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The 6 Best Messenger Bags to Carry Your Load in Style

A man looking at his phone and carrying a messenger bag on his shoulder.

There’s no shortage of options when it comes to messenger bags, but that doesn’t mean they’re all good. If you’re going to trust one to carry your important documents, textbooks, or an expensive laptop, it needs to be up to snuff—so, we’ve found the ones that are.

What to Look for in a Messenger Bag

Messenger bags might all look similar on the outside, but no two are made the same. Here are some things to look for when you’re choosing a messenger bag:

  • Size: Bigger is not always better. If you buy a bag with more space than you need, it can be cumbersome to carry.
  • Material: What a bag is made of determines how well it will handle the elements, drops, or slashes. You want your bag to be made out of something durable that will protect your belongings and won’t fall apart in a week.
  • Organization: There’s nothing more frustrating than having to dig through your bag to find what you need. Interior organization for specific items—whether it’s multiple pockets or specialized compartments—is a must.
  • Comfort: You use the shoulder strap to carry a messenger bag, and it can cause a bit of shoulder strain. A light bag with an adjustable strap, and an air mesh or cushioned shoulder pad will go a long way to alleviate any shoulder aches and pains.

Now that you know what to look for, here are our favorite messenger bags.

Best Overall: Timbuk2 Classic

The Timbuk2 Classic Messenger Bag in Dusk Blue/Black.

Timbuk2 is known for making high-quality bags, and its Classic Messenger is no different. The soft outer fabric is durable and waterproof. The air mesh shoulder strap also makes the bag more comfortable to carry for long periods.

Inside, this bag is well-suited for organization. There are internal pockets for pens, phones, water bottles, and other smaller items. The larger, general pockets are perfect for stuff like laptops or tablets (up to 15 inches).

The bag measures 18.1 inches long and weighs two pounds when empty. It’s available in a wide range of colors, so you can choose one that suits your taste.

Best Overall

TIMBUK2 Classic Messenger, Dusk Blue/Black - Medium (116-4-4090)

Versatile, well designed, and available in a variety of colors, Timbuk2's Classic Messenger Bag covers all the bases.

Best Small Bag: ZINNA Man Bag

The ZZINNA Man Bag in black.

If you prefer a smaller messenger bag, this one by ZZINNA strikes a nice balance between size and storage. At only 10 inches long and weighing less than a pound, it’s easy to carry and simple to store when not in use.

Its smaller size means it’s incapable of holding a laptop, but it’s perfect for carrying a journal or other smaller items.

The main pocket is separated into multiple compartments, and there are three zippered pockets on the exterior for quick access. It’s made of waterproof polyester to keep your stuff dry.

Best Small Bag

ZZINNA Messenger Bag Shoulder Bags Man Purses and Bags Small Crossbody Bags for Men and Women

The ZZINNA Man Bag strikes a nice balance between size and storage.

Best Large Bag: Lifewit Military

The Lifewit Military Laptop Bag

If you need something that can handle more intense packing, Lifewit’s Military Laptop Bag might be better for you. At 17 inches long and weighing four pounds when empty, this bag is already pretty big—and then they covered the exterior with pockets.

There’s plenty of space for laptops, tablets, pens, and anything else you might need with you. The durable, water-resistant nylon will keep your belongings safe, and there’s even a shock-absorbing laptop sleeve to protect your computer (up to 17 inches).

Best Large Bag

Lifewit 17" Men's Military Laptop Messenger Bag Multifunction Tactical Briefcase Computer Shoulder Handbags

For heavy packers, Lifewit's Military Laptop Bag has enough pockets to store anything you need.

Best Leather Bag: KPL Vintage Briefcase

The KPL Vintage Leather Briefcase.

If you wanna go more traditional, KPL has a great leather bag for you. Made of genuine leather and lined with durable canvas, this bag will keep your belongings safe in style. It’s 18 inches long and weighs 4.65 pounds when empty, so it’s the heaviest on our list, but that comes with the territory when you’re talking leather.

The inside has multiple large compartments, with additional exterior pockets for smaller items. This is definitely the best choice if you carry items like documents and books along with your laptop (up to 15.6 inches).

Best Leather Bag

KPL 18 INCH Leather Briefcase Laptop Messenger Bag Satchel Office computer bag for men and women (18 INCH)

If you prefer something more tried and true, KPL's Vintage Leather Briefcase Messenger Bag will live up to the legacy.

Best for Travel: Ytonet Expandable Briefcase

The 17-inch Ytonet Travel Briefcase

Whether you’re going to the city for a day or to the beach for a week, travel can be unpredictable. You usually find you come back with more items than you started with. This is where Ytonet’s Expandable Travel Briefcase comes in handy.

It’s a standard-size messenger bag, with enough space to hold a laptop (up to 15.6 inches), some documents, and other small items. When you use the expansion zipper, though, the bag goes from 6 to 7.7 inches thick, making it more comparable to a travel briefcase. This allows you to pack much more for longer trips.

It’s 17.3 inches long, weighs 2.5 pounds when empty, and is made of water-resistant fabric.

Best for Travel

Best Transparent Bag: PACMAXI Clear

The Medium PACMAXI Clear Messenger Bag

For security reasons, many public events now require that bags be transparent. If you want to be prepared for those situations—and still use a messenger bag—we recommend this large Clear Messenger by PACMAXI. It’s made of heavy-duty PVC for longer life and only weighs 1.2 pounds when empty. The organization options are limited—it has one main and one exterior side pocket to ensure that everything inside is visible.

There are two sizes available: medium (12 inches long x 8.7 inches high) and large (12 inches long x 12 inches high). Unfortunately, neither size has a laptop sleeve, but if you want this for public events, that should be fine.

Best Transparent Bag

Clear Messenger Bag Large Clear Crossbody Bag for Work,School,Travel,Gym,Stadium Events (Medium)

If you attend events that require transparent bags, the PACMAXI Clear Messenger is perfect!

Eric Schoon Eric Schoon
Eric Schoon is a writer for Review Geek and has spent most of his life thinking about and analyzing products of all shapes and sizes. From the latest games to the hottest smartphones, he enjoys finding the greatest strengths and weaknesses of everything he gets his hands on and then passing that information on to you. Read Full Bio »