Review: Hawkesmill Monmouth Messenger Bag (It Can Also Be a Backpack!)

I really wanted to like the Hawkesmill Monmouth and had some ridiculously high hopes that were let down with complete heartbreak.

I had known that the Hawkesmill Monmouth was coming a while before its announcement, and in fact, I suggested to the company and a number of others that what the industry needs is a camera bag that can be a messenger and a backpack. By all rights, the Hawkesmill Monmouth is a messenger bag first and foremost made of some of the most luxurious materials I’ve ever seen. And as a messenger bag in and of itself, it isn’t bad. However, there are far more comfortable messenger bags out there that are also much lighter. In fact, I’m not even sure that this bag was totally designed with the photographer in mind.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Built very well
  • No point of possible breakage like some of their previous bags
  • Will look good on you

Cons

  • Once cameras and a laptop go in, it’s going to feel really uncomfortable on your back
  • Backpack configuration is a great attempt but the strap system doesn’t work so well unfortunately.

Gear Used

We put the Canon EOS R, lenses, Profoto B10, Fujifilm GFX 50R, lenses and a bunch of other camera we were testing at the time in the Hawkesmill Monmouth.

Tech Specs

Specs taken from the Hawkesmill listing

• Size – 15.7” x 11” x 5” (40cm x 28cm x 12.7cm)

• Weight – 5lbs (2.2kg)

• Main body Colour – navy.

• Main body material– triple layer waterproof canvas. Made in Scotland.

• Flap material – triple layer waterproof canvas with an outer layer of Harris Tweed. Made in Scotland.

• Fittings – Nickel. Custom, branded feet and trigger hooks.

• Belgian leather straps and trim.

• 3 large internal dividers, 2 small lens dividers, 1 laptop divider.

• Backpack convertible. When the shoulder strap is looped through the d-rings on the rear of the bag, the bag can be used as a backpack. Ensuring comfortable, hands-free use, all day long.

• Removable insert – padded, can fit 15” MacBook. Can be removed so bag can be used as a weekend bag, carry-on bag, etc. Bottom feet are removable and can be replaced when worn.

• Handle is securely riveted to steel bar, running through top of flap. Rivets are used at every stress point, including: front straps, shoulder strap and handle.

• What can the bag fit? 15″ MacBook Pro, one pro-DSLR body with lens attached, one 70-200 f2.8 lens, flash unit (or two lenses stacked with divider) and various accessories in front and rear pockets.

• Bag is waterproof and dust proof.

• Warranty – Lifetime against defects.

Ergonomics

Here’s what the Hawkesmill Monmouth Street looks like. It’s a gorgeous black and grey bag with dark brown leather accents. In fact, this is perhaps one of the most beautiful bags made with the intention of servicing photographers. What you’ll notice are the belt style straps, which mean that you’re not getting quick access to your bag’s content any time soon unfortunately.

Here is the camera strap pad. This pad is very comfortable and well balanced. Unfortunately, the placement of how the straps are set up make the bag really pull your back and spine down.

The top of the Hawkesmill Monmouth Street has a briefcase style strap which makes travel with it much easier. All of these materials are built really solid.

Get to the inside of the Hawkesmill Monmouth Street and you’ll see a removable camera insert. There are different sections here too. Plus there are two front pockets. Inside this bag is a Profoto B10, transmitter, Fujifilm GFX 50R with lens attached, and handle for the B10. You can stuff a laptop behind these.

Now here is where the bag gets really interesting. There is a zippered pocket at the back and the strap can be configured to go through these loops to become a backpack, sort of. It isn’t a comfortable backpack unfortunately.

Build Quality

We took the Hawkesmill Monmouth Street out into some very heavy downpours. The build quality of the Hawkesmill Monmouth Street is second to none, but it is still uncomfortable due to how heavy it is even without it being packed and how it distributes weight.

Ease of Use

This bag, first and foremost is a messenger bag. When you try to configure it into a backpack, it gets complicated because you need to thread the strap through the loop, reconnect it at certain places, resize the strap, attach the two pads, put the pack on your back, take it off, readjust, repeat as needed. I’ve lost 40 lbs this year and while testing it in various weather, I found the Hawkesmill Monmouth Street to be just best carried around for long periods of time as a messenger bag. It’s annoying otherwise.

Due to my discomfort using the bag, it became something I almost never wanted to have on me. Thankfully when commuting I can often put my bag down on the ground. In fact, I had to because the Hawkesmill Monmouth Street takes up a whole lot of space while on my back. Every time I put it on, I thought about other bags from both Tenba and Portage Supply.

Conclusions

The Hawkesmill Monmouth Street is built very well; and it could probably really satisfy someone that could make the most of it. But for a few months, I wasn’t able to find a way to make it work for me.

We’re giving the Hawkesmill Monmouth Street three out of five stars.