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  • 91 Models Considered
  • 10 Hours Spent
  • 1 Experts Interviewed
  • 111 Consumers Consulted
  • Zero products received from manufacturers.

    We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

    Shopping Guide for Best Messenger Bags

    Laptops, chargers, books, wallets, phones, and keys are just a handful of the items the average person carries around on a daily basis. If you need a functional yet stylish option to hold your everyday essentials, look no further than the messenger bag.

    With a sleek design and comfortable cross-body strap, messenger bags not only look great, they offer easy access to your items, even when you’re on the move. And with their long-standing popularity, messenger bags are available in just about any size, style, and color you could want.

    Whether you're a student or a professional, there's a messenger bag for you. However, with countless options on the market, the search for the right messenger bag can be challenging. At BestReviews, we’re here to help. Our goal is to make finding the best products a breeze for consumers. Our reviews are based on extensive research, expert advice, and honest consumer feedback.

    In a hurry and ready to shop? Check out our product matrix above to select your favorite messenger bag. But first, we invite you to read our guide below to help you find the best messenger bag for your needs.

    With unlimited designs to choose from, messenger bags make great fashion accessories. Having two or three different styles on hand will allow you to choose the perfect one for any occasion.

    Messenger Bag History

    Messenger bags exploded onto the urban scene about a decade ago, but they have a surprisingly long and rich history. While many of today's designs serve as fashion statements as well as utility bags, the true roots of the messenger bag lie deep in rugged functionality and necessity.

    Sturdy leather messenger bags were once utilized by the Pony Express of the wild west. Canvas messenger bags were carried by medics and dispatch riders during World War II. Indeed, messenger bags have been used in some form by messengers, couriers, and postmen throughout history.

    The compact messenger bag design widely recognized today dates back to the 1950s. It was adapted to provide easy, one-handed tool access for linemen. For workers perched at hair-raising heights on telephone poles, this was a life-saving necessity.

    What are messenger bags used for today? It's safe to say that there are zero limitations. Whether used for work, school, or to carry essentials when out and about, a messenger bag is up for just about any job.

    Should your leather messenger bag get wet, dry it thoroughly by wiping it down and placing it in a warm, dry area. To help it dry faster and retain its shape, scrunch up some newspaper and stuff these “balls” inside the bag and pockets.

    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. Even if you happen to be walking, there's no need to remove the bag; simply open it up and grab what you need. If you’re a commuter, the ability to easily slide your messenger bag into your lap with the tug of a strap is also highly convenient.

    • 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. Whichever style you prefer, a messenger bag effortlessly complements any look.

    Wearing a messenger bag exclusively over one shoulder isn't recommended and may even impede correct posture. Regularly switch sides to avoid shoulder discomfort.

    Choosing Your Messenger Bag Style

    Before you purchase a messenger bag, you'll have to figure out the most suitable style for your intended use. Some messenger bags are designed with students in mind; others are more formal. Cyclists or otherwise active individuals will have their own unique requirements, and those in need of a casual everyday option will need consider their personal taste and the number of items the bag will need to accommodate.

    Although it can be difficult to pinpoint exactly which messenger bag is best for a particular setting/use/individual, the following suggestions may help narrow down your options.

    • For Professionals: Leather messenger bags, whether imitation or genuine, work well for professional use. Opt for a solid color, and if you'll be carrying a laptop, make sure you get a bag of suitable size and with some level of padding to protect it.

    • For Students: Students often need to carry a considerable number of books. A larger messenger bag with a strong base is essential. Students will also want to find the widest strap possible to help improve weight distribution and prevent the strap from digging into the shoulder.

    • For Cyclists: Cyclists and other active individuals will require a messenger bag constructed from weatherproof materials to protect their belongings from the elements. Extra padding on both the strap and the bag itself is recommended. If possible, opt for a messenger bag with vivid colors or reflective components to increase visibility and safety.

    • For Casual Users: Once you've established the bag size you need to accommodate your belongings, feel free to go wild. Materials, colors, padding, and compartments will all be subject to personal preference.

    Unlike backpacks, messenger bags can be used in formal settings as well. Some are designed to be a modern spin on the traditional briefcase.

    Important Messenger Bag Components

    Before you select a messenger bag, take a look at its components to be sure they will suit you. Of particular importance are the number and quality of the compartments, the nature of the straps and handles, and any clasps or buckles that adorn the bag.



