Messenger bags have been around for a while and have certainly gained popularity for the past decade due to their simple yet diverse carry capability design. Teaming up with EGL (Extreme Gear Labs), Maxpedition now offers some unique variants to cater to the tactical and hard use markets. Currently 2 models are available; the Larkspur and the Gleneagle. Although the Larkspur is labeled as small I think most would consider it a beefy medium and the Gleneagle is labeled Large which it certainly is. Since both bags feature all the same core design features I have put them together for a dual review.
The main bag material is the 1000 D Maxpedition is known to use which although isn't waterproof, it is pretty darn water resistant. I think some of the classic biker messenger bags get carried away with their waterproofing acting like people haul loads of open tissues in hurricanes. Even then the sides of the flap usually are possible leak areas. Anyway my point is these bags offer solid water resistance, but if you really are worried about water, go get a real water proof bag over at Watershed. 2" webbing is used for the shoulder strap and as a nice touch one continuous piece is used which sewn to the bottom of the bag. This adds both bag holding durability and shoulder strap strength. No shoulder pad is included, perhaps since most messenger bags don't have one, but if desired one can be purchased as an affordable add-on. There is only 1 SRB so it promotes the bag being worn on the left side of the body for quick release capability. It would have been nice to have 2 SRB buckles for ambidextrous capability, but not a super big deal. The shoulder strap itself has a lot of slack to accommodate many body sizes using the tri-glide adjuster.
Staying with the common messenger bag format, the main closure is a big ass flap that uses two 1" SRB buckles to secure. A generous amount of loop velcro is available for patches or nametapes. This setup is great for adjustability on load sizes, however kinda slow speed wise where the SRB buckles must be released or buckled when fully opening or closing the bag. To get around this classic drawback, there is a crafty double zipper on the upper back to allow quick bag access. The opening may not be as large as when the flap is open, however it works great for quick item grabs. A substantial handle is also on the upper back. Due to the placement it is more of a grab handle since when carrying it by only this handle the bag will hang at a tilt angle. The extra large piece of fabric on the back is somewhat sneaky where even I didn't know what the hell it was till I asked. Turns out, it is so you can easily mount the bags on roller luggage that have the telescoping handles. I'm kinda conflicted on the feature where it works as intended, however I don't think many messenger bag users travel with rolling luggage as well. In my opinion a simple sleeve pocket would be more useful. Also on the back is a 1" SRB waist strap setup that is good for securing the bag during movement. It is modular so can be removed if the user feels they will never use it.
With the main flap opened, 2 fairly large utility pouches are accessible that use velcro closure. The sizing on these is nice where they help item organization while still having good holding capacity. These pockets are also more fancy then they first appear in which there is a good dose of loop velcro on the inside and sleeve pockets are behind these pockets with their own strip of loop velcro. This allows for multiple flap management options where one can have it secured down in the pocket or fold it over and tucked in the back sleeve. The amount of loop velcro inside the pockets is pretty good, however do not go all the way down so will limit which modular velcro pouches will function well. There are also tube pockets on the sides of the bag which do not require the flap to be up to access. They use velcro flaps and have diagonal shaped ends as a nice touch. Unfortunately these are pretty skinny and tall making them limited to mostly holding collapsible batons. Common medium flashlights are shorter thus get lost down in the pocket while most big flashlights are too thick to fit. As a work around one can put "filler" in the bottom of the pockets, however it would have just been nice to have pocket size variety on these side pockets rather than both being the same.
On the interior the main flap itself has a slim yet large single zippered pocket good for documents and or smaller items. The main compartment is more protected than most messenger bags including a double zipper closure with rain flaps. This causes loss of the large opening some may enjoy on classic messenger bags, however gives huge security improvements. With these Maxpedition designs, users can leave the main compartment open with the flap secured to allow fast access through the flap zipper or, have both the main compartment and flap closed for full security. For some reason the double zippers to the main compartment have no pull cords which sucks as they tend to hide under the rain flaps. This makes usage quite a hassle, but luckily is easily fixed cheaply by adding any sort of pull cords. Having rain flaps at all is somewhat odd since that is the main flap's job, but perhaps this is to allow users options to roll with the main flap open. Inside the main compartment the space is simplistic yet lined with fuzzy loop velcro goodness. The front and back is lined completely with loop giving full modular velcro pouch possibilities. As a bonus even the slim sides have some loop, enough to hold the smaller attachments. To clarify, no velcro pouches are included, but I do show some in the pics that Maxpedition offers. They add a lot of customization options rather than being stuck with just a slim sleeve and a couple pen pockets like on typical messenger bags.
Those familiar with fancy bike messenger bags will likely note these bags don't have fancy shoulder strap adjustments or cross straps, but from what I can tell that was just not the intended demographic. I pondered about adding backup velcro closure for the main flap, however this may poorly affect the 2 front pouches and is less of a need with the addition of main compartment zipper access. For the Larkspur and Gleneagle I think they achieve a solid tactical variant of a messenger bag to be used on foot or vehicular travel. Although there are similarities, these bags differ from other Maxpedition shoulder bag designs such as the Operator in which the messenger bags excel in holding flexibility going from small to bulky loads at the cost of less small item organization. Overall I think they are solid designs and the zipper opening access alone makes these worth checking out!