Our 5 Favorite Messenger Bags of 2024 | Reviews by Wirecutter

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The Knomo Kinsale leather bag, a previous pick, has been discontinued. Another pick, the Rains Commuter Bag, was updated to the Rains Messenger Bag; we tested it, and it’s now in the Competition section. Laptop Bag 17"

Our 5 Favorite Messenger Bags of 2024 | Reviews by Wirecutter

The messenger bag has been successfully—and stylishly—helping people get stuff from A to B since the days of the Pony Express. Casual yet still put-together, this type of bag is more practical and comfortable than a tote, more relaxed than a briefcase, and more professional than a backpack. Worn across the body or with a strap over one shoulder, a messenger bag is especially ideal for commuters because it has a slim silhouette and provides easy access to belongings while you’re on the go.

A great messenger bag should be well organized, roomy enough to hold the essentials, attractive, and comfortable to carry. We tested 20 bags, commuting with them for months via train, bike, car, and plane. We came away with five favorites that will suit a range of tastes, budgets, and lifestyles. Our picks include a well-priced and abundantly organized nylon classic, a compact waxed-canvas messenger with a vintage look, a stylishly structured canvas bag, a utilitarian nylon bag originally designed for bike messengers, and a splurge-worthy leather investment piece.

This well-priced, exceptionally sturdy nylon bag has a waterproof lining and lots of handy pockets—including a padded laptop sleeve—to keep you organized. It comes in a wide range of sizes and colors, and it can be customized (at extra cost).

If someone mentions a messenger bag, chances are good the image that pops into your head will look a lot like the Timbuk2 Classic Messenger Bag. This clean, minimalist nylon bag happens to be an excellent example of the genre: It’s well organized, comfortable to carry, and durable enough to survive daily commutes. Plus, it comes in four sizes and a wide range of colors, and it can be customized (at additional cost) with features like extra handles and pockets. For a bag at this price, the quality stands out even more—in online reviews, people rave about their Classic Messengers lasting for years and even over a decade.

It’s comfortable and versatile. The Classic Messenger’s shoulder strap is padded with OrthoLite foam (a breathable, cushioned material), which helps ease heavy loads. During testing, we found this bag to be comfortable to carry, even when it was slung over a shoulder for an hour-long commute.

The strap can be switched into a right- or left-dominant carrying position—an unusual feature and a nice option for lefties. The strap length can be extended quickly using a strong buckle made of aircraft-grade aluminum. Its maximum length is 70 inches—the longest among our picks—so this bag is a good option for many different body types.

And on the back of the Classic Messenger, there’s a small nylon handle that makes picking it up and moving it around easy (without having to tuck the bag under an arm, as if we were playing a game of rugby).

It’s tough and weather-resistant. This bag is made of Cordura, an extra-sturdy, weather-resistant nylon fabric; there’s also a waterproof lining, to protect your belongings. And when the Classic Messenger is closed, the corners of the bag fold inward so the material can prevent water from getting in. Waterproofing is fairly common in messenger bags, thanks to their bike-courier origins, but it’s not universal, and it’s definitely a plus.

It has tons of interior organization. Don’t be fooled by the simple look of this bag’s exterior. The Classic Messenger has over 10 organizational compartments, including dual water-bottle pockets and a padded laptop sleeve. (We tested the bag in a medium, which fits a laptop up to 16 inches; the other sizes hold laptops ranging from 11 inches (the extra-small ) to 17 inches (the large.) The big front pocket, beneath the flap, has hidden vertical-zip compartments, in which you can stash small items (like a wallet) and access them with one hand. There’s also a convenient keychain hook.

It can be customized (for a price). Think of this as the “Choose Your Own Adventure” of messenger bags. The standard model is available in four sizes (extra-small to large) and nine colors, including solids and colorblock. Or you can get a custom version instead; you can choose from over 40 color options, in various fabrics (like reflective silver), and get the exact organizational features you want.

