So, you’re in the market for a new messenger bag. Maybe you’re new to the style, are looking for a bag for a specific purpose, or want to replace your trusty messenger that finally broke. Regardless of how you got here, we’re ready to help you choose your next one!
Before we dive in, we must go over a few things, primarily how your use case will determine the type of bag that will work best for you. If you commute with the bag on a bicycle, by public transit, or on foot, you’ll want something that does well in inclement weather. If you are using it for business, you probably need something with solid internal organization that looks professional. If you’re rough on your gear, you will want something that utilizes thick and durable materials.
There are a million reasons why you’d want to find the best messenger bags for you, so with these features to consider in mind, let’s dive into the list!
- Aer Commuter Brief 2
- Peak Design Everyday Messenger 13L (V2)
- Mystery Ranch 3 Way Briefcase Expandable
- TOM BIHN Cadet
- Osprey Arcane Brief
- Aer Pro Brief
- TOM BIHN Side Hustle
- Timbuk2 Closer Laptop Briefcase
- Boundary Supply Rennen Shoulder Bag
- Agency Aspect Hybrid Messenger
- tomtoc Explorer-H52 Messenger Bag
- Chrome Industries Buran III Messenger Bag
- Billingham Hadley Pro Camera Bag
- Tenba DNA 16 Slim Messenger Bag
- ONA Brixton
- Timbuk2 Lightweight Flight Messenger Bag
- FREITAG F41 HAWAII FIVE-O
If you’ve been looking for the best messenger bags for a while and know Pack Hacker, you probably knew this one was coming–we really dig Aer’s sleek designs, and the Aer Commuter Brief 2 is no different. It has multiple carry options, Aer’s trademark thoughtful organization to keep your gear segmented, and utilizes durable materials (1680D CORDURA® Ballistic nylon) that keep water at bay and offer you peace of mind on more rugged trips. If you have other Aer gear, it’ll fit into that ecosystem and match stylistically, which is an added bonus. If you want to take your organization skills to the next level, there’s enough space for a tech pouch, toiletry bag, and other organizers here, too; however, the bag’s wholesale interior segmentation will do the job for many travelers.
The shoulder strap’s padding isn’t adjustable, affecting how different body styles wear this pack. We dig the inclusion of an internal water bottle pocket; however, it can’t accommodate larger bottles, so leave your 32-ounce Nalgene at home. Although we like the snap fasteners on the handles to keep things organized, they slow down access to the main compartment and can be fiddly if you’re in a rush. However, that’s more nitpicky versus being an actual issue you should worry about.
Although this is a unisex pack, this is one of the best messenger bags for men because of its styling. That said, it’ll impress no matter what your style is!Why We Like It
- You can carry it in multiple ways
- The materials are durable and water-resistant
- The shoulder strap padding isn’t moveable
- Handle snaps slow down access to the main area
If you’re looking for the best messenger bag with unique, forward-thinking features, look no further than the second iteration of Peak Design’s Everyday Messenger 13L. The internal organization is sleek and polished but can be modified to meet your needs depending on the trip. You can use that organization to hold a camera system, your everyday carry items, or for work with a laptop. Although it might not be the best at any of the above use cases, it does better than most bags that try to do more than one thing, which is rad.
If you have experience with Peak Design, you might have a love-hate relationship with the FlexFold Dividers they use on many of their packs. They’re easy to use and helpful for organization; however, the bag we’ve tested has already started showing signs of wear. They still work well, and the issue is purely cosmetic. The rigidity of the pack’s materials (100% recycled 400D nylon) can be hard to get used to, especially if you’re used to using a canvas messenger bag. Still, the added durability and water resistance are no joke. This thing will keep your gear safe!Why We Like It
- The internal organization is customizable
- It can be used as a camera, everyday carry, or laptop bag
- The dividers show signs of wear quickly
- It’s hard to get used to how rigid the pack is
We know what you might be questioning: Mystery Ranch makes a messenger bag? Where am I supposed to take it, the forest? They do make one, and you can take it wherever you want to!
The front compartment has the Rip Zip style opening that we’ve come to expect from Mystery Ranch. We were skeptical about how it would transition into use on a messenger bag; however, considering you can use this pack three ways, it does well. In typical Mystery Ranch fashion, the materials and hardware here are top dogs. You’ve probably heard the saying, “Don’t mess with Texas” before, right? In reality, it should be, “Don’t mess with 500D CORDURA® Nylon,” because this stuff is scary durable!
