As a travel writer, I am always on the go. Whether it’s a months-long international trip or a few days’ short getaway, I demand travel gear that is rugged, long-lasting and well-made; as well as something that suits my needs with the proper size, compartments, carrying options and such.

All that being said, the typical travel gear that is made in standard (boring) black, gray or drab neutrals doesn’t do anything for me. Like with electronics, I constantly wonder why it is that 80% of travel gear must look so much alike, and so standard-issue pedestrian. I might have demanding needs in terms of durability and usability, but I don’t want to sacrifice style, either. I want something that I find cool and interesting, something that isn’t just like what everyone else has.

That’s why I was pretty excited when I discovered Rickshaw Bagworks. I had spent days doing research, trying to find cool day bags that were fun and stylish as well as meeting my needs. Although I had found a few possible contenders, nothing was really jazzing me until I finally stumbled upon Rickshaw. It seemed to have everything I needed and wanted: Durable bags ranging from backpacks and totes to laptop and messenger bags, and totally customizable. Each customer can completely design their own bag, choosing from a large selection of nylon, waxed canvas, performance tweed and waterproof x-pac material – with dozens of great colors to choose from.

You can choose the exterior color, interior color and binding material. You can then mix and match with an assortment of extras if you wish, from removable interior zipper compartments, phone and tablet cases, cross straps, reflective strips and even cool patches.

The result is a bag that is totally you, and unique to any others. This I dug, but it wasn’t the only thing that caught my eye about Rickshaw Bagworks. I liked their commitment to minimalist, sustainable design – some of their materials include the performance tweed which is 100% recycled polyester, and a product line called “Bottles to Bags” with an exterior made from 100% post-consumer recycled beverage bottles. The San Francisco-based company was started simply to make the kind of bags that the founders wanted to have for themselves. As the website states: “We know how people love their bags. We think it’s cool-if not kind of weird-the way people grow attached to their favorite bag as though it were a pet or loved-one.”

I ended up ordering the Medium Zero Messenger bag, which I customized with the Earl Grey performance tweed accented with cordora nylon in mandarin orange and turquoise. I also added the waterproof liner, a pad for the shoulder strap and a removable interior zipper pocket. My need is to carry around my camera and extra lens, as well as the daily items I carry with me when traveling or working such as my phone, wallet, notepad, water bottle and miscellaneous items. I also wanted a bag that was big enough to carry my iPad or laptop when I wanted to.

The day my bag came, I was pretty excited. Only a few days later I was packing my new Rickshaw bag to take on a seven week trip through Ecuador, Panama and Costa Rica.

So – how did the bag work for me and hold up on a daily basis when traveling and using it?

I have to say, stellar. First of all, the bag looks great. I got a lot of compliments on it. Second, the manufacture of it is clearly high quality; it’s rugged, and I can see it lasting a very long time, even with what I put bags through.

It was the perfect size for my needs, considering that I wanted to be able to fit my laptop in when needed. However, I debated about getting the Small Messenger Bag and just toting my iPad and phone in it, because of the smaller size and lighter weight. In the end, I knew I would sometimes want to be able to carry my laptop so I opted for the medium size, even though it’s a bit bulkier.

Even so, it was not burdensome to carry. Even when I had everything in it for flights and other travel days – my laptop, camera, wallet, snacks, toiletries, rain jacket and sometimes other items – it could be a bit heavy but was manageable. The cross-body strap distributes the weight well, and the extra pad that I bought for the strap definitely helps considering all the things I am sometimes carrying in it.
The bag is easy to get into when needed, but for extra security I opted for the two additional bag buckles to give additional closure to the strong velcro.

The bag worked well for me on the whole trip, and stood up to about anything I put it through. It still looks brand new, and I can’t wait to take it on my next trip. All in all, my end vote for my Rickshaw Bagworks messenger bag is a big thumbs-up – it was exactly what I was looking for, and more.