Review: Filson Carry-On 240

Today, I will be reviewing the Filson 240 Small Carry-On. This bag is very similar (in both design and function) to the Filson 232 Medium Field Bag, so I will be highlighting the differences between the two in order to help you decide which is the best choice.

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QUICK STATS

  • Price: $265 USD
  • Dimensions: 15″ W x 11 1/2″ H x 5″ D
  • Layout: (1) main compartment, including storm flap with double leather buckle closure; (2) front bellows pockets with snap closures; (1) back exterior pocket and (1) small carrying handle.

The Filson 240 is a basic messenger-style bag that can be worn over the shoulder or carried cross-body. It features a spacious, main zippered compartment with no built-in organization. It also has two expandable “billows” pockets on the front of the bag (under the storm flap) that snap closed.

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The leather trim on edge of the storm flap is one of my favorite design elements and it gives the bag a classic, timeless appearance. It is secured with two leather straps and two brass buckles. Another nice detail is the embossed Filson logo on the ends of the leather straps, which adds a feel of quality to the overall design.

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Real World Testing

The Filson 240 is certainly a versatile bag, but it does have some potential drawbacks that would cause me to consider a couple other Filson models before purchasing this one.

1. Difficult to Access

I really like the overall look of the Filson 240 and the zipper/flap/buckle combination provides excellent security for its contents, especially in crowded environments. However, it also makes the bag very cumbersome if you need to frequently access your stuff. The three primary storage compartments each require the user to open two different fasteners to access them (Buckle/Snap or Buckle/Zipper).

2. Strap Attachment Points

On most messenger bags, the attachment points for the shoulder strap are located on the side of the bag, towards the top. On the Filson 240, the attachment points are located on the back of the bag approximately a quarter of the way down from the top.

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Why does this matter? This design causes the bag to lean away from you when it is slung over the shoulder. When I carried the bag, I found that I was always fighting to pull it toward me in order to make it more comfortable. The attachment points also create an awkward carry-angle when using the small leather handle. This bag is most comfortable when it is carried cross-body.

3. Short Back Pocket

The small pocket located on the back of the 240 is much shorter than the exterior pockets found on other Filson bags. This is a function of the low attachment points for the shoulder strap. I did not feel comfortable with my iPad in the back pocket because it never quite felt secure. This pocket was not very useful due to its size and placement.

The Filson 232 is a better choice for most buyers

I was left with a lukewarm feeling about the Filson 240 after my real-world testing, but there is a silver lining. If you really like the classic style of the Filson 240, there is a much better option…the Filson 232 Medium Field Bag.

The overall style of the Field Bag is nearly identical to the Small Carry-On, featuring the large storm flap, leather trim and the front bellows pockets. However, the Filson 232 eliminates the zipper over the main compartment.

By using only the buckles, the 232 is much easier to access and by removing the zipper, Filson was able to add two functional end-pockets and a double-bottom to create a much more functional and durable bag. As an added bonus, the 232 retails for only $225, which will save you nearly $40 off the MSRP of the 240.

Final Thoughts

Choosing the perfect bag is always a function of your intended use…

In the Field: if you are working in the field and are looking for an open-concept bag to carry small equipment, notebooks and gear, then the Filson 232 Field Bag would be a fantastic choice (and would work much better than the 240).

For Travel (as a Carry-On): for short trips, when being used as a carry-on, I find the Filson 261 Zippered Tote, which features more interior volume, a double bottom and four functional exterior pockets, to be a much better choice than the 240.

For a Student or Office Worker: as a day bag for a student or city dweller to carry books, a laptop, lunch and perhaps a small jacket, the Filson 257 Briefcase Computer Bag is a much better choice than the 240.

In conclusion, the Filson 240 Carry-On is a handsome, well-made bag, but it is a bag that is functionally stuck in the middle between a multitude of other choices that are all better suited to task.

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4 comments

  1. jamie

    For a certain kind of person the 240 is an amazing bag and I just wanted to throw my 2 cents in! I love mine to pieces, it just depends on how you view the features. I travel a lot in Africa for work, and the 2 buckles and the zip are a great security feature that I really appreciate. If I want faster access I can leave the straps unbuckled, and still keep the bag zipped to stop wondering hands. The size is perfect as both a carry on and a fieldwork bag (I work in environmental science, primarily forestry so I’m off in the bush a lot). Yes there may be Filson bags better suited to one specific thing like the 257 but I find this bag to be a great jack-of-all-trades, default everyday go-to bag – which for me could mean city commuting carrying paperwork and my laptop as well as my rock climbing gear for a quick lunchtime session, or going grocery shopping, or going to lunch with friends (I’m the one who always has a book, a first aid kit and water at all times so I appreciate the space) or trying to engage with local chiefs at a stakeholder forum hosted a day’s hike from anywhere. It’s equally at home being slung around buses and bikes and horses and as with all Filson stuff, the quality speaks for itself as soon as you park it in a more upmarket setting. The back pocket holds a kindle or magazines/journal papers perfectly. The 232 does have the end pockets, but you loose some flexibility by not being able to open the main bag compartment the whole way (certain bulky items or large laptops don’t fit or fit easily in the 232. The attachment points for the shoulder strap are low, and it can feel awkward on one shoulder, but it was designed to be worn cross body and then it fits like a dream, even when fully loaded. I got my strap exchanged for the longest one available when I brought mine (I’m 6’2) and it fits me perfectly.

  2. Dale

    Filson no longer makes this bag but I was fortunate enough to get my hands on one and I love it. The added security of having a zipper is a wonderful feature. In situations where I want to access the compartments frequently I leave the buckles and the zipper open which allows for quick access to my jewels. When I want the bag secured I simply zip the zipper and close the snaps and buckles. It is nice to have the option of security and easy access all rolled into one nice bag. Also the zippered bag gives you that much more exposed leather which is really what makes a Filson bag so beautiful.

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