The three carry modes are crossbody messenger bag style, backpack mode, and classic briefcase carry. All three work well and don’t get in the way of the other methods, which we dig. Even considering how much Mystery Ranch packed into this pack, it’s still a fairly small messenger bag!
We had issues fitting larger 15” laptops inside the computer compartment, which will be an issue for those with bigger models. The design feels tactical, which might not work for your next business meeting. However, we think it looks excellent, and because of its thoughtful organization and durable materials, it is one of the best messenger bags on the market.Why We Like It
- The Rip Zip pocket is well-integrated
- All of the materials are very durable and haven’t shown significant wear over weeks of use
- Hard to fit larger laptops inside
- Not the most professional-looking messenger
TOM BIHN is one of the most customizable and modular brands on the market; their materials are durable, and their organization is typically thoughtful, which is an excellent combo. Most of their bags are available in multiple colorways and fabric styles; the TOM BIHN Cadet is no different.
We opted for the 525D Ballistic nylon model because of its durability, which is top-notch. If you’re bringing tech accessories, this is one of the best messenger bags around because it has internal organization specifically designed to carry your electronics. Plus, if you plan to carry this thing all day long, we’ve found that it’s comfortable on your shoulder or in briefcase mode, which is a perk.
To get the most out of this pack, extra goodies from TOM BIHN are helpful but not included. This is an excellent standalone pack; however, you'll want to make it modular to get the most out of it. There’s no false bottom for your laptop, which isn’t the end of the world but not ideal if you’re concerned about extra protection for your tech.This pack feels like a perfect medium between a crossbody messenger bag and a work briefcase, and we’re here for it! Why We Like It
- Stellar internal organization for tech
- It’s comfortable to carry
- It doesn’t have a false bottom
- TOM BIHN modular gear is not included, which is an additional cost on top of the bag
Osprey Arcane Brief, we had to do a double-take to determine the brand that made it. Seriously, this is from Osprey? Don’t get it twisted, we love other packs that we’ve tested from the brand in the past, but the sleek, subdued look of this crossbody messenger bag isn’t a style we’re used to seeing. The exterior recycled 500D polyester packcloth has a DWR coating, which protects your gear, too. It looks excellent, but how does it function?
You can wear the Arcane Brief crossbody, on one shoulder, or briefcase style. All three methods work well, and you can quickly switch between them. The internal organization helps guide certain gear into place but leaves a fair amount of space for you to work with using packing cubes or other organizers. However, compared to this pack's footprint, it feels like there should be more room to work with inside.
Because of the 20-liter capacity, it can get slightly uncomfortable when jam-packed. The laptop compartment doesn’t have a false bottom, which is a big no-no for some travelers, but it can be remedied with a laptop case. This eats up more space, though.
If you already own Osprey gear and are looking to match it or are looking for something sleek, this might be the best messenger bag for you!Why We Like It
- It has an intuitive organizational system
- The shoulder strap is very comfortable
- When fully packed, it isn’t the most comfortable
- The laptop compartment doesn’t have a false bottom
We know what you might be thinking—this is a briefcase, not a small messenger bag, right? Well, the line might be more blurred than you think. Although the Aer Pro Brief is designed more like a briefcase, it carries more like a messenger, making it a worthy inclusion on this list.
On the outside, bluesign® approved 840D CORDURA® re/cor recycled nylon protects your gear from the elements and gives the pack a professional look. Inside, Aer’s trademark thoughtful organization ensures all your equipment has a home and is safe for the ride. In addition to the main compartment, a front pocket has an independent capacity, so you can stow extra items here without taking away space from the pack’s capacity.
If you like to get down and dirty with the nitty gritty of packing, this might not be the best messenger bag for you. If you fill all the pockets, there isn’t much room for other gear. However, this negates the need for as many organizers, which we dig. The side pocket can only handle tiny bottles, which feels like a bummer, but we think its inclusion is still positive.
If you’re looking for a more business-casual look that works just as well on vacation as it does in the boardroom, this might be the best messenger bag for you.Why We Like It
- The front compartment has ample space for gear
- The strap makes for a comfortable carry
- You can only fit small bottles inside
- There isn’t much storage available when all the pockets are in use
If customizability and modularity are the names of your game, look no further than the TOM BIHN Side Hustle for your next small messenger bag. You can choose between different materials from TOM BIHN, customize it with other gear from the brand (or anything that’s generally modular), and it is available in numerous colorway options, from those that are loud and vibrant to those that are sleek and muted.
