Updated November 2015 – Messenger bags are the cool, convenient cousin to backpacks. They’re great for urban travelers and modern workers. You’ll find them in a wide range of styles, and made from lots of different materials. There are sleek, leather messenger bags for modern professionals, and rugged, technical nylon bags for bikers or students.
With so many options to choose from, and prices anywhere from $50 to over $500, selecting the perfect messenger bag can be an overwhelming task. We’ve helped thousands of people find messenger bags they use everyday. We’ll help you sort through the options to find the best one for you!
For this guide, we chose a few great messenger bags available now online. They span a range of prices, and there’s one to suit every lifestyle. You’ll find high-quality leather bags, options for biking, laptops, and more. We’ve reviewed them based on price, function, durability, and style. Check out the winners below to find the right bag for you!
Here’s a quick look at a few of our top choices:
"They'll fight over it when you're dead!"
"Worth every penny!"
"Such a handsome bag!"
Before shopping for a messenger bag, you’ll want to consider what you’ll be carrying in it. If you’re using it for a trip to work, you might need a laptop holder, as well as room for binders, papers, and pens. And if you’ll be stopping by the gym, you might want space for a change of clothes.
Cyclists will want water bottle holders and waterproofing. You’ll also want to look for ease of use. Many bags use velcro fasteners or have buckles with secret magnet fasteners underneath. These will still look sophisticated, but will be a snap to close on the go. You’ll also see a lot of bags with simple zip pockets on the front flap.
If you’ll be carrying a laptop, look for a padded compartment, or find a bag that has room for your laptop in its ordinary case.
A good messenger bag should be built to last. Leather bags are generally quite durable, as are high-quality nylon/synthetic fabrics. If a bag is waterproof, chances are it’ll be hardier and stand up to the elements better. You want a bag with solid, dependable stitching, and reinforced seams. If you’ll be biking or carrying heavier loads, you want a more heavy-duty bag.
Make sure you check out the warranty on any bag you buy. Some companies have great replacement and repair policies, which can make your bag a friend for life.
While a bag should be practical, it should also be comfortable. Men and women have different body shapes, and bags should accommodate these differences. Padded shoulder straps are also a good feature to look for. And you’ll want something light enough that it won’t add weight to your load. Finding a bag that doesn’t leave your back or shoulders aching is an essential function of a superior messenger bag.
Messenger bags function as an accessory. They can add to or take away from your overall look. You’ll want to think about your own personal style, as well as your workplace aesthetic. If you’re in an executive position, a leather messenger bag will fit in with suits. But if you don’t need a sleek, shiny look, a more colorful bag can add fun style elements to your work or school look. As you’ll see from our choices, you won’t have to compromise on either style or function!
No bag should break the bank. However, you’ll want to think of your new messenger bag as an investment. While you can find many good deals, you do get what you pay for. Leather bags are generally more expensive, as are bags with lifetime warranties and added features. If you’ll be using a bag for a long time, it’s worth trying to make an initial investment.
However, you might want your bag for school, or for using infrequently. If so, we’ve got some less expensive options just for you!
Best Messenger Bags for Men
1. Samsonite Colombian Leather
“Great form, everything fits, you can carry with the handle or the strap. Great product.”
It’s made from high-quality leather. Reviewers said it aged well, and stood up to rain and scuffing.
There’s an adjustable shoulder pad, which keeps strain off your neck. One reviewer wrote, “The shoulder pad is extremely comfortable, with a very nice leather pad on it, and it just feels great to wear.”
The buckles have an alternate quick-release catch. This means you can use the visible buckles, or use the hidden ones underneath to save time.
It will accommodate laptops up to 15” comfortably. Reviewers said there’s also plenty of room for adapters, cables, and books/papers. Plus, all the compartments are padded to protect your belongings. One buyer wrote:
“I love the multiple padded storage slots and pockets to hold pens and small accessories. Construction is solid and is great for all occasions, from casual travel to business meetings. Highly recommended.”
It’s relatively inexpensive, especially for a leather bag.
A few reviewers found that the buckles and clasps gave out over time. This isn’t a bag for heavier use, but it should hold up at the office just fine.
2. Kenneth Cole Risky Business
“All together, this bag is more impressive and better looking than many bags several hundred dollars more expensive.”
The bag is made from 100% leather. It’s available in three finishes, and is designed to become more elegant with age. Plus, it’s hand-washable.
There are lots of pockets and compartments. Under the front flap, you’ll find two large, open pockets designed to keep your phone, pens, or keys within easy grasp. Inside, there’s a full-width main compartment, and a zippered pocket along the whole back of the bag.
