The 11 Best Messenger Bags of 2023

We love the Kenneth Cole Reaction messenger bag for its spaciousness and timeless silhouette.

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Best Messenger Bags of 2023

Travel + Leisure / Brian Kopinski

A messenger bag is a convenient and stylish way to carry your belongings, whether you’re biking to work or heading to the gym. Designed with a comfortable carrying strap, the bags are typically designed to hold daily essentials, like a laptop or tablet, books, pens, cards, and more. Choosing the right size is of primary importance, as you’ll want to make sure the items you plan to tote around every day will fit comfortably. Canvas bags will offer more give thanks to their lack of structure, while nylon or leather bags tend to feature more organizational compartments to keep everything tidy

Our top pick is the Kenneth Cole Reaction crossbody, a lightweight option made with full-grain Colombian leather and a range of organizational features. But, if you are on the hunt for a different material or specific needs (like a model designed for left-handed wearers), read on for more of our favorite messenger bags.  

Best Overall

Kenneth Cole Reaction Leather Crossbody 15.6-Inch Laptop & Tablet Messenger Bag

Kenneth Cole Reaction Risky Business Messenger Bag


Why We Love It
  • It’s a classic, high-quality bag with enough room to store your belongings without weighing you down.

What to Consider
  • The shoulder strap isn’t removable.

Visually, this crossbody style from Kenneth Cole Reaction is exactly what we picture when we think of a classic messenger bag — luxurious leather, a padded shoulder strap, a flap-over closure, and plenty of space to stow any belongings. What makes this our favorite is how well it marries fashion and functionality at a reasonable price. While it’s not a budget pick, the quality of the leather and the craftsmanship rivals that of some of the pricier options on this list, making it an excellent value purchase.

The stylish exterior is made of full-grain cowhide Colombian leather, which develops a gorgeous patina with age, while the interior fabric is tear-resistant and meant to last. We love that there are plenty of pockets, too, so that you can tuck your laptop, books, water bottle, and more away without worry. And, while the shoulder strap is not detachable, it’s ultra-comfy thanks to plush padding (plus, there’s a handy top handle if it’s too much to shoulder some days). 

Price at time of publish: $150

The Details: 15 x 11 x 3 inches | Leather | 2.2 pounds | Up to 60 inches

Best Leather

Frye Logan Messenger Bag

Logan Messenger Bag

Courtesy by Amazon

Why We Love It
  • The luxurious quality of the leather only gets better with age.

What to Consider
  • The material isn’t particularly padded, so you may want to buy a protective sleeve for your laptop or tablet if you’ll be toting them around.

Frye’s legacy of top-quality leather goods extends to this supple messenger bag, which comes with an adjustable shoulder strap. Available in classic academic colors like cognac and dark brown, this spacious bag manages to be sleek while still offering enough space to fit a laptop, water bottle, a book, and your daily essentials. There are pockets for everything you could think of, from slots for pens and cards to two larger interior zip closures. If you plan to carry your laptop inside, consider putting it in a case first, as the leather is sturdy but doesn’t offer ample padding.

While the bag is a splurge, the material is truly made to last — and to look even better with a little wear. The high quality also means the magnetic flap closure actually retains its strength over the years, keeping your belongings secure on the road. 

Price at time of publish: $498

The Details: 18 x 14 x 6 inches | Leather | 2.69 pounds | Up to 48.5 inches

Best Canvas

Rothco Canvas Classic Messenger

Rothco Canvas Classic Messenger


Why We Love It
  • It’s one of the most lightweight options on this list.

What to Consider
  • It’s 100 percent cotton and therefore not water-resistant.

Where most messenger bags offer sturdiness and structure, this canvas bag promises the opposite: it’s ultra-lightweight and pliable, making it an excellent choice for days when you’re toting a lighter load. The material is durable enough to withstand quite a bit of wear and tear, but note that it’s not at all water-resistant — frankly, the canvas can absorb a lot of water, so this isn’t great if you’ll be carrying electronics around. With three pockets and a zippered pouch, there’s plenty of room to hold your basics on dry days though. 

Price at time of publish: $40

The Details: 15 x 11 x 6 inches | Cotton | 1.35 pounds | Up to 52 inches

Best Waterproof

Chrome Mini Metro Messenger Bike Bag

Chrome Mini Metro Messenger Bike Bag

Courtesy by REI

Why We Love It
  • The exterior finish and interior liner are fully waterproof and can stand up to serious storms.

What to Consider
  • It’s not as sleek as a leather model.

This bag is a commuter’s best friend — especially those who bike to work. A reflective strip runs down the straps for nighttime visibility. Rugged and ultra-durable, it’s also fully weatherproof, with a tarpaulin liner that’s designed to wick away moisture and an abrasion-resistant exterior made of 1050 denier, military-grade nylon.

For those toting their laptop or tablet to work each day, this is an ideal pick, as it can easily fit a 13-inch laptop. It offers ample space to store belongings and keeps them safe thanks to a double-clasp closure layered over a velcro flap. It also features Chrome’s signature seat belt buckle closure, which stays shut even if biking over bumpy terrain, but is easy to release with the push of a button. 

