic.
The Bottom Line: The Especial Tres is really a special bag – the waterproof feature is well worth the cost of admission alone, if only the few minor issues I had weren’t there it would be perfect.
You can pick up the Especial Tres from Timbuk2’s site for $209.