Best Messenger Bags For Cyclists in 2017 – Ultimate Guide From Experts

You don’t need to be a courier to use a messenger bag. If you commute by bike to work or need to transport documents around while cycling, then a good messenger bag is a great piece of kit to have. There are different styles and types, as well as various materials available so we have made this guide to help you decide what kind of bag you need. We have also suggested some of the best bags available and reviewed them for you to help you decide which one is best for you.Best Messenger Bags

What to Consider When Choosing Best Messenger Bags For Cyclists

Depending on how you will be using your bag, you will have different requirements for the internal storage. Are you a courier or thinking of becoming one? In that case you will need a bag that has space for everything you need to take with you, as well as the items that you will deliver. You will need plenty of space for documents and separate compartments for your phone, snacks, spare tube, waterproofs and anything else that you might need. If you will be commuting by bike to your office then you will not only need space for documents but most likely a padded compartment for a laptop as well. A change of clothes and maybe a towel will also need to fit in unless you stay in your sweaty clothes all day (maybe check first with your colleagues to find out if this is OK!). A few places for smaller items like pens and notepads will also be of benefit to you and allow you to find things in a hurry when you turn up late to a meeting after a flat tire. In the age of digital nomads, you may want to keep everything that you need for work in your bag, a bit like a transportable office. Your day may start off in a cafe with an online meeting, followed by an afternoon in a coworking space. Being able to work from anywhere means you not only need your “office” to come with you, but everything needs to be easily accessible when the bag is on the floor next to you. Fiddly clips and pocket flaps will not help you when you suddenly find that you need to write something down during a meeting and your pen is in your bag. Having somewhere to organize your stationery neatly will also help you, rather than everything rolling around loose in the large compartment.

Straps and Padding

The design of the shoulder strap will decide whether you enjoy riding with the bag or not. Padding will ensure greater comfort but this is not the only concern. If you will be spending many hours riding with the bag, being able to adjust the strap with one hand while riding allows you to make adjustments on the fly. Some bags allow the strap to be reversed so you can have it over either shoulder. Every good messenger bag will have a stabilizing strap to keep the bag in place. This strap will either secure the bag around your stomach or hips, or go under your shoulder. The latter is the most comfortable for cycling.

Water Resistance

If you are looking at getting a messenger bag then it can be assumed that you travel by bike a lot. Unless you live in a desert, you are going to get rained on at some point. The last thing you need is to get caught in a downpour and have everything in your bag get soaked, especially if you have important documents and a laptop in there. For this reason, you should look for a bag that is waterproof, or at least water resistant. If the main flap of the bag is waterproof, this will keep most rain out of the bag. Being outside for a whole day in the rain is a different matter. If this could be a possibility for you, look for a completely waterproof bag with a closure that will seal the contents from the elements. Bear in mind that anything in external pockets will be harder to keep dry.

Visibility

As you undoubtedly know, riding a bicycle in traffic is not always the safest activity. The more visible you are, the less chance there is of a driver not seeing you. Most messenger bags will have some reflective patches on the outside to let drivers know you are there. Some also have attachment points for lights that you should definitely make use of at night. Unfortunately, reflective strips can be an unsightly feature on a nicely designed bag, but looking a bit less cool is a reasonable compromise for staying safe.

Recommended Best Messenger Bags for Cyclists

With the above in mind, decide which features are most important for you and what you need your bag for. Once you have decided, take a look at the bags below to make a decision on which one is for you.

How We Decided on the Best Messenger Bags

We spent many long hours reading reviews from as many different sources as possible. We analyzed the differences between lots of messenger bags on the market and decided what needs to be considered when making a decision. We then decided which are the best and represent a variety of styles with a broad range of prices represented. Our goal is to present you with a selection that has something for everyone’s needs and budget.

1. Brooks Islington Rucksack

Brooks Islington RucksackOK, this one isn’t technically a messenger bag, but we feel it deserves a mention. Made in Italy, this bag is spacious and very stylish. It will do a great job of getting your laptop and other gear around town. There is a dedicated pocket for your laptop on the front of the bag and the main compartment is a big open space for everything else like books, clothes, shoes and everything else. It is not waterproof but the leather will keep rain out for quite a while. Comfortable canvas straps have padding on the shoulders and it can also be secured around your waist with a single strap. It is a stable bag in both formats and comfortable enough for short journeys. Although not cheap, the Islington looks great and is certainly more stylish than most messenger bags, making it a great choice for the fashion conscious commuter.