This is more of a sling-sized messenger bag, so don’t expect to get your laptop inside here. However, regardless of your destination, you can fit a solid amount of gear inside. Plus, the durable materials ensure that your gear makes it there in one piece. We opted for the bluesign® certified High-Tenacity 2×2 Ballistic nylon and haven’t looked back. It still looks nearly new after a few weeks of rigorous testing.
The interior organization doesn’t feel as well integrated as other TOM BIHN packs we’ve tested. It isn’t bad; however, it feels more tailored to a smaller pack that they supersized to fit this larger bag. There isn’t a ton of padding on the back panel (which also lacks aeration), which will be a deal breaker for some travelers who prioritize extra comfort and breathability. However, for the most part, we’ve found this thing comfortable to carry.
Despite the heritage look that we’ve come to expect from TOM BIHN, we feel that this is one of the best messenger bags for women and men who want to ensure that every piece of their modern everyday carry gear has a home inside their pack.Why We Like It
- It’s customizable and modular friendly
- The materials are durable and come in multiple colorways
- The organization feels like that of a smaller sling
- No padding or aeration on the strap can affect comfort
Wow, here they go again. Pack Hacker is trying to sneak a briefcase onto the best messenger bags list. Did they think that we wouldn’t notice?
Well, hear us out (again). The Timbuk2 Closer Laptop Briefcase looks, carries, and feels like a messenger bag, so why shouldn’t we include it? We think you’ll be happy that we did!
Although this is a small messenger bag, there are a lot of features here. It has a luggage pass-through to help you at the airport, extra hook and loop fasteners on the front to secure the flap, and a stabilizer strap to ensure the bag stays put when the going gets rough. Not bad for such a small pack, huh?
The water bottle pocket can’t handle larger bottles, which is a bummer. The shoulder strap padding slides easily, which is ideal for getting it into the right place; however, it often slides out of that spot once you start moving. However, you can pin it down if this bothers you enough.
The exterior material is weather-resistant nylon, which is durable and protective. Even if it has briefcase in the name, aren’t you glad we included this small messenger bag?Why We Like It
- It has a waist strap to make the carry more comfortable with heavy loads
- The flap is secure thanks to extra hook and loop fasteners
- You can’t fit large water bottles in the pocket
- The shoulder strap padding moves out of place easily
Boundary Supply has created some of the most unique packs we’ve tested here at Pack Hacker, and the Rennen Shoulder Bag is no different. The luggage pass-through sneakily transitions into an additional pocket, the internal organization and exterior features enable modularity with other Boundary Supply gear, and the RE-3 external fabric is extraordinarily durable and 100% recycled. What’s not to love about that?
Because the exterior is 600D fabric, you don’t have to worry about your gear getting bumped and knocked around as much—this stuff is strong and water-resistant. The exterior is sleek, too, which is a bonus. You can attach gear onto the bottom of the front straps, which is handy for yoga or beach lovers. If you love both, you’ll have to choose one or the other, or get a foldable yoga mat that fits in your bag!
Accessing the main compartment feels slower than it needs to be, which won’t work for travelers who like to have their gear in an instant. However, for most users, this won’t be an issue. The fabric, albeit durable, tends to attract dust and hair, so pet owners might think twice before purchasing this bag (or about whether they still have a lint roller lying around).
Despite those issues, the durable materials, thoughtful internal organization, and recycled fabric make this one of the best messenger bags around!Why We Like It
- The back panel works as a luggage pass-through or a pocket for extra space and functionality
- All of the external fabric is 100% recycled
- Accessing the main compartment can be tedious
- Pet hair and dust are friendly with the external materials
This might be the most unique crossbody messenger bag on this list. Why? Materials, materials, materials! The primary pack fabric is 500D CORDURA® Nylon, which is durable and water-resistant. That isn’t special, though—we see that a lot. The accent is the special part! It’s crafted from Saffiano-style leather that is highly abrasion-resistant and looks sleek and unique.
