No matter how you get around—and where you’re going—you’re probably looking for streamlined, organized, and attractive ways to tote your gear. The messenger bags can be an ideal solution, crossing the body and leaving the hands free to swipe a subway ticket, carry a coffee, or clutch a boarding pass while striding through an airport terminal.
Here at the Strategist, we like to think of ourselves as crazy (in the good way) about the stuff we buy, but as much as we’d like to, we can’t try everything. Which is why we have People’s Choice, in which we find the best-reviewed products and single out the most convincing ones. (You can learn more about our rating system and how we pick each item here.)
And while we’ve written about lots of bags before — including the best work bags for women, the best gym bags, and the best weekender bags — here we’ve rounded up the best messenger bags for men, as praised by the most enthusiastic reviewers on Amazon.
In a hurry and ready to shop? Check out our product list above to select your favorite messenger bag. But first, we invite you to read our guide below to help you find the best messenger bags for your needs.
5 Best Messenger Bags of 2021:
Over 1,000 reviewers bestowed five stars upon this extra large bag because it’s “well-made, roomy, stylish, functional, and at a very inexpensive price,” as this reviewer puts it. Many were surprised by how much actually fits inside, like one who observes, “I managed to pack my (bulkier) MacBook Pro 17-inch, Kindle Paperwhite, chargers, three pairs of board shorts, five t-shirts, seven pairs of socks, underwear, and a bag of medication.
Even with all of those items inside, I was still able to make the bag mostly flat for travel on the plane.” One reviewer simply just loves the look of this rugged canvas bag: “This has a tasteful, stylish look to it while still having a utilitarian look. It has just the right mix of style and functionality for my taste.”
Another selling point for many are the clasps on the over-the shoulder strap swivel, which drove one reviewer to rave, “This is something that has had me stay clear of most messenger bags in the past because they, for some odd reason, did not come with this function. All in all, I definitely say to grab this bag if you’re considering the purchase.”
- Well protected
- Customisable fit
- More functional than stylish
Chrome Industries makes plenty of durable gear ideal for cycling and city life alike, but the Citizen Messenger Bag is one of the most popular — and for good reason. This timeless bag was designed for biking, and it has an iconic, unyielding design with impressive capacity. When you open the bag, there’s one main compartment that is almost as big as the bag itself.
There’s no padded laptop pocket, no internal dividers, and nothing else to take up space. It’s a simplified choice that ensures maximum room for all your gear. And, not to worry — you can use a laptop sleeve to protect your computer and the packing cubes we recommend to organize smaller items.
The main compartment is lined with a removable water-resistant tarp that’s held in place with velcro, in case you need to dry it later. You can even use this as a makeshift divider, putting items between the bag’s outer shell and the tarp, a great way to keep dirty gym clothes separate from the rest of your stuff. The outer portion of the bag is built with an abrasion-resistant fabric and comes in a ton of color options.
The shoulder strap has a seatbelt buckle so that rather than having to swing the bag over your head, you can just pull it around your body and click the buckle into place. You can keep the strap adjusted shorter, which makes it easier to carry heavy loads or ride a bike. There’s also a quick-adjust strap which makes changing the length a breeze. Importantly, the strap is well-padded and very comfortable to carry.
- Lots of space
- Comfortable to carry
- Very durable
The Hadley One’s standout feature is a 13in laptop slot behind the main compartment. It’s a practically sized bag without being unwieldy, although you only get a half-width padded insert included. This will swallow a 24-70mm f/2.8 lens, plus an ungripped full-frame body with a 50mm lens attached. The remaining space in the main compartment is great for personal effects, or you can add an optional second camera insert.
Two large front pockets, meanwhile, are perfect for keeping lenses reachable during a shoot. But the real reasons you buy a Hadley One are its supreme quality, and a timeless style that’ll suit any occasion. The smell of the leather straps and reinforcing trim is worth the money alone, while the rugged canvas outer material and slightly domed flap shrug off abuse and a heavy rain shower.
