This is a second comparison writeup on bags with Crumpler and Manhatten Portage as the focus.
But before that, I thought it might be helpful to do a little education on fabric types, as I am shopping for travel backpacks and I am not sure which fabric suits me and what I was looking for. You might come across these materials with different brands as well, so it might come across handy.
CORDURA® Classic Fabric
- military grade material
- one of the highest grade of nylon in the market today
- exceptional durability, widely used in luggage, outdoor products, workwear industries
- common as mobile phone sleeves, protector etc
- low friction and high stretchability
- available in many colours
- usually used for lining inside of bags, or can be used as the exterior
- safe, strong, bendable and completely waterproof
Martexin Original Wax
- cotton based
- infused with Martexin ® wax proprietary mixture
- lifelong resistance to weather, while allowing cotton fibers to breathe
- as fabric ages, it develops well-worn patina, which gives an aged and burnished look similar to leather
1: History / Origination
Crumpler: The Crumpler bag did not get it’s name because the bag looks like it’s crumpled and can be easily folded because it’s soft and slouchy (although the name readily suggested so and I thought so too..). The story begins in 1992 with Stuart Crumpler who wanted to sew a bag at his grandma’s place to bring a slab of beer home on his bike. Cutting the long story short, his bag was improved by a parachute-maker the next year who showed him a better prototype.
Soon after he went into partnership with a courier company who used his bike, and eventually they decided to make bags full time. Spending godzillion hours cutting and sewing Velcro and fabric, their hard work paid off and soon messenger bags expanded their range to include camera bags, backpacks, luggages and laptop bags.
It’s a great story to tell and break the ice, if you are meeting someone carrying a Crumpler bag for the first time. Read more that the brand website, the Aussies are fantastic story-tellers.
If I can sum it up, the Crumpler brand has successful positioned itself not in a hardcore bag/luggage industry (e.g Samsonite) , but as a piece of everyday essential that shapes a person. As they call it… These are the bags for designers, makers, thinkers and doers.
MP started with a simple philosophy – “New York Tough” back in 1983. It was the first to use the CORDURA brand nylon and high quality plastic Delrin buckles in messenger bags. It was the original pioneer of the messenger bag, merging the functionality of outdoor gear and packs with modern needs of urban commuters.
One thing I find too lengthy is the way the brand story, promise of quality and history is being communicated on the website. While it works well with people trying to do research or write a news story, the info could be packaged with better and more succinct copywriting – or perhaps translated better through visuals and user experience on the web. Their tagline is “A Bag For Everyone”. From a branding perspective, not that optimal if your target audience is everyone.
One useful info they provided was to educate the public on the counterfeit or imitations, which I thought would be good to share.
Crumpler: A rough count on the web shows they have more than 150 variations of bags, with even more interesting and varied names to match, sorted by functionality like Camera Bags, Camera Laptop Bags, Laptop Backbacks, Tote Bags etc (which personally I think work very well for a person knowing what they need and are looking for). I am not sure why they would call their product a Moderate Embarrassment, or The Popular Disgrace for a camera strap, but hey, with superb copywriting to match, and a good dose of reverse psychology, these items sell for hot cakes! 5 star for variety and you can be sure a 35 year old post graduate slinging a Pinnacle of Horror a wouldn’t mind being seen walking together with a 14 year old student with a Proud Stash.
The Manhatten product range is categorized by Collections (seasonal), Black Series and Collaborations as well as functionality. I will not talk about the latter since it’s more or less similar to Crumpler, with Messenger Bags, Shoulder Bags, Tote and backpacks etc as well.
Under the Collection range, there are the
1) Stonewashed series (heavy duty canvas which is twice as thick as waxed canvas fabric, looks vintage)
2) Quilted series (a brand new customization technique on the indestructible 100D CORDURA ® Classic fabric, which made this series feels pretty premium)
3) Midnight series (a sparkling fabric originally used for making women shoes)
4) Windbreaker series (made of nylon twill, windproof, soft, lightweight and limited quantities world-wide)
The Black Series is pretty much black and limited in range and variety.
The Collaborations series have a wide variety, like Hello Kitty, Stussy, Milk, Disney, Keith Haring, Le Fix etc.
One of my favourite is the Harris Tweed collection. The tweed fabric is handmade in Northwest Scotland and the bags are completed with the permit mark of the British Royal Family.
I like it so much, I got a small coin purse myself!
One creative collaboration worthy of mentioned is the florescent 3D painting project with Djembe (read jem-bay) & Canvas. There are only 30 of them in the NYC flagship store! Here’s sneak peak and some of the bags with the lights on and off experience. Each bag also comes with 2 pairs of 3D glasses.
Crumpler: Crumpler bags have a good and huge price range, so you can prepare to fork out around $50 for wallets and pouches to $150 for a basic backpack, tote or messenger bag. Camera bags start from $100 to a few hundred e.g $500 for something more extravagant (check out the Gourmet Extravaganza).
Manhatten Portage: An apple-to-apple comparison (say the messenger bags) will show that the prices here are definitely lower (around $50). The florescent 3D bags are available through online orders, and they range from $400 – $600 ++.
Looking at both brands, they claim to have an attractive warranty and guarantee in place, thus I feel it’s a good buy for either brand.
Crumpler bags are roomy, functional, funky and fun. They are not trying too hard to come up with out of the box trendy designs, just keeping with simple lines, colours and functional bags which their main target audiences (which I think are very loyal) are looking for. Not to mention comfort, which is a very important factor if you are carrying laptops because if the weight is not properly spread out and supported, you end up with a very sore back. Also the website shows the photo of every single model and how it looks from the front, back, interior etc so you don’t have to visit the shops to get sold.
Some features I particularly like on various models
- integrated padded sleeves
- internal and external pockets
- airflow back panel
- flexible and versatile carrying options e.g off the shoulder, across the body or carried as a tote
- Highly recommended: The Haven – this is the coolest thing – organizes your camera stuff, everyone has a camera of sorts these days and if you have trouble changing bags, and deciding if your tacky camera bag looks cool with your suit, this pack and go pouch easily lets you transfer your camera into any bag you are using for the day.
When I tried my hands on the various models, the bags were light, roomy and no frills. Comparing with Crumpler, I would say the former wins hands down because of the way they market and name their products. Manhatten also features each product on their website with all the angles, colours, styles and views, which makes up for the lack in variety.
The shopping experience at MP was definitely a better one, although there was only one sales person at the point in time. She gave me full attention and helped me with all the products, whereas when I entered Crumpler, all 3 sales person were looking at their handphones and only started to work when I stepped in. MP’s showcase of products was definitely better as everything can be seen at a glance.
Although Manhatten comes with other accessories like socks, waxwear ointment, towel and water bottle, I feel they should concentrate on marketing a signature or key product to get more awareness and fans.
Crumpler: The bags are available in Paragon, Singapore in Marina Bay Sands, Raffles City, Vivo City, Ion and Plaza Singapura. As for now, an official online retail store called Garage sells Crumpler too. This is a widely available brand, you shouldn’t have any problem ordering from their official online store, as they deliver free out of Australia as long as it’s over $50.
Manhatten Portage: 2 stores available in Singapore – at Heerens and 313 Somerset, or order online with free delivery within Singapore.