Messenger bags are the ultimate versatile everyday bag. Lightweight, ultra-portable, and tough enough to handle both a daily commute and quick jaunts around town.
Whether I’m running errands, heading into the office, or planning a quick overnight getaway, I prefer having a messenger bag slung over my shoulder rather than what I consider the more constricting nature of a backpack.
In my obsession to find the perfect messenger bag, I’ve done a lot of research—not just hands-on testing, but also combing through dozens of products and reading hundreds of reviews.
I’ve compiled a list of the absolute best messenger bags available. I’ve got all styles for you—some sleek leather, some durable nylon, some even cotton canvas—but all are durable and reliable. That’s really what a messenger bag is all about.
Built from cotton canvas, it’s tough enough to withstand active daily use but has a far more “laid back” look than leather or nylon. I particularly like how the cotton canvas develops its own unique patina with every year of use, growing more beautiful and personal as it’s exposed to handling, friction, and the elements.
The bag has pockets galore: a 17-inch laptop pocket, a spacious main pocket, two front pockets, a zippered rear pocket, and an interior zippered pocket for smaller, easy-to-lose electronics.
The thick shoulder strap is made from a tough canvas and finished with leather accents that will patinate and age along with the rest of the bag.
If you’ve got a lot of heavy items to carry, I recommend the Sweetbriar Classic Vintage Messenger Bag as your go-to. Though it’s lightweight (just 1.2 lbs.), it’s sturdy enough to handle textbooks, law briefs, legal pads, pretty much everything short of a desktop computer.
The pure cotton fabric has a nice texture and look to it that reminds me of the classic messenger bags that originated in New York City. The Velcro closure keeps the bag tightly closed but still gives you quick, easy access to your bag’s contents.
The interior features an oversized, ultra-spacious main compartment along with a few extra front pockets for smaller storage and side pockets that can handle even my 1.5-liter water bottle.
Thanks to the rugged, military-inspired design, you’ll never have trouble hauling all your essentials to and from work or school. And you’ll never convince me that extremely bargain-friendly price tag isn’t worth it.
As a die-hard kayaker and paddleboarder, I’ve come to appreciate the value of a good dry bag. Any bag that can shield my belongings from rain and snow as well as lake, river, and ocean water is a welcome addition to my daily loadout.
Filson built this messenger bag to function exactly like a dry bag. Made from 8400 nylon TPU, it’s fully waterproof, with RF-welded seams and a roll-top closure with an added storm flap just to double down on the protection. If I had to kayak or paddleboard to work (rather than driving), this is the bag I’d pack.
The bag has both interior and exterior pockets that are protected by a waterproof zipper, giving you extra space in addition to the roomy main compartment. With a 25L capacity, it’s one of the largest bags on my list—as well as one of the hardiest and most versatile to carry around rainy British Columbia.
Of all the messenger bags I’ve tested to date, the STM Goods Dux has impressed me the most with both its construction and its durability.
The bag is built using a super-tough blend of 500-denier and 750-denier polyester ripstop fabric, along with 330-denier twill accents. The back features an EVA foam panel that provides cushioning but also allows air flow so my back doesn’t get soaked with sweat if I’m cycling hard or running to catch my train. The entire back is water-resistant and has shrugged off both light sprinkles and heavy Vancouver rains.
It’s built with a solid, square base that keeps it standing up when I put it down. This feature combined with the top-loading design ensures it’s easy to pack and unpack, as well as allows for quick access to all the bag’s contents.
Speaking of packing, the interior features a hook-and-loop partition that I can actually move to configure the storage layout exactly how I want it. On top of that, it’s got a padded, cradle-style 15” laptop pocket, multiple internal zippered pockets, and a size water bottle pocket. Traveling is made easy thanks to a luggage passthrough built between the main bag and the cushioned back panel.
Best of all, the integrated accessory pouch is removable so I can carry it in hand when heading through airport security or riding the bus.
The full-grain leather is sourced in Columbia and has a gorgeous finish with a wonderfully soft hand-feel. The leather is minimally treated so each bag has its own eye-catching “imperfections” and features. It also patinates beautifully, growing more unique as it rubs against clothing or is exposed to skin oils and weather.
One thing I really love is the shoulder strap: in addition to being padded, it can be extended to a full 60 inches long, which is ideal for a big, tall guy like me (6’6”). Where other bags hang too short for my extra-long torso, this one is built to hang at just the right height for easy access and comfortable carrying.
There’s also plenty of storage space, including a 15.6-inch laptop pocket, a sizeable main compartment, full-length zipper pocket, and an exterior pocket on the rear of the bag.
Kick your style into the highest of gears with this gorgeous leather messenger bag. Crafted from chestnut-colored vegetable-tanned leather, it’s a masterpiece of craftsmanship from Leon, also known as the “leather capital of Mexico”. You’ll love the blend of beauty, versatility, and durability in this bag.
Organization is made easy thanks to its many pockets: an exterior pocket sized for documents and folders, an interior padded laptop pocket, a water bottle holder pocket, and smaller organization pockets for compact items.
The more you use it, the more beautiful it will become as the leather develops a glorious and unique patina.
