Kona has long been synonymous with bulletproof durability. Their downhill and freeride bikes have been flogged by the world’s top riders for as long as I can remember. So, when it comes to their Project 2 line of messenger bags, I’d expect nothing less than bombproof.

Kona Project 2 Backpack Features:

  • Fits laptops up to 16″
  • Built in safety light with replaceable battery compartment
  • Bomber, water-shedding 1000D Cordura fabric
  • Expandable pocket adds 20% additional space
  • Protective laptop compartment with H20 proof zipper
  • Ergo shoulder and chest strap system
  • 100% lifetime guarantee and then some
  • Colors: Black or Blue (tested)
  • Weight: 3 lbs. 13 oz.
  • MSRP: $149.95

Kona Project 2 Backpack Review

Kona Project 2 Backpack Review

Bike commuting is becoming more and more common these days and having just the right backpack or messenger bag is even more important. With that, carrying laptops, tablets and other important items requires bags with specialized compartments and proper weatherproofing. These bags are actually manufactured by the bag maker Brenthaven.

The Project 2 lineup includes a messenger and this backpack — each built with bombproof Cordura exteriors and waterproof dry bag compartments inside. For the die-hard commuter, these bags will keep your expensive laptop dry and protected. A co-worker just recently slipped on some ice on the way into the office and his Macbook got dented. If he had the Project 2, I’d venture to say he’d have a better looking laptop right now. I’ve been very impressed with the padding this bag provides and overall protection of the waterproof laptop sleeve.

Kona Project 2 Backpack Review

For 6 months, I carried a Macbook Pro 15 and now I carry a Macbook Pro 13 Retina and iPad — all in the laptop sleeve. On top fo that, I can slip in a few important papers and keep everything protected and dry. The waterproof zippers are easy to pull open and provide a wide opening for unfettered access. I insist on a top-loading laptop sleeve. While side-loaders may be more convenient, all it takes is one time to forget zipping it up and your laptop is flopping on the ground.

The low-profile Project 2 backpack can expand to carry a weekend full of gear or all your bike commuting — more on that later. When not expanded, the Project 2 has a really low profile and carries itself well with enough space for a day’s worth of stuff. Most of the time, I find myself carrying cycling clothing or other gear for lunchtime adventures. The plastic-lined interior keeps the stinky clothes at bay without seeping into the fabric or other compartments.

Kona Project 2 Backpack Review

The three external zippered pockets offer ample storage for AC power adapters and other misc. items. The back even includes a built-in flashing light for extra visibility. The external pockets are great, but I’d suggest having a few sleeves for small items so they aren’t clanging around inside there. The combination lid/pocket covers the top of the pack and attaches via a single stretchy buckle strap. While this strap allows for expansion when the bag is stuffed to the gills, it tends to go to full-extended mode, which causes the end of the elastic to nearly get sucked into the buckle. Getting it back out can sometimes be a bit of a pain.

Wearability is good overall with comfortable shoulder straps and back panel. Breathability is better than most, but not quite best-in-class. All this burly construction does make for a little heavier bag, but the extra heft keeps it as nice as the first day it arrived. The shoulder straps and sternum strap keep everything in place while walking or riding. This brings me to my biggest gripe and it’s the piped bottom of the pack. While it adds to durability, it really digs into my back and tends to sit just above my pants and ends up pushing my pants down. No matter how much I try to adjust it, that back panel pushes on the top of my pants and slightly digs into my back.

As I mentioned above, the pack can be expanded to carry a weekend’s worth of gear. I’ve taken several trips and have been able to easily fit 2-3 days worth of gear inside — including a pair of running shoes. Fully-loaded, it feels comfortable (aside from that lower rib) and carries well.

The Good

  • Rugged exterior withstands serious abuse
  • Waterproof lined compartments keep essentials dry
  • Top-loading laptop compartment easily fits my 15″ Macbook Pro
  • Shoulder straps are comfortable
  • Winged waist design keeps the pack in place without a waistbelt
  • Low profile design carries well
  • Expandable main compartment allows carrying of larger items (helmet, shoes or a weekend full of stuff)

The Bad

  • Rib at the base of the back panel digs into your lower back
  • Burly Cordura = heavy
  • Could use some organization sleeves in the pockets

Bottom Line: Kona Project 2 Backpack

Just like a Kona bike, the Kona Project 2 is built to last. With a nod to protection and weather resistance, the Project 2 is no lightweight, but will protect your expensive electronics and personal items should you need to ride in a steady Northwest rain.

Buy Now: Available at Brenthaven.com

About Author

A native of the Pacific Northwest, Jason quickly developed a love for the outdoors and a thing for mountains. That infatuation continues as he founded this site in 1999 -- sharing his love of road biking, mountain biking, trail running and skiing. That passion is channeled into every article or gear review he writes. Utah's Wasatch Mountains are his playground.


  1. Appreciate the feedback, Jason. We definitely agree that the heavy-duty CORDURA® fabric will help the Kona Project 2 bag last for miles and miles.
    CORDURA(R) Brand
    Account Manager

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