Price at time of publish: $125

The Details: 12 x 20 x 7 inches | Nylon and tarpaulin | 2.43 pounds

Best Expandable

Vankean Laptop Briefcase

VANKEAN Laptop Briefcase


Why We Love It
  • It has ample organizational features and expands out two inches.

What to Consider
  • It is not fully waterproof.

Designed with laptops in mind, Vankean’s expandable briefcase is ideal for those who travel back and forth to the office every day. The main compartment is incredibly roomy, with space for a 17.3-inch laptop, your chargers, a book, and any other typical essentials. The best part is that it expands out an additional two inches, so there’s no need to worry about squeezing in your belongings — and this bag could frankly double as a weekender, too.

In addition to the main pouch, there’s a large zippered back pocket to protect important documents, plus two easy-access, front zippered pockets with internal dividers, as well as RFID pockets for your credit cards and ID. For carrying versatility, choose between the adjustable and removable shoulder strap, a top handle (when you prefer to lug it as a briefcase), or the trolley strap that slips onto a wheeled carry-on. 

Price at time of publish: $34

The Details: 18 x 12.8 x 7.5-9.5 inches | Canvas poly | 2.88 pounds

Best Slim

Samsonite Pro Slim Messenger

Samsonite Pro Slim Messenger


Why We Love It
  • This ultra-slim model is built to keep your essentials organized, with everything from a built-in USB port to a padded laptop sleeve at your fingertips.

What to Consider
  • The pockets are fairly stiff, so there’s not much room for packing things in.

Samsonite is famous for their high quality and durable luggage, and this sleek-yet-sturdy messenger is just as road-ready as any of their suitcases. Built to last, the bag is designed with several pockets to help keep you organized, with a padded laptop sleeve that easily adjusts to ensure a snug fit for your laptop, plus a USB port and detachable cord pouch to keep track of all your chargers. While it’s roomy enough to handle your essentials, it is definitely a slim design, so this isn’t a great choice if you’re one to overpack — the pockets don’t offer enough give to stuff in things that don’t easily fit. 

Price at time of publish: $180

The Details: 16 x 12 x 3.75 inches | Nylon | 2.62 pounds

Best Organization

Samsonite Colombian Leather Flap-Over Messenger Bag

Samsonite Colombian Leather Flap-Over Messenger Bag


Why We Love It
  • The cowhide leather feels as luxurious as it looks, plus there are ample compartments inside to organize your belongings.

What to Consider
  • It’s nearly twice as heavy as the other models on this list.

It’s easy to lose track of smaller items in roomy messenger bags, so for those who place a premium on staying organized, look no further than this leather Samsonite model. Sturdy yet supple, it’s designed with enough pockets to keep all of your belongings in their proper place, from a padded laptop pocket that fits up to a 15.6-inch laptop to three interior compartments which will help you keep track of your cords, chargers, notebooks, and more. There’s an additional pocket at the back to protect documents, plus another organizer with slip pockets to organize pens and cards.

For carrying convenience, the bag features a top handle as well as a detachable padded shoulder strap. The two antique buckle closures look classy, but may be inconvenient for those who want quick and easy access to the bag’s contents. 

Price at time of publish: $195

The Details: 16 x 12 x 4.5 inches | Leather | 4.4 pounds

Best for Left-handed Wearers

Timbuk2 Especial Stash Weatherproof Messenger Bag

Timbuk2 Especial Stash Weatherproof Messenger Bag


Why We Love It
  • This ambidextrous bag boasts numerous pockets and is fully weatherproof.

What to Consider
  • The adjustable strap can occasionally loosen on its own.

This bag’s ambidextrous strap makes it easy to sling on for both left-and-right-handed wearers — or just to balance out the stress on your back. The true selling point is how incredibly weatherproof the material is thanks to the PVC exterior, in addition to an interior laptop compartment that’s fully waterproof. The magnetic buckle closure keeps your essentials safely tucked away, even when worn swung around on your back. Reflective U-shaped pullers also offer peace of mind, alerting others that you’re on the road.

Price at time of publish: $179 for medium

The Details: 17.5 x 13.4 x 4.33 inches (medium) | Polyvinyl chloride | 2.2 pounds (medium)

Best Anti-theft

Travelon Urban Anti-Theft Messenger Bag

Travelon Urban Anti-Theft Messenger Bag


Why We Love It
  • It’s super lightweight and offers a wide range of security features, from locked pockets to a protective mesh coating.

What to Consider
  • For those with larger laptops or who need a lot of space, this may not be able to fit all of your belongings.

Lightweight and incredibly secure, this messenger bag is a great pick for those who are traveling with electronics that they’d like to provide a little extra protection. A 5-point anti-theft security system is employed, which includes a slash-resistant mesh barrier on the entire exterior and strap, plus compartments that lock and an RFID blocking organizer. In addition to the bag’s unique security features, it’s also spacious enough to transport a 14-inch laptop or tablet, thanks to a roomy main compartment with two padded sleeves. Inside, an assortment of pockets and mesh compartments help keep your belongings organized. The smooth-webbing shoulder strap includes a shoulder pad that can be comfortably worn crossbody. 