The nylon strap is wider than many others. This helps distribute weight and relieve shoulder stress. It’s also got an adjustable leather pad. Many reviewers complimented its comfort and function. The front flap uses a magnet closure. These clips keep opening and closing quick and simple. It’s very lightweight, even with all-leather construction.
Some reviewers found that the black leather bled. That meant that some of their clothes got darker smudges. Most people didn’t have that problem, but we’d recommend treating any leather bag with a conditioner just to make sure. Conditioner helps the leather stay smooth and soft through wet weather.
While you’ll be able to put a laptop inside this bag, it doesn’t have a cushioned sleeve. Some reviewers said that laptops are a bit of a squeeze with their own cases still on. However, Kenneth Cole says that the bag should accommodate laptops up to 15.4”.
A few reviewers said that the briefcase handle was too weak. One said it gave out after a few months.
3. Saddleback Leather Medium Thin Briefcase
“In a world where everything is diminishing in quality and businesses feel it doesn’t pay to make things for life, this product stands out as an extraordinary exception.”
It’s made from full-grain boot leather. The outer leather is cut thicker than most, for extra durability. The interior lining is made from tough pigskin. Both are high-grade, fully-conditioned materials.
The workmanship is impeccable, and designed to last. Saddleback uses marine-grade, UV-resistant thread in the stitching, and have riveted all stress points. There are also hidden reinforcements to prevent any long-term stretching. Reviewers were extremely impressed by the overall quality. One wrote, “I will NEVER have to replace this bag! It just gets more awesome looking at it starts to get that slightly weathered look–but there are no zippers to break, no velcro to deteriorate, no lining to tear out, no cheap hardware to snap, no plastic to degrade from the UV.”
There’s a 100-year warranty. And customers said they had wonderful experiences with the customer service team at Saddleback.
It’s a great bag for laptops (up to 15”). One reviewer said, “The side pocket fits a Kindle or iPad easily, or a thin book or legal pad. The main section of the briefcase has one section that fits my 15″ Retina MacBook Pro lengthwise snugly, but not so tightly that it is hard to insert or remove the laptop – it would easily fit a regular MacBook Pro or other thicker laptop.”
It’s expensive. However, reviewers said it was well worth the money. One wrote, “It’s just a matter of whether you can raise the money to buy it or not. If you can, then do it. It’ll pay for itself after the first 3-4 years. After getting my Saddleback I still continue looking at other bags, whether in shops or those that belong to my friends, and they all look inferior in comparison!”
Best Men’s Messenger Bag for Laptops
Top Bag Men/Women’s Vintage Canvas/Leather Schoolbag
“You simply cannot get a better bag at this price. Anything marginally better will probably cost hundreds more- Excellent build quality. Worth every single penny.”
This messenger bag is made from a combination of canvas and leather. It’s durable, but lighter than a full-leather bag. Top Bag has used full-grain leather, which is thick and ages well.
Inside, there’s a padded laptop compartment, and smaller pockets for adapters, pens, and other items. Reviewers said it’s surprisingly roomy, and deceptively slim from the outside. Many reviewers complimented the build quality. One wrote:
“Excellent design, the canvas and leather feel like they will last for a very long time. Surprisingly lightweight for how sturdy it is. Also, I very much like the magnets on the flap, they make it a lot faster and easier to open and close. The zippers for the main and inner compartments are stronger than you usually see, very nice. Good workmanship throughout, I saw no flaws.”
The strap is detachable and adjustable. And the closures have hidden magnets, which makes buckling and unbuckling unnecessary.
It’s not big enough for larger laptops. If yours is bigger than 14”, you’ll want to look at something bigger (such as the Samsonite).
Because of the canvas used, it doesn’t hold its shape while empty. Leather bags will be more stiff and retain the shape, whereas this collapses (this isn’t an issue so much as a personal preference).
Best Men’s Messenger Bag for Biking
Timbuk2 Classic 2015
“This thing is light but feels amazingly tough! Came with an extra strap if I’m biking. It’s nice to buy a product that hasn’t been skimped out on and you really feel like you get your money’s worth.”
The outer fabric is made of tough, durable nylon. It’s available in 10 color options. Inside, there’s a TPU liner, which keeps your belongings dry. The liner also makes it easier to clean the bag out. Flap corners fold into place to keep the weather out, and keep your things in.
It’s available in a few sizes. Reviewers said the straps change length depending on the size of the bag. Plus, all the straps adjust for optimal fit.
