Briefcase-Lite

10 Messenger Bags to Replace Your Backpack


Last updated December 2017.

Since the early 1900s, messenger bags have been used by postmen, WWII dispatchers, Pony Express couriers, telegraph messengers and telephone linemen. Now, they’re the carry of choice for 21st-century professionals. But the line’s been blurred between briefcases, shoulder bags, satchels and duffel bags. How do you tell the difference?

A messenger bag needs to be carried with a shoulder strap that allows the bag to rest relaxedly at the hip or, when in a rush, flung over the shoulder. A relatively slim profile is also a must. Today, messenger bags come in tempered cottons, ballistic nylons, waxed canvases and full-grain leathers. There’s no shortage of design choices, either. When deciding which one to buy, here’s some advice: get the one that catches your eye, fits your lifestyle and won’t slow you down.

Sandqvist Erik Messenger Bag

Designed for cycling, this bag is made from Cordura nylon and features a detachable waist strap to secure the bag while you ride. The bag is trimmed with vegetable-tanned leather and has an interior pocket with a padded laptop pocket.

Timbuk2 Proof Messenger

Timbuk2 made a name for itself with highly-functional messenger bags designed for bicycle messengers in San Francisco. This bag is a bit more refined for everday use, but still just as functional — it’s got room for your laptop and other necessities, and it’s water resistant.

Cambridge Satchel Bridge Closure Messenger

This sleek leather bag has a laser-cut front flap and a roomy unlined interior. Contrast straps on the front add a dash of color to this minimal bag.

Filson Medium Field Bag

Made from rugged navy twill, this bag from Filson will only get better with time. It includes a slim back pocket, two side pockets, two flap front pockets and an unlined interior.

Brooks England Crosby Messenger Bag

Brooks has been making cycling bags since the 1880s, and this bag is a testament to the company’s longevity. This minimal and functional bag is made from water-resistant cotton-canvas and includes a woven shoulder strap and waist belt.

Tumi Alpha Messenger

Made from ballistic nylon, this messenger bag is designed for the urban commuter who crave organization. The bag has three exterior zip pockets, two interior notch pockets and a padded laptop sleeve.

Want Les Essentiels Jackson Messenger Bag

Made from waxed cotton-canvas and trimmed with leather, this messenger bag is both handsome and durable. Of note: it has a spongy mesh backing ensuring comfortable daily carry.

Frye Oliver Messenger Bag

This understated messenger bag from Frye is made of supple leather, and features a two front pockets beneath the main flap. The interior is lined with fabric, and is big enough for your laptop and daily necessities.

Shinola East/West Messenger

Inspired by vintage camera bags, this American-made bag has a fold-over flap, rear exterior zip-pcoket and a canvas lining. It’s appropriate for both casual and professional settings, and will last for years to come.

Mackintosh x Porter Gabardine Shoulder Bag

Porter’s detail-oriented design is paired with Makcintosh’s rubberized raincloat fabric for a one-of-a-kind weatherproof messenger bag. It features a nylon lining, zip laptop compartment, zip main compartment and an adjustable shouder strap.

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