Timbuk2 Wingman Duffel Review


The search for a compact, lightweight, versatile carry-on duffel bag led us to the Timbuk2 Wingman. Categorized as a duffel, the Wingman has the profile of an oversized messenger bag, the loading characteristics of an upright suitcase, and the (concealed) straps of a backpack. On paper, the Timbuk2 Wingman is an ideal overnight bag or a secondary carry-on bag on long trips. In this review, we share our findings to help you decide if this versatile duffel from the famed San Francisco based company is a good purchase.

Like all of our bags, we’ve made a video review for the Timbuk2 Wingman that you can watch on our YouTube channel Tekuben Prime or below:

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Update: We’ve since gotten our hands on the Timbuk2 Wingman in the Goldrush color. Since the only difference with the Goldrush version is the color and the texture on some parts of the bag, our thoughts on the Wingman remain the same. You’ll find our quick look video review of this bag in the Goldrush color on our YouTube channel Tekuben Prime and below:

Exterior

As with the Co-Pilot, there are a total of four handles on the Wingman. All four are stitched on and having them makes handling this bag easier. There are four exterior pockets thoughtfully positioned for ease of organization. One is for dirty laundry or your shoes, one is for your tablet, one is for your laptop and one is for your small personal belongings (boarding pass, passport, receipts, etc.). The orientation of these pockets is considerate of the different ways that you may use this bag. You can carry the Wingman upright, to be worn as a backpack or carried by the side handle as a rolling suitcase without wheels. You can also carry the Wingman on its side, slung over your shoulder as a big messenger bag or carried by the top handle as a suiter briefcase. On paper and in pictures, this all sounds promising, in action, continue to read on.

When picking which color Wingman to go with, know that color isn’t the only difference between them. The Blue Voodoo that we have here in this review has a canvas texture, whereas the Goldrush version of the bag has a smoother polyester feel. Preferences for color and texture aside, we notice that the canvas of the Blue Voodoo was easier to scuff on our wood table when we made the video review.

All zippers found on the Wingman are made by YKK, which is a high quality zipper manufacturer that we now understand to be the go-to manufacturer of high quality zippers. YKK zippers are not only found in the luggage industry, but in the apparel industry as well. Take a look at the zippers on your favorite jacket or fleece – there’s a decent chance that it’s made by YKK.

The shoulder strap is decent enough but if you will use the strap often and expect to carry a load, Timbuk2 does have a better strap pad called the Super Strap Pad that we’d recommend looking into.

The backpack straps are concealed. They’re easy to take out and the mechanism for hooking the ends of the strap onto the bag, turning the Wingman into a backpack, is simple. Carrying the Wingman on your back may take some time getting used to given its size.

Overall, the exterior is quite handsome and we like the promise of versatility that the appearance holds. The overall size is suitable for usage as a carry-on for most non-budget airlines. Now, let’s take a look at the interior.

Interior

The Wingman has a clamshell design, similar to suitcases. This design makes it easy to load and unload the main compartment.

“That’s BLUE!” was our first thought when opening up the Blue Voodoo Wingman. While we had peeks at the lining when opening the exterior pockets, it’s not quite the same effect as seeing it when the bag is completely open. You may not have to be a fan of the color to appreciate it as the lining has the practical benefit of providing contrast for what you pack, making it easier perhaps for you to spot things.

The interior of the Timbuk2 Wingman is roomy as you may expect. There are two straps to help keep your clothes from shifting around too much. We found these to be insufficient given the amount of room there is and the lack of frame support.

There is a zippered pocket on the interior of the door side. We’ve seen this kind of “full length door pocket” before and rarely find it to be of much use given the lack of depth that it offers. Good for sheets of paper we suppose.

If you didn’t notice it before, looking at the interior will make you realize that one of the long sides of the bag (bottom when the duffel is used on its side and left if the duffel is upright) has slightly more depth than the opposite side, resulting in appearing as a base.

Overall

There is not another bag on the market like the Timbuk2 Wingman. For better or worse, this is the only bag that we’ve found that can be either a duffel or a backpack, while looking like a messenger.

