The Patagonia MiniMass commuter bag ($69) is my first taste of Patagonia’s gear, and I’ve always wondered if their stuff was worth the hype. The company has a bit of a reputation — perhaps fair, perhas not — as the outdoor industry’s bourgeois player, probably due to generally higher prices than the competition, an innovative design ethic and the use of green materials throughout their line.
But Patagonia has also spawned a fanatical following. I once worked with someone who literally camped outside the company’s Southern California headquarters (it sits literally right aross the road from the beach) in the hopes she’d be hired. She wasn’t, but toting around my tablet in the the fantastic little MiniMass let me grasp why she tried.
The MiniMass is the smallest sibling in Patagonia’s family of courier bags (all of which end in “Mass” — a nod to the Critical Mass bicycle movement). This makes the MiniMass a perfect tablet carrier. And even though it isn’t explicitly to ferry tablets, it excels in the task.
Let’s start with looks: This is a hot-looking bag. I had to fight off the women in my life, to a varying degree, from trying to snatch it off my person. If you don’t like the blue, it comes in a bunch of other colors (note that our sample’s color is now slightly different).
The MiniMass’s construction seems overbuilt for such a small bag; tough, 600-denier material, seatbelt-like strap and generous padding for the bottom and back of the bag. Yet the bag always seemed feather-light (it’s 411 grams) on my back, and very comfortable.
Pockets galore: A zippered pocket on the outside of the main flap that fits a wallet, phone or keys (or all three); two phone-sized pockets inside — one padded, one mesh; and an expandle bottle-pocket on the side that was perfectly situated for grabbing a bottle, camera or sunglasses.
The “tablet” pocket is a pouch with a rip-and-stick closure on the outside of the bag’s back. It’ll comfortably fit practically any tablet, even with slimmer cases attached — though tablets with fatter cases (or most of those with keyboards) will need to be stowed inside the bag. I plopped papers or a magazine in there with the tablet on occasion too.
The main pocket swallowed a light fleece or thinnish hardshell, lunch and a power adapter and cable. I was surprised to find it perfect as a quick-grab bag for my Canon 7D DSLR with a medium zoom lens, extra (small) prime lens and portly 580EX flash. In fact, I ended up wanting to grab the bag by its perfectly padded handle, and taking with me on all sorts of occasions — effectively turning the MiniMass into a murse.
The inside is coated with polyurethane to keep water out. Because I’d only been out with the bag under a light rain — which rolled right off the bag’s durable water-repellent (DWR) finish — I put the MiniMass to the test by dangling it under the bathroom shower at full blast for a few minutes. While the outer zippered pocket’s contents were soaked, clothes I’d stuffed inside the main pocket remained bome-dry, though there was a little water around the corners where water broke in where the flap folds over the main compartment.
The downsides are nothing more than niggles. The exterior zippered pocket is not nearly as watertight as the rest of the bag. Because the polyurethane coating is on the inside, water soaked everthing in the pocket during our shower-test — so don’t put anything dainty in that pocket if it pours. Maybe Patagonia could have included a cross-strap for biking. Also, the MiniMass isn’t as padded as some dedicated tablet bags, particularly around the top flap — so don’t throw rocks at it. And while we feel the $70 price is justified, this ain’t a cheap bag.
A light, versatile, ace of a bag that fills an impressively wide variety of roles — among them, carrying a tablet — with a big dose of grace and style.