Just be aware that these add-ons can add up fast—the laptop sleeve and water-bottle pockets that come standard on the Classic Messenger cost $20 and $5, respectively. But if you’re passionate about having a design look just so, it may be a worthy investment.

Per Timbuk2’s lifetime warranty policy, if this bag needs to be sent to the company’s repair facility, it’s the customer’s responsibility to arrange and pay for shipping.

Dimensions: 13.4 by 17.9 by 7.28 inches (size medium) Weight: 2.2 pounds Capacity: 16 liters Materials: nylon Shoulder-strap length: 70 inches (maximum) Warranty: lifetime warranty for defects in materials or workmanship (does not cover wear and tear)

This waxed-canvas messenger has a distinctive vintage aesthetic, and its smooth nylon shoulder strap is extra-comfy. But this is a compact bag, with limited internal organization (and no dedicated laptop pocket), so it’s best for lighter loads.

If you appreciate a vintage look, then consider the Waterfield Vitesse Cycling Musette—an attractive, waxed-canvas messenger bag with distressed leather accents. It feels sturdy and is comfortable to carry, thanks to its soft nylon strap. This is a compact bag—the smallest of our picks—without a ton of space or internal organization, but it does have enough room for the essentials like a laptop, plus a book or two.

It has a cool vintage vibe. The Cycling Musette’s waxed-canvas material—available in either navy or brown—seems pre-loved from Day One, and it will soften more with age. This bag is susceptible to scratches, but the scratches aren’t unappealing—they contribute to its worn-in feel. The bag’s top carry handle is made with distressed full-grain leather, further adding to its character.

Waterfield also offers the Cycling Musette in full-grain leather, rather than canvas, for around $100 more; we have not tested that version.

It’s a compact, minimalist bag that’s best for lighter loads. This bag is the smallest of our picks, with a capacity of 6.15 liters. (For comparison, our largest pick, the Chrome Citizen Messenger Bag, holds 24 liters.) In online reviews, multiple people specifically praise the bag’s “perfect” size, noting that it encourages them to travel light.

The interior of the Cycling Musette is unfussy, with just two open-top pockets. This bag does not have a dedicated laptop compartment, though it can fit a laptop up to 14 inches. Since the canvas body of the bag lacks structure and padding, it doesn’t offer much protection for the contents, so we recommend putting your laptop in a sleeve.

It’s built to last. The Cycling Musette is made from 15-ounce canvas that seems exceptionally sturdy. Its leather top handle also feels durable and strong, even when it’s supporting the bag at full capacity. Previously, this bag had a leather tab closure on the front. It’s been updated with a sturdy, paragliding-style buckle, which is more secure and quicker to unfasten; you just press the sides to release the buckle.

Its carrying strap is user-friendly. The Cycling Musette’s nylon strap extends to a maximum length of 60 inches; it has a smooth, seatbelt-like texture and can even be worn comfortably even against a bare shoulder.

The strap is sewn into the ends of the Cycling Musette at an angle, which allows the bag to be positioned on the body just right. During testing, we appreciated that the bag didn’t awkwardly bang against our hips as we were walking.

Dimensions: 10½ by 16 by 2¾ inches Weight: 1.9 pounds Capacity: 6.15 liters Materials: waxed canvas, leather accents Shoulder-strap length: 60 inches (maximum) Warranty: lifetime for defects in materials or workmanship (does not cover wear and tear)

This canvas bag, with vegan-leather accents, is polished, roomy, and well organized, and its shoulder strap is removable (if you want to use it as a briefcase). But some testers found the structured shape and shorter strap length resulted in a less-comfortable fit.

The Matt & Nat Martel Vegan Messenger Bag—a structured, tailored canvas carrier, with vegan leather accents—is an unusually sophisticated-looking messenger bag. It has a spacious, well-organized interior and a removable shoulder strap, if you’d prefer to use it as a briefcase.

