These days I find myself being able to do more and more with my tablet while opting to leave my laptop behind. I get the opportunity, when I ditch the larger device, to downsize my carry. Usually a small day pack or shoulder bag. One the packs I’ve been using in that role is the Direct Action Small Messenger.
The Direct Action Small Messenger is an 8.5 Liter (519 cubic inch) shoulder pack made of DWR coated 500D Cordura nylon. As with the Dragon Egg Backpack I reviewed earlier this year, Direct Action uses laser cut MOLLE to cut down on weight while still allowing the user to attach pouches to the outside of the bag – like this Hazard 4 Mil-Koala sheath containing my Leatherman Skeletool.
The new MOLLE is also good when it comes to slipping small lights, pens, and other items through the webbing for quick access. I typical do that with tactical messengers so I don’t have to get into the main compartment for stuff I need quickly. In the picture above, I slipped a Maratac AAA Copper flashlight onto the front flap. My County Comm Embassy pen also rides on the side of the bag. In both cases, they are mostly covered by the face fabric and therefore less prone to get dinged up.
Direct action made every effort to keep the outside of the Small Messenger slick. Even the drag handle on top can be attached via hook and loop so it doesn’t get in the way when not in use. There are d-rings for attaching an included stabilization strap and a zippered pocket on the back panel that I often used as a dump pouch. The pocket is lined with loop material so hook and loop pouches and other accessories can be added to the interior but I found the pocket a bit tight for that. So it just served as an overflow pocket or a place to drop stuff that I didn’t want to store elsewhere.
There is more webbing under the front flap so an admin pouch, like this MSM Tac Organizer Pouch by Milspec Monkey, can be attached for added organization if needed.
The main compartment of the Direct Action Small Messenger features an exceptional layout. There’s a padded sleeve that can protect an 11″ Ultrabook or a tablet – like my Apple iPad Air. It’s secured via a strap of nylon webbing and velcro.
There’s a slip pocket on the other side that’s also secured with velcro where I kept a Moleskin for jotting down quick notes.
But, the gem is really the middle compartment, which like the outside pocket on the back panel, is also lined with loop material for hook and loop accessories like an admin panel or pouches. I also found it to be a very good option for off-body concealed carry using an Orange Diamond Concealment kydex holster and magholder with my M&P Shield.
Initially I was worried about brandishing my gun inadvertently if I needed to get to my tablet or something else in the main compartment. But, Direct Action cleverly addressed that issue by including a zippered opening on the top of the flap, which allows the wearer to leave the main compartment zipper open underneath as a pass through for discrete unfettered access to anything inside (including a firearm). I can also pull out my tablet or notebook without anyone knowing I’m carrying. It’s a very smart design and easily my favorite feature on this bag.
The bottom of the bag is covered with a rubberized non-slip material. Setting it down on a wet surface wasn’t an issue. The flap retention straps have elastic keepers for strap management.
The inside flap has a transparent map/document pocket. It will fit a standard sized magazine (sorry, your over-sized copy of the latest RECOIL issue is a no-go). There are optional hook panels to secure the flap if you opt not to use the buckles. As was the case with the Dragon Egg, every zipper pull is glove friendly. I usually cut the pulls off most of my bags and replace them with heat shrink wrapped 550 paracord. That isn’t necessary in this case. These are the best OEM pulls I’ve encountered to-date.
The external dimensions are approximately 13″ x 9.5″ x 3.9″ with an empty weight of 835 grams or 1.8 lbs. Overall, I found the bag’s size to be a good compromise between portability, storage capacity, and weight. I’m not a huge fan of large one-strapped bags. They just provide temptation to over-pack. If you’re going to do that, then stick with a bag of the two-strapped variety.
Speaking of straps, the two-inch wide shoulder strap on the Small Messenger is plenty long enough to carry the bag cross-body or over one shoulder (even for a tall guy like me). The pad is a good one. It’s comfortable and made from the same non-slip material that was used for the bottom of the Small Messenger.
Again, I found the pass-through to be a great feature. I loved being able to reach most of the bag’s contents without having the unbuckle the flap.
Overall quality was better than the price warranted. I couldn’t find a crooked stitch or a loose thread anywhere. Cordura brand nylon, Duraflex buckles, and YKK zippers were used. I’m a big fan of what Direct Action is trying to do with their bag line. Lots of useful features at a price that is relatively affordable.
Above average quality
No water bottle pocket
Too small for laptop carry
The Direct Action Small Messenger retails for $79 and is available in a number of colorways including Ranger Green, Olive Green, Black, Coyote Brown, Shadow Gray and a number of Camo patterns. It can be purchased from Direct Action here.