The Best Messenger Bag Review

Click to enlarge
The Commuter 2.0 can be customized with over 30 different colors.
Credit: Rickshaw
We compared eight top of the line messenger bags suitable for carrying a laptop along with other items in a two month long head-to-head comparison that assessed comfort, aesthetics, storage, water resistance, durability, versatility and laptop security. Our ranking and awards reflect the opinion of eight testers each of whom used each contender for a week in order to identify the best overall, the best value, and the best for transporting a computer and documents. Be sure to also check out our Laptop Backpack review which looked at backpack-style bags suitable for carrying a laptop.

Read the full review below >

Review by: and Max Neale

Top Ranked Messenger Bags Displaying 1 - 5 of 5 << Previous | View All | Next >>
Our Ranking #1 #2 #3 #4 #5
Product Name
Timbuk2 Command
Timbuk2 Command
Read the Review
Chrome Buran
Chrome Buran
Read the Review
Video video review
Timbuk2 Classic Messenger
Timbuk2 Classic Messenger
Read the Review
Video video review
Patagonia Half Mass
Patagonia Half Mass
Read the Review
Alchemy Goods Pike
Alchemy Goods Pike
Read the Review
Editors' Awards  Editors' Choice Award  Top Pick Award  Best Buy Award     
Street Price Varies $97 - $149
Compare at 6 sellers
Varies $155 - $160
Compare at 2 sellers
Varies $55 - $99
Compare at 7 sellers
Varies $69 - $99
Compare at 7 sellers
$148
Compare at 1 sellers
Overall Score 
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62
Editors' Rating
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User Rating Be the first to rate itBe the first to rate itBe the first to rate itBe the first to rate itBe the first to rate it
Pros Durable, waterproof, good storage for small and large items, TSA-compliant laptop compartment, looks good, modular storage options.Super hipster, large capacity, very comfortable and secure when biking, zippered laptop compartment, easy access front pockets, easy adjust strap, completely waterproof, indestructible.Spacious, comfortable when biking and walking, good internal organization, available in 5 sizes and 17 colors, waterproof, durable.Comfortable when biking and walking, useful side pocket, great zippered pocket on front flap, reflective strip.High upcycled content, easy access external pocket.
Cons Metal buckles are hard to use, shoulder strap could be more comfortable and easier to adjust, no cross strap, better for walking than biking.Super hipster, seatbelt buckle not useful for most people, heavy, only one zippered pocket, no external pockets, no pockets for pens, velcro tears seams and is loud, can be uncomfortable when walking.No easily accessible external pockets, shoulder strap and buckle system is bulky and not as easy to use as others.Not waterproof, not durable, laptop sleeve is bulky and awkward, poor storage for small and medium items.Rubber can turn clothes black, too small for everyday use, no laptop padding, not comfortable when fully loaded, not comfortable when biking.
Best Uses Frequent Flyers and all around useIdeal if style and durability are your priorities.Budget messenger for bikingNot recommended.Small trips around town.
Date Reviewed Aug 01, 2014Aug 01, 2014Oct 17, 2011Oct 09, 2011Oct 09, 2011
Comfort - 15%
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6
Storage - 15%
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4
Versatility - 15%
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6
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Laptop Protection - 15%
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Professional Look - 15%
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Water Resistance - 15%
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Durability - 10%
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Product Specs Timbuk2 Command Chrome Buran Timbuk2 Classic Messenger Patagonia Half Mass Alchemy Goods Pike
Volume (L) 21.5 26 20 15
Dimensions (in.) 17.7 x 12.6 x 5.9 18 x 13 x 6 19.3 x 10.4 x 7.9 16 x 13 x 5 14.5 x 9 x 4.5
Weight (lb.) 3.1 3.8 2.5 1.8 2
Number of Compartments 3 1 2 1 1
Number of Large Pockets 3 3 2 2 1
Number of Small Pockets 4 2 4 1 2
Number of Zipper Pockets 6 1 5 2 1
Key Clip? Yes Yes Yes
Reflective Material? Yes Yes Yes Yes
External Side Pocket Yes
Fits Laptop 15 in. 17 in. 15 in. 15 in. 15 in.
Available Colors 5 Black 5 5 6
Available Sizes 2 1 5 2 1
Cross Strap Yes Removable
Waterproof Yes Yes Yes Yes

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review



Product Selection
We selected five bags that represent an ideal cross section of the market. From large companies like Osprey, Timbuk2 and Patagonia to tiny handmade outfits like Rickshaw and Mission Workshop, we attempted to offer an array of products from all types of manufacturers. This review aims to identify the best bag for your everyday life: One that you take with you wherever you go. The difficulty with this review is that everyone has different needs and expectations for a bag. We used eight reviewers all with very different lifestyles, occupations, and preferences. Each tester used each bag for one week.

Backpack vs. Messenger
Choosing between a backpack and messenger bag is a critical decision. In general, our testers found backpacks to be better for everything except getting quick access to the contents of the bag. The best bag for you will depend upon your lifestyle. Before settling on a messenger bag we encourage you to read our Laptop Backpack Review and our Buying Advice article. These will provide more insight into the types of bags than individual reviews alone.

