There are gear companies out there, who shall remain nameless, doing cookie cutter stuff and there are those who aspire to create something truly unique. Defy Bags, out of Chicago, definitely falls into the later category. A month ago I visited their Ravenswood showroom and workshop and ended up investing in a Defy Recon Wax Canvas Edition Messenger.
The Wax Canvas edition of Defy’s Recon Messenger is constructed from 20 oz. Martexin Original Wax Twill, which is produced by Fairfield Textile and treated by Martin Dyeing and Finishing Company, an American manufacturer since 1838.
Canvas twill has a unique diagonal weave that’s more tear and wrinkle resistant than regular canvas. Impregnating the fabric with Martexin Original Wax adds water and stain resistance. I’ve found water doesn’t always bead up but it won’t completely penetrate through. The finish will eventually wear away but applying Martexin Original Wax oitment by hand following a few easy steps will restore water repellency. The Martexin Original Wax Twill also develops a patina over time with use, similar to leather. With wear, every bag will end up being unique, which is a “second kind of cool” compared to similar gear made from synthetic fabrics like 1000D Cordura nylon.
Another great feature of the Recon is the use of two high-strength Austri Alpin quick release 2″ Cobra buckles to secure the messenger’s flap.
Austri Alpin buckles are CNC machined from the highest grade 7075 aluminum alloy, solid brass and stainless steel components and have stab-lock style fasteners that will not open under load. They exceed Mil Spec guidelines for dust / sand / salt water as well as all applicable CE, EN, CSA, ANSI, and NFPA standards for fall-protection and personal safety. Clearly they are overkill for this application; the bag’s stitching will give way long before its buckles will. But, opening and closing them are highly addictive and they look freaking awesome. Nuff’ said.
One design aspect that separates the Recon from other bags in Defy’s line is the inclusion of an admin panel for Everyday Carry items.
I usually practice what I call the “Caveman Rule”. At a minimum, always carry something sharp and something to make fire. 😉 The Recon have a number of loops sewn from seat belt webbing. The single large loop holds my Spyderco Techno folder….
In the other smaller loops, I have my Exotac Nanostriker XL, Jetstream pen, tethered train pass, thumb drive, business cards, and a Streamlight Microstream flashlight. To be honest, I would have preferred a couple of additional large loops so I could secure a medium duty multi-tool like my Leatherman Skeletool and a larger, more capable flashlight in addition to the knife. Some of the smaller stuff could be put in a pouch if needed.
There’s also two pockets above the admin panel. Aside from my train pass, I used the other pocket to hold my NewTrent iCarrier portable charger.
Some of the interesting things about Defy Bags is the use of recycled materials and the subtle imperfections that make every bag just a bit different. For instance, these score marks on the rubber bicycle tubing that Defy uses to reinforce the pocket edges…
The main compartment is spacious and includes two more pockets and a sleeve that will fit up to a 13″ Macbook or in my case a 12.5″ Lenovo X230 Thinkpad. In the slip pockets, I have a Moleskin notebook and a pair of light gloves. The main section holds my sunglasses in a case, a mesh pouch for cables and other small items, and my iPad in a Zagg Keyboard case.
The regular Recon measures out at 15″ wide x 12″ tall X 2.5″ deep. It’s a mid-sized messenger that for me was perfect for EDC as long as I didn’t need to carry something bulky (like an extra layer) in my bag. From a tech standpoint, even if I opted to go light and only carry a tablet, it didn’t feel like I was carrying too much bag. If you’re someone who needs more carry capacity or has larger devices, Defy has you covered with the Recon Large Wax Canvas Edition. They also have a smaller “Mini” version for tablet only carry but, at the time of this writing, it isn’t offered in wax canvas.
Carry-wise, the Recon’s two-inch seatbelt webbing strap was long enough for me (being 6’4″ tall) to carry the bag cross-body or over one shoulder. The strap is attached to the bag by two heavy-duty steel d-rings and swivel snap hooks, which makes the bag easier to manipulate.
The Recon doesn’t come with a strap pad, but I recommend adding it as an option. The matching wax canvas pad certainly makes the bag more comfortable to carry.
The other creature comfort I added later was Defy’s Mr. Groper leather comfort handle with US sourced YKK Antique Brass Snaps. The regular double layered handle was comfortable enough…
But the Groper raised the comfort up a notch and then some. I’ve never enjoyed carrying a bag briefcase style, but the Horween Austin Calf leather is extremely soft to the touch. When I’m not carrying the Recon, I might just unsnap the Groper and use it with some of my other bags. It’s that nice.
Coming from a backpack guy, the biggest complement I can pay Chris Tag and the team at Defy is that their Recon Waxed Canvas Edition has made me carry a messenger bag more. It’s such a departure from anything I usually carry or anyone else carries that I want to be seen with it. Which so violates my Grey Man Philosophy, but for this bag, I dare say it’s worth it.