15 Best Outdoor Messenger Bags for Work & Play

by Mac Misseldine
Updated March 17, 2023

outdoor messenger bags
Photo: ONA Bags

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You can’t beat the versatility of the modern messenger bag. Whether you’re biking to the office, boarding a plane, or stopping by the gym on the way home from work, a well-designed messenger bag can handle it all.

Messenger bags are particularly convenient for active professionals who spend a lot of time in the field. They’re the perfect size for a daily photography kit or the standard digital ensemble of a laptop, tablet, and notepad.

With a number of different styles to choose from, it’s best to start with a few questions before you dive into your search.

Do you need a formal bag that looks good in a more conservative office setting, or a casual bag prioritizing functionality and versatility?

How much storage space do you need?

Is standard water resistance okay, or do you need something waterproof while you’re riding a bicycle or motorcycle to work?

Finally, what’s your preferred carry style — over the shoulder or messenger-style across your back?

In this article, we’ll be focusing on the best messenger bags for active work styles. These fabric messenger bags tend to be more casual but still stylish enough to look great on your shoulder at the office.

Plus, they tend to offer better weather resistance and more storage space than formal leather messenger bags, though we’ve included a few compact options to round out the list.

For a list of the best formal messenger bags, check out our article on the best leather messenger bags for men.

Fjallraven Greenland Shoulder Bag

Fjallraven Greenland Shoulder Bag

The Greenland Shoulder Bag from Fjallraven is a great all-around bag for work and school. The bag’s G-1000 HeavyDuty Eco S fabric (65% recycled polyester, 35% organic cotton) is durable, hard wearing, and water-resistant.

The spacious main compartment provides plenty of interior pockets, including a padded pocket with enough space to fit a 15-inch laptop or tablet. The secondary compartment offers a slightly smaller space with a zipper and extra pockets.

The Fjallraven Greenland Shoulder Bag makes a great choice for bikers who ride to work or school. The bag features a stabilizing strap to keep the bag in place while you’re pedaling, and a hidden pocket to keep your valuables safe.

You can also purchase Fjallraven’s classic Greenland Wax to add an extra layer of waterproofing to your bag on rainy days. While you’re at it, lather some of that wax on your outerwear to keep your clothes as dry as the contents of your bag.

Peak Design Everyday Messenger

peak design messenger bag

Peak Design’s Everyday Messenger bag is the perfect travel companion for photographers and creatives. The 15-inch version allows enough space to carry a complete daily photography kit with a DSLR, 3 lenses, and accessories, while the 13-inch version can hold a full mirrorless camera kit with the camera body, 2 lenses, and accessories.

That’s in addition to the dedicated, protected laptop pocket, which is accessible without opening the main compartment.

The bag features a built-in tripod carrier, color-coded internal pocket stitching to improve your photography workflow, and 2 dedicated capture clip attachment points with a front access panel for lightning-fast access to cameras and gear.

The Everyday Messenger isn’t just a camera bag, though. You can re-position the origami-inspired FlexFold dividers to accommodate any gear, and the rigid multi-panel design allows the bag to expand and contract without losing its shape.

Peak Design’s proprietary MagLatch closure is the only one-handed, no-look silent closure system on the market, and there are a number of secondary pockets on the exterior so you can access items without having to open the bag.

The weatherproof protective shell keeps all of your gear safe with 400D nylon canvas, high-density padding, a DWR undercoat, and premium waterproof zippers.

Impressed yet? Well, we’re just getting started.

The Everyday Messenger bag also features a hyper-adjusting internally padded seat belt strap, a luggage pass-through for easy attachment atop a roller bag, a hidden ID/key tether with an integrated Anchor Link connector in the side pocket, Hypalon-reinforced bar-tacked stress points, and steel seat belt-style straps.

When you’re ready to hoist the bag over your shoulder for travel, use the hyper-adjusting top strap to convert the bag from messenger-style to a low-slung shoulder bag, and place the stabilizer strap across your body or around your waist for better load distribution.

ONA Prince Street

ona prince street bag

ONA specializes in fine bags and accessories for creative professionals. All of their products are designed with input and feedback from creative industry professionals, and they source their premium materials from the world’s finest suppliers in the US and Italy.

Since their inception in 2010, ONA continues to impress the creative world with timeless designs, premium craftsmanship, and optimal functionality.

The Prince Street messenger bag is all about style and function. The handcrafted bag features ONA’s signature waxed canvas, full-grain leather detailing, and antique brass tuck-clasp closures.

There’s enough room for an 11-inch laptop or tablet, a DSLR camera, two camera lenses, and a few extra personal items. The bag also features side weather flaps for extra protection from rain and snow, a removable top-grab handle, and an easy-access back pocket.

