The Chrome Industries Citizen messenger bag has been tested and refined by professional urban messengers for over 20 years and has become Chrome’s flagship product.
There are three key features that set this messenger bag apart from most others:
- It is among the most weather-proof messenger bags on the market.
- The shoulder strap is far more comfortable than competitors like Timbuk2.
- The quick-release buckle system eliminates lifting and twisting your neck to get the bag on
The Chrome Citizen is an all-weather professional messenger bag with a very comfortable carry. The TPU coated main-compartment keeps everything bone dry even in the most torrential rains. A broad sling-style shoulder strap distributes the weight evenly and features Chrome’s signature quick-release seat buckle and stabilizer strap which prevents sway.
The Chrome Citizen was listed at $150 at the time of publishing this article. Prices do fluctuate and you can often get some good sales.
- Capacity: 24L
- Fabric: 1000D Cordura Nylon
- Dual-internal side pockets
- Waterproof 18oz TPE tarp Lining
- Clean/dirty internal divider
- Dual Compression strap closures
- Front and rear reflective hits
- Shoulder strap accessory loops
- Quick-release shoulder buckle
- Quick-Adjust mechanism with bottle opener
- YKK zippered front pocket
- Front pen/flashlight pockets
- Front device pocket
- Large front slash pocket
- Internal mount for Chrome accessories
- Lifetime Warranty
- Very Durable
- Very comfortable shoulder strap
- Extreme Rain protection
- Generous capacity
- Quick Release buckle
- Very stable-no sway
- No top carry handle
- Laptop sleeve is extra
- Not reversible: Left-shoulder carry only
Context: I’m not a cyclist. Nonetheless, for the past 5 years I’ve exclusively used a Timbuk2 messenger bag for commuting and travel. Over that time I’ve discovered plenty of things that work and don’t work in a messenger bag.
First Impressions of the Citizen Messenger Bag
- It’s bigger than I thought: When I pulled the Chrome Citizen out of the box, 24L capacity seemed to dwarf my 18L Timbuk2. This messenger is a serious hauler.
- A simple, functional design: This is a common theme I see in durable designs…they are tough, uncomplicated, and well-thought-out.
- The Shoulder strap rocks: Far more comfortable, stable, and easy to put on than my Timbuk2…plus the seat buckle release is cool looking.
- No water bottle pockets? Actually, yes there are, but it took me a day to realize there are two large water bottle pockets hidden inside the main compartment. They are not immediately obvious.
Quality & Workmanship
The Chrome Citizen is now made in Vietnam rather than the USA. While I didn’t have the older USA-made version to compare it with in the Chrome Citizen review, I see very little to complain about in terms of quality with the Vietnam version.
The stitching is tight and even with reinforced box stitches on stress points. The main adjustment buckle, quick-release buckles are solid metal and the YKK zipper runs smooth and snag free.
I did find a couple small thread ends that hadn’t been trimmed and I would have liked to have seen double stitching along the lip of the flap and around the mouth of the main compartment.
Comfort & Carry
It is clear to me why so many professional messengers use this bag. It carries a heavy load very, very comfortably– no pinching or rubbing or slipping which were a problem with my Timbuk2 Commute.
It took me a few tries before I figured out how to properly put this bag on…its not like other messengers but it is a lot easier to put on especially if the bag is heavy.
When the stabilizer strap is in place there is absolutely no way the bag will slip to the side or sway (a problem with my Timbuk2)
This bag is a professional work-horse especially suited for inclement weather. The Citizen is intensely practical and its professional messenger DNA shows.
It has some front pockets but has little internal organization. For that you’ll have to get accessory pieces for things like a laptop, camera, or an organizer.
The waterproof liner floats inside the main compartment enabling you to separate dirty from clean or wet from dry (great for the gym.)
A top handle would be a been nice addition to the Citizen. I like having multiple carry options at work, not just shoulder carry.
The most stylish aspect of this bag isn’t the bag. It’s the broad main strap. The retro buckle, and accessory loops give this bag a substantial yet understated look
The Citizen messenger is available in quite a few color schemes, and Chrome is constantly updating the lineup. One of their best sellers is the Night version which features a large reflective back panel for safety.
Hint: If you want your messenger to pop a little I’d get a version of the Citizen with the red buckle instead of black.
The shoulder strap is the single best design aspect of the Chrome Citizen messenger bag and separates it from most others in the area of comfort.
Beyond the impressive comfort factor it also features reflective hits, accessory loops, a quick-adjust buckle, quick release buckle and a stabilizer strap.
The strap is widened at the shoulder, which is why it is so comfortable compared to other messengers. This distributes the weight very evenly across the shoulder without discomfort or friction points.
The Chrome Citizen is carried cross-body on the left shoulder. It is not reversible to the right shoulder.
