When I ordered a waxed poly version of the Chrome Industries Citizen I was excited. I had never owned a Chrome Industries bag tho I have had messenger bags before. The Citizen I had heard was special. Did it live up to my expectations? Only a long term review will tell!
Waxed poly from Chrome you might ask? Yes, they have done a limited run of some of their popular bags in their popular synthetic fabric and waxed them for a heritage feel. Waxed canvas ages and builds character in addition to improving water resistance.
I went for the Chrome Citizen because it is a good size and is iconic. I had tried one on in the PDX Chrome Industries store and enjoyed the fit. I have modest carry needs in a commuter bag but every now and again I need to carry something more. The Citizen gets me that extra space when I need it without being giant the rest of the time.
So I got the bag in the mail and proceeded to use it as my daily commuter bag for three months. In that time I have come to find that it is not the bag for me but it is a great bag.
Here’s what went well.
If there is one thing I will say about Chrome’s bags it’s that the padded shoulder strap is well executed. I have never liked the add-on velcro shoulder strap pad that many other messenger bags come with. The Citizen rides higher on your back and sort of hugs you. This paired with the stabilizing strap means it stays in place reasonably well.
The waxed poly fabric looks great and does seem to build character. It also takes marks a little easier but all in all it achieves a heritage feel. Where the bag bends a lot the wax leaves whiteish marks. It isn’t any stiffer like some waxed canvas bags I have seen.
You can fit a lot of stuff in it. Mostly your stuff settles in the lower half of the bag but if you pack a jacket in too and use the straps you can keep stuff where you put it for the most part.
So what didn’t work?
While wearing this bag your back does not get any air. If its a cool crisp day then perhaps that is fine. If it’s hot your back turns into a sweaty swampy mess. Perhaps that’s fine as you cruise through town on your bike but it’s less fine when you need to keep up a professional appearance.
If you carry a laptop in this bag it will slide down to the bottom corner and poke you. Chrome Industries sells a padded laptop add-on for a reason. This bag sucks at carrying a laptop without it. The Buran is a sibling bag that has one built in but the Citizen is largely wide open with minimal organization options. For three months I worked around this issue and my laptop survived just fine but I had to be ever mindful of it.
I thought I would like the buckle on the shoulder strap and its functionality is kind of nice in some situations. Mostly when I have headphones on and I don’t want to take them off to take the bag off or on it’s very helpful. The entire rest of the time its a large chunk of metal swinging around hitting things.
I suspect that messenger bags of this size might just not be for me. I don’t like the stress on my shoulder from carrying a heavy load on one side. I don’t like that the giant flap gets in the way when you open it while wearing it.
I love the look. I love the adjustable shoulder strap and even the buckle has its charm but it’s not a great commuter bag.
Who is this bag for?
The Chrome Citizen is and has always been targeted at bike messengers. The large main compartment with little organization and no laptop sleeve is generally what you want to carry unknown quantities of strange shaped boxes and envelopes. The buckle enables quick on and off and the material waxed or not is rugged and durable.
If you love the high stance this bag wears at or you love the style in general this bag will make you very happy.
Who is this bag not for?
Commuters that need organization, laptop access, or to carry heavy or balanced loads should look elsewhere. Do consider a backpack for heavy loads but for the other issues there are other messenger bags on the market that carry a laptop and some essentials better.