Filson Field Bag

filson field bag

The Filson Field Bag is a million-mile bag that’s built to last. Filson crafts the Field Bag with Rugged Twill, an industrial-strength cotton twill that’s their most durable, hard-wearing luggage fabric.

The bag offers plenty of support for heavy loads with a reinforced base and bound seams, and the fabric is lightly waxed for lasting protection against wet weather and abrasions.

The saddle-grade Bridle Leather trim is arguably the Filson Field Bag’s most striking feature. You’ll find the iconic leather on the storm flap buckle-closure, the body tabs, and the removable shoulder strap. The bag also features 2 bellows pockets, 3 stow pockets, and an interior brass key clip.

United by Blue Crossridge Messenger

united by blue messenger bag

United by Blue offers the Crossridge Messenger as a versatile bag that works great on campus or in the woods. Whether you’re packing a 15-inch laptop in the padded sleeve or a bunch of camping gear, your gear will be safe and dry thanks to the rugged material and DWR finish.

You can carry the bag by hand with the leather haul strap or on your shoulder with the removable crossbody strap.

The Crossridge Messenger also features a fold-over slap with side gutter panels, an exterior zippered bellow pocket, open side and interior pockets, and a water bottle sleeve built to hold a 2.5-inch-wide bottle.

As a side note, every product you purchase from United by Blue removes one pound of trash from oceans and waterways. United by Blue uses their profits to organize and sponsor cleanup projects all over the United States, and they’ve already removed over 1.4 million pounds of trash.

If you don’t purchase United by Blue’s Crossridge Messenger bag, you can still support their cause and join a cleanup project the next time they’re in your area.

The North Face Base Camp Messenger

north face base camp messenger

The Base Camp Messenger bag from The North Face features the same severe-weather material that you’ll find at base camps in the Himalayas. Saying it’s durable and rugged would be an understatement. Given The North Face’s rock-solid lifetime guarantee, we feel pretty comfortable saying this bag is practically indestructible.

The Base Camp Messenger is large enough to fit a 17-inch laptop and plenty of extra gear. The bag features two large mesh zippered compartments — one on the main compartment, and one underneath the flap — with an internal organizer, internal divider pocket, and bottom compression straps with a closure option.

You can carry the bag across your waist or chest with the removable hip belt, or on your shoulders with the adjustable padded shoulder straps.

Sandqvist Tor

Sandqvist Tor

The Sandqvist Tor is a functional, versatile messenger bag sleek enough to show off in the city and durable enough to handle outdoor adventures. The design incorporates Cordura EcoMade polyester with premium leather detailing and concealed zipper pockets for a clean, contemporary look.

The zippered laptop compartment fits most 13-inch laptops, and the inner zipper pocket and slip pockets provide plenty of extra space to keep your gear organized. The bag features a roll top closure with a metal hook, which you can roll out if you need additional space.

Timbuk2 Classic Messenger Bag

timbuk2 classic messenger bag

Timbuk2 released their Classic Messenger Bag thirty years ago, and it’s still wildly popular today. A smaller bag with enough space for a 9-inch laptop or tablet, so it’s a good pick for commuters with minimal storage needs.

The exterior is waterproof with flap corners that fold in place to keep the water out, and the wipe-clean TPU liner and corner wings serve as a second layer of protection in case any moisture manages to seep through the outer fabric.

There’s even a waterproof water bottle pocket inside that’s tight enough to keep moisture contained if your bottle springs a leak, so this bag is literally waterproof inside and out.

Timbuk2 paid extra attention to the bag’s shoulder strap, as the strap is a common source of discomfort for messenger bags. To remedy the issue, the strap features fine webbing, a curved airmesh strap pad, and a Double-Loop CAM buckle to easily adjust the strap.

As a bonus, the buckle also eliminates any dangling straps. The Classic Messenger Bag features SR buckles partially concealed behind the messenger flap and a vista loop to attach a blinking light for night rides.

Chrome Industries Welterweight Citizen Messenger

chrome industries messenger bag

The Welterweight Citizen Messenger is a lightweight, streamlined version of Chrome Industries’ standard Citizen Messenger Bag. The bag is engineered to withstand harsh weather with a 500d nylon exterior and waterproof 400d tarpaulin lining.

It’s an ideal choice for bicyclists with a classic messenger-style cross-chest strap for stability and comfort, reflective straps for increased visibility at night, and daisy-chain mounting loops for attaching strobe lights or carabineers.

Even with the bag’s lightweight modifications, it’s still large enough to carry a 17-inch laptop and plenty of extra gear.

The Welterweight Citizen Messenger retains the classic bag’s iconic quick-release aluminum buckle and integrated bottle opener, so nothing will stand between you and a cold brew when your bag is nearby.

The bag also features an industrial-strength hook and loop accessory mounting shoulder strap, commercial-grade seatbelt webbing, and nylon 69 thread.