Quick-Release Retro Seat-Buckle
The cross-body shoulder strap’s retro seat-buckle doesn’t just look cool it’s a very practicle design feature unique to Chrome Industries. Basically, it makes mounting and dismounting the bag super-easy compared to most messenger bags.
Even when the Chrome Citizen is fully loaded you’ll never have to raise your hands above your head to get it on. Simply grab the top portion of the shoulder strap, sling the bag to your left shoulder, then reach down with your right hand and buckle the bottom half to the top half.
Advantages to this system:
- Eliminates the awkward contortion of lifting the strap of a fully-loaded bag over your head.
- Eliminates the constant need to loosen the strap (to get it on)then re-adjust it to keep it snug it up. The strap length only needs to be set once to fit you.
Just below the quick-release buckle is an easy adjustment buckle that doubles as a bottle opener. Pushing the buckle forward to releases tension, then simply pull the strap to cinch the bag up nice and snug or loosen it up.
Since messenger bags are cross-slung they tend to slide to the lowest side as you walk or ride. It’s a nagging frustration I had with my Timbuk2. I found myself constantly pushing it back and readjusting it as I navigated airport concourses.
The stabilizer strap on the Chrome Citizen fixes all that and works very well.
It provides an anchor point to prevent the load from shifting or swaying. Once you have the bag on your back the adjustable stabilizer strap runs under the left arm and clips into the main strap.
The Chrome Citizen is over-engineered to withstand far more than consumer-grade bags. This bag is made from 1000D water-repellant Cordura. It has very high abrasion resistance and excellent tear strength.
Cordura fabric is often used in military applications and is widely regarded as one of the most durable fabrics available in the luggage industry.
“1000D”(Denier) is the textile industry standard measurement for the weight/density of the fabric. For some perspective, most decent quality bags are made of 600D nylon.
The Chrome Citizen messenger bag is among the most weather-proof messenger bags out there. The thick, waterproof liner keeps everything bone-dry even in driving monsoon rains.
The liner itself is made of a rugged 18 oz. TPU(Thermoplastic polyurethane) commonly used in dry-bags for white-water rafters or truck tarps. The tub-style design of the liner insures your belongings are secure and dry.
The large top flap sheds water like a roof, covers the front pockets and prevents side-entry of water.
No matter the color scheme you choose, the Chrome Citizen comes with front and rear reflective hits. For this Chrome Citizen review I chose the the best selling Night series is much more visible at a night.
The shoulder strap has a front-facing ribbon of reflective material to warn oncoming traffic while the closure straps on the flap keep you visible to traffic behind you.
The best choice for those who are out after dark is the Night series. It features a large reflective panel and stripe on the lid flap.
Optional Laptop Sleeve
The Chrome Citizen is large enough to swallow a 17″ Macbook Pro. One size does not fit all though…imagine a 13″ laptop slamming around in a 17″ sleeve.
So, instead, Chrome offers accessory laptop sleeves in different sizes that mount to a hook and loop system inside the main compartment.
I got the medium size sleeve and my 13″ Mac Pro fits perfectly.
The optional laptop sleeve is constructed from the same 1000D Cordura nylon as the bag itself and features two wrap-around YKK zippers with pulls. The inside is padded and lined with a soft felt.
Internal Side pockets
As I mentioned earlier, at first I thought there was no water bottle pocket. There are actually two large side pockets located inside main compartment on either side.
Floating Wet/Dry Divider
Two velcro-style closures allow you to pull the TPU liner away from the wall creating a large secondary pocket to separate dirty sneakers or wet items from messing up your stuff.
Its a handy place for stow your sneakers, gym clothes.
All five external front pockets are protected from exposure by the TPU lined top flap.
Large Slash Pocket & Zip Pocket
The front slash pocket is a convenient quick-access large enough for things like a bicycle U-lock, computer power cord, or travel documents at the boarding gate.
Keys, change, charging cables and Air Pods go in the zip pocket.
Use this slot for your phone or battery power supply. If you prefer to have the phone closer to you, Chrome offers an optional phone pocket that you can mount to the shoulder strap.
Pen / Flashlight or Pocketknife
A reliable pen, EDC flashlight and a Swiss army multi-tool..what more do you need?
The Chrome Citizen is designed as a platform for a wide variety of professionals. The idea is to build onto it and customize to your needs.
Chrome offers a good lineup of accessories for the Citizen which are worth considering:
The Chrome Citizen is an understated, simple, and rugged workhorse. Internal organization isn’t its strong suit, but it makes up for it with unrivaled comfort when carrying a load. The other compelling feature is the unique quick-release shoulder strap system.
It’s hard to go wrong with this bag. Buyer’s remorse is rare. The 24L may be more capacity than you need. If so, then I’d recommend looking at the 20.5L Mini Metro. It’s virtually identical just smaller.
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