The 11 Best Messenger Bags for Travel in 2023

Our top pick is the Kenneth Cole Reaction Columbian Leather Messenger Bag.

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Best Messenger Bags

Travel + Leisure / Danie Drankwalter

Much like picking a comfortable pair of walking shoes, choosing the right bags is a crucial part of creating an enjoyable travel experience. The perfect option should be large enough to store all your essentials but also lightweight, comfortable, and hands-free, so you can do more important stuff like take memorable travel photos. That's why we love messenger bags for men and women so much — they're stylish, versatile, and easy to carry; plus, the right one can hold everything from your laptop and travel essentials to a change of clothes.

Our top pick is the Kenneth Cole Reaction Colombian Leather Messenger Bag because of its sleek look, non-bulky feel, and subtly spacious interior. But if you're looking for something smaller or theft-proof, or you simply want more options to suit your style, keep reading because our list has it all.

These are the best messenger bags to buy:

Best Overall

Kenneth Cole Reaction Colombian Leather Crossbody Messenger Bag

Kenneth Cole Single Gusset Flapover Colombian Leather Messenger Bag


Why We Love It: It's ultra-spacious while remaining slim and lightweight.

What to Consider: The strap is not detachable.

The Reaction stands out thanks to its luxe appearance, high-quality construction, and functionality. Along with a spacious main compartment, the stylish leather bag boasts an adjustable padded shoulder strap, a cute flap-over closure, and plenty of pockets to keep your belongings organized. Carry books or stow away your laptop or tablet — either way, this messenger bag has the space and sturdiness to take it on without adding bulk to your daily routine. The interior is lined with tear-resistant fabric, while the durable exterior is made of full-grain cowhide Colombian leather that only looks better as it ages. Meanwhile, a padded permanent shoulder strap, which extends 60 inches, provides an easy and comfortable alternative to carrying the bag by its top handle. Plus, it comes in three neutral colors.

Price at time of publish: $260

Dimensions: 15 x 11 x 3 inches | Material: Leather | Weight: 2.2 pounds | Strap Length: Up to 60 inches

Best Expandable

Ytonet 17 inch Laptop Bag, Travel Briefcase with Organizer

Ytonet 17 inch Laptop Bag, Travel Briefcase with Organizer


Why We Love It: It has 10 pockets — more than any other option on our list.

What to Consider: There's no padding on the bottom of the bag.

If you ever find yourself needing more space in your bag while you're out and about, consider this expandable travel briefcase from Ytonet. The versatile messenger bag comes with an anti-slip shoulder strap, a luggage strap, a padded laptop sleeve, and 10 pockets and compartments to hold essentials like your cell phone, pens, tablets, and more. Plus, it can easily expand from 7 inches to 9 inches wide just by unzipping the expansion zipper. To top it all off, the bag is water resistant.

Price at time of publish: $39

Sizes: Two options | Material: Polyester | Weight: 2.5 pounds | Strap Length: Not listed

Best Leather

Frye Logan Messenger Bag

FRYE Logan Messenger Bag


Why We Love It: You can feel the quality and craftsmanship just through touching this bag.

What to Consider: It's the most expensive option on our list.

Frye has been making high-quality leather goods for over 150 years, and this sleek and supple messenger bag is proof. The roomy interior is big enough to fit a laptop, water bottle, notebook, and more, while the magnetic flap closure keeps your belongings safe and secure. This timeless bag also features a convertible strap and plenty of pockets for convenience.

Price at time of publish: $498

Dimensions: 18 x 14 x 6 inches | Material: Leather | Weight: 2.69 pounds | Strap Length: Up to 48.5 inches

Most Comfortable

Timbuk2 Classic Messenger Bag



Why We Love It: The mesh strap is padded to feel soft and cushy on your shoulders.

What to Consider: It could be too small for those who tend to carry a lot in their bags.

Many messenger bags feature straps that start to chafe and irritate your shoulder area. Not this one, the unisex Timbuk2 messenger bag features an incredibly comfortable airmesh strap pad, and boasts a top handle for easy carrying. You'll also find several interior pockets, including one for a water bottle, and compression straps for a secure closure. The cute carryall comes in eleven different colorways and four sizes.

