How's YOUR Critical Mass?
(photo from Patagonia.com)
I was thinking about which product I'd like to discuss first, and I thought I'd start with the grandaddy of shoulder bags, the Critical Mass. This is my second CM; I upgraded after Patagonia released the updated version in 2004 (or was it 2005). Mine is Cave Blue (greyish-blue). The CM holds 2,400 cubic inches and is almost iconic among bicycle commuters and travelers.
Me, I'm just a little high school teacher who uses it to carry my laptop, lesson plans, and papers to correct. Sometimes I'll throw in a change of clothes for a quick workout and the CM takes it all beautifully. It's a great bag for an overnighter or a 2-night getaway. The laptop sleeve is padded and there are an abundance of pockets (though the one inside, above the laptop area seems a bit of a waste). The fabric seems like it could withstand a beating (though mine only sees the less-than-brutal conditions of the area behind my desk) and it's held up nicely over the last few years.
The rolled/roofed edges of the bag designed to keep rain out were a nice thought but they take away from the expandability of the bag whereas the older version would open up as big as a whale's mouth to stuff all your gear in.
The couple of times I've used it for commuting on bike, I did notice that the shoulder strap is a bit too long and actually goes far enough down to reach my spinning back tire. It could just be that I'm on the shorter side (5'8") but that does seem a problem. On the Patagonia company blog The Cleanest Line, a commenter (presumably a Patagonia employee) mentioned that issues have been raised by customers and that the bag is due for an update around the spring of '08 (see comments here:
All around: great bag and looking forward to using it for years to come. At $99 it's on the higher side of messenger bags but there's some confidence in the buyer, knowing that it is Patagonia and that it's been tested and re-tested and will hold up (even if the closest it gets to a jungle expedition is a classroom of 35 teenagers). What's your experience been with the Critical Mass? Pat Com would love to hear from you.