Gadling gear review: Keen Harrison 15 messenger bag

When setting out on any trip these days, a good carry-on bag is one of the best items that you can have at your disposal. Considering we rarely leave home without our laptops, tablets, iPods, and various other gadgets, the ability to carry all of that gear comfortably and safely is a high priority. It doesn’t hurt if that same bag can help us quickly and easily navigate through airport security checkpoints while still managing to look good in the process.

The Harrison 15 messenger bag from Keen meets all of that criteria and then some. Designed from the ground up for travel, this bag has plenty of options that frequent fliers will definitely appreciate. It not only features two large compartments for carrying a laptop, iPad, or file folders, but also includes an interior mesh pocket and a larger exterior pocket located just under the lid. All of those storage options come in handy and are extremely helpful in keeping us organized while on the go. The bag’s wide shoulder strap allows travelers to carry large loads with aplomb, while its high quality zippers and Velcro fasteners keep interior items safe and secure as well.

Built from water resistant fabrics and sporting heavy duty buckles, the Harrison 15 is also designed to handle the rigors of day-to-day use without showing too much wear and tear. I’ve been using the bag on an almost daily basis for a number of weeks now, and it still looks like it just came off the rack. That speaks well for the overall build quality of the Harrison, which should prove to be a loyal and sturdy travel companion for many years to come.
Perhaps the best feature of this bag is that it doesn’t require travelers to remove their laptops for inspection by airport security. The Harrison 15 conforms to new TSA specifications that allow computers to stay safely inside their protective sleeves while passing through the x-ray machine, keeping them well away from prying eyes or a potentially tragic fate on the airport floor. As someone who rarely travels without his laptop, this was a major selling point in favor of this bag. There is an undeniable sense of satisfaction that comes with breezing through security as quickly and effortlessly as possible, and the Harrison 15 can help accomplish that.

Traditionally I prefer to use a small backpack as my carry-on bag, but I found some nice benefits in going with the messenger style instead. For starters, it provided more convenient access to the various items stored inside the bag and kept everything well organized too. The shoulder strap design also provides hands-free access to the interior, which is much appreciated when juggling passports, boarding passes, and a cell phone while standing in line.

The Harrison 15 won’t completely replace my backpack however, as I found that it doesn’t carry larger loads quite as nicely as I’d like. For instance, while it was great for hauling my Macbook Air and iPad, along with other basic travel items, adding a DSLR camera to the mix made the bag overly bulky and less comfortable to wear. This may simply be a personal preference of course, but for me, the messenger bag was much better suited for lighter tasks.

That said, the Harrison isn’t just for travel. Commuters will find that it is an excellent bag for general day-to-day use and I’m sure that more than a few students will enjoy using it on campus as well. This is a durable and versatile bag that helps keep you organized and provides plenty of space to carry all of your gear. With a price tag of $110, it is an affordable option for someone looking for a high quality carry-on for their next trip, that can also pull double-duty while at home.