Price at time of publish:
$200 for medium size

Sizes: Four options | Material: Polyester tweed | Weight: 1 pound | Strap Length: Not listed

Most Organized

Samsonite Colombian Leather Flap-Over Messenger Bag

Samsonite Leather Flap-Over Messenger Bag


Why We Love It: It has a pocket for everything.

What to Consider: It scratches easily.

You'll never have to search endlessly through your bag again thanks to this hyper-organized option from Samsonite. The sleek leather messenger bag boasts a spacious interior, multiple compartments, and a zipper closure; an organizer under the front flap features special pockets for pens, phone, business cards, and more. The bag has both a top handle and an adjustable shoulder strap that's padded enough to keep you comfortable on a day of travel or commuting. If you choose not to use the shoulder strap, you can easily remove it.

Price at time of publish: $195

Dimensions: 16.5 x 14.5 x 5 inches | Material: Leather | Weight: 2.8 pounds | Strap Length: Not listed

Best for Left-handed Wearers

Chrome Mini Metro Messenger Bike Bag

Chrome Mini Metro Messenger Bike Bag


Why We Love It: The fit is especially secure on your body, and the interior features special compartments to separate wet items from dry ones.

What to Consider: It doesn't have a top handle.

This attractive option from Chrome is designed to be comfortable for both men and women. The roomy bag is big enough to fit a 15-inch laptop along with other daily essentials, and it features a seatbelt release clasp on the shoulder strap that doubles as a bottle opener. It even has special compartments to separate wet clothes or cargo from dry. The bag's hands-free style makes it perfect for cyclists, climbers, and commuters.

Price at time of publish: $125

Dimensions: 20 x 12 x 7 inches | Material: Nylon, tarpaulin | Weight: 2 pounds | Strap Length: Not listed

Best Anti-theft

Travelon Anti-Theft Classic Messenger Bag

Travelon Anti-Theft Messenger Bag


Why We Love It: It's compact but can fit a surprising amount of cargo.

What to Consider: It's designed specifically with women in mind.

This slim messenger bag from Travelon has a cut-resistant strap and locking zippers to help prevent thefts from occurring, and multiple pockets to store and organize your belongings. What's more, it boasts RFID-blocking credit card and passport slots so you can keep all your personal information safe from digital hackers. The sturdy bag may be the smallest option on our list, but you can still use it to carry a surprising amount of things, such as a water bottle, umbrella, wallet, and more.

Price at time of publish: $60

Dimensions: 11 x 10 x 4.5 inches | Material: Polyester | Weight: 0.65 pounds | Strap Length: Not listed

Best Canvas

Sweetbriar Classic Vintage Messenger Bag

Sweetbriar Classic Vintage Messenger Bag


Why We Love It: It has a stylish monochromatic design at a great price.

What to Consider: It doesn't have much structure, so it's floppy when empty.

This canvas option by Sweetbriar boasts a spacious main compartment, exterior pockets on the front and sides, a top handle, and an adjustable padded shoulder strap. The casual bag's brass hardware makes it look polished, while the velcro flap-over panel keeps your belongings in place. There are five stylish colors to choose from, and at just $40 a piece, you might as well order a few.

Price at time of publish: $40

Dimensions: 17.5 x 12 x 5 inches | Material: Canvas | Weight: 1.2 pounds | Strap Length: Not listed

Best Long

Leaper Canvas Messenger Cross Body Bag

Leaper Canvas Messenger, Sling, Cross Body and Shoulder Bag


Why We Love It: It comes in three sizes and 23 colors.

What to Consider: It's compact, even in its largest size.

Unlike most other messenger bags, which are oriented horizontally, this vertical option from Leaper Retro evenly distributes the bag's weight across your body. The trendy bag features smooth zippers, a padded shoulder strap, a top handle, and plenty of pockets, including one for your laptop or tablet. Leather pull straps and silver hardware give the bag a sophisticated appearance, while magnetic snap-enclosed pockets keep your belongings secure.