It looks upscale and professional. This elevated canvas messenger bag has a clean and polished design, with a single flap (embossed with a discreet brand logo) and no outer pockets. It’s available in three neutral colors: olive, black, and dark tan. The vegan-leather accents (which are plastic-based) contribute to the high-end feel.

On the bag’s interior, there are two lines of embossed text stating the (nylon) lining is made of 100% recycled plastic bottles, along with a claim that Matt & Nat recycles 3 million–plus plastic bottles per year. We reached out repeatedly to a rep to get more details about the company’s vegan materials and sustainability practices, but we did not hear back; in general, it’s often tricky to get clear answers on these issues.

It’s structured and protective. The Martel bag has a structured shape, which acts as a padded shell for your belongings; its flap has both Velcro and snaps to keep it securely closed. But some testers did complain that the stiff canvas felt uncomfortable when it pressed against the body. The tightly woven canvas fabric exterior is durable and weather-resistant, though it’s not waterproof—if you get caught in a downpour, water may penetrate the surface. Treating the canvas with wax can help to (moderately) increase the bag’s water resistance.

It’s roomy. With a capacity of 16.2 liters, this bag is among our roomiest picks. The interior is spare, with lots of open space. There’s a smartphone pocket and a padded laptop sleeve, which can fit devices up to 13 inches.

It can be a messenger bag or a briefcase. The Martel bag has a well-padded crossbody strap that adjusts to 50 inches at its full length. (Some of our taller or broader testers said they wished it were longer; only our Chrome Citizen pick has a shorter shoulder strap, but that bag fits differently due to its stabilizer strap.) If you’d prefer to use the Martel bag like a briefcase, the shoulder strap is removable, and the bag can be carried by its vegan leather top handle.

Dimensions: 15 by 12 by 5½ inches Weight: 1.55 lbs Capacity: 16.2 liters Materials: canvas exterior, vegan leather accents, nylon lining Shoulder-strap length: 50 inches (maximum) Warranty: one year

Originally made for bike messengers, this bag is functional and ergonomic, with a quick-release, seatbelt-style buckle and a stabilizer strap. It’s also durable, weatherproof, and well organized, but it doesn’t have a padded laptop compartment.

Use promo code TEAMCHROME, price includes shipping (select colors)

Launched in 1995, the Chrome Citizen Messenger Bag was first designed for bike messengers—so it should come as no surprise that it’s tough and highly utilitarian. (It’s also the most spacious of our picks.) This weatherproof nylon bag has a high, body-hugging fit and a stabilizer strap for weight distribution and stability. It comes in eight colors (ranging from black and gray to bolder red and plum), and the interior offers plenty of organization, though there’s no laptop pocket.

It has a unique strap system and ergonomic fit. The Citizen bag has the closest, highest fit of any of our picks; when fully extended, its padded shoulder strap is 35½ inches (the shortest of the group, by far). There’s also a stabilizer strap, which attaches from the shoulder strap to the corner of the bag (beneath the left arm); it helps with weight distribution and keeps the bag secured snugly to the body. This is especially useful for cyclists because it prevents the bag from slipping forward while you’re pedaling.

At the center of the shoulder strap, there’s a seatbelt-style buckle, which makes getting the bag on and off quick and easy. (There’s a bottle opener on the buckle, as well—just in case you need to crack open a root beer or hard cider during your commute.)

It’s ultra-durable. The exterior of the Citizen bag is made of 1050D nylon, a strong, durable basket-weave fabric often used for tactical and outdoor gear. The interior of the bag has a suspended bucket liner made from 500D TPE tarp, a waterproof, three-ply (or three-layer) fabric with high abrasion resistance. The pockets are lined with water-resistant recycled polyester. For added protection, the front flap closes with both Velcro and buckles.

With its bike-messenger origins, Chrome has a reputation for making tough bags that last, and this messenger bag is backed by strong customer reviews. Wirecutter staff writer Michael Cohen has owned the Citizen bag since 2015, and he reports that it’s still one of his favorite purchases. It’s seen him through various jobs, including cycling throughout New York City as an actual bike messenger, being a tour guide, and puppy parenting.

