Over the years I’ve used a number of different briefcases or daily bags, ranging from a Lands End “business briefcase” to a knockoff of a Coach leather attache, to a backpack – and several others. Thanks to Doug Dyment over at onebag.com, I’ve recently learned about Red Oxx and their line of extremely rugged carry-on bags and “adventure” luggage, and subsequently purchased their “Air Boss” carry-on. Red Oxx was founded by a former Green Beret Captain and parachute rigger, and all of their products feature extraordinarily robust materials and construction, and are backed by a lifetime, no hassle warranty.

I was so impressed by the quality of the Air Boss that I purchased one of their “Metro” bags about a month ago, substituting it for the backpack I had been using. As you can see below, I opted for the “safari” color combination; the bag is available in 12 different colors.

The Specs

Simply put, this bag (like the Air Boss) is built like a brick house. Here are the full specs, per the Red Oxx website:

  • Claw shoulder strap
  • Fabric:1000 weight urethane coated, Dupont certified Cordura nylon
  • All zippers #10 YKK self locking
  • Thread: #92 bonded SolarMax nylon
  • All seams double stitched and bound
  • 3250 welded D-rings, nickel plated
  • Stainless steel Mil spec snaps with Red Oxx logo
  • Zip knots on all zippers
  • Heavy duty luggage tag
  • Embroidered patch logos
  • Box stitched on carrying handles
  • 4 lb. closed cell foam padding
  • Available in 12 colors
  • Made in USA
  • Lifetime Warranty
  • Dimensions: 17″Lx3.5″Wx11″H
  • Capacity: 654 Cubic Inches

The materials, build quality and attention to detail are superb. A close up view of one of the #10 YKK zippers and the “monkey’s fist” zipper pulls:

The D rings and shoulder strap latch are wildly over-spec’d – they look as though they’d last a lifetime, plus!…

 

The “claw” strap, made of reindorced heavy gauge rubber, is comfortable, “gives” a bit under load, and won’t slip off your shoulder at all – even if you’re wearing something like a synthetic wind shirt:

 

The attention to detail is impressive as well. The mil spec snaps on the front pockets are designed so that you can slip your finger or fingers behind the male half of the snap to facilitate closing it – in other words, you don’t have to press the female half against the male half and whatever’s behind it… very clever:

 

In terms of compartments, there are zippered compartments front and back which will accomodate file folders and magazine-sized materials. The two front pockets measure appx. 4″wx7″hx2″d and will handle PDA’s, cell phones, a small digital camera, and so forth. There are elastic pockets on both ends of the bag which accommodate standard sized water bottles.

Inside, there are two divider pockets on the outside which have (polymer) buckle snaps to secure them. These dividers are made of a heavy gauge synthetic mesh, and both feature several pockets of varying sizes for business cards, small notepads, frequent flyer cards, and so forth. One of these mesh dividers has a number of narrow pockets for pens. I was a bit concerned about that smaller items might come out of these pockets as none of them zip closed or have snaps or any sort of closure, but in a couple of months’ use this has never happened. Here’s a view of the inside of the bag:

 

I should mention that the entire inside of the bag is lined with closed cell foam padding for protecting whatever’s inside. Here’s a picture of my (large, old, heavy) Dell laptop in the bag:

 

The bag will carry a lot of stuff, and I’d be astonished if any of the components ever failed – this thing is just way overbuilt.

Impressions and Comments

I love the bag but let’s be honest: if you work on Wall Street, this isn’t the bag for you. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but this – particularly in the safari color combo – has a workmanlike, utilitarian look to it. Yesterday, and I am NOT making this up, I was at an offsite all day meeting. After taking my laptop and a couple of other items from the bag, I tossed it on the floor in front of me, beneath the table I was sitting at. My boss took one look at it and said (I am not making this up!) “Nice bag, where’d you get it – Menards?” It is utilitarian in appearance, but frankly that’s part of its appeal for me, plus it’s a bit unique and I truly appreciate the robustness of its construction. And, in our business, I’d feel perfectly comfortable walking into a customer’s office with it (which wasn’t necessarily the case when I was using the backpack.)

One thing which I wish Red Oxx had included is a key retainer of some sort inside, as I’m paranoid about losing my car key when traveling.

 

At times I wish the bag was slightly larger, but of course there’s a downside to that, as you may just tend to carry more as a result. Those wishing for a larger bag can opt for the “CPA” briefcase, which is 7″ wide, vs. 3.5″ wide for the Metro. Thus far the Metro’s size hasn’t been an issue. I’m able to carry everything I need in it, including the “11 essential things” I’ve written about in the past. The CPA is $10 more than the Metro.

Which brings me to price. I’m a firm believer in the old adage, “you get what you pay for.” Quality doesn’t come cheap – the Metro is $140. Is it worth it? Only you can answer that question. For me, this is a nearly indestructible bag (see the testimonials at the Red Oxx website) that’s unique and handsome. I think it’s worth every penny. Every time I close one of the zippers, look at the hardware on the bag, or hoist the strap onto my shoulder, I appreciate the build quality and feel of this bag. It’s that nice. What’s my boss know, anyway??