    A messenger bag with a variety of compartments will help professionals keep things organized. Most multi-compartment messenger bags have a well-padded compartment specifically intended to hold and protect a laptop. There may be other useful organizational features as well, such as a pen holder or business card slot. Lots of messenger bags aimed at professionals also have zippered compartments for loose items.

    Some people will find that too many compartments can be limiting, however. A traditional messenger bag with a single roomy interior and a couple of sewn-in pockets or a small zippered compartment on the outside offers infinitely more versatility for everyday use.


    If you need a messenger bag that's capable of accommodating a light jacket or other bulky items, opt for a design with a roomy interior over one with multiple compartments.

    Staff  | BestReviews

    Straps and Handles

    While all messenger bags have adjustable straps, they aren't all guaranteed to be comfortable. Wider straps distribute weight more evenly and offer increased levels of comfort. Padding is another desirable feature that helps prevent discomfort when carrying heavier loads.

    Some messenger bags have a handle at the top. Handles are most commonly seen in messenger bags designed for office use. These bags are carried in much the same way as a briefcase.


    If you carry heavier loads on a regular basis, you may want to choose a messenger bag with a wide strap and some form of padding.

    Staff  | BestReviews

    Clasps And Buckles

    Many messenger bags have no clasps or buckles whatsoever. Instead, there may be an unembellished flap with a Velcro fastener on the inside. This classic style is popular for its sleek design, but while it undeniably provides quicker access, it doesn't offer the same level of security as those with clasps or buckles. If you choose a messenger bag with a flap, look for one with a quality zipper to help prevent your items from falling out.

    On the other hand, messenger bags with clasps or buckles face an increased risk of one of them breaking. If you're drawn to the added security or decorative appeal of a messenger bag with clasps/buckles, we recommend that you choose one with hardware crafted from durable metals.


    Cyclists should opt for a messenger bag with reflective strips for added visibility.

    Staff  | BestReviews

    Messenger Bag Durability

    As far as durability is concerned, genuine leather messenger bags simply cannot be beat. In fact, the bag my improve with age if cared for properly. Canvas comes in at a close second; it generally holds up well to enthusiastic handling.

    But durability cannot be determined by the material type alone. Factors such as stitching, waterproofing, manufacturer standards, and personal handling all play a role in the life of a messenger bag.


    Over time, metal buckles and clasps can lose their luster. Shine is easily restored by applying a metal polish, but take care to protect the rest of your messenger bag from stains while polishing.

    Staff  | BestReviews

    Messenger Bag Prices

    Messenger bag prices may fall below $15 or exceed $200. Size, material, and overall quality are all contributing factors.

    For light use, a messenger bag around the $20 mark may do, but for added peace of mind, especially when carrying items such as laptops, we recommend paying a little more. Mid-range messenger bags between $40 and $70+ will be adequate for most, while high-end messenger bags ranging between $100 and $200+ could very well last for decades with proper care and handling.

    Over-stuffing your messenger bag or squeezing in items that are too large is a surefire way to damage or weaken the material and zippers.


    Q. Are canvas messenger bags machine washable?
    Some canvas messenger bags may be machine washable, but to avoid damage, we highly recommend washing the bag by hand with mild detergent and lukewarm water. For stains, mix detergent and warm water before applying it to the area using a toothbrush. Allow the detergent to act for a few minutes before rinsing and air-drying.

    Waxed canvas bags have a protective layer of oil which repels water and improves durability. These bags should not be washed and are better off being wiped down with a damp cloth. To treat stains, skip the detergent and use soap and cold water instead.

    Before attempting to wash or spot-clean any messenger bag, read the label and note the manufacturer's care instructions. ​​​​​​​

    Q. Do I need to condition my leather messenger bag?
    Genuine leather ages and loses moisture over time. Unless properly cared for, leather may dry out, causing it to lose elasticity and eventually crack. Using a leather care product designed to moisturize and condition the material will significantly extend the life of your messenger bag.

    Q. How can I clean my leather messenger bag?
    A good wipe with a warm damp cloth is usually enough to get rid of any marks. Don't forget to empty the bag and give the inside a gentle wipe as well. Once the bag is clean, leave it open and allow it to air-dry. ​​​​​​​

    The team that worked on this review
    • Alice
      Web Producer
    • Eliza
      Production Manager
    • Erica
    • Jennifer
    • Melissa
      Senior Editor

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