The included cross-strap is great for biking. It clips on to the normal strap, and keeps everything secure as you ride. One reviewer said, “I’m able to enjoy my ride without any swinging of the bag.”
There’s room for a laptop, books, and even a change of clothes. The interior has lots of dividers and organizers, plus a water bottle holder. One reviewer said:
“What I have been carrying: wallet, iPad mini, iPhone 6 (in front side pocket for easy access), travel umbrella, water bottle, snacks, chargers, pens, and document folder. This still leaves room to spare for the after-work stop the grocery store.”
There’s also a hidden, zippered pocket under the front flap. It’s perfect for easy access without having to open the bag all the way up. Best of all, these bags come with a lifetime guarantee.
The water bottle holders aren’t big enough for Nalgenes or other larger bottles.
Best Messenger Bags for Women
High Sierra Tank Messenger Bag
“Great quality, significant size, at a great price…recommended, for sure!”
There are 12 different color options, ranging from plain and simple to funky and colorful. The fabric is a rip-stop polyester, which most reviewers said was durable and snag-resistant. It’s also very light. The whole bag weighs in at under 2 pounds.
The shoulder strap is padded and contoured to fit comfortably on your shoulder. The buckles have a quick-release function, and there’s an easy-access zippered pocket on the outside. There’s lots of room inside. One reviewer said:
“I can fit several textbooks side-by-side and my laptop inside, yet I don’t feel like I’m carrying a bulky backpack around with me. I really like the two mesh pouches on the sides; it’s very convenient for carrying multiple drink bottles.”
It’s very inexpensive. The price makes it a popular choice for students and parents shopping for their students.
Some reviewers said it was a lot bigger than they expected. While many buyers were college students or parents of high-schoolers, they generally agreed that this was a bit too big for middle/elementary students.
Buyers had mixed experiences with longevity. Some reported that the bag held heavy engineering textbooks over the whole school year with no problem, but some said there were stitching flaws or holes developing.
Brinch 15.6 inch
“It is perfect! Exactly what I wanted. The material is stylish and practical. The color is just right. The pockets are very handy and the bag is lightweight but protective.”
The outer fabric is made from a chambray-texture material. It comes in 4 different color options. Reviewers described the look as “very trendy yet professional.”
The shoulder strap is adjustable and padded for comfort. Plus, you can easily snap it off to use this bag as a briefcase or laptop sleeve.
The whole case is padded to protect your laptop and accessories. There’s a soft neoprene outer layer, and a further layer of polyester foam padding. This gives you added piece of mind if you are toting an expensive laptop or other devices with you.
In addition to the main laptop sleeve, there’s another full-size compartment, and several smaller pockets for your accessories.
There’s not a lot of additional space. While there’s room to take the adapters and a few papers along, you won’t be able to lug books around in this bag, so it may not be the best choice for daily use if you’re a student.
Best Women’s Leather Messenger Bag
“Such great quality and very spacious”
It’s made from a full-grain buffalo leather. This has the elegance and aging qualities of regular leather, but is less prone to stretching. Inside, there’s a felt-like lining which protects your laptop and other possessions. Reviewers were impressed by its build quality. One wrote:
“This is a top-quality leather bag with strong stitching and reinforced seams. It isn’t going to wear out anytime soon, so I know this will be something that I can keep with me throughout my career.” Another said “from the leather quality to the stitching, everything is done with quality and care.”
The interior has several pen holders and small pockets sewn along the back. There’s also a tablet compartment with Velcro closure. The main compartment is large enough for a laptop and books or binders. And there’s a zipper in addition to the front flap, so you won’t have to worry about things falling out if you drop the bag. One reviewer wrote, “the bag is roomy, has plenty of separate storage compartments, a sturdy zippered main compartment, and a rugged-yet-refined aesthetic.”
A couple reviewers had issues with the color rubbing onto light clothing. Others suggested using a leather conditioner, which solved the problem and also waterproofed the bag. Most people didn’t experience the color issue, but it’s always a good idea to condition a leather bag!
Best Women’s Messenger Bag for Laptop
“Absolutely love it. Very cute, functional and professional.”
This bag has a sleek and simple look. It’s made from a chambray-feel polyester outside layer. The contrasting polyester lining keeps things safe inside the bag.
It’s big enough for laptops up to 15”. Reviewers said it fit most laptops snugly but not tightly. There’s also a Velcro strap for added security in the laptop compartment.
