Today’s world has an overload of high quality bags. They can be found through retailers, surplus, swap meets, online, and many other places. It can be very difficult to figure out which brands and types of bags are worth the time and money it takes to purchase and test them out.
Thankfully some companies stand out above others due to a reputation for excellent quality and customer service. Real Deal Brazil is one such company. They make an excellent messenger bag called the Iguape. The Iguape Messenger Bag follows the same principles of most messenger bags. It is an over the shoulder type of bag, having one large strap that is long enough for the tallest, and adjustable enough for the shortest. It is made of the signature recycled truck tarp material that Real Deal Brazil is famous for using. It has one large main pocket, with a smaller internal pocket. The main pocket is secured with a robust zipper. Over that zipper is a large flap that has a D ring and is secured by a snap. There is a zipper on the outside of the flap that opens into another large pocket. There is one last small pocket on the front of the bag where the flap doesn’t cover. This pocket is secured by a snap.
At first glance the design may seem funky or odd compared to a normal full flap design, but there is a little genius in the Iguape. That little pocket on the front is incredibly handy for any number of things ranging from pens, lens cleaners, small knives, memory sticks, batteries, fire starting tools, and anything else which is needed to be readily accessed. It is far handier than needing to dig into the large pocket contained in the flap or the large main compartment. The bag I received for review was hand picked by Frank, the customer service manager for Real Deal Brazil out of his closet. He didn’t have any in stock, so he sacrificed his personal bag for me. That is quite excellent customer service!
When I first opened the package and looked at the bag, I was surprised at how small it seemed. I was worried I wouldn’t be able to fit very much into the bag. Normally every day I carry a full size camera setup, various pens, pencils, markers, and lens cleaning gadgets, a knife or three, a couple USB sticks, AA and lithium batteries, an extra flashlight, a netbook with various cables, business cards, and some paperwork. In my normal camera bag I’m able to fit all of this easily, but it is much larger, and ends up weighing in the neighborhood of 23 lbs. I saw migrating into the Iguape as an opportunity to pare down my daily carry stuff a bit, and managed to fit my entire pile of equipment setup minus four extra lenses, some unnecessary paperwork, and two macro adapter rings. I could hardly believe how much fit into that little bag. The included laptop sleeve provides an excellent method of protecting and dividing contents inside the bag. There is an option on the Real Deal Brazil site to purchase the bag without it, but I would recommend against it. With all the items loaded in it, the Iguape ended up weighing just over 18 lbs. Frank at Real Deal Brazil was shocked I managed to cram all those items into it. The bag handled the load even though at spots items with sharp corners were causing some serious bulging. The recycled tarp canvas material is very tough. The shoulder strap is a bit thin for the amount of weight I put in the bag, but it wasn’t unmanageable or very painful.
In my daily travels I managed to scrape, bang, smash, and bounce the bag in any number of ways. It has been exposed to mud, rain, and snow. There’s no need to be super careful with a well designed bag and I expected no less of the Iguape. It protected my camera and computer equipment with nary a problem. As it comes from Real Deal Brazil, the canvas fabric is fairly water resistant, but after having it in the rain a couple times I chose to spray some fabric water proofing on it. After waterproofing the bag, I had no worries at all.
Once I got used to the bag for everyday carry, it was time for an excursion into the wilderness. I changed how the bag was packed, leaving my camera in, but removing most everything else. I put in a Ruger MKIII target, a few extra magazines, a brick of .22lr ammo, a rain jacket, an extra knife or two that needed testing out, a water bottle, and a snack. As with all the other items I’d put in the bag previously this stuff fit with no problem. The bag was quite comfortable to carry all day. It ended up being used as a pillow as well as a rest for some precision pistol shooting. My friend who came with me was as impressed as I about the quality and comfort of the bag. After the trial run I ended up taking the Iguape as my main bag instead of a backpack on several hikes in excess of five miles. The bag never gave me a reason to regret my decision. Between day hikes and random outdoor exploration I still carried all of my every day stuff as well.
Another part of why the Iguape is such an enjoyable product is the support offered by Real Deal Brazil. More than once I brought up concerns I had with the bag. Frank at RDB met every concern. Not only did he meet my concerns, he took several of my ideas to the head of the company! There is hardly any company in existence where such a straightforward discussion of a product is met with such enthusiasm. There is only one issue I have with the Iguape. That is a lack of sturdy stitching attaching the shoulder strap to the main body of the bag. As I suspected, eventually it did cause the strap to tear where it is sewn. I suggested that Real Deal Brazil would be better off using a box-x stitch to attach the shoulder strap, and Frank informed me that the president of the company agreed. Even though my bag had a failure, I wouldn’t hesitate to purchase another knowing that the issue has been addressed, especially considering that the size and weight of the load I was carrying in the bag even surprised the people Real Deal Brazil!
Many times the review period for a product is rather limited, but thankfully I was able to put the Iguape to use every day for a longer period of time. It is an excellent shoulder bag that isn’t limited by gender or fashion. The recycled tarp material is very durable and attractive. Depending on the luck of the draw it may have patches, printing, or various color patterns. During use, the Iguape was comfortable, durable, and capable. I’d very highly recommend it to anyone who wants a shoulder bag made from a material and in a fashion slightly different and a price slightly less than what encompasses most of the market today.
See www.realdealbrazil.com for purchasing information.