A good friend is hard to find. The same applies to messenger bags – there are plenty of duds out there, and if you’re going to be spending a lot of time with that strap around your neck then you’ll want something reliable. Enter the Outdoor Research Rangefinder.

Outdoor Research Rangefinder Features:

  • Rainproof TPU-laminated exterior fabric
  • EVA foam back panel
  • Drawcord cinch closure
  • Rustic, faux leather patches
  • Built-in laptop sleeve
  • MSRP: $129
Outdoor Research Rangefinder Messenger Bag Review

The Rangefinder offers quite a resemblance to Jabba the Hut, but Princess Lea is not included.

Haul your stuff, keep it dry and look cool

The OR Rangefinder has been a faithful friend for the last few months as I dealt with commuting in Spokane’s rainy spring months and hauled around my textbooks for my last days of being a student. It’s really a perfect fit for Pacific Northwest culture – a woodsy, heathered brown fabric complemented by faux leather accents lends itself to imagery of bears and pine sap. It’s all about the look, right?

The layout of the bag is pretty straightforward. There’s a main pocket with a drawstring closure and weatherproof top flap, as well as a zippered exterior pocket that contains three small organizational pockets. The main strap is thickly padded and there’s a slim webbing retainer strap for keeping it in place while cycling. This thick padding throughout the entire strap isn’t really necessary – it only needs to be padded where it touches your shoulder. The result is added bulk.

The main flap secure with two sturdy buckles and it, along with the bottom, are fully weatherproofed with a glossy polyurethane coating. The messenger bag handles rain like a champ – it’s kept my laptop and a few rather precious books totally dry during downpours that I didn’t expect and was otherwise unprepared for. You can’t submerge it, obviously, but it’s just right for the rain.

Outdoor Research Rangefinder Messenger Bag Review

The main 18L pocket can accommodate plenty of the usual messenger bag stuff

The overall storage capacity is 18L, which is good basically for a Macbook, a couple of books, chargers, headphones in their case and perhaps a slimmish waterbottle. It’s not designed for hauling major loads, though some will appreciate the more minimalist organizational approach; you’re not overwhelmed with pockets and zippers. In general, I think it’s fair to say that the pack doesn’t carry as well when loaded on a bicycle as a something like a Chrome bag does. The fit is odd, and the bag really drifts off to one side or the other and the retainer strap isn’t up to the task of keeping it in place. Additionally, the drawstring closure is an odd addition, since pulling it closed turns the opening into a circle rather than a nice long rectangular opening which the top flap is optimized to cover. In fairness, Chrome bags are generally at least $30 or $40 more expensive and are quite a bit heavier for their size.

Overall, though, the construction is bomber throughout and it’s nice to know that it’s backed up by Outdoor Research’s revered Infinity Guarantee. It’s definitely a bag that I’d feel good about buying to use hard every day, though it’s also the case that you can get considerably more refined messenger bags for a heftier price from somebody like Chrome.

OR Rangefinder Review

Faux leather accents and subdued branding fit in the city

The Good

  • Padded laptop sleeve and organizational pockets keep you moving
  • Drawstring closure and PU coating ensures totally rainproof hauling
  • Strap design is straightforward and secure
  • External waterbottle pocket is a nice touch and can squeeze a Nalgene

The Bad

  • Strap design could be more secure for cycling
  • Drawstring closure is a little weird

The Bottom Line: OR Rangefinder

If you’re woodsy but don’t want to look like you’re on the PCT all the time, the Rangefinder is a pretty good fit for urban environments. It’s durable, weatherproof and can haul all of the essentials.

Buy now: Available from Backcountry.com

About Author

Kevin Glover is an outdoorsman living, climbing and biking in Spokane, WA. Originally from the Nevada high desert, he moved to the PNW for its mild winters and allergen-free summers. He has guided throughout the Cascades and Enchantments for Peak 7 Adventures.

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