The Best Messenger Bag Ever. Tenba DNA 16 Slim Review


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Everyone else can pack it up and go home now because they’re probably not going to beat what Tenba has done this year. Tenba refreshed the DNA messenger bag lineup and made minor improvements. But what’s been improved are some of the biggest things for usability. Other brands have tried and failed to make a messenger bag more comfortable on the back and shoulders. Luckily, the Tenba DNA 16 Slim messenger bag does it right. In fact, it’s the first messenger bag to really, truly do it right. And overall, it’s hard to find fault with what I think is the most perfect messenger bag on the market right now.

Too Long, Didn’t Read

The Tenba DNA 16 Slim messenger bag takes what Tenba used to do, adds a bit more style, and refines its usability. This messenger didn’t ever feel uncomfortable when packed with gear. It’s weather-resistant too! And it will carry most of the gear you need to get the job done. We can’t recommend it enough.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Well built
  • Fairly stylish
  • Incredibly comfortable shoulder pad that moves with ease!
  • A waist strap that works in different positions!
  • It can hold a Leica SL2s, a Flashpoint flash, another lens, plus a laptop and more!
  • Quick access to your gear

Cons

  • Undoing the belt system is a bit tough at times when you need to get the bag off quickly, and during those times, it will just drag on the floor.
  • I wish it were made of canvas and leather!

Innovations

The Tenba DNA 16 Slim messenger bag doesn’t have massive changes. We asked Peter over at Tenba, and this is what he said:

“…this edition of the DNA Messenger was all about refinement rather than wild changes. More evolution than revolution. The bag didn’t need any more tricks, it just needed to get better at doing the basics…

The key differences are the sealed waterproof bottom (which I don’t think anyone else does at the moment), the memory foam shoulder pad (also something I haven’t seen recently), the hidden black reflective material on the front, and the side MOLLE loop that allows someone to expand their storage by attaching a side lens pouch.

But beyond the splashier features, there’s just a lot of refinements and tweaks. The DNA has been one of Tenba’s best-selling bags of all time, so we had to be careful not to change anything that didn’t need changing.

So my focus these days is making it do one thing really well.”

Gear Used

We tested the Tenba DNA 16 Slim messenger bag with:

Tech Specs

  • Comes in blue
  • $189.95
  • 2.7 lbs
  • 15.75 inches wide. Inside is one inch smaller.
  • 12 inches tall
  • 5.5 inches deep

Ergonomics

The Tenba DNA 16 Slim messenger bag is an understated messenger bag. It doesn’t really look like a camera bag. But instead, it looks just like a standard bag that a college kid might bring with them. And that’s pretty awesome for security reasons. On the front here, you’ll spot two clips. They’re magnetic. If you slip them to the side, they’ll come off, and you can open the bag’s front flap up.

On the side, you’ll spot a pocket here. In fact, there are pockets on both sides. These are large enough to hold a water bottle or maybe a hard drive if you need to.

On the bottom of the bag, you’ll spot some extra padding. In addition to that, it’s a slightly different material. Tenba says that it’s fully waterproof. That’s good for when you need to put the bag down in the rain.

Here’s the top of the Tenba DNA 16 Slim messenger bag. Of course, this wouldn’t be a Tenba bag without a handle up top. 

Here’s a look at the padding for the shoulder strap. It’s thick, rubbery, and comfortable. I’m quite surprised at how great it is, actually.

There’s a zipper up top too. Tenba has this in lots of their camera bags. And it’s how you can get into the contents inside.

If you undo the top flap, you’ll get to the contents inside the bag. This is all standard stuff. Tenba’s dividers aren’t incredibly sturdy compared to some newer ones we’ve seen and used. But they double up against each other to support the structure. It works well.

Here, you’ll see the zippered access for the interior front pocket. You can store all kinds of small things here. Tenba has had these things of things for years.

Here’s the back of the bag and the pocket for it. You can store documents and even tablets in here easily.

For those of you who like roller bags, here’s a flap that you’ll like. Slip it around the handle, and you’ll be just fine.

And of course, one of the biggest new changes is the supporting waist strap. Of course, I can pull the bag up higher, so it sits higher on my back. But this is where it makes the most sense in terms of access.

