Post Riposte: Messenger Bags

Reader Raul recently wrote:

“I always see a lot of totes and backpacks on your site, but never any messenger bags. Is there a reason for that? Are there any messenger bags your recommend?”

The reason, Raul, is that I’m just not a messenger bag guy. That said, I’m happy to offer a few suggestions.

Battle Lake Outdoors

The Leather Bottom Mini Main Street Courier Bags from Minnesota’s Battle Lake Outdoors are affordable (sub-$50 per), durable (made in the USA from Cordura nylon), and have a nice classic design. They’re also waterproof, and come in a buttload of colors. Only downside is they aren’t very big.


For a similar style, but with a bit more storage space, check out the Medium Town Messenger Bags from Ohio’s Drifter. They’re also made in the USA from Cordura Nylon, but, they come in even more colors than the Battle Lake bags, including animal prints and a variety of camos. And, they’re backed by a lifetime warranty.

Topo Designs

The Sling Bag from Topo Designs is another solid Corudra option. I actually have one myself, and really like it a lot. It’s super lightweight, looks great, and, it fits way more than you would expect (two full size frozen pizzas, a six pack of beer and rolled up sweatshirt, for instance). I also like that it was made in a LEED certified facility (in Colorado). And the fact that it costs under $100 only sweetens the deal.

PAC Designs

If you’re looking for more of a bike messenger style, I’d check out Canada’s PAC Designs. Of the seemingly countless number of brands that make that kind of bag (see here, here, here, here, here, here and here), I’m partial to PAC because a) theirs are some of the most affordable, b) they have a ton of great features, and c) there’s nothing holier-than-thou-bike-snob about the company (might not matter to you, but I appreciate it).

Duluth Pack

If you prefer cotton over nylon, the Book Bag from Duluth Pack is a good option. It’s made in Minnesota, will last a lifetime, and is surprisingly low-priced. In addition to the standard version pictured above, there’s also a laptop-specific version, a wool version, a deluxe version and an all-leather version.


Filson’s iconic – and fairly ubiquitous – briefcase is another possibility. They’re made in Seattle from 22 oz. water repellent cotton twill and vegetable-tanned bridle leather, come in several sizes, and, like all Filson bags, will age exquisitely. The co. also has some field bags that could work as a messenger as well. However, if you’re gonna go the field bag route…

Archival Clothing

…I’d recommend going with Archival Clothing. The thing that’s great about AC, is that they’re all avid cyclists, as well as walking-talking encyclopedias of well made things. Combine the two, and you’ve got some seriously great bags. These are made in Oregon from waxed twill and Horween leather.

Southern Field Industries

Lastly, I recommend the Haversacks from Japan’s Southern Field Industries. They’re handmade in Japan, and are absolutely stunning. Also, I can tell you from personal experience, that the brand’s quality is top notch.

Honorable Mentions

Just a few others, in case none of the above are floating your boat: The Medium Manitou from Frost River is another nice US-made waxed option. There are also some good looking waxed bags at Ernest Alexander, although, theirs cost $100-$200 more than everyone else’s. You can also check out British brand Chapman, which has so many different messenger style bags, that I actually left them off the main list because I couldn’t decide on which one to feature. And, finally, there’s a brand out of Istanbul called Metaphore, which only makes messengers, and looks to have some pretty decent stuff.

Got a question you want answered? Send an email to brad[at]well-spent[dot]com.

  • Simon Tuntelder

    Very well curated list of bags.

    Brady bags “Gelderburn” and “Severn” are also good messenger bags. At least quite a lot better than Chapman in terms of quality in my opinion.

    If you want all leather Ruitertassen are quite nice.

  • Duluth Pack Molly

    Thank you as always for mentioning us! We have been hand-crafting bags in Duluth, MN since 1882. We are the true American Heritage company. We love the messenger bag and each bag is hand signed. Thank you for supporting American Made!

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  • Kevin

    I would have to say if your shopping for professional bicycle messenger mail courier bags then look no future then Pac Designs out of Canada.

    I have had a Pro Ultimate for several years and I commuted with this on my BMW motorcycle to work everyday. The adjustment mechanism on the bag is fast and almost militaristic in the way you can snap it up and down with the shrug of your shoulder and quick pull on the strap. Even though its quick it stays locked where you put it. Coming down is cooler than cinching it up too.

    You can get more camber and g-forces on a motorcycle going around curves than you can on a bicycle. The Pac Design stays put and feels right during these maneuvers.

    Now the FILSON 727 shown above rocks as a computer bag.

    Don’t forget to check out “Saddleback Leather’s” classic brief case if your leaning towards a briefcase messenger over a courier messenger.

  • Kevin

    I meant to say Filson 257 or what is now known as the 70257 in the above comment.