Laptop Bag vs. Messenger
Keep in mind there are a number of laptop bags for under $30 that may serve your needs well for a lot less money than the bags in this review. Laptop bags are not as waterproof, durable or stylish, but they often are all you need and have some key benefits. Laptop bags are lightweight, slide under an airplane seat easily, and provide immediate access to your most reached for items. While not waterproof, they often fit easily in a waterproof backpack or bag, which gives you even more protection. The founder of OutdoorGearLab has been using the Case Logic 17.3-Inch Laptop Case for years even though he has the option of holding onto many of the tested bags in this review. It only costs $23.50 and holds all the essentials for a lightweight mobile office. See our article Mobile Office - Best Laptop Travel Set Up With External USB Monitor, Mouse and Keyboard.

Criteria for Evaluation
We assessed each bag based on its comfort, storage, versatility, laptop security, professional look, water resistance and durability. All variables are weighted equally. We also ranked each bag based on its performance at various activities such as bicycling, walking, and hiking, and in various environments like subways, airports, offices, and going to the beach.

Comfort
This variable takes into account how comfortable the bag was at all stages of capacity and at various activities. Specifically, we looked at shoulder straps, back padding, the inclusion or omission of rigid stays and sternum straps. We found the most comfortable bag to be the Mission Workshop Rummy, which has a ridiculously comfortable shoulder strap that's very easy to adjust and can be worn over either the left or right shoulder. The Rummy, Chrome Buran, and Timbuk2 Classic all have shoulder straps that position the bag high up on your back and in a near vertical position (as opposed to hanging down by your waist like a purse). This is much more comfortable in general, and especially for biking. The Alchemy Goods Pike is the least comfortable model we reviewed.

The Mission Workshop Rummy has the most comfortable strap and the easi...
The Mission Workshop Rummy has the most comfortable strap and the easiest to adjust buckle of all messenger bags we've reviewed.
Credit: Mission Workshop
Storage
We looked at each bag's ability to carry our everyday items. Focusing on both quantity and quality, we ranked each bag based on how much it held and how well it held things. Could the bag fit what we wanted? Could we keep things organized? Could we access key items quickly and easily? Was opening and closing the bag loud and distracting to others? Could the bag store documents without crushing them? Our two top rated bags in this category are the Mission Workshop Rummy, which gracefully holds large, bulky items and the Rickshaw Commuter 2.0, which protects a laptop and documents like the Secret Service guards the President.

Versatility
This is where we judged how each bag performed in a variety of situations performing all kinds of different tasks. Could it manage the gym, groceries and commuting all in the same day? Was it adaptable to walking and biking? If needed, would it be able to transport both fragile and bulky things simultaneously? We asked a lot of these bags and the Osprey ReSource Elroy ranked highest in this category because it was comfortable for biking and walking and had good storage.

Laptop Security
This variable measures how well the bag protected our expensive laptops from accidental drops, grungy subway floors, and spilled liquids. The winners in this category were the Rickshaw Commuter 2.0and Osprey ReSource Elroy.

The Command is the only laptop messenger we reviewed that is TSA-compl...
The Command is the only laptop messenger we reviewed that is TSA-compliant. Unzip the bottom of the laptop compartment slide the bag through security and pick it up safely by the handle as shown here.
Credit: Timbuk2
Professional Look
We assessed how well each bag performed in a professional environment. While all of the bags tested here are far from a classy leather briefcase, we ranked them based on how well they would perform in an environment where a professional appearance made a difference. Tmbuk2 and Rickshaw offer custom bags built with over thirty colors and a variety of fabric types to choose from. The ability to customize colors contributed to our conclusion that the most professional looking contenders were the Rickshaw Commuter 2.0 and the Timbuk2 Command.

Water Resistance
With its bombproof, coated fabrics and a roll top closure, the Mission Workshop Rummy was the clear winner here. (The Chrome Buran placed a close second.) The least waterproof bag was the Patagonia Half Mass.

Durability
For each bag we scrutinized velcro quality, zippers, buckle and straps. Next, we assessed the materials they were constructed of. Through our sixteen week long test period we found the Mission Workshop Rummy, Chrome Buran, and Rickshaw Commuter 2.0 to be the most durable. None were particularly fragile, but the Patagonia Half Mass scored the lowest.

Click to enlarge
The Rickshaw Commuter 2.0 has the most durable bottom of any bag, laptop or messenger, we reviewed.
Credit: Max Neale

Editor's Choice Award: Timbuk2 Command
The Timbuk2 Command hits a great balance of price, durability, weight and storage. It is also TSA compliant making it the ideal travel companion. It's has all the features you need and no extras.

Best Buy Award: Timbuk2 Classic Messenger
The Timbuk2 Classic Messenger, the recipient of our Best Buy Award, provides the majority of the comfort, durability, and access that the Rummy does, but at half the price.

Top Pick for Durability: Chrome Buran
The Chrome Buran is the most burly and waterproof bag we tested. It's heavy and, depending on how you feel about the seat belt clip, stylish.

Top Pick for Directly Sold - Mission Workshop Rummy
Our highest performing bag not carried at online retailers is the Mission Workshop Rummy, a bombproof, stormproof, single strapped carrier that epitomizes the quick access that messenger bags are known for. The Rummy excels at carrying large loads comfortably and provides a snug fit that clings to your back when navigating the busiest of streets.



Click to enlarge
The Mission Workshop Rummy and Timbuk2 Command at Happy Hour.
Credit: Max Neale

Chris McNamara and Max Neale
Buying Advice
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How to Choose the Best Messenger Bag - Click for details
 How to Choose the Best Messenger Bag

by Chris McNamara and Max Neale
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