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If you’ve been looking to upgrade your everyday carry, it’s time to reconsider a messenger bag. Inspired by the roomy over-the-shoulder sacks carried by postal workers and deliverymen (see: bicycle messengers), the best messenger bags offer a ton of storage space and versatility that you can’t get from other bags. They’re less stuffy than briefcases but more put together than a backpack. And with a ton of materials and trims to choose from — from casual canvas and nylon to luxe leather — they aren’t just for students and couriers anymore either. Whether you’re looking for something to carry to work or take on vacation, a messenger bag will hold your essentials handsomely, securely and comfortably.
First a little background: most messenger bags are rectangular in shape, with a shoulder strap that clips onto or loops around buckles at the sides or corners. Messenger bags can be slung over the shoulder and held next to the body, or strapped across the chest, with the bag flat against your back. They’re typically more lightweight than a backpack or briefcase but equally as durable.
The best messenger bags these days are all made from water-resistant materials, making them great for people who spend a lot of time outdoors or who have an unpredictable daily commute. While backpacks have two straps that make them more comfortable to wear, most new messenger bags come with padded straps that take some stress off your shoulders. The straps are also easily adjustable. And because most popular messenger bags feature a zipper closure and a fold-over flap (rather than just a traditional zipper closure like a backpack), they add an extra layer of protection — quite literally — from the elements.
Messenger bags are also designed for utility, with a ton of interior and exterior pockets to easily organize your stuff. Most of the picks on our list also come with a padded laptop pocket, to keep your computer secure and protected. Look for a messenger bag with zippered storage pockets for extra security.
Whether you’re looking for a new laptop bag, something for work or something to carry on the plane, we’ve rounded up some affordable messenger bags that you can buy online. They’re all well-made, well-designed and easy to pick up — especially at their price points.
1. Leaper Retro Messenger Bag
This sling bag from Leaper is the perfect everyday bag, whether for school, running errands or travel. Available in over a dozen different colors, the bag is made from a rugged and durable washed canvas with vegan leather trim.
By swapping the traditional latched shoulder strap for a sling strap design, the bag sits tighter and more comfortably against the body, keeping your belongings close by. The strap is adjustable and slightly padded at the top for extra comfort (you can also carry the bag using the top handle).
The bag, meantime, fits a laptop up to 13-inches and has a ton of exterior and interior pockets for organization. The double buckle closure ensures extra security.
What we like: the retro-inspired design and soft canvas gives the bag a nice, worn-in look.
Dimensions: 10.2 x 13.6 inches.
PROS: Compact and versatile everyday bag with a ton of pockets.
CONS: This is a small to medium-sized bag; if you’re looking for a large book bag or bag for work, you’ll want to consider other options on this list.
2. Timbuk2 Classic Messenger Bag
Designed in San Francisco and backed by Timbuk2’s more than 30 years of experience, this unisex messenger bag comes in almost two dozen colors and is made from a weather-proof material that holds up to the elements.
Inside, find a small pocket for your phone and wallet and a padded pocket for your notebooks and files. There’s even an internal water bottle holder (a waterproof TPU lining keeps water out).
There are a ton of other thoughtful features too, like a ventilated pad to make your shoulder strap more comfortable and breathable, and a vista loop that lets you easily attach bike lights for when you’re out at night. Timbuk2’s designers also worked on spacing out all the internal pockets to better distribute the weight of what you’re carrying.
The light weight and the water-resistant material make this a great bag for commuters, bikers and travelers who are constantly out and about. The minimalist, streamlined look — no unnecessary bells and whistles here — make this a solid bag for work and school as well.
Bag measures approximately 20 x 13.8 inches.
PROS: Timbuk2 says its bags are 100% man-made — no assembly line production here.
CONS: You have to remember to tuck in the outer corner flaps when it’s raining.
3. ibagbar Water-Resistant Messenger Bag
The classic book bag gets a modern makeover with this messenger bag, made from a heavy duty and water-resistant oxford material. Reinforced stitching and a velcro and zip closure add extra security.
The bag features a padded interior compartment that fits up to a 14-inch laptop. Nine pockets give you a ton of options for storage. We like the front zip pocket for easy access to your essentials without having to unbuckle the full bag.
The included straps are padded and adjustable to keep you comfortable, and to reduce stress on your shoulders.
The ibagbar messenger bag measures approximately 14 x 12 inches.
PROS: A heavy-duty bag that holds up to just about anything.
CONS: The bag weighs about 1.5 pounds on its own, making it slightly heavier than other models on this list.
4. Cuero Handmade Leather Messenger Bag
We like brands like Cuero, who specialize in making hand-crafted leather bags for the masses.
This one is made from goat hide and hand-distressed for a vintage look and feel. The leather will soften and wear in the more you use it, creating a beautiful patina over time.
At 18 x 13 inches, this bag delivers a ton of room for your stuff. A large outer pocket can fit a tablet, notebook and other essentials. Inside, there’s a padded compartment for your laptop (fits up to 18-inch computer) and a zippered pocket for valuables.
This leather messenger makes a great work bag or camera bag and makes a great gift idea too.
PROS: At 18 inches, this is the largest messenger bag on our list.
CONS: This is made from genuine goat hide so there will be a strong leather smell.
5. Military-Style Leather and Canvas Bag
This is a great everyday bag for casual errands, farmer’s market runs, school and travel. Made from a rugged, durable cotton canvas with leather trim, the bag is lightly distressed for a worn-in look and feel.
There are six pockets in total including a zippered back pocket and a zippered interior pocket. Because the bag isn’t as stiff or structured as other models on our list, you can really stretch out the material and pack it in if necessary.
The nylon shoulder strap is lightweight and adjustable. Real metal buckles and metal zippers hold up to years of use.
The bag measures approximately 17.9 x 10 inches.
PROS: A soft shell means more room to expand and pack in your stuff.
CONS: This is more of a casual design; if you want something more professional, you should consider other options on our list.