- Stunning material and quality
- Spacious, classy design
- Lots of color options
- Fiddly flap fasteners
- Restrictive sized insert
The Timbuk2 Classic Messenger Bag offers a winning combination of well-thought-out features for the frequent commuter and a ridiculous number of organizational pockets, all at a reasonable price and with a lifetime warranty. This bag comes in multiple sizes (we tested the medium) and a myriad of color options, so the Classic Messenger feels personal and adaptable to any lifestyle.
The Timbuk2 is classic like a simple white T-shirt is classic—everyone looks good wearing one, and it never detracts from what you’re trying to do. It’s exactly the bag you picture when someone says “messenger bag.” Plus, thanks to the Timbuk2’s soft, airmesh shoulder strap, it was comfortable to wear even after an hour-long commute with it slung over a shoulder.
What helped the Timbuk2 stand out from other messenger bags was its variety of well-thought-out features for keeping the bag’s contents safe and organized. The Timbuk2’s interior has a waterproof lining to help protect your laptop and notebook from a sudden downpour, and the upper corners of the opening fold inward to reduce the chance of water leaking in when the bag is shut.
There’s a zippered cargo pocket (it reveals itself after you unbuckle the two front straps) that has a convenient keychain hook. If you don’t want to be constantly opening the entire bag, there’s also a hidden zippered side pocket, which you can stuff simple items into for retrieval with one hand.
- Padded handle
- Adjustable strap
- Tons of pockets and organization
Herschel Supply Co. is a brand that boasts its fine quality, and its Gibson Messenger is an option specifically designed for travel that doesn’t disappoint. While you can purchase one of our favorite backpacks, this messenger bag is an equal player in providing durability, versatility, and a classic carry for all your essentials.
Described as a travel brief on Herschel’s site, it consists of two main compartments and EVA-reinforced carrying handles. Hand-crafted for the traveler, its padded-and-fleece-lined laptop sleeve can fit up to a 15-inch device with an enclosed zipper. And, the bag’s minimalist zipper design is a key feature of the messenger. The front storage sleeve has a reinforced zipper flap, and the trolley sleeve zips closed when not in use.
Versatile and sleek, the Gibson Messenger is rather small, yet mighty. It’s a great, adjustable option to take off your shoulders and prop above your airport baggage (one of our checked luggage picks, perhaps) and the keen eye for quality and detail is apparent. I recently purchased the brand’s Novel Duffel Bag and I can attest the structure of its bags are polished, practical, and, of course, superb for travel.
- Zip-convertible trolley sleeve to grasp luggage handle
- Great compartmentalization
- EVA-reinforced carrying handles
- Removable shoulder strap
- Padded laptop sleeve
Buying guide for messenger bags
Step aside, newsies. As the world becomes more reliant on mobile technology, messenger bags are more popular than ever. Originally designed for city-dwelling couriers, these bags fill a useful niche, doubling as both briefcase and backpack. In lieu of document-laden folders and bulky stationary, however, we’ve started filling them with our tech. And as it turns out, they’re the perfect size for schlepping laptops and other gadgets from point A to point B.
Benefits of using a messenger bag
Although earlier versions were clearly designed exclusively for functionality, modern messenger bags carry a number of noteworthy benefits. Following are a few key advantages of using a messenger bag.
- Convenience: Arguably, no other bag style is easier to use than the messenger bag. With over-the-shoulder positioning and vertical compartments, the contents of the bag are easily accessible.
- Comfort: With a single broad shoulder strap that can be worn across the chest or slung over one shoulder, many people find messenger bags more comfortable than backpacks. And because a messenger bag lies flat against your side, it’s infinitely more suitable for navigating through crowds or tight spaces than a backpack or carry on.
- Style: Depending on the design, a messenger bag can make a statement of youthful exuberance, confidently exude an air of mature professionalism, whisper a suggestion of understated class and elegance, or even silently blend into the background.
How we picked
To find the best messenger bags on the market today, we culled recommendations from all over the web, focusing on product releases from the last two years. Next, we compared these bags to 2019 “best of” lists from websites that covered technology, fashion or a combination of the two. After narrowing down our picks for each category, we weighed recent product reviews against top-selling models on Amazon.com, taking authentic customer feedback into consideration.