Patagonia Black Hole Mini Messenger

Patagonia Black Hole Mini Messenger

For a messenger bag engineered for the outdoors, check out Patagonia’s Black Hole Mini Messenger. A miniature version of Patagonia’s popular Black Hole MLC 45L messenger bag, the Black Hole Mini Messenger has an interior sleeve that’s large enough to carry a 15-inch laptop.

The bag’s utilizes a light and strong polyester ripstop that’s protected by a highly weather-resistant TPU-film laminate and DWR finish.

Inside the Black Hole Mini Messenger, the main compartment offers a drop pocket, 1 mesh pocket, 3 pen slots, and a secured zippered pocket to store your valuables.

On the outside, a zippered flap pocket encloses the main compartment with a moisture-shedding reverse-coil zipper for maximum protection. The bag features a fully-adjustable shoulder strap and a top-mounted, reinforced haul handle.

Mystery Ranch Invader

mystery ranch invader

The Mystery Ranch Invader is a solid travel bag for carrying heavy loads on the road. It’s designed for maximum comfort when carried courier-style, with a padded shoulder strap and a removable cross strap for better stabilization across your chest.

The main compartment features a 15-inch padded laptop sleeve and plenty of internal pockets, including small zippered pockets for pens and pencils, and a cell phone pocket. There’s also a large volume pocket under the fold-over lid.

Mission Workshop The Monty Advanced

mission workshop monty

The Advanced version of Mission Workshop’s popular Monty Messenger Bag takes their standard Monty bag to the next level. The new HT500 fabric uses high tenacity yarn for a lightweight, refined feel without sacrificing durability or abrasion resistance.

The fabric’s double urethane coating naturally retains its structure, distresses with age, and improves the bag’s overall water resistance. The bag also features an Arkiv closure system with custom aluminum strap hardware, YKK zippers, and a detachable cross-chest stabilizer.

On the inside, The Monty Advanced messenger bag is lined with a lightweight urethane coated ripstop liner. The main compartment fits a 15-inch laptop, and the front zip compartment fits a 13-inch tablet.

With plenty of interior zippered pockets to store smaller items, the exterior offers a few quick-access outboard pockets for convenient access to personal items.

Arc’teryx FYX 9 Messenger Bag

Arc'teryx FYX 9 Messenger Bag

Unlike traditional leather messenger bags with their overflowing straps and visible pockets, the FX9 Messenger Bag features a no-frills, buckle-free design with hidden compartments. It’s sleek, lightweight, and streamlined for ease-of-use, with advanced composite construction and an intuitive organization system. Waterproof with taped seams, this bag offers a drop-down reflective loop that attaches a safety light (sold separately) for night riding.

The FX9 Messenger Bag is compact, but there’s plenty of room for digital essentials, including a suspended, padded compartment for your 13-inch laptop, and enough space for a 10-inch tablet, smartphone, and daily essentials.

Pack your wallet, keys, and writing tools in the front security pocket and stash your notebooks and passport in the hidden yet easily-accessible compartment under the magnetic flap.

You can access the bag’s dual zippered side stash pockets from the outside and the inside of the bag, and depending on your carry-style you can use the fold-away handle, the adjustable shoulder strap, and the adjustable waist belt.

Aer Travel Sling

aer travel sling

Aer designed the Travel Sling with the modern traveler in mind. The pack offers a quick-access top pocket for travel documents and valuables, an interior organization pocket, and a padded 13-inch laptop pocket.

The Travel Sling’s 900D eco-dyed polyester exterior, YKK zippers, and Duraflex plastic hardware provide durability and weather-resistantance, so a rainy day in the city won’t hold you back.

For convenience, the bag also features a versatile sling strap allowing for multiple carry positions, and a rear carry handle large enough to slide over luggage handles when you’re traveling with a roller suitcase.

Briggs and Riley Micro Messenger

Briggs and Riley Micro Messenger

Briggs and Riley has outfitted road warriors with premier luggage and business cases for over 25 years. The company’s slogan is “engineered for reality, guaranteed for life.” Fitting, as their bags are renowned for their functionality and backed by the travel industry’s only lifetime guarantee.

The Briggs and Riley Micro Messenger is ideally suited for daytime excursions and business lunches. Briggs and Riley’s proprietary Tartex fabric is coated and embossed for a moisture-resistant, durable finish.

The bag strips away non-necessities for a sleek look and compact feel, and provides enough space to fit a 13-inch laptop, tablet, smartphone, and a few other essentials.

The Micro Messenger also features self-repairing YKK RC zippers for perfectly smooth zipper action.

For more everyday carry goods, check out our favorite waxed canvas backpacks, the best hiking backpacks under $100, canvas and leather duffles, or the best packable backpacks.

Seen in: Bags & Backpacks, Gear

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