Price at time of publish: $30

Sizes: Three options | Material: Canvas | Weight: 1.79 pounds | Strap Length: Up to 41 inches

Best Waterproof

Peacechaos Father's Day Waterproof Waxed Canvas Laptop Messenger Bag

peacechaos Father's Day Waterproof Waxed Canvas


Why We Love It: It's got a classic, rustic look.

What to Consider: The shoulder strap can't be removed.

This Peacechaos messenger bag is made from a waxed canvas that is not only super durable but also waterproof. The shoulder strap is fully adjustable, and the satchel can be worn as both a shoulder bag and a crossbody bag, or carried by its top handle. The leather accents give the casual bag a polished feel, while six interior pockets and two exterior pockets help keep everything organized. Grab it in seven colors including army green and coffee.

Price at time of publish: $50

Dimensions: 15 x 11.5 x 5.5 inches | Material: Canvas, leather | Weight: 2.4 pounds | Strap Length: Not listed

Best for Versatility

Rothco Canvas Classic Messenger

Rothco Canvas Classic Messenger


Why We Love It: This bag comes in nearly a dozen fun colors, so you can choose the perfect fit for your style.

What to Consider: The shoulder strap is the only way to carry this bag.

This classic bag may look simple, but it's packed with hidden pockets to help keep you organized on the go. The main compartment is large enough to store a laptop and books, perfect for daily commutes or those long-haul flights when you need plenty of entertainment. Plus, the bag's front includes two canvas loops so you can hang water bottles, helmets, hammock bags, and any other additional equipment you may want to attach.

Price at time of publish: $32

Dimensions: 21 x 14 x 1 inches | Material: Canvas | Weight: 0.26 pounds | Strap Length: Up to 52 inches

Tips for Buying Messenger Bags

Prioritize comfort

Messenger bags are meant to carry a number of items without weighing you down. That said, choose bags with padded shoulder straps or sling-like options that rest comfortably on the back, sort of like a backpack, and allow for hands-free activity. If you want to use yours as a briefcase also, choose one with a removable shoulder strap and a handle on top of the bag, both of which will allow you to easily convert it from crossbody to handheld.

Consider organizational features

If you're in the market for a messenger bag, it's likely because you have more things to carry than a traditional purse or tote bag can hold. When you buy a bag, make sure it has all the organizational features (ample pockets, dividers, card slots, a laptop sleeve, etc.) you need for your intended use. Other features to look for are zippered pockets to keep your items in place, and if you spend time at the gym, moisture-wicking compartments to separate dirty clothes from your other belongings.

Choose the right material for your intended use

High-quality leather messenger bags are typically sturdy and long-lasting, making them ideal for daily commuting and travel. Nylon or polyester bags make great choices for outdoor activities and the gym because they're water resistant and easy to clean. When it comes to everyday use and light travel, choose a bag made of canvas, as it's durable enough to withstand frequent wear and tear.

Frequently Asked Questions
  • What is a messenger bag? And what is it used for?

    A messenger bag is a large, somewhat flat, bag that's generally used to carry laptops, books, and other daily essentials. They're usually made out of cloth fabric and are known for their long straps that can be worn across the body or over one shoulder.

  • Are messenger bags used by both men and women?

    Yes! Messenger bags are a stylish and convenient way for anyone to store everything needed for a day out.

  • How long should the strap on a messenger bag be?

    The straps of most messenger bags are between 30 and 60 inches in length. You'll want to consider your height and where you want the bag to sit on your hip when purchasing a messenger bag. To ensure your bag is perfect for you no matter what you're doing, you may also want to opt for a bag with an adjustable shoulder strap and/or a second carrying handle for those days when the bag is just too heavy to sling across your body.

Why Trust Travel + Leisure

For this article, Rebecca Carhart and Hillary Maglin researched dozens of messenger bags and used their expertise as travel writers to curate the perfect list of messenger bags for men and women.

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Updated by
Taylor Fox
Taylor Fox, Commerce Updates Writer at Travel + Leisure
Taylor Fox is a Commerce Updates Writer at Travel + Leisure where she tests, researches, and writes about travel products. Taylor holds a Master’s in Geography and has been a writer and editor for over seven years.
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