Review: Arc’teryx LEAF Courier Bag 15

Let me start with a straightforward confession: I've always preferred a backpack as an everyday carry platform.

However, from time to time, I’ve wished for a shoulder bag which includes the features I enjoy the most in my backpacks: accessible simplified interior, wearability, waterproof materials, bombproof construction and a multi-mission nature – all of that combined in a simple minimalist form.

Sounds a lot like an Arc’teryx LEAF description… and it is. So please welcome the LEAF Courier Bag 15, my personal pinnacle in the world of couriers bags.

To back up my statement I’ll simply explore my points, one by one. Number one was: accessible simplified interior. After opening the flap you will notice the two zippers, both trademark Arc’teryx waterproof zippers.

The small one opens a flat front pocket, which can easily hold key belongings like a mobile, wallet, keys (there is a keyring inside for added security), pen, pocket knife, etc. (all that together). It’s also just high enough to store an A5 sized documents (or A4 folded in half of course), which is great.

The top zipper (with two zipper-pulls) fully opens the capacity of 15 liters, a big main compartment. Inside you’ll find a removable structured panel, which makes a separate protected section for a laptop (it’s also neatly adjustable using a pair of snaps). The front side of that pocket is fully velcro covered, so you can configure it however you like with an admin pocket, pouches, and also a velcro-backed pistol holster for a discreet off-body carry (like the ITS Tactical velcro sheath).

It’s also a good place for an IFAK pouch or a trauma kit. Or for other emergency stuff, like the ITS Tactical TourniQuick rapid deployment tourniquet pocket (pictured below). This can save a life (not just yours) in an extreme arterial bleed accident… so yeah, I carry mine almost all the time.

Now, speaking of accessibility – there are two side zippers too, neatly hidden and equipped with thin long pulls. So if you’re into LEAF stuff you can open the bag from one side and reach for your hand cannon in a split second, something that can save you time especially in winter, when heavy winter clothes could make a IWB holster really hard to reach instantly.

Except the mentioned protective/modular divider there is nothing else in the compartment – no extra pockets, no sleeves – just space. Love it that way! It’s superbly packable.

Oh, if you like you can also remove the divider completely and enjoy not only a single huge compartment but also the ability to roll and stow the bag in your key luggage, and treat it as a backup bag. Or use it in a final destination as a bolt-bag or simply a tourist’s bag or camera bag – great feature for travellers. Just check out the size of rolled Courier 15 without insert… it’s the package on the left:

Wearability now, as this review wouldn’t be complete without a word or two about carry comfort. With a 2-inch webbing strap and big padded shoulder pad it’s just as comfortable as most quality courier bags.

Comfort-wise a courier bag is just a courier bag, it’s not a trekking backpack optimized for a long-haul trek. But for day travelling, sightseeing, light day trekking or commuting it’s all you need. Plus Arc’teryx provides a security strap, which positions the bag and prevents it from moving around your shoulder.

My personal point number three is waterproof construction. And yeah, it’s made just like the Alpha FL packs, so fully weatherproof, made of laminated material and with all stitches taped and sealed.

Both the front and main pocket are secured with splashguard zippers, so it is not just a weatherproof bag, but a really waterproof one! It won’t take being submerged for long of course, but if it ends up in a pond for a moment, used in a downpour or a heavy snowfall – it should be no problem at all.

Number four is toughness. Oh boy, it’s a super tough one. I know that laminated outer fabric perfectly as it’s also used in my Alpha FL and Bora AR packs, both of which I used a lot in the mountains. Both have survived a lot of direct contact with hard rock and ice… untouched. All seams are taped, all stitching is reinforced. The load bearing buckles are made from black-coated aluminum, and the fastex closing buckles are made by ITW (the unquestionable leader in plastic parts manufacturing).

Every material, part, webbing and thread is premium in this bag. The quality of manufacturing is clearly a level above other courier bags on the market, ascetically perfect in every single detail. Well, it’s not just Arc’teryx… it’s Arc’teryx LEAF. The pinnacle.

And my last point – a multi-mission nature, which means modularity and scalability. So first of all it’s a slick courier/office bag – no need to explain that. But it can be also adapted as a camera bag (at least I used it for my Fuji X-T2 with 2-3 lenses) or as a traveller’s daybag, the latter one especially with laptop sleeve removed and with an emergency hardshell rolled under the flap.

But it can be used also as a pistol bag for off-body carry, or as a small range bag which is perfect for a short afternoon shooting sessions at your local range. I even used it to carry a sub-compact gun with collapsible stock in the laptop section (extended thanks to the ingenious adjustment straps).

In all these instances the stealthy subdued look is most welcome. The last thing I need on my photography bag is a bold, bright “NIKON” or “FUJI” logo, which probably works even better than a “STEAL ME” sticker would. So yeah, I like it stealth.

Last but not least, its spacious enough for quick overnight business trips… and I’m typing sitting in the plane, flying back from London with the LEAF bag as my only luggage. I was easily able to pack inside: 14″ Dell computer & charger, iPad Air, two iPhones & charger, Powerbank, UK plug adaptor, dopp kit, formal shirt, sleeping outfit, extra underwear & socks, wool scarf & cap, mid-sized camera (Fuji X-30), earphones, tissues, wallet, car keys with Ti2 Design carabiner, Field Notes and pen in a Bellroy folder, A4 documents, and the LEAF Alpha LT hardshell rolled and carried under the flap (very convenient!). And here it is – packed and ready at the airport…

Conclusions? Finally I found a courier bag, which ticks ALL the boxes for me! Expensive? Yes (manufacturer’s price: $329 CAD), but it is Arc’teryx LEAF, so don’t expect cut corners to make it a budget product. For business and city use it’s nearly perfect – the minimalistic stealthy black appearance is just what you want for a business laptop bag.

But it also works for me for outdoor day trips, when I don’t need a pack and prefer quick, unrestricted access to my photography gear (even a carbon tripod can be nicely stored under the flap). Oh, and in both cases the waterproofness, so the ability to protect expensive electronics from the elements, is just vital. In a nutshell – this bag is a clear winner for me!

By Piotr Ma

Senior Contributor & Edge Specialist, more posts.