XINCADA Small Messenger Bag review: For bug-outs, theme parks and everything in between

The small gear bag category has always been something of a quagmire. Either a messenger bag is too small to really pack anything useful or too big to comfortably carry all day. Either a crossbody bag is a morose military knockoff or a delicate dirt-magnet. Finding a small messenger bag that is just right — small but good capacity, functional but fashion-friendly — is a bit like finding buried treasure, which may be part of why most people find a small bag they love and use it until the seams bust and then some.

My current go-to satchel — a hand-me-down Dakine crossbody is getting on in years, and before it dies a painful death loaded down in a Disney park, I resolved to find a worthy successor. I needed a bag that's easy to pack, easy to carry in a wide array of environments, and doesn't look like it fell off the back of a Humvee. I needed a bag that's just at home at a professional conference or technology convention as it is at a theme park or at the coffee bar on karaoke night.

Enter the XINCADA Small Messenger Bag, which ticked all my boxes and then some.

The Good

  • Easy to load with ample compartments
  • Compact but high capacity
  • top handle for easy in-and carrying

The Bad

  • Main compartment only has one zipper, doesn't go all the way down to the side of the bag
  • Seams and zippers aren't perfectly straight
  • Side pouches are too small

XINCADA Small Messenger Bag What I like

This small messenger bag features a main compartment with two zippered subcompartments — one mesh and one solid — a flat rear pocket for a tablet, and a zippered front accessory compartment with a foldover flap and a feed-through grommet for a charger wire or wired headphones if you still use those. The canvas exterior is stiff and dark, with the black model coming off as a deep, deep purple. Leather accents pop against this dark canvas, and then the interior of the bag is lined in a leather-brown smooth-touch fabric.

While using this bag day-to-day, I tend to use the "tablet" pocket for a thinback book that adds some stability to the bag and ensures that the bag sits flat against me when wearing it as a crossbody. The main compartment holds some snacks, my Sbode Bluetooth Speaker, Bluedio USB-C Bluetooth Headphones, a port-friendly smartphone stand for impromptu video calls, and my usual medications and cables. The front flap of the crossbody I leave open for trading pins, receipts, or other small knick knacks I may pick up throughout my day, and the accessory compartment hosts my Iceworks 7000 power bank and my OG Pixel for photography and playing with Pie.

XINCADA lets me carry my life around without weighing me down.

All in all, the bag's slightly too small for a Chromebook, but it fits the rest of my usual kit and then some with ease. The top compartment doesn't unzip all the way down the side the way many bags this size do, but I prefer that because that's less zipper to break and makes the main compartment a very stable rectangle to cram snacks and small accessories into. The handle on the top of the bag is great for carrying the bag smaller distances, like through security checkpoints or from the car into the office and while the messenger strap is soft, long, and easy to adjust.

XINCADA Small Messenger Bag What doesn't hold up

XINCADA's bag is sturdy and sure, but it's an inexpensive bag, and that means that compromises had to be made somewhere. All of the compartments are single-zippered rather than double-zippered, and while the smaller inner compartments make sense with a single, the main compartment and the front accessory compartments should really have double zippers so that they can be opened and closed from either direction and the zipper pulls can sit further away from the straps.

Always check the bag. Always.

The other compromise for the XINCADA is the quality control. Seams aren't always 100 percent straight on the compartments or the zippers, and my bag came with a zipper that had slipped its track. I got it squared away easily, but the same for expensive bags holds doubly true for cheaper ones: you always check the bag.

XINCADA has been great about getting replacements for dud bags out immediately, and they send out emails to buyers around delivery time reminding them to check all the zippers and seams. If you've got a good bag, it'll last you a long time; you just have to make sure you got a good bag.

XINCADA Small Messenger Bag

Big, bulking backpacks may be what you want when you're lugging around laptops and professional photography equipment, but for lighter days with lighter loads, XINCADA's crossbody messenger bag is the perfect fit. The compartments are well-portioned, easy to keep things organized in, and the leather handle makes it easy to carry over short distances while the longer strap won't dig into your shoulder during a long day hauling notes and portable batteries around a convention.

4 out of 5

I purchased my XINCADA on Prime Day, but at $28, this crossbody is still quite affordable for a bag that you can depend on your longest days and most manic nights. The larger version is big enough to fit a smaller Chromebook or a couple notebooks, but the small version is the perfect size for the theme park essentials: heat-stable snacks, an umbrella, a power bank, headphones, a folding fan and a small square of trading pins.

See at Amazon

Ara Wagoner

Ara Wagoner was a staff writer at Android Central. She themes phones and pokes YouTube Music with a stick. When she's not writing about cases, Chromebooks, or customization, she's wandering around Walt Disney World. If you see her without headphones, RUN. You can follow her on Twitter at @arawagco.