Brooks Islington Rucksack

Brooks Islington Rucksack

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2. The North Face Base Camp

The North Face Base CampAn attractive price and range of features make this bag a good choice, but it is does have a few drawbacks. Despite the name suggesting extreme mountain trekking, the Base Camp will not keep your gear dry for too long. The main compartment is divided up to keep everything organized but are not the fastest to access. A 15” laptop will fit in the internal padded sleeve. There is enough space for all other necessities including folders and documents and there are also some pen slots. The strap is adjustable, but not as easy to use as other bags in this review. There are better messenger bags available but the Base Camp can double up very well as a travel bag when you go on vacation. If you do not want to spend lots of money, it will certainly get the job done.

The North Face Base Camp

The North Face Base Camp

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3. Chrome Unisex Buran Laptop Messenger

Chrome Unisex Buran Laptop MessengerIf you have lots to carry around, you can’t go wrong with the Chrome Buran. A large capacity and full waterproofing means that you can get everything you need around town without worrying about the weather. A padded laptop (17”) sleeve sits next to the huge main compartment. There is enough room in here for spare clothes, books, folders, groceries, kitchen sink etc. Realistically there is more room than you need. By the time it is full it will be very heavy. It is up to you to decide whether this is a good or a bad thing. There is also a separate zipped compartment and two large open pockets under the flap, big enough for tools or a drinks bottle. All of this sits under fully waterproof material so you can bash around all day in the rain. In terms of comfort, the Buran ticks the right boxes. The load sits nicely on your back and the padded strap holds everything in place nicely. There is a stabilizing strap that goes under your arm to stop any movement. The straps lock together with a seat belt type closure, allowing you to quickly buckle up or remove the bag. The Chrome Buran is the perfect bag for anyone who has lots to transport and needs to keep it dry.

Chrome Unisex Buran Laptop Messenger

Chrome Unisex Buran Laptop Messenger

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4. Timbuk2 Especial Cycling Messenger

Timbuk2 Especial Cycling MessengerMore features than can be listed and a lifetime warranty justify the price and slight weight penalty. The main compartment features a 15” laptop sleeve that is padded everywhere but the bottom, so be careful how you put it down. There is also space for a few other items or clothing inside. If you carry lots around with you, choose the medium size over the small. There are some side pockets for extra and easy to reach storage. You don’t need to worry about your gear getting wet with this bag as it is fully weatherproof. That includes all zips and closures. The strap can be switched and sits comfortably over your shoulder. The whole bag has reflective piping, which is a plus as it only comes in black. The main flap is held down with velcro and secured with magnetic and easy-to-use Fidlock buckles. Nice. The Timbuk2 Especial is a solidly built and weatherproof bag that will get your laptop and documents safely to the office in any weather.

Timbuk2 Especial Cycling Messenger

Timbuk2 Especial Cycling Messenger

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5. Pacific Outdoor Vancouver

Pacific Outdoor Equipment Sitka Courier BagNamed after a city renowned for lots of rain, this spacious bag is waterproof but cannot be as quickly accessed as others. The padded strap is wide and comfortable. The back of the bag also has padding to prevent whatever you are carrying from digging into your back. The base of the bag has a stiffener to keep its shape, which also prevents it from contouring to your back. To get into the Vancouver, you must unbuckle the flap before lifting it and undoing a long zip. It sounds quick but is nowhere near as fast as a velcro flap. Removing items on the fly is neither quick nor easy, so avoid this bag if you are a courier or need to access anything en route. This makes it a good choice for commuters, although it has no laptop sleeve. The main compartment features four pockets, one of which is zipped. There are also three pockets on the outside with the front one having internal dividers. These pockets allow easy access to small items like tools and lights. The nylon material is waterproof and the zips are water resistant, so in a serious downpour some rain may leak in. This should be minimal though.

Pacific Outdoor Equipment Sitka Courier Bag

Pacific Outdoor Vancouver

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6. Banjo Brothers Backpack

Banjo Brothers BackpackA great price and well built bag with all the features you need. There is a padded laptop sleeve for 15” laptops, a total of six pockets and pen slots. The pockets are a mixture of open, velcro and zipped. It also features a removable cell phone holder and tab to fix a light to. You should be able to get everything you need into this bag with its 19-liter capacity. The material is water resistant so it won’t keep your gear dry forever and it would also benefit from a few more reflective details. There is just one thin strip of reflective piping over the flap. You will still be seen by drivers but not as much as with other bags. The shoulder strap has a wide pad and stabilizing strap, which can be attached to either side allowing the bag to be used left or right handed. If you do not have a huge budget, the Banjo Brothers is your bag, as long as you use a light on the light tab to complement the reflective piping and will not be riding for extended periods in the rain.