If you have questions or comments, let me know. Thanks for visiting and travel safe!

-kc 6/26/08

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18 Comments on Review: Red Oxx Metro briefcase / daily bag

  1. Miguel Marcos says:

    Regarding Wall Street, a bag like this won’t work for corporate and private bankers and managing directors but for everybody else, it’s fine. I’ve seen lot’s worse in my time.

    [Reply]

  2. Hugh Donohue says:

    I also discovered Red Oxx via OneBag.com, and purchased the C-ruck rucksack for schlepping laptop, books, lunch bag, salad container, thermos, water bottle, umbrella, files,etc. between work and home – and school, when classes are in session….their products are BOMBPROOF!

    I used it also on a recent weekend trip to visit relatives, using your “A minimalist approach to packing for a short business trip” post as a guide – and it worked great.

    I was thinking about purchasing the Gator bag, but after this review I may consider a briefcase instead.

    Is your Air Boss also in Safari colors?

    Thanks for all the tips you place on your website. I have bookmarked this site as I find them extremely useful.

    Best wishes…/Hugh Donohue

    [Reply]

  3. kc says:

    Hugh –

    Thanks for your thoughtful comment. I agree – their products are bulletproof. My Air Boss is in the safari color combination, and I like it,- it seems to fit the materials and style of the bag.
    I hope you are subscribing to this site — via email or RSS — and please tell your friends about PracticalHacks! Thanks!!

    Kevin

    [Reply]

  4. Michael W. says:

    Are the foam pads removable? If you aren’t traveling with a lap top, foam pads eat up an insane amount of space. Some of us are leaning towards handhelds (iPhone, iTouch) for simple internet access.

    I like the design of the external pockets (the thumb straps and snap fasteners). I don’t like the fact that they protrude from the side of the bag. I guess they shouldn’t affect your ability to carry the bag into the cabin (as they would, if patched onto the outside of the much larger AirBoss). I guess I’d rather see them on the ends of the bag and not on the sides.

    What do you think?

    Have you ever checked out the Lands End “classic” Square Rigger attache? If you “cut out” the organizing panel on the inside to save weight and reduce bulk (I HATE thick internal dividing panels), it actually works as a very minimalist luggage piece. I just tried it this weekend.

    Thanks for your reply on the AirBoss thread. Based on the shaving kit bag I got, RedOxx is classy.

    [Reply]

  5. kc says:

    Michael,

    The foam pads are not removable. They are closed cell foam padding – holding one finger inside the bag and one outside the bag, trying to gauge its thickness – I would estimate that the foam is ~1/4″ thick, but dense (firm.) I don’t feel they eat up a lot of space, but certainly some.

    The external pockets – at least on this bag – have not been an issue. Agree, they’d be terrible on the Air Boss. The mesh pockets on the ends of the bag are ok for a small bottle of water, but I have my ID badge, a USB drive on a retractable cord, etc. in the front pocket.

    I am not familiar with the Square Rigger. It’s been ~15 years since I’ve bought a L.E. bag – not for any particular reason – I just moved on to other bags.

    Red Oxx is rugged, but reasonably attractive. “Ruggedly handsome?” …or whatever you quoted yesterday. Good products. Not cheap.

    My wife was looking at a wheeled small duffel bag on one of the home shopping networks about a week ago (she won’t give up wheels) and it was $30. I looked at her and asked, “Seriously, how good a bag – how durable – do you think that is, if it’s only 30 bucks?”

    There ARE exceptions out there, but I believe you pretty much get what you pay for.

    Take care.

    K

    [Reply]

  6. Michael W. says:

    Thanks for the details. I am tempted to get one, despite the “add on” appearance of the outside pockets. I did use a small, Domke “satchel style” camera bag as my briefcase for a few years a decade or too ago, though, and really liked the outside pocket on that one. So they are certainly functional.

    [Reply]

  7. Matt M says:

    I happen to own the Gator and while it’s small it’s a nice personal carry on item for flying. Because it’s so small you are forced to not take as much as you might with a regular backpack, but for me the Gator is nice because my DSLR fits in it and is very protected. I have a Kata backpack made just for cameras, and it’s bulletproof, but trying to pack other stuff in the Kata is a bit tricky. The Gator is more universal and I’m using it full time for my camera stuff now.

    The Metro seems cool too. I do like the color you picked. If I were looking for a bag of that general size it would be hard to pass on the Metro.

    I agree with you on the key ring. Red Oxx should include something like that in all it’s bags. Tom Bihn includes o-rings in all it’s bags in various spots it’s a nice feature.

    The “add on” of the outside pockets never phased me on the Gator. The one issue I had was paranoia that something would fall out because it’s a snap instead of a zipper. Nothing has yet though.

    [Reply]

  8. Matt M says:

    Did you ever review the Air Boss? I didn’t find it.

    [Reply]

  9. kc says:

    Matt,

    Thanks for your comments. I haven’t reviewed the Air Boss yet. I used it this past weekend and am going to Vegas for several days in another week or so, and will take some photos and write a full review. Thx. for your interest!