Built for and tested by professional bike messengers, this Chrome Industries bag is a total badass. It’s built from “advanced” 22X nylon, a fabric sturdy enough to shrug off impacts, scratches, and abrasions.
It’s also lined with “weatherproof” tarp intended to keep your bag’s contents as dry as possible in stormy weather.
The compression straps make it easy to secure all your bag’s contents in place, but the reflective details are a nice added touch for safety when on the road.
You’ll love how comfortable the ergonomic shoulder strap is; you’ll hardly notice the bag on your back, no matter how full it is. Best of all, it’s backed by a lifetime guarantee.
As the father to two tradie sons (mechanic and welder), I’ve grown accustomed to seeing Carhartt gear around the house. Coveralls, winter coats, jackets, aprons, work boots, you name it, we’ve got it.
So when my mechanic son brought home this bag intending to use it to carry his smaller hand tools to and from work, I was curious to see how it held up against the other messenger bags I’ve researched and tested.
I’m glad to say I wasn’t disappointed. The 600-denier ripstop polyester fabric is as tough as everything else Carhartt makes, plus it’s treated with a waterproof coating to make it rain-repellent and mostly snow-proof (a very important factor here in Canada).
The main compartment has a dedicated laptop pocket (sized for a laptop up to 17”), but it’s also spacious enough my son can fit all his small power tools, wrenches, and backup batteries with ease. Just a great all-around bag that I expect he’ll get at least a decade of use from.
As a rough-and-tumble kind of guy, I’ve come to appreciate the quality and long-lasting durability of Mission Workshop’s products. KHYTE is built to be as indestructible a bag as I’ve found anywhere, using high-tenacity HT500 (proprietary) fabric that is treated with a double coating to ensure durability and weatherproofing.
The magnetic Fidlock V-Buckles are incredibly sturdy and snap quickly into place to make closing the bag insanely easy.
The interior padded 15” laptop pocket is accessible from the outside so I can grab my computer or tablet in seconds, and the 24-liter main compartment is actually expandable (and shrink-able) to add more gear or be more portable as needed.
Inside, it offers me lots of multi-sized pockets for pens, notebooks, cards, and more, and there’s even an external pocket for my most important EDC items.
The Meridian Messenger Bag is crafted from pure full-grain leather, a masterpiece of antique leather-working that is updated for the modern guy on the go.
The exterior will develop a gorgeous patina over the years and become a bag that is uniquely “you”. Brass hardware give it a lovely, eye-catching look, too. You can even add a custom monogram to be your “signature” so it’s always recognizable as yours.
Function-wise, it’s got everything you’re looking for in a messenger bag: a spacious main compartment, padded laptop compartment, an external pocket, and an adjustable, padded shoulder strap that will more than keep up with an active commute. It’s backed by a lifetime guarantee so you know your investment will last for your entire career.
Bellroy is all about combining classic designs with ultra-modern styles to maximize reliability.
Their System Messenger Bag is built from a durable, water-resistant woven synthetic fabric derived from recycled materials, and is so tough that the company is happy to back it up with a 3-year warranty to let you know unequivocally that you’re getting your money’s worth.
With 16L of storage space, it’s sized large enough to store my 16” laptop, and I’ve got access to dual front zip pockets, multiple interior pockets, and pop pockets that let me lug around a spare water bottle or a pair of shoes (well, my wife’s size 8.5 shoes, not my size 13 monsters) all day long.
I particularly appreciate how easily the magnetic G-hook opens to allow instant access to the bag’s contents, but it’s also nicely secure when rolled down and snapped into place.
You’ve never worn a messenger bag quite as beautiful and hardy as the Sitka. Built from hyper-tough top-grain leather, each bag has a unique finish that will grow more beautiful with every use.
The look is timeless, the style incredibly on point with any business casual outfit, and it’s tough enough that I’d take it motorbiking, e-scootering, or on holiday fully confident the bag will handle anything I throw at it.
It also makes organization a breeze: the large main compartment features a separate padded pocket along with multiple pen and card holders, plus I get a dedicated smartphone pocket and an extra pocket beneath the flap for small essentials.
It’s sturdy, eye-catching, and reliable—everything I look for and need in a messenger bag.
For those looking for a proper splurge, this is the bag for you. The price tag is significantly higher than the other bags on our list, but it’s well worth every penny for a truly gorgeous, durable messenger bag you’ll be proud to wear into the office and around town.
Built from creamy-soft navigator leather and durable brass hardware treated with a gunmetal finish, it’s sleek, ultra-chic, and sophisticated.
The cotton-lined interior ensures your phone, tablet, and laptop are cushioned against impacts and abrasions, though it’s sadly lacking in interior organization solutions. But this bag is all about the look of things, guaranteed to make you appear exponentially more professional and stylish.
Filson’s messenger bag is a sturdy piece of craftsmanship that will keep up with even the most active bike messenger or e-biker.
Built from Rugged Twill, the bag is water-resistant enough to shrug off rain and snow with ease, and features sturdy bridle leather handles and straps that will remain strong even after years of use.