Build Quality

The Tenba DNA 16 Slim messenger bag is built incredibly well. It has a waterproof bottom, or at least Tenba is claiming this. For what it’s worth, I never put the bag down in the rain. But I’ve taken it in a rain shower and it shrugged off the rain. That’s nothing new for Tenba, though. They’ve been doing that for years now. Your gear inside will be protected by the special flaps that repel the rain. 

Best of all, though, Tenba gave this bag a fantastic shoulder pad. This is just a part of what helps make the Tenba DNA 16 Slim messenger bag so great. There’s ample padding here. But the bigger problem is with taking the pressure off your back. So Tenba added in a support strap that can be configured in two different ways. It can go straight across or across and upward like some competitors have. It hugs your back well and takes the weight off. That’s especially great for heavier camera setups. It’s even better for having the bag on you for a really long time.

Ease of Use

Let’s tackle the bad stuff first. And even so, this isn’t all that awful if you just pay attention a bit more. This all has to do with how the support strap is implemented. It’s basically a strap with two special kinds of carabiners. They clip into two of three D-rings.  You can set it up to hug your waist or to go from the waist all the way up to where the shoulder strap is. To take the bag off, you’ll have to twist the bag, undo the waist strap, and then take it off. But then you run into situations where the strap just sort of hangs around. Getting in and out of Ubers is a whole lot slower this way. But it still does the job. You just need to be a lot more conscious of how you’re working with it. 

Otherwise, the Tenba DNA 16 Slim messenger bag is straightforward to use. The magnetic clips keep your gear super secure. If you want to get in quickly, just use the zippered access port up top. Then there are two pockets on either side. Plus, there’s a front pocket under the main flap. In the rear, there is yet another large pocket and a strap to keep the bag attached to a roller bag handle. 

Using the bag was easy as pie. Getting into it while on the go means swinging it around like you would with a backpack. Then you either open up the zipper or undo the entire top flap. When you’re ready, just swing it back around to your back. In this way, the Tenba DNA 16 Slim messenger bag is used more like a backpack in some ways than it is like a messenger bag. It works just fine, though. 

If you’re looking for far quicker access, I’d suggest using the bag without the support waist strap. Then it becomes just a regular messenger bag with a heavily padded, water-resistant bottom area.

Conclusions

Likes

  • Comfort
  • Waist strap
  • Can carry loads of gear
  • Durability
  • Compact size

Dislikes

  • The support strap needs some work or at least getting used to.

There isn’t a whole lot to not like about the Tenba DNA 16 Slim messenger bag. I wish that the bag came in leather and canvas. There’s the Cooper series for that, which I hope gets a nice update too. And the support strap needs a bit of work. But it solves the biggest problems with messenger bags: comfort. Messenger bags are bound to wear away on your back after a long time. They’ll surely throw off your shoulder alignment. But the support strap that goes around the waist remedies that problem. 

Then there are other really nice updates, such as the look. The bag is a lot more low-profile than it used to be. Further, there is a waterproof bottom area. The updates to the Tenba DNA 16 Slim messenger bag are nice. And it’s overall made it just a better bag. In fact, it’s quite honestly the best messenger bag I’ve ever tested. My back is going to be very happy for a long time.

The Tenba DNA 16 Slim messenger bag wins five out of five stars along with our Editor’s Choice award. Want one? You can get it in Blue or Black at the Tenba Store on Amazon.

Editor’s Note: This review isn’t at all sponsored. Tenba sent us the Tenba DNA 16 Slim messenger bag for review before this was announced. Tenba has committed sponsorship dollars to the website for this year, but that content is very different and clearly labeled. Every brand that works with us knows to stay far away from our reviews and knows that we’re going to say whatever we want. I still wish Tenba made this bag in a leather and canvas version. But everything I’m saying here is 100% my personal feelings and the transparent truth. In the world of camera bag reviews, we’ve been doing this a lot longer than anyone else out there. I don’t need to declare things like this. But as the founder and Editor in Chief of this website, I instill it in the entire staff to be super transparent. We’ve said things like this after coming home from press trips and a number of other events.







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