    Kevin

    [Reply]

  10. Bob Davis says:

    I got a Metro Briefcase partly based on your review, and I love it. I came from using a large Brenthaven laptop case for my Macbook (it originally housed my 17″ Alu. Powerbook) and am finding this bag to be a lot better for my needs.

    The Brenthaven is a seriously well made bag (I even sold it to a co-worker, it looks that good) but it is heavy and complicated – little fiddly pockets for all manner of stuff – so many, in fact, that I frequently lost stuff in it. That combined with the “none more black” interior made it hard to find anything that wasn’t white. The bright red interior of the Red Oxx is a huge improvement.

    The Red Oxx is a perfect bag for my daily needs – the “claw” shoulder strap stays on my shoulder, it’s light but very well made, the padding helps the bag stand up and protect my gear, it’s large enough for what I need but not so large that I carry all kinds of crap in it (the Brenthaven became kind of a dumping ground).

    Like you, I got the Safari color combo and love it. Shortly after getting my Metro, I bought a matching Beanos Safari 5.5 bag in the same color – love it. if you need a week’s worth of clothes to travel with, it’s the bag. I’m tall, so I bet I could even get this on board as a carry on without challenge.

    What is most impressive to me though, is the company. They’re awesome! I shot them an email and Jim Markel (one of the owners of the company) wrote back to me. They followed up to see how the order process went, and to check on how happy I was with it – that’s awesome service. They’re making a fan out of me.

    I’ve started recommending their gear to all of my traveling friends.

    bob

    [Reply]

  11. Kevin says:

    Bob –

    Thanks for stopping by; couldn’t agree more about the Metro and R.O.’s customer service!

    Kevin

    [Reply]

  12. I have a Sky Train and the Gator bag from Red Oxx. I love the quality of their bags. I use the Gator as my general messenger bag since I can (with some custom, homemade foam inserts) carry my DSLR in it and still have room for other stuff. It protects as well as a dedicated camera bag but doesn’t say “I have thousands of dollars of expensive equipment, rob me!” and it works well for carrying more than just my camera. The only thing I would note about it (and this applies to the Metro bag too) is that the claw strap is *really* grippy. I’m used to quickly shifting a shoulder bag from the side to the back or to the front depending on whether I’m trying to get through a tight crowd or trying to get at something in the bag. The first couple times I instinctively did that with the Gator, the shoulder strap kept hold of my coat and wrenched it along with it. Not a complaint (you get used to it), but something to be aware of.

    If I find that I need to carry a laptop around instead of my camera at some point, I’ll definitely be picking up a Metro.

    [Reply]

  13. Kevin says:

    Anders –

    Thanks for stopping by and for a great comment. If I get another Red Oxx bag, it’ll likely be a Sky Train…

    …your comment about the shoulder strap is accurate. I’ve used it while wearing synthetic wind shirts and vests, and it grips like mad!

    Kevin

    [Reply]

  14. Rick Monroe says:

    I’ve used the metro for about three years. Mine is black and I removed the logos, so it blends in with the Tumi type bags others carry. The foam pads provide cushioning and are stiff enough to keep the bag upright. Nice. There are two snap pockets, a little funky looking in my opinion, that are good for phones and small notebooks (but only if there are no pickpockets around). Behind those snap pockets are slots that are perfect for tickets and boarding passes. And there are two full-length zippered “flat” pockets that are actually useful for non-flat things like chargers and cables. The long carrying handles are nice, too, because they let you secure a jacket, folded lengthwise, to the bag.

    I’ve got a couple of complaints, though. Visibility inside the bag is pretty bad. First of all, once you’ve got your notebook pc on one side and some papers on the other, the pockets are pretty close together. And they are all black nylon anyway. Also, the bag is not great at keeping files and papers neat. If you want to avoid bent edges, etc, you need to pack your papers in something stiff.

    [Reply]

  15. Russ says:

    Kevin:

    Love your website. I’m here all the time. My question: I’ve been lusting after this bag for a while, but wonder if it’s what I need. I do travel for work about 6-8 times a year and think that a checkpoint-friendly bag would be nice. However, taking a computer out does not truly take that long and there are trade-offs in extra complexity, weight, etc., and you’re still unzipping, flipping, or unfolding. What do you think of this? Is the Metro still your go-to bag? Thanks!

    [Reply]

    Kevin Reply:

    Russ,

    Thanks for your comments; I appreciate it. I no longer use the Metro as my daily bag. I switched to a Timbuk2 small classic messenger within the last year: http://bit.ly/lwy1YR

    What size laptop are you using? I’m working on a review right now for a bag that may be to your liking.

    [Reply]

  16. Russ says:

    Kevin thanks for the reply. It’s a 15.4″ Dell.

    I know people like Timbuk2, I just don’t like the style. I’ll look forward to the new review!

    [Reply]

  17. […] be "bombproof" or nearly so if you get our drift. Check out the entire article at PracticalHacks.com where you can also see several detailed pictures Kevin took. Thanks Kevin for the great […]

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