Banjo Brothers Backpack

Banjo Brothers Backpack

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7. Timbuk2 Command Messenger

Timbuk2 Command Laptop Messenger BagAlthough the Command is not fully waterproof, the features and design of this bag make it one of the best. This bag is designed with your laptop in mind. There is a padded laptop compartment in the rear of the bag. The padding has had holes cut out of it to make the bag lighter without compromising on protection. Laptops up to 15” will fit comfortably and securely. The laptop friendly features do not stop there. The Command Messenger is also TSA-Friendly, which means you won’t have to take your laptop out of the bag when going through airport security. Ok, admittedly this is not a relevant feature to the everyday commuter, but you may go on a business trip at some point and need to take your laptop with you. The large main compartment is big enough to hold books, folders, a change of clothes etc. There is also a divider in the main compartment and a separate zipped pocket plus four pockets and pen slots for your stationery. Four more zipped  pockets can be found at the front of the bag under the flap and there is a bottle holder on the side. The strap can be switched to be worn on either side and is easily switched over and adjusted. For those of you that can’t stand the sound of nails on a chalkboard or velcro being opened, optional velcro silencers are supplied to keep things quiet. The straps close with metal buckles, which gives a more secure feeling than plastic. The Timbuk2 Command Messenger is well built and comfortable with everything you need to get your laptop and other work items safely to the office or onto an airplane.

Timbuk2 Command Laptop Messenger Bag

Timbuk2 Command Messenger

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8. Osprey Men’s FlapJack Courier Day Pack

Osprey FlapJack CourierThis lightweight and stylish bag has great storage options and other features. It is water repellent so not suited for long rainy commutes, but this is pretty much the FlapJack’s only downside. A padded and velcro sealed 17” laptop slot can be found in the roomy main compartment, which is also big enough for large folders and gear, and has a mesh to help you organize everything. There is a zipped pocket on the front that is big enough for an iPad and can take care of your smaller items. You will also find a hole to lead your headphones through. The padded strap has silicone on the underside to prevent the bag from sliding around and does a great job of keeping the bag feeling comfortable even with a heavier load. You can shoot off in a hurry and not have to worry about the FlapJack flapping around. The bag even comes with a set of three different colored straps so you can customize the look. Adjusting the length of the straps is a quick procedure. There is a vented section where the bag sits on your back to keep you cool and the some of the sweat off your back. Well placed reflective material and a light tab are present to keep you visible at night. The Osprey Flapjack is a great choice for (mostly fair weather) office commuters who need to also transport clothes or pick up groceries on the way home.

Osprey FlapJack Courier

Osprey Men’s FlapJack Courier Day Pack

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9. Knog Frank Dog

Knog Frank DogThis pannier style bag from down under is a good choice for commuting if you don’t have heaps of gear to transport. Not everyone rides around town with a full set of office stationery, a set of encyclopedias and a full set of gym clothes. If you just need to move your laptop and maybe a folder or documents between home and the office, the Frank Dog is a good choice. The waxed canvas material is water resistant and there is an internal pocket with a rain cover in case you are faced with a tropical storm. The canvas alone should be enough to deal with most showers. A 15” laptop fits inside the internal pocket and the back in padded, as is the strap, making the Frank Dog a comfortable bag to ride with.

Knog Frank Dog

Knog Frank Dog

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10. Estarer Pannier Bag

Estarer Pannier BagThis water resistant bag is a pannier and messenger bag in one. Its low price make it attractive to anyone on an extreme budget. Featuring enough space for folders and documents, as well as a padded 15” laptop compartment. The strap has a minimal amount of padding and there are a few reflective features. It won’t stand up to a sudden downpour but you certainly won’t break the bank with the Estarer.

Estarer Pannier Bag

Estarer Pannier Bag

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11. Chrome Metropolis Messenger Bag

Chrome Metropolis Messenger BagA comfortable, large and waterproof courier bag that is great for transporting lots of items but may not be ideal for commuters. Chrome specialize in courier bags so if you want a serious bag, then look no further. A multitude of straps hold the bag in place and can secure other items onto the bag. There is also a velcro panel to hold a radio. The inside of the Metropolis can literally fit a metropolis. You will be able to cram more stuff into this bag than you can actually carry, unless you are a huge beast of a courier tasked with transporting building materials for some reason. There is no laptop compartment, which may be a dealbreaker for some. There are two smaller pockets within the main compartment for storing snacks, tools, lights, jackets etc and a zipped pocket on the front for your phone and keys. The internal bag is kept separate from the outer, which along with the heavy-duty tarpaulin material ensures that the bag is 100% waterproof, as long as the flap is secured. If you are a short person, you may have trouble getting the strap short enough to fit properly and if the bag is empty you may find the strap rubs a bit. Realistically though, the latter should not be a problem because you will not use this bag unless you have lots to carry. If you have less gear, then get a smaller bag. There is almost nothing that this Chrome Metropolis cannot transport, making it perfect for couriers or commuters who do not pack light.

Chrome Metropolis Messenger Bag

Chrome Metropolis Messenger Bag

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About the Author Matthew R. Duncan

I am proud to be the go-to guy among my circle for bike advice. I take it personally when someone I know buys a new bike without consulting me first!

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