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Defy Recon Wax Canvas Edition Review

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 Defy Recon Wax Canvas Edition

The Defy Recon Wax Canvas Edition


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….


Spyderco Techno Folding Knife

Spyderco Techno Folding Knife


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.

The Recon Wax Canvas Edition retails for $266.  The matching shoulder strap pad is $23 and the Horween Leather Handle is $17.  All three are available from Defy’s website and certain select Stockists.

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6 Responses so far.

  1. Tim B. says:

    Great article and review!! After reviewing their site and your review, I am convinced that a purchase from the Defy Bag company was in my future! Great job!

  2. jobs says:

    Hey, do you still have the recon? either way, how do/did you use in your day to day. I am a backpack guy for sure (sometimes too loyally) so when did you make the choice to use a messenger instead?

    • Blaine B. says:

      I do still have the Recon. My wife gave it to me for my birthday so it has sentimental value in addition to being a cool bag. If I’m being honest, I carry it only occassionally opting for backpacks most of the time. So when do I carry it? Usually during the warmer months when I commute for work and don’t need the capacity to carry an extra layer or need a place to stow my jacket. It’s a nice option when I’m carrying a lighter loadout like a tablet versus a laptop and just essential EDC items. On cramped trains, taxis, buses, planes etc., a messenger is easier to just put in your lap or on the seat next to you. I also like it just for a change of pace. The waxed canvas and buckles on this one is so much different from any other bag I have.

  3. Jeremy says:

    Hi, I fell in love with the latest Recon’s 2016 Collection, built with Waxed Canvas and
    Austin Calf Leather at my almost-perfect dimension – 14.5″ x 10.5″ x 4.5″. Not too tall and deep enough. I am hoping to hear from you about your inner thought of Waxed Canvas – the fabric, in comparison to Tom Bihn’s uses Cordura/Ballistic. Honestly, I am slightly skeptic about Waxed Canvas, the Pro and Con weight against Cordura 1000d and Ballistic 1050 that Tom Bihn used. How’s your experience with the Canvas so far? Do you like it? I assume it is a heavier Fabric hence would it able to keep it shape of the Bag?

    I currently using Tom Bihn Daylight Briefcase Grey Cordura and also own other Tom Bihn Bag. I’d been using Daylight Briefcase as my Everyday Carry Work Briefcase, probably almost a year. I love it very much – Its functionality is absolutely serious and its design is casual as well, great as my Casual Work Environment. However, my Everyday Work’s Packing is exceeding its depth limit and I could sometimes have difficulty reaching such as my Document Folders to pull out. One of the main reason is the Cache already took 1″ of the 3.5″ depth.

    Of course, another point is I always envy those Defy’s Leather and those naturally-beautiful Waxed Canvas Bag. The Recon’s 2016 is really an expensive item – $400! Would you put that much on a single bag? I just fear that I will regret, expecting Tom Bihn’s spotless quality to Defy’s different kind of top quality.

    If I am not wrong, I read about your other posts about how you came across Tom Bihn and you mentioned that as a result, you had learnt a lot from your Tom Bihn Experience. I think I could put myself in your shoes and your answer will make more sense for me.

    Sorry for the long comment. Hope you understand what I am trying to ask.


    • Blaine B. says:

      Jeremy, I do like the Waxed Canvas but not for the reasons you mention. There’s no doubt the canvas is heavier than Cordura. The new Recon is a larger bag than the Daylight Briefcase, but not enough to account for the 2.0 lbs plus difference in weight (Note: the Cobra buckles are part of that weight equation so not a huge difference). Also, the canvas is not as stiff so the bag is not going to hold its shape as well as a similar bag in 1000D Cordura or even leather. My recon only holds its shape when I fill it with gear.

      With that said, I really like the waxed canvas because it’s just different. Defy’s bags have practical design elements but in truth a good part of the appeal is that the bags they produce are just so damn awesome looking. Tom’s stuff is a little more utilitarian. So, if you purchase a bag from Defy, go into it knowing that you’re giving up some utility in favor of the “cool factor” and I think you’ll be happier with your purchase. If you’re someone who strongly favors function over form then stay away.

      Regarding the cost, I do think $400 is not too much to pay for a product that is hand made from premium materials and produced by artisans here in the USA. And I have paid that much for bags in the past. Whether it’s “worth it” or not is a highly subjective question. Every person puts a different value on things they own.

      I hope that helps.

  4. Jeremy says:

    Hello Blaine, thanks for getting back this quick. Appreciate your efforts and time to share your insights on my comments. They are really helping and let me rethink of what I really want. Hopefully, I will come to term with my own internal feud.

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