Note: this item was provided at no-cost for review.
I didn’t set out to find this bag, but the brand and bag kept popping up on recommendation engines over at YouTube and so I started to look into it. And after watching a few reviews, it seemed like something I should check out, Cravar was nice enough to send over a review sample of the F.C. 13 Messenger in Mocha.
It’s a very well made bag, and very different than what I was expecting.
Materials, Specs, and Quality
Let’s start by talking about the size, this is effectively a 13” Laptop sized messenger bag. It comes in at 14.5” x 11” x 4.5” and weighs 2.8lbs with the shoulder strap on it. It’s around 12 liters in capacity, though in practice I would say this bag is closer to 11 useable liters.
There’s two fabric options (and many colorways) for this bag: full leather; or waxed twill. I selected the Waxed Twill in Mocha. The twill is very stiff and had a healthy amount of wax on it when it arrived. The leather accents are full grain veg-tanned leather, in a dark brown they refer to as espresso — though I find it’s a touch lighter by a shade than what I might call espresso.
The hardware is all brass, with a slight patina out of the box, which help keep the shine down. The bag is fully lined with what Cravar calls “durable acrylic fabric”. I was very worried this would feel like cheap plastic in the bag, but it’s not at all. Instead it’s a warm, but bright, red. It feels like cotton twill to my hand, and is well formed/stuck/adhered to the outer layer — it feels very premium and durable. I’m a very big fan of this lining.
The fastening straps wrap all the way around the bag and float freely through guides. That’s a neat touch, as this allows full compression around the bag. They fasten with brass studs, and you can tuck the over hang of the strap back into a strap keeper for added security. This system has proven to work well, and be secure for me.
The last bit here is the leather. It’s really nice looking, and there’s quite a bit of it used on this bag. It does feel softer than I would have expected with a bit of sponge to it. It looks as though it is two thinner layers of leather stitched together so that the rough out side isn’t shown.
I wasn’t sure what to make of the leather when it came. It doesn’t feel cheap, it doesn’t feel bad, but I was curious how it would hold up and break in. I’ve been using this bag pretty hard, including some air travel and general dad-life-abuse. The leather is no worse for wear, and seems to be breaking in much slower than I expected — presumably it is more durable than my gut thought it would be. More adept leather snobs than me have given this a thumbs up, so I’ll trust them.
All in all: top notch build quality here.
In Use: Office and Gear
This bag is rated to hold 13” laptops with a max width of 13.4”. It holds my 12.9” iPad Pro beautifully. But this is a small bag, and doesn’t hold as much gear as I expected it too from the images/dimensions alone. It’s a decently compact bag, and while I was able to use it for all my office gear, it was stuffed.
When I’ve traveled with it, by the time I get on the plane, it’s also stuffed. This is both a factor of the small size, but also of who I am — and I am a minimum 14L kind of guy. The other factor here is that the waxed twill is stiff, so where a softer bag might ‘stretch’ and deform to fit your gear better, this bag doesn’t really do that right now (about a few weeks into using it) so you need to beat the bag into submission a bit to get all the volume out of it.
Oh, and yes, it looks quite waxy in person, but I’ve seen zero evidence of wax transfer on my clothing or leather seats. And that’s been in some very warm climates. A lot of the area which touches your body/clothing/seats is buffered by leather as well.
Let’s talk about three parts of this bag I found most interesting:
- Fastening system: Instead of a brass buckle, or clip, Cravar chose a brass stud. You simply push the pre-cut holes in the strap onto the brass, and it secures. I was worried these might wear out the leather quickly, so I made a point to only use the same hole during the entire testing. While it did mold slightly, it never became loose. As mentioned, you can tuck the end of the strap back through the strap keeper/guide to further secure the bag. For the first week, these were very fiddly to use, but after that they became quick and seamless. I rarely folded the tail of the strap back through, as it seemed unnecessary, and impeded how fast I could get into the bag. However, during times when I need to make sure it is secure, tucking that bit of the strap affords a surprisingly higher level of security.
- Shoulder strap: I have mixed feelings on the shoulder strap. The strap itself is fine, but the connection mechanism seems overly bulky for this small of a bag, and I have to think a simple spring loaded clasp would have been cleaner. The shoulder pad itself is nice, and the oversized length of it makes it easier to insure it’s always placed on your shoulder without much fuss. If there’s one area this bag could change, I would like to see a little less bulky of a strap overall. For this small of a bag, a cloth strap might even be preferable.
- Front pockets: the two front pockets have open tops, but (in what I can only label as magic) I’ve never had anything I put in them fall out. The lid of the bag completely wraps over this section and secures what’s in those pockets exceedingly well. So well, that it’s even difficult to sneak items into these pockets when the lid is secured in place. However, these pockets do have a dramatic taper from top to bottom, and while this helps keep the bag small, it does somewhat limit what fits well in these pockets. I had trouble getting my larger first aid kit to fit here, where it generally fits in most smaller pockets.
In my use, I found that this bag worked best when carrying few things. Carrying my iPad Pro, GR IIIx, Sunglasses, First Aid Kit, and a Shemagh is a really nice setup in this bag. Carrying all my office gear, was simply too much for it. It became a little unwieldy. Thankfully the shoulders straps mount properly at each side of the bag, instead of diagonally, or on the backside alone — this makes for the easiest carry with this type of bag.
The F.C. 13 does work surprisingly well for dad carry. It takes being tossed around the car, under plane seats, and more very well without showing scars from that. The oversized handle at the top is fantastic to snatch the bag and get moving. And I found the clasp mechanism to be something I ended up really liking day to day when I am using the bag. Because of the connections, there’s nothing on this bag to jingle around — it’s silent, a huge plus.
I also found this bag to be light by comparison to other twill/waxed bags I own — it doesn’t seem to have the same dead weight feel to it when empty. This makes it a bit nicer when you are traveling around with a lighter setup, but don’t want to move into nylon bags.
This bag has me curious about the larger F.C. 15, wondering if that might work better for me in the office. Having said that, I do think this is a really nicely made bag, with a much more unique position in the market than I expected going into it. It’s not a ‘field bag’, ‘camera bag’, or ‘laptop bag’ — it’s very much a messenger. It can handle all those roles, or none of those roles. It’s fairly agnostic to what it is carrying and it carries pretty well overall.
I’ll be interested to see how much, and how, I keep using this and for how the canvas changes with more use and wear.