The pack has a stabilizer strap, which will help you wrangle the large footprint of this 13-liter pack. Because of its bigger size, you can fit longer items, which might be essential for your next trip if you want to bring a collapsible fishing pole or collect novelty rulers.
Some users might find the strap adjustors challenging to wrangle; however, we got used to them fairly quickly in use. The shape of the pack doesn’t utilize space efficiently, so you won’t be able to stack packing cubes inside like Legos. That said, the quirks of this pack make it more unique than others on this list.Why We Like It
- The stabilizer strap is handy for heavy loads
- You can stow long, flat items inside easily
- The footprint of the pack is large
- There is some unusable space because of acute corners
If you’re on a budget but are still looking for one of the best messenger bags on the market, look no further than the tomtoc Explorer-H52. The central compartment opening is wide enough to access your gear and get into the nitty-gritty of organizing it. The shoulder strap has ample padding so that you can carry it all day without discomfort. Plus, the laptop compartment has thick padding and a false bottom to ensure your computer makes it from point A to point B. After all, who will monitor your Farmville account while you’re gone?
Whereas we enjoy the level of organization in the main compartment, the secondary pockets feel lacking. This isn’t catastrophic but will annoy some users. However, the durable CORDURA® Ballistic polyester and nylon ensure that any gear you stow inside the main compartment or external pockets is safe.
Whether you’re crossing town or globetrotting, the tomtoc Explorer-H52 Messenger Bag is one of the best messenger bags in terms of budget, materials, and ease of use.Why We Like It
- The main compartment opens wide for gear organization
- The laptop sleeve has a lot of padding and a false bottom, which keeps your tech safe
- Some compartments lack organization
- Sometimes, smaller items will get lost in the main compartment
If you’re a bag nerd like us, you probably have already looked at a few Chrome Industries packs on your journey to find the best messenger bag for your next trip. When it comes to hauling gear, there aren’t many packs better than the Buran III Messenger Bag. It has an amply padded shoulder strap for extra comfort, a stabilizer strap to ensure the pack doesn’t slide down your back while you’re walking or cycling, and thoughtful internal organization for all of your everyday carry items, from your laptop to a water bottle.
At 24 liters, you can stow a lot of gear inside here. However, we think the footprint for its capacity feels a bit off—it’s wide and tall but shallow, which will be difficult to muster for some travelers. However, the comfort offered by the padding and stabilizer strap helps with this immensely. The exterior is crafted from 1050D Nylon and 500D TPE Tarp, both of which are durable and offer excellent water resistance, so your gear will be safe, even if you get caught in the rain.
If you’re looking for comfort and durability but don’t care much about the size of the pack, the Chrome Industries Buran III might be the crossbody messenger bag for you.Why We Like It
- The stabilizer strap helps on rugged journeys or on a bicycle
- The internal organization is thoughtful and easy to use
- It has a large footprint for its capacity
- The materials are pretty heavy
You might have wondered when we’d finally cover a dedicated photography messenger bag, huh? Well, here’s one! Enter the Billingham Hadley Pro Camera Bag.
You can fit an entire camera kit inside this pack, which includes a body and multiple larger lenses. It’ll even fit a Pentax 6x7 medium format camera, which the heritage feel of this pack matches. That said, it does well with a modern kit, too, from mirrorless cameras to bulky DSLRs.
The pack comes in two materials: canvas and FibreNyte. Their canvas fabric is a mixture of polyester and cotton, which is durable and water-resistant. This material looks more classic. FibreNyte is fully synthetic, which adds durability and water resistance but doesn’t feel as heritage-styled, we think. However, both are professional-looking.
As much as we’ve raved about the exterior of this pack, we understand that a vintage look isn’t what everyone is after, and that’s okay. We’ve also found that the leather accents can be challenging to work with, making grabbing your camera slower. If you’re into street or wildlife photography, this could mean missing the perfect shot. That said, once you get used to them, we’ve found they operate pretty quickly. Plus, you can always hold your camera if you’re worried about it.
This might be the best messenger bag for photographers looking for a heritage look with durable materials!Why We Like It
- You can fit an entire camera kit inside
- You can choose canvas or FibreNyte
- The heritage look isn’t for everyone
- The materials feel bulky in some areas
Not every photographer wants a bag that shouts, “Hey! I’ve got thousands of dollars in equipment with me!” If you fall into this category or like subdued packs, the Tenba DNA 16 Slim Messenger Bag might be for you.