For storage solutions, the bag features stock pockets on both the sides and back, expandable snap pockets on the front, and a roomy interior compartment. I love that I can secure my house or office keys to the hidden key clip lanyard to easily keep track of them on even the busiest day.
Premium good at a premium price, that’s the BillyKirk promise. Looking at the No. 486 15″ Schoolboy Satchel, it’s clear this messenger bag more than lives up to the brand’s high standards of quality.
Built from a beautiful, creamy premium vegetable-tanned full-grain leather, it wears like a messenger bag but has enough structure to serve as a handsome briefcase, too. The custom-cast, hand-molded white bronze hardware gives it a very classy look that pairs nicely with any business suit or formal outfit.
On the inside, it packs both a 15” laptop pocket and two interior compartments separated by a sturdy yet flexible leather divider. The front organization pocket gives you space to easily organize and store your small essentials within easy reach.
Every one of these bags is hand-crafted using time-tested Old World construction methods that ensure a messenger bag as tough and reliable as it is handsome.
For those fast-paced days when I need to get things done in a hurry, a bag like the TimBuk2 Commute Messenger Bag 2.0 is my go-to choice. It’s built rugged but light, with a synthetic (nylon) fabric that is water- and weather-resistant, and features a fully waterproof bottom that lets you put it down anywhere (even in a puddle!) without worrying about the contents getting wet.
It’s slim and sleek but still has plenty of storage space (19L) to accommodate your daily necessities. Weighing in at under 3 pounds, you’ll hardly feel it on your shoulder as you zip around town on your bike, scooter, the bus, or train.
One particular feature I love is the “dual bag silencer strips”. These ensure the closures are quiet, great if you need to get at your bag’s contents in a quiet library, office, or courtroom.
Take it on holiday with you easily, too, thanks to the built-in luggage passthrough and shoulder strap. It’s a bag built for maximum convenience and comfort.
Take your style to the next level with this rolltop messenger bag. The rolltop opening ensures everything inside the bag stays well protected from both light-fingered thieves and any inclement weather; once it’s rolled up tight and cinched in place using the carabiner closure, nothing is getting at the bag’s contents.
If you live in a rainy environment like me (such as the Pacific Northwest) you can walk or cycle confidently in even the heaviest rain and trust the waterproof polyrethane fabric used to build this bag will keep your items dry.
Inside, the bag offers both a roomy main compartment and a side panel that features a padded pocket sized for laptops up to 16”. You won’t get a ton of interior organization, but just enough for my purposes to keep paperwork, briefs, and documents in neat order.
On the outside, though, there’s a conveniently placed zipper pocket to ensure all my most needed essentials are instantly accessible.
Chrome Industries’ Citizen Messenger Bag may not look overly large or bulky, but the 24L interior space ensures you’ve got all the room you need for anything you want to carry—from documents to electronics to a spare change of clothing even a pair of shoes.
The water-resistant 210-denier recycled nylon laminated sailcloth exterior is perfect for the wet, rainy conditions here in British Columbia (and the Pacific Northwest). The unique cross-body, one-shoulder strap (with built-in stabilizer) makes it easy to secure the bag tightly against your back as you ride or scoot around town at top speed without it bumping against you. However, when it’s time to access the bag’s contents, the quick-release seatbelt buckle makes it easy to get into your bag in a hurry.
Features I particularly appreciate are the bottle opener integrated into the seatbelt buckle (great for cracking open a cold beer at the end of a long day) and the integrated wet/dry compartments that make it easy to store sweaty gym clothes without getting the rest of the bag’s contents stinky or wet.
I’ve been a Samsonite guy for years. I’ve collected their suitcases, spinner bags, and duffel bags. So when I saw this messenger bag, I knew I had to give it a try.
Crafted from two-tone ripstop polyester, this bag is tough enough to endure even the roughest handling whether I’m taking the bus, hopping the Vancouver SkyTrain, or heading out on a camping trip. Extra-strength fibers are woven into the fabric to maximize durability without making it excessively heavy, which I absolutely love in a bag I want to take traveling.
In addition to a laptop compartment, the bag has a tablet compartment and multiple small zippered pockets for storing cables, chargers, and my AirPods. Thanks to the “Smart Sleeve” integrated into the bag’s rear, I can slide it over my luggage handles for more comfortable carrying.
For centuries, “messenger bags” were utilized by courier carriers and mailmen to haul messages across towns, cities, states, and even entire countries. However, the modern messenger bag as we know it was first designed in the 1950’s by De Martini Globe Canvas Company.
The bags were designed for their line workers sent to deliver messages around New York. They were built from cotton canvas and waterproof fabric, featuring multiple interior pockets to organize the various tools of their job.
In 1965, bicycle messengers began using the bags, and by the 1980s, companies were requesting bags in multiple colors as a means of branding their specific messenger services.
In 1984, John Peters switched from cotton canvas to nylon, modernizing the messenger bag. Shortly thereafter, designers began crafting their messenger bags out of leather, too, bringing it into the world of high fashion and business—and thus was born the ultra-chic messenger bag we know and love.
What sets messenger bags apart from other bags (i.e. backpacks, satchels, briefcases, etc.)?
For anyone who is always on the go, messenger bags are an excellent choice. Here are our favorites.