What’s the expression? Jack of all trades, master of none…?

We really wanted to love the Wingman. One bag that fits on most flights as a carry-on that can be used in three different ways. We’re all for it. But after handling it, it’s not a bag we can fully recommend at this time.

The problem with the bag is that there’s no clear cut way to use it. The promise of versatility may not be a beneficial feature after all. Yes, it can be carried around with any of its handles, slung on a shoulder like a messenger or worn as a backpack, but it is awkward in nearly every orientation. We struggled with just what the best way is for using this bag. At the end, we believe that slinging it over the shoulder is the most natural position. When used that way, the Wingman looks like a garment bag but it doesn’t have any of the features of a garment bag. If you plan to orient the bag as a messenger and use the handle to carry it, know that the handle on the top side is not centrally positioned, making the bag unbalanced when carrying it that way.

The problem is gravity. When used either upright or on the side, the things you pack will shift in position and weight to the bottom of the bag unless it is completely packed. True with any bag. With the Wingman however, given the lack of frame support, your items push and bulge out, distorting the rectangular shape and making the bag unwieldy. Using the buckle straps on the interior to tie down your items may help but only a bit. Using packing cubes to keep the interior organized and supported may be the solution.

The messenger shape and design may only work up to a certain size. Given the carrying capacity offered by the Wingman, we feel it’s better off to get a bag shaped like a standard duffel, such as Timbuk2’s own Navigator duffel not wide and flat like this Wingman for the sake of ergonomics.

How can Timbuk2 improve the Wingman?

We still like the idea and the overall look of the Timbuk2 Wingman. We just feel it has room for improvement. We’d like to see Timbuk2 add in corner support to uphold the shape of the Wingman. It may  add to the overall weight which is one of the features of the bag, but it would go a long way to make this bag easier to use.

We’d also like to see a better placement for the handle on the opening long side of the bag as that too will help with the ergonomics of carrying the bag on the side.

Perhaps adding suit/dress friendly features and shifting the marketing of the Wingman from a duffel/backpack to a suiter/garment/backpack would make it a more attractive product. As of this review, Timbuk2 does not offer a garment bag.

Summary

We had high hopes for the Timbuk2 Wingman. We were excited when we found it and looked forward to using it on our trip through Asia. However, after considering the ease and comfort of using it, we decided against it and elected to go with another duffel.

Perhaps our concerns with this bag is just that – ours. Perhaps we’re more traditionalists than we thought, preferring the classic rectangular form of a duffel like the Eagle Creek. In the end, while we’re impressed with the materials (on the Goldrush version) and the pocket designs, we are left wanting more from the Timbuk2 Wingman.

 

Specs

Model: Timbuk2 Wingman Carry On Travel Bag

Size: Medium

Color: Blue Voodoo

Style Number: 528-4-4160

Similar Styles: 528-4-2119; 528-4-7744; 528-4-1010; 528-4-2000

Dimensions (As provided by Timbuk2)

20.9″ Tall x 15.7″ Wide x 7.9″ Deep  or 53 cm x 40 cm x 20 cm

Capacity: 2,441 cu.in or 40L

Weight: N/A

Warranty: Timbuk2 Lifetime Warranty

If you’re undeterred and want someone else to know about the Timbuk2 Wingman, send them this videogram:


Ratings (relative to other bags in its class)
  • Weight
  • Carry Capacity
  • Handling
  • Organization
  • Appearance
  • Warranty
  • Value
3.3

Summary

The Timbuk2 Wingman has room for improvement. As it is, we would not recommend this duffel over Timbuk2’s own Navigator.

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James

I’ve travelled a bit with one of these, including using it as my luggage for a three week Baltic adventure. I agree that the bag lacks self-support, but as you guessed, packing cubes can quickly solve that, in combination with the interior compression straps. I like that it only weighs 1 kg – when your carry on is limited to 10 kilos, you want your bag to account for as little of that as possible. The bag may not be a garment bag, but that didn’t stop me from packing a light wool suit into it, between the padded back… Read more »