Magnetic clasps keep the front flap fastened, and there’s a zipper to close the main compartment, just in case the flap isn’t secure. The shoulder strap is adjustable, and the contrast pad matches the bag’s color. There’s a lot of space for your laptop and accessories. One reviewer summed it up:
“This bag is AWESOME!!!! It has the outer-front flap zippered pocket – held down with two magnetic snaps, outer-rear velcro pocket (full width of bag for both), the main zipper section for your laptop and papers, a velcro strap to hold your laptop in place, a smaller zippered pocket, open pocket, and 3 pen pockets. The strap has a movable pad. This bag can carry so much and look like nothing’s in it. Definitely worth every penny.”
There’s no top handle. One reviewer said she wished it could be carried like a briefcase. This is more of a traditional messenger bag in that way, so you will need to plan to wear it as a messenger bag all the time.
Some reviewers thought the strap was a bit short. Fully extended, it places the laptop higher than some other messenger bags. One reviewer said, “My one complaint was the strap, even loosened to its longest setting, was on the short side, falling at the top of my hip, when I probably would have preferred it to be just a little lower. I’m 5’7″, and I think a taller person would find it even more annoying.” If you’re a tall person, you may want to choose a different option.
Best Women’s Messenger Bag for Biking
“If someone tried to rob me, I’d try to give them the stuff in my bag and keep the bag!”
This bag is anatomically designed for women. There’s an adjustable, padded shoulder strap, which is designed to distribute weight across a woman’s body without creating hard edges or strain.
You’ll also have a top handle to carry the bag as a briefcase. The front flap has a Velcro strip to keep it in place. But don’t worry-reviewers said it’s very quiet. There are also two plastic buckles for security.
For storage, there are three zippered and three open pockets inside the bag. There’s also a zippered pocket on the outside of the front flap. One of the mesh pockets inside the bag doubles as a water bottle/travel mug holder, and a concealed inner pocket can fit tablets or other personal items.
The laptop sleeve is padded, so it will be extra protected.
The whole bag has a waterproof lining, and a nylon outer coating which is weather-resistant. It’s perfect for biking in wet conditions without having to worry about your things getting wet.
Osprey has an “All Mighty Guarantee” that covers “Any Reason, Any Product, Any Era.” That means that whatever happens, they’ll repair any damage to your bag for free. And reviewers said that the FlapJill is very durable. One wrote, “This has been my favorite bag by far. It has held up through almost 3 years of incredibly heavy use (I am a 4th year veterinary student who lives in Colorado and also travel with it).” This bag is a great choice if you are planning to use it every day.
One reviewer pointed out that the flap pocket isn’t waterproof. Make sure you don’t keep anything valuable in that compartment while biking in the rain.
Reviewers with larger laptops (over 15”) said the laptop pocket wasn’t big enough for their computers.
Your perfect bag awaits!
And there you have it: an easy guide to help jump-start your search for your perfect messenger bag! If you don’t see quite what you’re looking for, remember to take our Things To Think About along for your own shopping. In essence, the best messenger bags should be functional, comfortable, and attractive. Happy shopping!
P.S.: Check out our previous recommendations! These are some of our favorite bags from the past few years:
1. Rapid Dominance
This all-canvas bag is a simple, practical messenger design. It’s strong, durable, and has enough room to hold a tablet, books, and lots of smaller items. The strap is extra-thick, and reviewers said that made it more comfortable for carrying heavy loads. Canvas construction means that it’s very lightweight. Reviewers said it’s great for hiking trips and outdoor adventures. They also said it was still holding up after years of use. This one is perfect for the serious hiker.
2. Timbuk2 Command TSA
This TSA-compliant model from Timbuk2 lets you go through airport security without removing your laptop from its sleeve. The laptop sleeve is also made from a special new foam. It has increased ventilation while providing thorough cushioning. On the outside, you’ll see a classic messenger design, made from durable nylon. The interior is waterproofed with a TPU liner. Reviewers said it’s incredibly durable and has lots of great features built in for convenience. One buyer wrote, “Overall, this is just one heck of a well designed and well-thought-out bag.” Plus, Timbuk2 provides a lifetime guarantee.
3. Chrome Berlin
This unisex bag has an incredible capacity. There’s a weatherproof outer shell, military-grade tarp liner, and a special divider pattern for even more space. It’s also got a 4-point harness for bikers. The back of the bag is padded with EVA foam, and works with an ergonomically designed strap system. Buyers said it can hold pretty much anything, and it’s still comfortable to carry even when it’s fully loaded. One reviewer wrote “this bag is an all-purpose workhorse, and it does its job well.” Another raved, “To only have one bag, this is THE one bag to have, totally worth the $, nothing compares!” Reviewers also said that Chrome provides excellent customer service. Their bags are made in California and guaranteed for life.