It’s ultra-roomy and well organized. The Citizen bag is the roomiest of our picks, with a 24-liter capacity. The main compartment has two pockets. It also has a waterproof floating tarp liner that is suspended above the bottom seams (but fixed along the back edge); this keeps moisture from getting through to the interior of the bag. The liner is divided into two compartments, so wet and dry items can be kept separately. On the front face of the bag, beneath the flap, there’s an organizational panel with a zippered pocket and slots for a notebook, phone, and pens. This bag can accommodate a laptop up to 15 inches, but it doesn’t have a dedicated/padded laptop pocket; we recommend that you protect your device with a sleeve.

If you want to add more organization, Chrome sells add-ons, including a messenger organizer (a water-resistant pouch with dividers) and a phone pouch (which attaches to the exterior of the bag).

Dimensions: 13 by 22 by 7 inches Weight: 2.8 pounds Capacity: 24 liters Materials: nylon exterior, nylon tarp liner Shoulder-strap length: 35½ inches (maximum) Warranty: lifetime for defects in materials or workmanship (does not cover wear and tear)

Made from full-grain leather, this upscale bag has a timeless look, and it has a removable strap, so it can be carried as a messenger bag or a briefcase. It also has a waterproof nylon interior, thoughtful tech organization, and a rear panel that slides onto a wheeled suitcase for travel.

The Waterfield Executive Leather Messenger is a messenger bag for grown-ups. It’s made from luxurious full-grain leather, and it has a removable shoulder strap, so it can also be used as a briefcase. This bag is also travel-ready, with a rear panel that slides onto a rolling suitcase. And its distinctive interior is as well organized as it is attractive.

It’s timeless and beautifully made. The Executive bag is the most expensive of our picks, but its high-quality craftsmanship is evident. It’s available in black, tan, and chocolate brown full-grain leather. We tested the black bag, which has a smooth finish; the other two options have a more-rugged, matte finish that develops a higher-sheen patina over time.

The front flap of the Executive bag is double-layered leather, and it feels extra-sturdy. The flap is secured with a paragliding-style buckle, similar to the one on our Waterfield Vitesse Cycling Musette pick, and it opens and closes easily. The bag’s interior is lined with soft, water-resistant nylon in a rich gold color.

It’s loaded with thoughtful, practical features. There’s a panel on the back of the bag, so you can slide the Executive bag onto the handle of a wheeled suitcase; this is a handy feature for travel, and our other picks don’t have this panel. The shoulder strap has a removable pad (it snaps off), and it extends to a generous 64 inches; if you prefer to wear the bag higher and closer to the body, the strap can be shortened considerably. The shoulder strap is also detachable, so the bag can be carried by its top handle, like a briefcase.

It comes in two sizes. We tested the Executive bag in the compact size, which has a capacity of 7½ liters; it has separate slots for a laptop up to 15 inches and a tablet up to 13 inches. If you’re looking for something roomier, for around $20 extra, this bag also comes in a full size. The full size is an inch or so taller, wider, and deeper than the compact version, with a capacity of 10½ liters and slots for a laptop up to 16 inches and a tablet up to 13½ inches.

It’s impeccably organized. The Executive bag’s interior is a thoughtful blend of form and function. In addition to looking great, the vibrant gold lining serves a purpose: It acts as a contrasting backdrop for your belongings, making them easier to find. The bag’s various compartments are well laid out; in addition to the padded (separate) laptop and tablet sleeves, there are zippered and open pockets for items like your phone and writing utensils, as well as cords and other accessories. There’s also a nylon strap with a metal key fob on it, so when it’s time to find your keys, you don’t have to go on a fishing expedition at the bottom of your bag.