Price at time of publish: $95

The Details: 14 x 10.25 x 4.75 inches | Polyester | 1.74 pounds

Best North-south

Waterfield Designs Muzetto Leather Bag

Waterfield Designs Muzetto Leather Bag

Waterfield Designs

Why We Love It
  • The vertical orientation means your belongings are less likely to spill out if you bend over.

What to Consider
  • There’s not a lot of internal organization.

Waterfield’s leather messenger bag is extremely high quality — so much so that you’ll want to rub your hands on it constantly. The vertically-oriented bag means there’s less organization, as there are fewer pockets — but if you’re looking to tote around your work essentials (including up to a 13-inch laptop), this is a luxurious and long-lasting investment. The bag is designed and produced in San Francisco, so the price point is a bit higher, but the quality is there to match. The super slim fit rests gently against your body and doesn’t bounce against you as you walk. Just note that the interior doesn’t offer a lot of stretch, so if you’re looking for something that you can stuff larger belongings into, you may want to opt for a roomier or expandable option instead. 

Price at time of publish: $309 for medium

The Details: 11 x 13.75 x 2 inches (medium) | Leather | 2 pounds (medium)

Best Padding

Timbuk2 Classic Messenger Bag

Timbuk2 Classic Messenger Bag - Durable, Water-Resistant

Courtesy by Amazon

Why We Love It
  • This cute bag comes in a range of playful patterns and features a cushy mesh shoulder strap.

What to Consider
  • There are only a few pockets so, if organizational compartments are a priority, you may want to look elsewhere on this list.

Weighing under 2 pounds when empty, Timbuk2’s messenger bag is a great fit for anyone who’s looking to lighten their load without sacrificing comfort. Even when full of your daily essentials, the bag is a cinch to carry thanks to an extra cushy padded shoulder strap. The bag comes in eleven fun color combinations, including a three-way navy, red, and yellow-striped design. It’s also available in four sizes but note that the extra-small is only large enough to accommodate a tablet, not a laptop. 

Price at time of publish: $89 for small

The Details: 13.2-15 x 10.8 x 5.12 inches (small) | Polyester Tweed | 1.7 pounds (small)

Tips for Buying Messenger Bags

Prioritize comfort

The point of a messenger bag is to better distribute the weight of your daily belongings across your body, rather than weigh you down like a tote bag. Designs with wider, padded shoulder straps or sling-like clasps that enable hands-free activity are ideal, as they’ll be easiest to wear for extended periods of time. Carrying versatility is another way to balance the load, so look for bags that offer a top handle as well as a removable shoulder strap. 

Consider size and organizational features

When shopping for a messenger bag, consider what belongings you’ll typically be carrying around. If you have a 17-inch laptop, you’ll need to look for bags that are large enough to accommodate it. Likewise, if you often carry a water bottle and a stack of books, you’ll want a bag that’s roomy enough to hold them, too. If you’ve got a lot of gadgets and cords, be sure to opt for a model that has top-of-the-line organizational features, like pockets of various sizes, mesh compartments, a padded laptop sleeve, RFID-blocking card slots, and more. If you’re planning to tote around your gym clothes, seek out a bag with moisture-wicking compartments as well, so you can easily keep your workout attire separate. 

Choose the right material for your intended use

While leather messenger bags tend to be sturdy and crafted in a way that’s both aesthetically pleasing and extremely durable in the long run, you may be looking for something more waterproof. In that case, nylon and polyester bags are ideal, as they offer more water and weather resistance. Canvas bags, on the other hand, are great for when you’re toting a lighter load.

Frequently Asked Questions
  • What is a messenger bag?

    Messenger bags are spacious, flat bags that are typically made of leather, nylon, or canvas. They’re carried mostly via a long strap that can be positioned across the body, or over one shoulder. Worn by both men and women, messenger bags tend to be utilitarian and are used to carry laptops, books, water bottles, and other essential belongings. 

  • Can you use a messenger bag for travel?

    Absolutely! Messenger bags are designed to be used on the move, whether you’re commuting to work or jet-setting. They’re often roomy enough to function as overnight bags or weekenders, and generally fall well under most airlines' size requirements for personal items or carry-ons. 

  • How long should the strap be?

    Most messenger bag straps fall between 30 and 60 inches in length. Adjustable shoulder straps are ideal, so that you can find the perfect fit for your body given your height and individual preference of where it sits on your hip or swings around to rest on your back. Bags that also feature top handles are great for switching up your carrying options.

Why Trust Travel + Leisure

For this article, T+L contributor Sophie Dodd researched every aspect of messenger bags, from their organizational capacity to the ideal strap length. She used her expertise as a travel writer to narrow down a list of the best options for every need and budget.

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