Gear Review: UTG Covert Carry Ambi Messenger Bag – holding more than it can carry

UTG Covert Carry Ambidextrous Messenger Bag

UTG Covert Carry Ambidextrous Messenger Bag. (Photo: Eve Flanigan)

If you’re looking for a bag that can hold a lot, here it is.  If you’re looking for one that can carry a lot, you can choose to invest more money or time in a bag.

This bag is relatively small at about 12 x 14 inches, but big on features.  It comes in all the usual tactical colors, and there’s even one with pink highlights. The styling and color is patently tacticool, like the ironic use of covert in its name.  It’s got five zippered compartments of various sizes, two drawstring pouches—including one that’s divided and padded as a pistol case—a sweat-proof padded rear surface with belt attachment, loop material for patches, endless molle, and an open sleeve compartment. The webbing and buckles are adjustable to accommodate just about any level of fullness and at what height the sweat-proof, padded shoulder strap will ride.

inside UTG covert carry bag

The divided, padded drawstring pouch easily holds a holstered full-size pistol and more. (Photo: Eve Flanigan)

In other words, this is a cool-looking bag that holds more stuff than one this size should.  Recently, I packed for a weekend class, thinking this would be the go-to pistol bag with loaner guns, ammo, magazines, holsters and such.  For two days, that plan worked almost too well.  At one point, I became convinced I’d lost a gun.  “But it was in that bag when I left,” I told myself and my colleague after rifling through the UTG’s many compartments.  It wasn’t until evening, when things had settled down and I put on an all-out search for the missing full-size pistol, that I found it right where I’d put it—in the large rear zippered compartment that’s very well hidden. That may say more about my organizational habits than the bag, but just the same…

This bag worked like a trooper for the busy weekend, stuffed with about 25 pounds of gear.  But Sunday night, as I was unlocking the door upon my arrival home with arms full, it crashed from my shoulder to the ground.  Inspection revealed that the simple “underlined X” stitching that secured the shoulder strap to the bag had given way.

UTG stitches broke

The stitching holding the shoulder strap on gave way after a weekend of heavy load-bearing. (Photo: Eve Flanigan)

Since this messenger bag is so practical and because it holds the memory of a fine weekend, it’s going to the local seamstress who has a webbing sewing machine for repair.  This will increase the original $37.97 MSRP cost (may be less at your dealer), but the total investment will be less than the American-made Maxpedition Versapack, obviously the inspiration for this shameless knock-off. The Maxpedition starts at $61.99, with most models being in the low 90s. Though my dealer offered an exchange, the repair will actually give me the load-carrying capability I want.

It’s worth it to investigate a product’s origins. Chinese products such as this are usually compromised in price for good reason.  Leapers is the distributor for the UTG Covert Carry Ambidextrous Messenger Bag.  The bag is available through their distributors, though their online list gives only a small sampling of the outlets available.

My advice? Buy American whenever you can.

Cover: Eve Flanigan