Dimensions: 10½ by 14¼ by 2¾ inches (compact size) Weight: 3¼ pounds Capacity: 7½ liters Materials: full-grain leather exterior, nylon lining Shoulder-strap length: 64 inches (maximum) Warranty: lifetime for defects in materials or workmanship (does not cover wear and tear)

If you want a bike-friendly messenger bag that opens two ways: Mission Workshop’s The Monty, a former pick in this guide, is a sleek, utilitarian-style nylon messenger. Unusually, this bag has two modes: It can be opened via its front flap, like a standard messenger bag, or it can be used as a roll-top. The Monty is available in five colors, including olive and red, and it comes with a choice of seven different buckle-color options. Both its exterior and interior are waterproof and weather-resistant. Like our Chrome Citizen Messenger pick, this bag is designed with cyclists in mind—it’s intended to be worn high and snug on the body. Its shoulder strap has a maximum length of 40 inches and is notably well padded, so it’s comfortable even for extended wear (one tester favorably compared it to a cloud). It also has a stabilizer strap, though it doesn’t distribute weight as evenly as the Citizen’s strap. With a capacity of 21 liters, the 10-by-16-by-5-inch Monty is smaller than the Citizen, though it’s plenty roomy. It has three internal pockets (including a zippered compartment with room for a 13-inch laptop), plus space for a 15-inch laptop in its main compartment. Testers noted that the Velcro closures on this bag were construction-level loud.

There are many types of bags out there—backpacks, totes, briefcases—and they all have their pros and cons. The advantage of a messenger bag is that you can carry it hands-free while still being able to access your belongings—without having to take it off—which is especially appealing for commuters. Depending on the materials it’s made from and the overall styling, a messenger bag can look super-casual and rugged or polished, professional, and sleek.

One caveat: Since a messenger bag is carried slung across the shoulder, it can be tough on your back. A shoulder bag causes the back muscles to work asymmetrically—the weight of the bag is not distributed evenly, as it is with a backpack—creating a series of stretching and compressive forces that can lead to injury. It’s important to pick a comfortable messenger bag with good ergonomics, and you should be mindful of how much weight you’re carrying in it and for how long.

Messenger bags are used mainly for commuting. But there are lots of ways to commute—via train, bus, ferry, bike, on foot—so we sought a wide variety of bags that could meet a diverse range of needs.

We selected 18 messenger bags to test, and we evaluated them based on the following criteria:

To evaluate the bags, we recruited a panel of testers, from Wirecutter and beyond, to wear each bag for up to two months on their commutes. (The bags traveled by foot, train, bike, car, and plane.) Our panelists had different body types, representing a range of heights and sizes.

Each panelist stocked their bag with their daily essentials, including a laptop, a laptop charger, a book or notebook, a phone, and pens. Our picks were chosen based on the testers’ feedback and our own assessments.

With its weatherproofing and reflective material, the BaileyWorks Super Pro seemed like it could be a good option for cyclists. But it turned out to be flimsy: It couldn’t retain a shape, and we didn’t feel like our personal items were safe in it. Plus, it lacked organizational features.

The Côte & Ciel Riss Obsidian Black Bag has a striking geometric look, but it ultimately left us underwhelmed. A mesh section in the middle of the bag seemed to serve little purpose, other than altering the overall silhouette.

The Rains Commuter Bag, a previous pick in this guide, was updated to a new model, the Rains Messenger Bag. We tested it and didn’t like its stiff, bulky build. Unlike the well-padded strap on the previous version of this bag, the strap on the Rains Messenger Bag dug uncomfortably into our shoulders. Also, opening the buckle and unzipping the bag was unnecessarily difficult.

Additional reporting by Jordan Bowman and Haley Sprankle. This article was edited by Ingela Ratledge Amundson and Jennifer Hunter.

Sri Rain Stewart is a senior updates writer at Wirecutter covering style, gifts, and beauty. She's written on fashion, culture, and shopping for InStyle, Okayplayer, Rolling Stone, and more. Previously, she was at Barneys New York. When she’s not creative writing, obsessing over music, or a new film to stream, she’s out exploring locally and beyond.

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Our 5 Favorite Messenger Bags of 2024 | Reviews by Wirecutter

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