At 16 liters, you can fit everything you need for a day of shooting around town, professionally or for fun, and a day of editing photos at the local coffee shop or back in your accommodations to post online or send to your clients. You can fit your camera body, up to 6 lenses (depending on their size), up to a 16-inch computer, a tablet, and various odds and ends to make your photography or videography dreams come true.
The pack is highly water-resistant, including a TPU-coated base with sealed seams to ensure water doesn’t sneak inside, no matter the weather. You can organize the interior how you’d like with the removable inserts; however, some users don’t like how they feel. We’ve had no issues creating something that works for us. It can take some time to get things perfect, though!
If you’re looking for a sleek pack that will fit all your camera gear and keep it dry, this option is the best messenger bag for you!Why We Like It
- You can fit all your camera, computer, and small everyday carry gear inside
- It has a sleek look that doesn’t scream camera backpack
- The internal organization won’t work for everyone
- It can be challenging to decide which size is best for you
If you want a stylish camera pack that has a distressed yet fancy look and can carry most of your camera gear, look no further than Ona’s Brixton messenger bag. Or, maybe you’re from south London and want a pack to remember your hometown by. Either way, you can’t go wrong with this pack. Let’s talk about why!
Although we dig the look, it doesn’t necessarily look or feel expensive. It looks as if your grandpa might have handed it down to you with his Nikon F4 and collection of classic Nikkor AI lenses. Luckily, you can buy this bag new, sadly, without all the vintage glass.
You can fit everything you need for the day inside this pack—a DSLR or mirrorless camera, up to four lenses (depending on their size, two if they’re larger), and up to a 13-inch laptop. Plus, there’s room for extra goodies you’ll need to make great photos and edit them on your computer. The pack comes in leather and canvas options, both of which look sleek and rugged.
The strap isn’t the most comfortable we’ve come across, but it does the job for most trips. If you’re looking for a pack with good vibes that’ll fit most camera kits, this might be one of the best messenger bags for you!
Does your grandpa have any lenses you can throw inside here?Why We Like It
- It doesn’t necessarily look like a camera backpack
- The main compartment can handle most travel camera kits
- The shoulder strap isn’t the most comfortable we’ve seen
- The heritage look isn’t for everyone
Many of the crossbody messenger bags we’ve shared are crafted from durable, heavy materials. However, a pack doesn’t have to weigh you down to be rugged. Enter the TIMBUK2 Lightweight Flight Messenger Bag. We’re not going to pretend that it’s incredibly light; it isn’t. However, for its 21-liter capacity, the 2 pounds (907.2 grams) it weighs isn’t half bad.
We dig the colorway options currently available for the Flight Messenger—they remain sleek but have vibrant pops of color when needed. There are three sizes to choose from, so if the 21-liter model isn’t for you, go with the nine or 14-liter options.
The strap isn’t super long, which will limit how you can wear it and how it fits on some body types. For most intents and purposes, it’s comfortable and easy to use.
No matter the destination, the TIMBUK2 Lightweight Flight Messenger Bag will get your gear there and look good doing it.Why We Like It
- There are three sizes to choose from
- The materials are lightweight and come in unique colorways
- The strap isn’t very long, which affects how you can wear it
- The materials aren’t as durable as some other packs on this list
When you see a FREITAG pack, your first thought is probably something like, “What on earth is that made of?” Well, it’s a long story. FREITAG recycles used truck tarps from semis to make their bags. They scout across the globe for interesting-looking tarps, nearly ready to be retired, clean them, and manufacture them into their packs. Neat, huh?
This makes for an interesting and durable crossbody messenger bag. They’re pretty expensive; however, it isn’t uncommon to see FREITAG bags from the 1990s still rolling around in good condition. These bags are certified BIFL! For the uninitiated, that’s “Buy It For Life”.
There are many unique colors and designs available, too, but you can’t always get the same model twice because it’s based on what truck tarps are available. This makes it so you can’t necessarily repurchase the same one, but you can be assured that your bag is one of a kind!Why We Like It
- It’s a sustainable pack that has some of the most durable materials out there
- The pack is a conversation piece no matter where you end up
- It’s quite expensive
- The colorways and style aren’t going to be everyone’s cup of tea
So there you have it, some of the finest messenger bags this side of the 21st century. Hopefully, you’re ready to pick out your next pack by this point. Happy travels!